This week's best art

All the best current art exhibitions and shows to hunt down in London

Alex Hartley, 'A Gentle Collapsing II', courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro.

Fancy checking out some art in London but don't know where to start? Have a flick through our selection of the best shows on at the moment and take your pick. Or, if you'd prefer photography to portraiture, check out our list of the top ten photography exhibitions on right now. 

Aktion: Conceptual Art And Photography (1960 - 1980)

3 out of 5 stars

Forget how many words a picture is worth; what about how many ideas it’s worth? This neat little show is filled with art where ideas are captured in images. The thing you see isn’t necessarily the work, but a representation of the concept… which is the work. You follow? 

Richard Saltoun , Fitzrovia Until Saturday August 25 2018

Vile Bodies

3 out of 5 stars

In general, summer group shows are just half-arsed attempts to hock some leftovers. Come up with a concept, whack some art on the walls and hope for sales even though most of the rich bozos who normally buy your stuff have jetted off to St Tropez for the season. This Michael Werner group show is one of the better ones. 

Michael Werner Gallery , Mayfair Until Saturday September 15 2018
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Richard Prince: Early Joke Paintings

4 out of 5 stars

Richard Prince isn’t a subtle artist. Smart as a whip, sure, and often infuriatingly complex, but where other artists may ease you into their ideas and aesthetics, Prince comes diving in off the top ropes, body slamming you and jabbing you in the ribs over and over again. 

Skarstedt , London Until Friday August 3 2018

Michael Jackson: On the Wall

5 out of 5 stars

HIs every crotch grab sent jolts of ecstasy across the globe, his every spasmodic hip thrust left the world reeling. That’s an inhuman level of power for one human to have. It ended up being too much for Michael Jackson, and maybe too much for the rest of us too, which may explain how the National Portrait Gallery can put together a whole show of art inspired by MJ and without it being mega-cheesy or ultra-dull.

National Portrait Gallery , Leicester Square Until Sunday October 21 2018
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Dorothea Lange: ‘Politics of Seeing’

5 out of 5 stars

You can see why the Barbican is running these shows of Dorothea Lange and Vanessa Winship together. There’s plenty of overlap in their work: dislocation, displacement, the way that women, children, buildings, landscapes and even cars reflect societal collapse. But I would seriously advise that you buy your ticket, check out one of them, then go and play crazy golf with a few beers or something before you come back and tackle the other. 

Barbican Hall , Barbican Until Sunday September 2 2018

Tish Murtha: Works 1976 - 1991

4 out of 5 stars

‘As far as most strippers and peep-show dancers are concerned, audience is too elevated a term for the men who watch. They are punters and bloody wankers to boot,’ wrote Karen Leslie, the writer and stripper who Tish Murtha collaborated with on ‘London by Night’, a project documenting the London sex industry in 1983. 

Photographers' Gallery , Soho Until Sunday October 14 2018
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Cindy Sherman

4 out of 5 stars

For 35 years, Sherman has been the subject of her own work. She’s transformed herself into an endlessly rotating series of characters. She mocks, twists and undermines femininity and gender roles, and in this show of recent work, she’s become a bunch of fictional pre-war film stars. 

Sprüth Magers , Mayfair Until Saturday September 1 2018

Vanessa Winship: And Time Folds

4 out of 5 stars

You can see why the Barbican is showing these shows of Dorothea Lange and Vanessa Winship together. There’s plenty of overlap in their work: dislocation, displacement, the way that women, children, buildings and landscapes reflect societal collapse, and broken-down cars. But I would seriously advise buying your ticket, checking out one of them, then going and playing crazy golf with a few beers or something before you come back and tackle the other.

Barbican Centre , Barbican Until Sunday September 2 2018
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BP Portrait Award 2018

3 out of 5 stars

Immediately on entry to the 39th year of the Portrait Award, you’re faced with a photorealistic painting – it’s amazingly impressive, and a bit dull. Exactly what you’d expect from the Portrait Award. But this year’s prize isn’t entirely filled with the usual same-y works, the ones we all gawp at for their makers’ ability to use paint like a camera. 

National Portrait Gallery , Leicester Square Until Sunday September 23 2018

Alex Prager: Silver Lake Drive

4 out of 5 stars

You get an eerie sense of déjà vu in this show of American artist Alex Prager’s photography. Seeing the drunken parties, suspicious faces and elaborate beach scenes she meticulously stages, you’re certain that each scenario is familiar.

Photographers' Gallery , Soho Until Sunday October 14 2018
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Julie Becker: I must create a Master Piece to pay the Rent

4 out of 5 stars

A filthy chunk of Sunset Boulevard lies on the floor in a gallery on The Mall, thousands of miles from home, utterly isolated, totally displaced. American artist Julie Becker (1972-2016) was a displaced child herself, and a displaced adult, moving and being moved constantly. That slab of concrete of hers makes a lot of sense. 

ICA , St James' Until Sunday August 12 2018

Ed Ruscha: Course of Empire

4 out of 5 stars

Made more than 20 years apart, the works here paint a portrait of a shapeshifting city (Los Angeles, Ruscha’s home), a city in the constant, ceaseless throes of change.

National Gallery , Trafalgar Square Until Sunday October 7 2018
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Thomas Cole's Journey

3 out of 5 stars

The future is scary – ecological disaster, the technological singularity, destruction, annihilation… But the future’s always been scary. Back in British-born American painter Thomas Cole’s day (1801-1848) it wasn’t AI or atom bombs that struck fear, it was the unstoppable force of industrialisation. His body of big, bold, adventurous landscape painting is a warning against greed, modernism and unchecked industrial progress. 

National Gallery , Trafalgar Square Until Sunday October 7 2018

Aftermath: Art in the Wake of World War One

3 out of 5 stars

Wars have a way of never ending. Long after the weapons have been dropped, the wounds in society continue to fester for decades. The waves of war ripple throughout time, and each war feels like it happens in the wake of the last one, part of some endless continuum of brutality. 

Tate Britain , Westminster Until Sunday September 16 2018
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Lee Bul

4 out of 5 stars

A huge, gloopy, multi-limbed, fleshy monster stares you out as you enter Lee Bul’s exhibition. And it’s not alone. Suspended from the ceiling are more of its blobby buddies and a battalion of pure white cyborgs. In the corner sits a silver and black behemoth among a landscape of shattered mirrors and blinking lights. It’s up to you to figure out if the Korean artist’s sci-fi dreamscape is actually a nightmare. 

Hayward Gallery , South Bank Until Sunday August 19 2018

August Sander

4 out of 5 stars

In the fake news era, a time when obvious lies can sway elections, it seems odd to think that the truth might actually be the most powerful weapon. But it was threatening enough in inter-war Germany to get August Sander’s photographs banned by the Nazis. 

Hauser & Wirth , Mayfair Until Saturday July 28 2018
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Spiegelgasse (Mirror Alley)

4 out of 5 stars

Turns out, it’s not all cuckoo clocks, chocolate and ruthless efficiency over in Switzerland. The tiny European nation is also funny, surreal, sexy, weird and very creative. This show of Swiss art from surrealism through to today – named after the street where Dadaism was invented in Zurich – paints a bizarre, twisted and hugely expressive picture of Swiss visual culture. 

Hauser & Wirth , Mayfair Until Saturday July 28 2018

Tacita Dean: Landscape

3 out of 5 stars

Tacita Dean’s many-headed art beast has sprouted its third and final bonce: after a show of portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery and one of still life at the National Gallery, Dean now opens the doors of the Royal Academy’s new building with a show of landscapes.

Royal Academy of Arts , Mayfair Until Sunday August 12 2018
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Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece

4 out of 5 stars

One look at Medusa would turn flesh to stone. Auguste Rodin was sort of the opposite, dedicating his life and radical art instead to somehow turning stone into living, breathing, rippling flesh. His revolutionary sculptures feel quiveringly close to bursting alive and writhing with movement. 

British Museum , Bloomsbury Until Sunday July 29 2018

Monet and Architecture

4 out of 5 stars

How much can anyone be bothered to say, let alone bloody listen to, about Claude Monet any more? The impressionist master is one of the great names of art history, a revolutionary, a game-changer, yada, yada, yada. He’s the defining nineteenth-century French artist, a man who has had so much written about him and whose art we have seen so many times that most sane people must be pretty bored of him by now. 

National Gallery , Trafalgar Square Until Saturday July 28 2018
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Anthea Hamilton

5 out of 5 stars

Imagine you’re a squash – as in, a butternut squash. Now imagine what kind of art you would most like, based on your squashy-brained characteristics. For her 2018 Tate Britain Commission for the Duveen Galleries, Anthea Hamilton has created a squash-human hybrid, performed each day by an individual dressed in one of seven outfits inspired by various strains of curcubita (that’s for you, ‘Gardeners’ World’ fans). 

Tate Britain , Westminster Until Sunday October 7 2018

Somewhere in Between

3 out of 5 stars

‘Somewhere in Between’ is an exhibition that looks at the point where science and art meet through four artists – so far, so very Wellcome Collection. 

Wellcome Collection , Bloomsbury Until Monday August 27 2018
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All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Life Painting

3 out of 5 stars

There are two main characters in this big show: the human body, and London. Both of them come across as lonely and isolated; bitter, violent and lost. This is an exhibition of figure painting through the twentieth century – a time of upheaval and pain – and the art made in response to all that is as tortured as you’d expect, and hugely influential. 

Tate Britain , Westminster Until Monday August 27 2018

Katharina Grosse: Prototypes of Imagination

4 out of 5 stars

German artist Katharina Grosse is best known for her monumental painty interventions: chromatic collisions where colour covers whole walls, buildings, trees, patches of grass, roads, possibly the odd dozing pensioner. She’s not some street-art saddo just territorially pissing paint, though. Her abstractions transform environments, teasing the eye, dramatically refiguring the landscape.

Gagosian Britannia St , St Pancras Until Friday July 27 2018

Luiz Zerbini: Intuitive Ratio

3 out of 5 stars

If you’re still haunted by memories of maths class, the paintings of Luiz Zerbini might make you break into a cold sweat. The Brazilian artist paints colourful, bombastic landscapes – but nothing here is an accident. Everything looks as though it’s placed according to a precise geometry, like he’s trying to segment the wildness of Rio de Janeiro around a Fibonacci spiral.

South London Gallery , Camberwell Until Sunday August 19 2018

True Colours

4 out of 5 stars

We no longer get upset at the idea of art being more interested in colour tones than, for example, historical accuracy. In fact, times have changed so much that Newport Street Gallery – the exhibition space owned by Damien Hirst – has programmed an exhibition of three contemporary artists, Helen Beard, Sadie Laska and Boo Saville, united through their creation of crackling chromatic artworks. 

Newport Street Gallery , Lambeth Until Sunday September 9 2018
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Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art

3 out of 5 stars

This isn’t your average summer blockbuster. The basic idea is to show the link between the greats of abstract art (your Braques, Mondrians, Kandinskys etc) and the type of no-selfie-sticks-allowed photography you’d have no trouble calling ‘art’. 

Tate Modern , South Bank Until Sunday October 14 2018

Cedric Morris: Artist Plantsman

4 out of 5 stars

London is currently home to two exhibitions of art by British painter Cedric Morris. The first, at the Garden Museum, concentrates on his dual identity as an artist and an award-winning gardener. Floral still lifes and the English countryside don’t exactly set the world on fire as the subject of an art exhibition. But ‘Cedric Morris: Artist Plantsman’ turns this tranquil topic on its head, showing how the British artist painted the humble bouquet as an unruly, wild, wonky thing. 

Garden Museum , Lambeth Until Sunday July 22 2018
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The Great British Seaside

4 out of 5 stars

With summer beckoning like a mermaid in a sailor’s wet dream, the Royal Maritime Museum in Greenwich has turned its main gallery over to an exhibition of photographs taken at the seaside resorts of Britain. Four major names in coastal snapping are represented: Martin Parr, Tony Ray-Jones, David Hurn and Simon Roberts. 

National Maritime Museum , Greenwich Until Sunday September 30 2018

Picasso 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy

4 out of 5 stars

This exhibition focuses entirely on 1932, a pivotal and prolific year for Pablo. In its summer, a major retrospective of his work was held, but instead of feeling like he’d made it,  he fretted about being past it.

Tate Modern , South Bank Until Sunday September 9 2018
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Sarah Sze

4 out of 5 stars

Afterimages are the ghostly pictures that float in front of a person’s eyes after they’ve stopped looking at the actual thing. The artworks in Sarah Sze’s exhibition of the same name are made up of not just one lingering image, but hundreds of them. 

Victoria Miro , Hoxton Until Saturday July 28 2018

Christopher Le Brun

4 out of 5 stars

Christopher Le Brun paints paintings about painting. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that he paints paintings that aren’t about anything. He just paints. 

Lisson Gallery , Lisson Grove Until Saturday August 18 2018

Angela de la Cruz: Bare

3 out of 5 stars

If you spent your formative years in the type of school where you wore a sweatshirt and not a blazer, then chances are your memories of educational architecture involve two things: fluorescent strip lights and white, plastic blinds bashed-up and half-hanging from the window. 

Lisson Gallery , Lisson Grove Until Saturday August 18 2018
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Christo & Jeanne-Claude

4 out of 5 stars

Cresting out of the Serpentine lake is some prehistoric, mythical, yet perfectly geometrical creature. It looks like the Bauhaus designed the Loch Ness Monster; like Malevich dreamed up the Kraken. This is Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude’s first real attempt at their ‘Mastaba’ – a project dreamed up in the ’70s, but so ambitious as to be impossible to realise. 

Serpentine Gallery , Knightsbridge Until Sunday September 9 2018

Tomma Abts

4 out of 5 stars

There’s nothing wrong with being old fashioned, and something about German artist Tomma Abt’s art feels like it’s from another era entirely. Her work is pure, simple, direct abstraction. 

Serpentine Gallery , Knightsbridge Until Sunday September 9 2018
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Aftermath: Art in the Wake of World War One

3 out of 5 stars

Wars have a way of never ending. Long after the weapons have been dropped, the wounds in society continue to fester for decades. The waves of war ripple throughout time, and each war feels like it happens in the wake of the last one, part of some endless continuum of brutality. 

Tate Britain , Westminster Until Sunday September 16 2018

Art Now: Lisa Brice

4 out of 5 stars

John Everett Millais’s ‘Ophelia’ is the unofficial poster girl of Tate Britain. Most recently her soggy image was slapped on the cover of the book of Tate ‘highlights’ overflowing on the gift shop stands. Lisa Brice, a South African-born artist now living in London, was commissioned to paint a response to the famous pre-Raph portrait as part of her ‘Art Now’ exhibition.

Tate Britain , Westminster Until Monday August 27 2018
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IIP Foundation

The Indian Institute of Photography wishes you a happy & Colourful Holi !