Shortcut it straight to the good stuff by heading to one of the very best art exhibitions taking place in the capital right now. From modern and fancy, to classical and serene, we've got your next art outing sorted. Or, if you're skint until pay day, how about trying one of London's many free exhibitions instead?
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The ten best art exhibitions in London
Deep in the bowels of an empty underground concrete cavern in Islington, a dozen-odd professional mourners are singing their lamentations. If watching that sounds like a weak way to spend a gorgeous spring evening, I feel you. But forget the weather and the friends and the beer, Simon’s work is everything art should be, and it’s the best show of the year by far.
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).
‘Wunderkammer’ is a neat little German word. It means a ‘room of wonder’, filled with incredible, awe-inspiring objects and trinkets. Now imagine if that wonder was replaced with something much darker: the truth of humanity’s legacy. US artist Mark Dion has been replacing wonder with ecological misery for his whole career.
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.
Humanity's capacity for atrocity was laid bare during the Iraq war when images emerged of the humiliating treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. One showed Ali Shallal al-Qaisi stood on a box, a hood pulled over his head, arms spread wide, with wires attached to his fingers and genitals. A painting of that horrifying act opens Rachel Howard’s show at Newport Street Gallery. Brutal, painful, degrading.
From its earliest days, photography has probed the hidden: from porn to politics, it’s been there and brought back the evidence. Beyond that, though, is a shadowy place where photographers become so tangled up in what they’re chronicling that roles become blurred. These are not just the margins of society, they’re the margins of creativity. That’s what ‘Another Kind of Life’ is about.
The history of art is full of old dead white blokes. We’ve had centuries of western men dominating the stuff we put in our eyes. Modern and contemporary abstract art is no different – it’s all Kandinsky and Pollock and Rothko, as if a woman never picked up a paintbrush and did some squiggles on a canvas. But – guess what, bozos – they did.
You’re going to flinch and you’re going to squirm. And that’s exactly what Marianna Simnett wants. She uses her art to send jolts through the viewer: in her surreal, morosely fantastical, gore-filled films, the (usually female) body is seen as a thing that can be manipulated, controlled and owned.
You almost don’t want to like it. Great minimalist impresario Richard Serra’s ‘Rift’ drawings are just massive sheets of monochrome black with little white arrows splitting apart the visual plane. That’s it. Big, black monochromes with a bit of white. Simple, repetitive nothingness; monumental dude-art, the drawing equivalent of some macho old guy trying too hard to make up for something. But, annoyingly, they’re great.
Next up: the best photography shows
Addicted to Instagram or permanently attached to your SLR? Even if your camera roll is totally empty, you'll find a way to appreciate London photography; we have the widest variety of styles in some of the best exhibitions at the most beautiful galleries. Find them in a flash with our guide to photography in London.