August, as usual, has been largely bereft of new exhibitions. The whole art world just shuts down, it's wild – where does everyone go, what are they doing? No one knows, it's one of life's great mysteries. But things are already ramping back up, and this September looks like a great one for art lovers, with major new film works, fashion exhibitions and painting shows galore. Does it make up for having to spend a whole month 'reading' and 'watching TV' instead of looking at paintings? No, but it's a start.
The best London art exhibitions this September
If you want to restore the international reputation of a mundane household object, you’ll want to get Swiss-American artist Christian Marclay on the blower. First he made clocks somehow engrossing in his epic ‘The Clock’, 24 hours of movie footage of clocks and watches arranged chronologically. And now he’s gone and made ‘Doors out of videos of people opening, entering and walking through doors in cinema history. Rumours that his next project is about wainscoting remain unsubstantiated.
Christian Marclay: ‘Doors’ is at White Cube Mason’s Yard, Sep 6-30. Free. More details here.
Tenant of Culture rips apart the bloated body of the fashion industry and rearranges it into brilliant new shapes. ToC takes discarded clothing and reshapes, remodels and refashions it into twisted tapestries and biomorphic sculptures that expose the greed, wastefulness and avarice that courses through modern society.
Tenant of Culture is at Soft Opening, Sep 8-Oct 21. Free. More details here.
Quietly, American artist Martine Syms has become one of the most engaging, considered, complex young artists working today. For this new body of work, Syms uses surveillance footage, wallpaper and drawing to explore ideas about personal and societal power. It’s not always clear or easy, but it is always interesting.
Martine Syms: ‘Present Goo’ is at Sadie Coles, Sep 14-Nov 4. Free. More details here.
The mononymic Julianknxx has been popping up in various London institutions in recent years (180 The Strand, the Whitechapel Gallery, Tate Modern’s ‘A World in Common’ exhibition) with haunting, hallucinatory video celebrations of Blackness. Now it’s the Barbican Curve’s turn to play host, and this is the artist’s most ambitious work yet, fusing poetry, music, performance and film.
Julianknxx: ‘Chorus in Rememory of Flight' is at the Barbican Curve, Sep 14-Feb 11 2024. More details here.
Existing somewhere between the primary colour brilliance of the Memphis Group and the dark sci fi weirdness of HR Giger, Polish artist Rafal Zajko’s sculptural installations are as unsettling as they are bright. This latest series takes aims at exhaustion, work and capitalism, with ceramic sculptures that literally sweat in a factory-inspired setting.
Rafal Zajko: ‘Clocking Off’ is at Queercircle, Sep 16-Nov 26. Free. More details here.
Coco Chanel, noted Nazi and one of history’s greatest designers, is the subject of the V&A’s next major fashion exhibition. ‘Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto’ will explore the French couturiere’s enormous influence, from her Parisian roots to establishing the House of Chanel. Expect oodles of sequins, tons of power suits and the overpowering odour of Chanel No5 wafting over you as you wander about. This is an in-depth look at the looks that defined the look of a century. It’s good they’re concentrating on her fashion manifesto though, because her political one hasn’t aged particularly well.
‘Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto’ is at the V&A, Sep 16-Feb 25 2024. More details here.
Curated by the Black Oriented Legacy Development Agency (BOLD), this show promises to explore Black British culture’s massive impact on the history of British design. In a constant back and forth between underground-style and mainstream fashion, Black culture has totally shaped how this country now looks and this mash-up of clothing, artwork, memorabilia and music will give it the celebration it deserves.
'The Missing Thread' is at Somerset House, Sep 21-Jan 7 2024. £12. More details here.
This show has been in our ‘most anticipated exhibitions of next year’ lists for what feels like forever because it just keeps getting delayed. But maybe this is the year we finally get the RA’s huge, major Marina Abramovic retrospective. Or maybe the annual postponement IS the art. Marina, you so crazy.
Marina Abramovic is at the Royal Academy of Art, Sep 23-Dec 10. More details here.
Sarah Lucas is an icon of contemporary British art, crashing into the public eye alongside the YBAs and creating a body of work full of brash humour, full frontal sleaze and heaps of razor sharp conceptualism. This big Tate retrospective is long overdue, and genuinely exciting.
Sarah Lucas is at Tate Britain, Sep 26 2023-Jan 14 2024. More details here.
Peter Paul Rubens painted one kind of woman so consistently throughout his influential career that there’s even a word for it, Rubenesque. But this show is about how there was more to his portrayal of women than his usual voluptuous rosy-cheeked nudes. There will be intimate depictions of his wives and daughter, tender portrayals of women from the bible and powerful mythological figures. There wll also be, obviously, a hell of a lot of flesh. Come on, it’s Rubens.
‘Rubens & Women’ is at Dulwich Picture Gallery, Sep 26-Jan 28. £16.50. More details here.
Art history’s greatest painter of smirks, grins and smug looks is the subject of the National Gallery’s big autumn exhibition. Best known for his now iconic ‘Laughing Cavalier’ (who, it should be noted, is neither laughing nor a cavalier), seventeenth century Dutch painter Frans Hals made a name for himself with lively, joyful portraits of people at ease and relaxed. He was the antithesis of the often stuffy portraiture of his time, even if he can’t tell a laugh from a smirk.
Frans Hals is at the National Gallery Sep 30-Jan 21 2024. More details here.