It’s back to school time for the kids, and you know what that means for us...the art world is back in action! After the lazy, lull days of summer when many galleries are closed and museums hold generic group shows from their reserves, fall is perched just around the corner, bringing a breath of fresh air.
This season London takes center-stage, grabbing our attention with a myriad of world-class exhibitions highlighting the best of the art world, from old masters to up-and-coming stars. Whether you are a resident of the British capital or just lucky enough to sojourn there for a while, there is bound to be something that will catch your eye. You can delve into the mysteries and mastery of Da Vinci and Degas, explore George Condo’s contemporary playful portraiture, or discover new talented video artists. Also, a number of the shows feature foreign artists, making this art tour through the city a truly international affair.
Here’s MutualArt’s top exhibition picks for things to see and places to be in the UK’s top metropolis:
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Mike Kelley: Exploded Fortress of Solitude
at Gagosian Gallery, Britannia Street
September 8, 2011 through October 22, 2011
Are there any gallery goers out there who are also comics fans? When thumbing through the adventures of the Man of Steel, did you ever notice the inconsistent depictions of Superman’s birthplace? Maybe you aren’t a Superman fan, but if you follow Mike Kelley’s work, then perhaps you’ve seen his Kandors series before, initiated in 1999, exploring the differing sculptural renditions of the superhero's home planet. Kelley has taken twenty differing examples of the 2D blueprints of Kandor, found in the comic’s archive, and lifted them off the page into 3D manifestations of the fictitious city. The latest addition to this journey, Exploded Fortress of Solitude, focuses on the destruction of Kandor and Superman’s fortress as “a sort of bunker in ruins” while highlighting the problems of large-scale sculptures. Kelley invites viewers to intimately explore Kandor 10B (Exploded Fortress of Solitude) (pictured above), a cave forged from boulders and rock slabs with a quarry-like foyer and a rose-colored city nestled deep within the forbidden fortress. Two humorous videos are also part of the exhibit: Vice Anglais, which shows a group of sadistic perverts inhabiting the cave-like Kandor 10B, and Made in England, essentially the ‘script’ for the first movie, played out in voice-overs and still-life arrangements such as a puppet show.
Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement
at Royal Academy of Arts
September 17, 2011 through December 11, 2011
Anyone familiar with the work of leading impressionist Edgar Degas (1834-1917) is surely aware of the artist’s preoccupation with dance, thanks to his renowned Ballet scenes (image left: Edgar Degas, 'The Rehearsal', c. 1874. Image courtesy Royal Academy, London). But have you ever thought about how he crafted those scenes and captured the figures and movements so eloquently? The Royal Academy will present the first show ever to progressively explore Degas’ devotion to motion throughout his career, from his documentary style in the early 1870’s to his more expressive creations towards the end of his life. The show features three surviving photographs taken by the artist himself which illuminate, as exhibition curator Ann Dumas explains, ballet dancers “not in conventional, pretty, poses but provide an extraordinary insight into his fascination with, and knowledge of, the complex movement of his subjects.” Portraying the radical, innovative side of the artist, this is the first exhibit of its kind to connect Degas’ movement preoccupation to the advances and experiments being made at the time by pioneers like Edweard Muybridge in photography and film, technologies with which Degas was well-acquainted. “He was, after all, one of the leaders of the Impressionist movement in the 1870s and their chief agenda was the artist as absolutely contemporary” says Dumas.
Edweard Muybridge, 'Animal Locomotion, Woman dancing (fancy), plate 187', 1884-86 © Royal Academy of Arts, London / Prudence Cuming
Curated by Richard Kendall, Curator at Large, The Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, USA; Jill DeVonyar, independent curator; and Ann Dumas, Exhibition Curator, Royal Academy of Arts.
Raqib Shaw: Paradise Lost
at White Cube, Mason's Yard
September 28, 2011 through November 12, 2011
Kashmir-native, London implant Raqib Shaw expresses his quest for a “lost homeland” in mixed-media paintings and sculptures. Shaw was born in Calcutta in 1974 but spent much of his youth in Kashmir, leaving India in 1998 for higher education in London. Since graduating from Central St. Martins, Shaw has taken the art world by storm with his “gloriously opulent paintings” that “suggest a fantastical world full of intricate detail, rich colour, and jewel-like surfaces” (White Cube). He employs a unique technique, manipulating pools of enamel and metallic industrial paints with a porcupine quill, and meticulously enhances numerous details within the paintings, such as coral, feathers or flowers. His works also feature ornamental elements often, such as glass beads that literally set the piece sparkling. Finally, each motif is outlined in embossed gold, similar to a technique once used in early Asian pottery. All these painstaking efforts have a purpose, to counteract and mask the garish themes of violence and sexuality inherent in each piece.
Raqib Shaw, The mild-eyed melancholy of the lotus eaters III, 2009-10 (detail). Courtesy White Cube, London. Copyright © the artist.
At White Cube’s new exhibition, Shaw’s paintings explore the lush flora of India’s lost “paradise on earth,” war-torn Kashmir, while “bejeweled, blood-splattered monsters” highlight the devastation in the region. Be prepared to sit and contemplate these complex beauties for a while, as Shaw’s previous works have been called “an over stimulation of the viewer’s visual senses” and compared to “1960s psychedelic art or Persian miniatures.”
at Serpentine Gallery
October 1, 2011 through November 20, 2011
If during October or November you suddenly find yourself asking the person next to, “Is there an echo in here?”, then you’ve probably wandered into the Serpentine Gallery’s solo show of Albanian artist Anri Sala. Regarded as one of the most unique and inventive video artists today, Sala takes his camera outside the box, ignoring the speed of mainstream media and slowing down to focus on often overlooked details and contrast them to today’s fast-paced life. His installation will steer visitors through the gallery on changing cycles that form a dynamic course. All the while, a series of echoing works will reverberate throughout the space, challenging the relationship between architecture and sound and the viewer’s very notions of space. Sounds like one stirring ride to us! (No pun intended)
Anri Sala, Le Clash (2010) Film still and Answer Me (2008) Film still, courtesy Serpentine Gallery, London.
Occurring simultaneously, Artangel will screen 1395 Days Without Red, a joint film by Sala and Sejla Kameric.
Gerhard Richter: Panorama
at Tate Modern
October 6, 2011 through January 8, 2012
Left to right: Betty, Frabtafel and Ice 3 by Gerard Richter
This October, help wish Gerhard Richter a Happy Birthday when Tate Modern hosts the first major London retrospective for the artist in over 20 years. As Richter turns 80 years old, Panorama will chronologically explore nearly five decades of his work, grouped according to pivotal moments in the painter’s oeuvre. Richter is known for responding to world events in his work, such as his more recently created September based on the 9/11 US terrorist attack, which will be included in the show. Together with other historical-based creations and his latest work, the exhibition will include: famous photo-portrait paintings (such as Betty 1988, above left); 1960s landscapes and cityscapes; and a large selection of Richter’s ambitious abstract paintings on loan to Tate, including his 20 meter long Stroke (on view for the first time outside of Germany) and the six-part Cage series.
Curated by Tate Director Nicholas Serota and Mark Godfrey.
Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman
at The British Museum
October 6, 2011 through February 19, 2012
Are you a craftsman? Have you ever wondered what waits for you in the great beyond? Installing his own new works alongside anonymously crafted objects from the museum’s collection, Grayson Perry curates this trip to his imaginary afterlife. “This is a memorial to all the anonymous craftsmen that over the centuries have fashioned the manmade wonders of the world…The craftsman’s anonymity I find especially resonant in an age of the celebrity artist,” says Perry, a former Turner prize winner. His new piece for the show, The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman, takes the shape of an intricately decorated cast iron coffin-ship, commemorating the numberless forgotten artists and craftsmen from the past two million years, whose objects now lay in the British Museum.
“Few people make anything or can explain to you in simple words what they actually do for a job these quiet anonymous craftspeople seem to offer so much more reality.” In Perry’s afterlife you can expect to float through a world of themes, from shamanism and magic to identity and contemporary culture. “From the first great invention, the hand axe, to a Hello Kitty pilgrim hand-towel, you will discover a reality that is old and new, poetic and factual, and funny as well as grim.”
at Barbican Art Gallery
October 6, 2011 through February 19, 2012
O-M-G, the OMA is coming to the United Kingdom! The Office for Metropolitan Architecture, founded over 35 years ago by ‘starchitect’ Rem Koolhas, is getting its first major British showcase of work to coincide and celebrate the opening of its first UK buildings, in London (Rothschild Bank HQ) and Glasgow (Maggie’s Centre in Gartnavel). With 280 architects, designers and researchers in Rotterdam, New York, Beijing and Hong Kong, the OMA is considered one of the most influential architecture practices today. Daring, unprecedented, and unusually constructed buildings will be highlighted in the context of OMA’s rigorous adherence to the notion of progress. Curated by Belgium collective Rotor, OMA’s Koolhaas says, “We have chosen to surrender to the forensic abilities of Rotor in order to produce a new translation and consideration of what we (try to) do in architecture and beyond it. We are excited to use the unique spaces of Barbican Art Gallery to reflect the extreme diversity of OMA’s work – in building, researching, writing, and a host of other pursuits that are at the same time intricately connected and apparently random…”
OMA buildings showcased include current projects such as CCTV headquarters in Beijing (left); a blueprint for a European renewable energy grid; and a curatorial masterplan for St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum.
George Condo: Mental States
at Hayward Gallery
October 18, 2011 through January 15, 2012
Although recently recognized in the media as the artist whose controversial cover art was censored for Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album, George Condo’s pioneering style has already influenced two generations of artists. Originating at New York’s New Museum in January, this first major retrospective of the artist is headed across the pond, showcasing sculpture as well as painting through three decades of skilled art. Starting from his arrival in New York’s East Village in 1980, Condo introduced a unique method, rooted in the traditions and discipline of the old masters but applied to subjects born from his imagination (as the NYTimes best-termed this phenomenom: “A Mind where Picasso meets Looney Tunes”). The exhibition’s main focus is inevitably his ‘imaginary portraits’ of invented characters who evoke various mental states. Described as “absurd”, “provocative”, “outrageous” as well as genius, Condo’s work and determination truly epitomize the power of the imagination. (Image right: The Butler, 2000, by George Condo)
Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven
at Dulwich Picture Gallery
October 19, 2011 through January 8, 2012
In the early 20th century, a group of artists broke convention by painting the Canadian wilderness, until then considered too “wild and untamed” to inspire real art. Thus a movement was born, thanks to Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven. Originally the paintings weren’t even exhibited in Canada, but in the British Empire. Now, forgotten in Britain since last showing in the 1920s, the revered works are returning to London after virtually disappearing from international attention. Painting Canada will give center stage to some of Canada’s most iconic landscapes, and in particular three of the nation’s most treasured paintings, on loan from the National Gallery of Canada and Art Gallery of Ontario. Dulwich director Ian Dejardin has dreamed of this exhibition for 25 years, since his first “mind-blowing” encounter with a Group of Seven work, J.E.H. MacDonald’s Falls, Montreal River, which is also included in the show (pictured above). Dejardin believes the exhibition will prove a hit with British gallery goers. “I am mystified why the rest of the world doesn’t know more about Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, but I’m happy to sort that out.”
Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan
at the National Gallery
November 9, 2011 through February 5, 2012
We’re not sure if more of a reason is required than the show title, but in case you aren’t convinced yet whether or not to rush out and swarm the National Gallery in November, here’s why you shouldn’t miss this blockbuster-to-be:
1) It’s Leo. After the "Da Vinci Code" and the recent hype surrounding the 100th anniversary of the theft of the Mona Lisa, the art world is obviously still enthralled as ever with the original Renaissance Man and his work.
2) While London has celebrated Da Vinci in several past exhibitions focused on his inventor/draughtsman ambitions, this show is the first in the world entirely dedicated to his talents as a master painter. It achieves the most complete gathering together of Leonardo’s rare surviving paintings, thanks to international loans (incl. the Louvre in Paris, the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, and the Pinacoteca Vaticana in Rome). Basically, it may be your only chance ever to see some of these treasures (without buying a plane ticket).
3) The selected paintings represent a period when Leonardo realized some of his most captivating works - as a court painter in Milan in the 1480s- 1490s. The recently restored The Virgin of the Rocks prompted the inception of the show, which examines Leonardo’s quest for perfection in depicting the human form (a second copy of the The Virgin is flying in from the Louvre, both picutred above). Revel in awe at all the surviving preparatory drawings for the Last Supper; discover the only male portrait he ever painted, The Portrait of a Musician (below, right); and before there was Mona Lisa, there was The Lady with an Ermine, hailed as the first modern portrait and one of his greatest masterpieces (below, left).
4) The show took nearly 5 years to pull together, an impressive curatorial feat in itself, so it ought to be sensational! And, given all the press already surrounding it more than half a year ahead of its debut, critics are already pronouncing it as “the art exhibition of the year, if not the decade.” So grab your wind-proof coat and umbrella (in case there’s a line and it’s raining) and don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Written by MutualArt.com Staff