What’s On – London Art and Design Events February 2017
London art and design events February 2017 brings together artistic responses to economic crash, revolution, social rebellion, war, volcanoes and the post-human. It’s all there!
More than a whiff of rebellion is definitely in the air and not least in the conservative world of galleries and museums – with a whole host of counter cultural responses to the world order: There are two exhibitions on the Bohemians of Bloomsbury; there’s one on the Bolsheviks; another on the shock and misery of the Great Depression; and yet another whose starting point is the Iraq War. But the eye watering values of most of these fully commodified iconoclastic works may mean liberal economics will live to fight another day. Absolutely unmissable is the biggest ever Hockney exhibition to date, and if like me you cant resist a good volcano painting, then head to the Bodleian in Oxford for some refined eruptions.
Main Image: New Planet (detail) by Konstantin Yuon, 1921. State Tretyakov Gallery/Photo © State Tretyakov Gallery/© DACS 2016
REVOLUTION: RUSSIA 1917 – 32
Until 17 April at Royal Academy, London
A century after the Russian Revolution, the RA examines the first 15 years of art under Soviet rule. This momentous period of world history sees a flourishing n Russia of genuinely groundbreaking art and ideas. Amidst the tumult, the arts initially thrived as debates swirled over what form a new “people’s” art should take. Renowned artists including Kandinsky, Malevich, Chagall and Rodchenko were among those to live through the fateful events of 1917, which ended centuries of Tsarist rule and shook Russian society to its foundations.
Taking inspiration from a remarkable exhibition shown in Russia just before Stalin’s clampdown this exhibition explores the revolution’s utopian beginnings with all its optimism, contradictions, and new ways of seeing. All of this effervescence was of course eventually to give way to Stalinist repression that ended creative freedom. This far-ranging exhibition will – for the first time – survey the entire artistic landscape of post-Revolutionary Russia, encompassing Kandinsky’s boldly innovative compositions, the dynamic abstractions of Malevich and the Suprematists, and the emergence of Socialist Realism, which would come to define Communist art as the only style accepted by the regime.
Until 4 June at Dulwich Picture Gallery, London
“The Bloomsbury Group” according to the famous quip “talked in circles, lived in squares and loved in triangles”. If the implication was that the lives of the Bloomsbury group often eclipsed their works, this was particularly true of Vanessa Bell (1879-1961) – one of its acclaimed central figures. There are of course endless books, film and TV mini series on her loves, friendships and her relationship with her sister Virginia Woolf. Yet how good an artist was she? This survey of Bell’s paintings offers a chance to look seriously at her work.
Arranged thematically, the exhibition will reveal Bell’s pioneering work in the genres of portraiture, still life and landscape and will explore her fluid movement between the fine and applied arts, focusing attention on her most distinctive period of experimentation in the 1910s. Approximately 100 oil paintings as well as fabrics, works on paper, photographs and related archival material will deliver Bell in full force, boldly experimenting with abstraction, colour and form while developing her own distinctive way of seeing the world.
Until 11 June at Tate Modern, London
Wolfgang Tillmans was both the first photographer and first non-British artist to receive the Turner Prize (2000). Now he will have his first ever exhibition at Tate Modern, bringing together works in an exciting variety of media. The range will include photographs, video, digital slide projections, publications, curatorial projects and recorded music – all staged by the artist in his characteristically innovative style. Alongside portraiture, landscape and still lifes, Tillmans pushes the boundaries of the photographic form in abstract artworks that range from the sculptural to the immersive.
The show is charged with social and political comment and takes the year 2003 as its point of departure. For Tillmans this is the moment the world changed, with the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent anti-war demonstrations, political activism and turbulence. Tillmans will also be presenting his work in film, video and music in the south Tank for 10 days with live events featuring performances and sound systems.
AMERICA AFTER THE FALL – PAINTING IN THE 1930s
25 February–4 June at the Royal Academy, London
As all eyes are firmly fixed on the U.S. to see how radically the post-war settlement will be altered, this timely exhibition looks at the work of artists responding to an earlier period of crisis. In the devastating wake of the Wall Street Crash, artists sought to capture the changes in urbanisation, industrialisation and immigration that pulsed across the country, resulting in one of the most vital periods for American artists in the 20th century. This was a decade like no other that saw them search for an elusive ‘Americanness’ through realism, populism and abstraction, rural and urban themes, the farm, the new and the traditional.
Bringing together 45 truly iconic works that have rarely been seen together, this electrifying and transformative period is brought to life. The work of artists on show range from Jackson Pollock, Georgia O’Keeffe and Edward Hopper to Thomas Hart Benton, Philip Guston and more. Their responses to this time of struggle and despair ranged from realism and Americana to energetic abstraction. This is a gripping journey through a cowed but unbroken America.
Until 3 September at the Science Museum, London
Within a lifetime science fact has spectacularly caught up with science fiction. From the start of the 20th century, artists and writers who were obsessed with the modern, became fascinated by the post-human: in 1913-15, Jacob Epstein imagined a terrifying droid in his sculpture The Rock Drill, and in 1920 the Czech writer Karel Capek wrote RUR (Rossum’s Universal Robots). The roots of our fascination with mechanised human forms however goes back long before Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Among his great scientific leaps was Leonardo da Vinci’s mechanical monster, created to impress the king of France in the early 1500s.
This exhibition has everything from Renaissance automata to the latest attempts to replace ourselves. From the dawn of mechanised human forms to cutting-edge technology fresh from the lab, Robots reveals the astonishing 500-year quest to make machines human. Focusing on why they exist rather than on how they work, this blockbuster exhibition explores the ways robots mirror humanity and the insights they offer into our ambitions, desires and position in a rapidly changing world.
Until 29 May at Tate Britain, London
A Hockney exhibition is always hotly anticipated but this one will be the largest and most comprehensive of his long and varied career. Even now at 80, the Yorkshireman remains one of the most popular and influential of British artists.
Nearing 80, the Bradford-born one-time symbol of Swinging London has been a painter of swimmers and California pools, heat-struck canyons and damp Yorkshire wolds. A terrific graphic artist and etcher, portraitist, photographer, opera designer and sometime video artist, Hockney is celebrated in the largest exhibition of his long and varied career.
Hockney continues to change his style and ways of working, embracing new technologies as he goes. From his portraits and images of Los Angeles swimming pools, through to his drawings and photography, Yorkshire landscapes and most recent paintings – some of which have never been seen before in public – this exhibition shows how the roots of each new direction lay in the work that came before. This exhibition gathers together an extensive selection of David Hockney’s most famous works celebrating his achievements in painting, drawing, print, photography and video across six decades. A once-in-a-lifetime chance to see these unforgettable works together.
SUSSEX MODERNISM: RETREAT AND REBELLION
Until 23rd April 2017 at Two Temple Place, London
Over 120 drawings, paintings, sculpture and furniture are displayed in this exhibition that examines why radical artists and writers were drawn to the rolling hills, seaside resorts, and quaint villages of Sussex in the first half of the 20th century. It also attempts to show how, in the communities they created, artistic innovation ran hand in-hand with political, sexual and domestic experimentation.
Sussex Modernism is created by the Bulldog Trust in partnership with 9 Sussex museums and galleries. The exhibition draws on the richness of collections in the region as well as featuring major loans from across the country. Within the county are the homes of major artists and collectors namely Charleston, Farleys House and Gallery, and West Dean as well as the iconic modernist building De La Warr Pavilion, now a contemporary art gallery and performance venue.
Until 21 May at the Bodleian Library, Oxford
Volcanoes have long captivated not just scientists, but also artists, writers, poets and even garden designers. This fascinating exhibition focuses more on the cultural response to volcanoes. It includes a spectacular selection of eye witness accounts, scientific observations and artwork charting how our understanding of volcanoes has evolved over the past two millennia.
The first volcanologist was the ancient Greek philosopher Empedocles, who is said to have dived into Mount Etna in a fatal experiment. The modern study of volcanoes started in the 18th century, when artists including Joseph Wright of Derby painted spectacular images of Vesuvius spewing fire and William Hamilton published his sumptuously illustrated scientific work Campi Flegrei. William Hamilton was the British Ambassador to the decadent court of Naples and husband to Emma Hamilton. The two would entertain Grand Tourists. Hamilton walking scions of the nobility to the peak of Vesuvius as it erupted by day and Emma performing her erotic ‘attitudes’ by night. A red hot exhibition!
Until 21 May 2017 at Wellcome Collection, London
See how humans have related to other animals through time with Making Nature: How We See Animals at the Wellcome Collection. The exhibition takes a journey back in time to discover how artists, philosophers and scientists have built different hierarchies in their view of the natural world. Bringing together more than 100 objects, photographs and films, the display reveals how humans have tried to classify the animal kingdom in order to control it, from the 18th century to the present day.
Don’t miss some of the exhibition’s interesting highlights, including artists Allora and Calzadilla’s film The Great Silence, and Roger Fenton’s and Hiroshi Sugimoto’s stunning photographs.
JOSEF FRANK – PATTERNS – FURNITURE – PAINTING
January 28 – May 7, 2017 at the Fashion and Textile Museum, London
Not to be missed is the first ever textile exhibition in the U.K. of the prolific designer and architect Josef Frank (1885-1967). Of the 160 textiles that he designed for Swedish brand Svenskt Tenn, 40 are still in production. The Austrian-born architect moved to Sweden in 1933, where he developed his colourful brand of modernism, working with Estrid Ericson on furniture, glassware, lighting and interior design ideas. Together they redefined what is regarded as Swedish Modern.
This exhibition in association with Millesgården, Stockholm highlights Frank’s vibrant fabric designs for Svenskt Tenn alongside a number of his previously unknown watercolours. The watercolours were produced all through his life and have much the same subject matter as his textiles: flowers, fruit trees, landscapes and birds.
Until 2 April 2017 at Tate Modern, London
This is the first major exhibition of the work of this highly influential American artist in the UK for 35 years and the first retrospective since his death in 2008. Rauschenberg created pop art alongside Andy Warhol and made an artwork out of his bed – half a century before Tracey Emin.
Rauschenberg – a Texan artist with a passion for the world – refused to accept conventional categories of what was and wasn’t art. His quest for innovation was fired by his boundless curiosity and enthusiasm for new ways of making, from painting to performance art. He worked with mass, popular and trash imagery and materials – paint, silk-screen printing, found objects, newspapers, politicians, sportsmen, and pop stars. Iconic works from his six decade career include large-scale pop art screen prints picturing the likes of JF Kennedy; Monogram, a paint splattered taxidermy goat in a car tyre surrounded by street signs; and Bed, soiled sheets spattered with brushmarks.
Original, thought-provoking, witty and at times wild, this retrospective is a rare opportunity to discover the work of an artist whose influence is still felt today.
WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY OF THE YEAR 2016
Until 20 September 2017 at Natural History Museum, London
It’s a bittersweet pleasure to admire these ingenious photographs of the amazing creatures who co-habit this planet with us. That is because this year’s exhibition rather poignantly comes moments after a rather sobering CITES meeting. CITES has announced that we are facing a global “extinction crisis” facing many species that is the most critical in its history.
So I wonder if when we look at clever photographs of foxes or monkeys in urban environments, we stop to think that they are here because we are squeezing them out of their habitats? When we look at stunning photographs of shoals of fish – do we realise that we are emptying the oceans of life?
The legitimate global imports of wildlife products are now worth more than $300bn (£200bn) a year; and when you add that to that the ruinous black market trade that has collapsed elephant and rhino numbers – then we see the scale of the problem. The question is who will stand up for animals? Meanwhile we can be entertained by this well-intentioned show.
TERRAINS OF THE BODY: PHOTOGRAPHY FROM THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WOMEN IN THE ARTS
Until 16 April 2017 at Whitechapel Gallery, London
An intriguing group show culled from the archives of the National Museum of Women in Washington that looks at the female body as a medium for visual storytelling and personal revelation. Artists such as Marina Abramović, Nan Goldin, Justine Kurland, Hellen van Meene and Shirin Neshat turn the camera on themselves to explore female identity and experience in the contemporary world though still images, video and installation.
GARNITURES – VASE SETS FEOM NATIONAL TRUST HOUSES
Until 30 April 2017 at V&A, London
This beautiful and fascinating display – organised in partnership with the National Trust – explores the history of the garniture; a set of vases unified by their design. Derived from the French word ‘garnir’ meaning to garnish, ‘garniture’ has been applied to many decorative items from the kitchen to clothing. The term was eventually commonly applied to porcelain sets – the first of which were imported early in the 17th century from China.
These sets were used for display above cupboards, chimney mantels, bookshelves, or in the transom of a door in a library or study. Garniture was typically produced in odd-numbered sets, as it was believed that was most pleasing to the eye. These sets most commonly included three items, but there were sets of five, and in some cases even seven vessels.
As the fashion spread around Europe, British and European potters made their own versions, rivalling Chinese and Japanese imports. Surviving complete sets are very rare and this display brings together sets from 13 different National Trust houses.
THE RADICAL EYE – MODERNIST PHOTOGRAPHY
Until 7 May 2017 at Tate Modern, London
This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see Elton John’s unrivalled modernist photography collection, drawn from the classic Modernist period of the 1920s–50s. An incredible group of Man Ray portraits are exhibited together for the first time, having been brought together by Sir Elton John over the past twenty-five years, including portraits of Matisse, Picasso, and Breton.
There are over 70 artists and nearly 150 rare vintage prints on show from seminal figures including Brassai, Imogen Cunningham, André Kertész, Dorothea Lange, Tina Modotti, and Aleksandr Rodchenko. This is an opportunity to peek inside The pop star’s home and delight in seeing such masterpieces of photography.
Until 5 March 2017 at Tate Britain, London
Paul Nash was one of the most distinctive British painters and his beautiful landscapes have a surreal and mystical quality. Fascinated with Britain’s ancient past, Nash spent time in southern England exploring the downs and coastal areas. Equally inspired by the equinox and the phases of the moon, he used all these influences in his work, interpreting his environment according to a unique, personal mythology, evolving throughout his career.
This important exhibition reveals Nash’s importance to British modern art from his earliest drawings through to his iconic Second World War paintings.
YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION? RECORDS AND REBELS 1966-1970
Until 26 February 2017 at the V & A, London
This blockbuster of an exhibition examines whether the finished and unfinished revolutions of the late 60s and its counterculture changed the way we live today and think about the future. Exploring the era-defining significance and impact of the late 1960s, expressed through some of the most popular music and performances of the twentieth century alongside fashion, film, design and political activism.
The extraordinary volume and diversity of exhibits and cacophony of colours and sounds is appropriately mind-blowing. There’s Barbarella of course, Twiggy-themed coathangers, the Sergeant Pepper uniforms, John Peel’s record collection, and CIA handbills that aimed to disrupt the Black Panther movement. If that isn’t enough there’s also a whole room carpeted with fake grass, recreating the Woodstock festival on vast screens, which you can enjoy from the obligatory bean bag. As you leave – the suggestion is correctly made that 60s counterculture led to the green movement; rather confusingly however the exhibition also suggests that it led to the rise of home computers and the internet.
Following on from one blockbuster after another, like the amazing McQueen show and 2013’s wildly successful David Bowie Is – that is still touring three years on – Martin Roth, the director will be bowing out with style.
DESIGN MUSEUM OPENING
Design Museum, Kensington, London
At last the relocated Design Museum has reopened in the impressive Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington that has been remodelled.
Boasting a cutting-edge interior designed by John Pawson and a lighting system created in collaboration with Concord, the remodelled Grade II listed building becomes home to the Designers in Residence Studio, Bakala Auditorium, Swarovski Foundation Centre for Learning and Sackler Library and Archive. The museum also continues to offer refreshments in the restaurant and cafe, as well as an exciting variety of stylish items and gifts at the Design Museum Shop located on the nearby high street.
Showcasing the best of design, the museum’s ever-expanding collection is now available to view free of charge for the first time. The entrance to the new museum also features a wall full of the most-loved objects from past and present, as suggested by the public.
You can look forward to plenty of exciting exhibitions including Fear and Love: Reactions to a Complex World, featuring a set of curated installations which explore our emotional reaction to change. The museum will also once again host the Designs of the Year show.
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