What’s On – London Art and Design Events January 2017

by | What's On

London art and design events January 2017 sees the opening of the new Design Museum building in the old Commonwealth Institute in Kensington.

That striking copper roofed 60s building that had been languishing for years, has been internally remodelled by the high priest of minimalism John Pawson. Meanwhile the V&A has beautifully put the focus on that wonderfully old fashioned and somewhat lapsed word – ‘garniture’ – that hasn’t lost its appeal among interior designers. One of the fathers of Swedish Modern – Josef Frank – is celebrated in an exciting exhibition that displays examples of his textiles, furniture and watercolours. The poverty of ideas in much of contemporary art is fascinatingly exposed in the Tate’s Rauschenberg retrospective, showing that unmade beds and other every day objects have long been appropriated by artists. Finally it’s only when the British Museum puts on an art show – like its current South Africa exhibition – that we get the luxury of the really long view. As always, there’s plenty to distract us – which we all need after the shocks and uncertainties of last year and our nervousness for this one.

DESIGN MUSEUM OPENING London Art and Design Events January 2017


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.

JOSEF FRANK - PATTERNS - FURNITURE - PAINTING London Art and Design Events January 2017


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.

MAKING NATURE London Art and Design Events January 2017


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.

THE DECORATIVE ANTIQUES  and TEXTILES FAIR London Art and Design Events January 2017


24-29 January 2017 at Battersea Park, London

This is a very popular and enjoyable show particularly among designers. The fair has responded to decorators seeking unusual antiques and 20th century designs for home interiors. There is much that is genuinely idiosyncratic and prices are generally affordable. Exhibitors are encouraged to show their wares in room sets, which is an inspiring way to see how items may be displayed.

The Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair was launched in 1985, the first to specifically unite the antiques and interior design trades. Today there are three events a year: a Winter Fair in January, a Spring Fair in April and an Autumn Fair during the busy ‘design season’ in late September.



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.

ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG London Art and Design Events January 2017


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.

SOUTH AFRICA - THE ART OF A NATION London Art and Design Events January 2017


Until 26 February 2017 at the British Museum, London

Curiously, the UK’s first major exhibition on South African art can be found at the British Museum, which takes the long view surveying no less than 100,000 years of art. South Africa: The Art of a Nation displays a diverse range of art that tells the story of the colonial period, apartheid and South Africa today.

On display are some of the world’s oldest art objects and striking contemporary pieces that illustrate this nation’s deep and complex past. Highlights include colonial art from the 17th century; highly charged 20th-century works that reacted to segregation and apartheid; and pieces that showcase the post-apartheid transformation since 1990.



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.

PICASSO PORTRAITS London Art and Design Events January 2017


Until 5 February 2017 at National Portrait Gallery, London

The astonishing variety and innovation of Picasso’s art is epitomised by his portraits. This major exhibition of over eighty works focuses on the artist’s portrayal of family, friends and lovers and reveals his creative processes as he moved freely between drawing from life, humorous caricature and expressive painting from memory.

On display will be portraits from all periods of Picasso’s career and in all media, from the realist paintings of his boyhood to his later ultra-spontaneous canvases. The works on show will range from celebrated masterpieces loaned by international institutions to works in private collections being shown in the United Kingdom for the first time.

LONDON ART FAIR London Art and Design Events January 2017


18-22 January 201​7​ at the Business Design Centre, Islington, London

The 29th edition of this fair – still the largest in the UK for modern and contemporary British art – customarily launches the art world year. The Fair showcases museum quality modern British art alongside contemporary work from today’s leading artists, covering the period from the early 20th century to the present day.

All the main players of the British art scene will of course be represented among the 120 or so galleries on display. Works range from photography and sculpture to painting and ceramics. As a further bonus in addition to the main Fair there are also two curated sections focusing on younger galleries, new work and contemporary photography.

THE RADICAL EYE - MODERNIST PHOTOGRAPHY London Art and Design Events January 2017


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.

PAUL NASH London Art and Design Events November 2016


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.

THE VULGAR - FASHION REDEFINED London Art and Design Events November 2016


Until 5 February 2017 at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Vulgarity exposes the scandal of good taste’ Adam Phillips

This fascinating exhibition examines the boundaries of good taste and vulgarity through fashion over a period of 500 years. Examining the constantly evolving notion of vulgarity in fashion whilst revelling in its excesses, you are invited to rethink what makes something vulgar and why it is such a sensitive and controversial term.

Interestingly the exhibition is conceived by psychoanalyst Adam Philips in collaboration with fashion curator Judith Clark, and takes Phillips’s definitions of ‘the vulgar’ as its starting point. Drawn from public and private collections, with contributions from leading modern and contemporary designers, the exhibition presents pieces from the Renaissance to the present day, weaving together historic dress, couture and ready-to-wear fashion, textile ornamentation, manuscripts, photography and film.

The Vulgar showcases over a hundred objects, ranging from historical costumes to couture and ready-to-wear looks, with contributions from leading contemporary designers such as Walter van Beirendonck, Chloé, Christian Dior, Pam Hogg, Charles James, Christian Lacroix, Lanvin, Moschino, Miuccia Prada, Agent Provocateur, Elsa Schiaparelli, Philip Treacy, UNDERCOVER, Viktor & Rolf, Louis Vuitton and Vivienne Westwood.



Until 22 January 2017 at Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne

Moonlit scenes scenes were more a genre of 19th-century Romantic painting, but this show curated by artist Tom Hammick, begins a conversation that stretches over two centuries of sundown. 60 works explore the ideas and influences that have wound their way around paintings of nightfall from Edvard Munch and JMW Turner, to LS Lowry’s drunken pub scenes, to Louise Bourgeois’s sleepless spirals. Familiar themes creep out of the shadows, from wonderment and love, to revelry, anxiety and dystopia. Recent works elevate the activities of the contemporary nighttime, from Betsy Dadd’s indistinct portraits of women drinking, to Phoebe Unwin’s murky cinema, to Michael Craig-Martin RA’s ashtray, and the cold glow of the TV from outside Danny Markey’s windows.

BEYOND CARAVAGGIO London Art and Design Events October 2016


Until 15 January 2017 at National Gallery, London

Beyond Caravaggio’ brings together exceptional works by Caravaggio and the Italian, French, Flemish, Dutch, and Spanish artists he inspired. This is the first exhibition in the UK to explore the influence of Caravaggio – and the phenomenon known as Caravaggism – on the art of his contemporaries and followers.

After the unveiling of Caravaggio’s first public commission in 1600, artists from across Europe flocked to Rome to see his work. Seduced by the pictorial and narrative power of his paintings, many went on to imitate their naturalism and dramatic lighting effects.

Paintings by Caravaggio and his followers were highly sought after in the decades following his untimely death at the age of just 39. By the mid 17th century, however, the Caravaggesque style had fallen out of favour and it would take almost three hundred years for Caravaggio’s reputation to be restored and for his artistic accomplishments to be fully recognised.

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY OF THE YEAR London Art and Design Events October 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.

ADRIAEN VAN DE VELDE - DUTCH MASTER OF LANDSCAPE London Art and Design Events October 2016


Until 15 January 2017 at Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

The Dulwich Picture Gallery once again brings us another exciting exhibition of a little known great master. This is the first ever exhibition devoted to the Dutch painter and draughtsman Adriaen van de Velde (1636 – 1672). Van de Velde tragically only lived until the age of 35, but this prolific artist – whose many masterpieces were to earn him posthumous fame – is recognised as one of the finest landscape artists of the Dutch Golden Age.

A Dutch Italian, Van de Velde represents a point of artistic cross-communication across borders, fusing agricultural landscapes in Holland with mythological Arcadian scenes in Italian settings. Compared by the renowned art historian Wolfgang Stechow (1896-1974) to Mozart’s chamber music, Van de Velde’s paintings are delicate, carefully composed and demonstrate his mastery of lighting effects as well as the human figure.

As well as bringing together 60 works, the exhibition will reunite these paintings with their preparatory studies in red chalk or pen and ink for the first time. The exhibition will offer not only a survey of the artist’s oeuvre but also a rare glimpse of a seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painter at work, from conception to completion.

YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION? RECORDS AND REBELS 1966-1970 London Art and Design Events October 2016


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.

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