This Autumn promises a cultural feast with a slew of new art exhibitions and cultural openings across London. From the long-anticipated Bags: Inside Out at the V&A and the Royal Academy’s postponed Summer Exhibition to the return of Tracey Emin and a deep dive into JMW Turner, these are the must-see shows to catch over the coming months.
Until 21 February 2021
Since the late 1960s, American artist Bruce Nauman has been the master of reinvention, constantly pushing boundaries and challenging our perception of artwork through his sculpture, photography, neon, video, drawing, printmaking and performance.
This, the first major survey of his work in London for more than two decades, is a vibrant assault on the senses (not for the faint-hearted, the show includes dark spaces, loud noises and some references to death) with immersive installations that focus on sound and moving image, poetic sculptures and neon pieces.
5 November – 7 March 2021
Acclaimed photographer and filmmaker Zanele Muholi self-identifies as a visual activist, their oeuvre telling the stories of black lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex lives in South Africa since the early 2000s.
On display are 260 of Muholi’s photographs including the series Only Half the Picture and Faces and Phases, both of which challenge the nation’s ideologies and representations, depicting the fortitude of its subjects in the face of prejudice, intolerance and violence. Other standouts include Brave Beauties, which celebrates empowered non-binary people and trans women, and Somnyama Ngonyama, meaning Hail the Dark Lioness, for which Muholi turns the camera on themself.
Until 24 January 2021
One of the largest surveys ever dedicated to a living choreographer, this major exhibition explores Michael Clark’s groundbreaking, ongoing four-decade career and how his unique, often radical, multidisciplinary approach has so successfully married classical ballet with punk culture.
A series of striking portraits, taken by legendary collaborators and world-renowned artists including Sarah Lucas, Wolfgang Tillmans, The Fall and Leigh Bowery, sit alongside rare archival material to allow the viewer to fully understand the depth and breadth of Michael’s extraordinary oeuvre and why his place in Britain’s cultural history is cemented forever.
Until 31 January 2021
Dub has had a huge impact on the London music scene, influencing punk and pop to garage and grime. The Museum of London’s display celebrates the musical genre in all its glory, starting with its roots in Jamaican reggae to how dub has shaped communities and culture in the capital over the past five decades, including its continuing role at Notting Hill Carnival.
Until 7 November
Stephen Friedman Gallery represents some of the biggest names in contemporary art. To mark its 25th anniversary, the Mayfair institution is both putting on an exhibition to represent the diversity of its programme and has announced the representation of three new artists including Ugandan artist Leila Babirye, whose works address issues surrounding identity, sexuality and human rights.
Until 24 January 2021
Artemisia Gentileschi was the most celebrated female painter of the 17th century, at a time when women artists were not readily accepted. This major exhibition collates Artemisia’s best-known paintings, self-portraits and personal letters to show how she challenged boundaries throughout her life, painting subjects that were traditionally the preserve of the male gaze and depicting women as courageous conspirators and survivors.
21 November – 12 September 2021
Designer totes, vanity cases, despatch boxes, military rucksacks… no shape, style or size of bag has been overlooked by curator Lucia Savi in the V&A’s latest blockbuster show, Bags: Inside Out, which spans the 16th century to the present day.
From an exquisitely embroidered gold and red burse belonging to Elizabeth I right through to Carrie Bradshaw’s purple, sequinned Fendi ‘Baguette’ from Sex and the City, each exhibit provides an unprecedented insight into our enduring fascination with this most ubiquitous of accessories.
Until 3 January 2021
The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition has been held annually since 1769 – even throughout the war years – and has become a fixture on the world’s art calendar. Suffice to say it’s still going ahead in 2020, albeit in October. Coordinated by artistic sibling duo Jane and Louise Wilson RA, expect the usual kaleidoscopic display of works by household names and emerging artists in what is now the world’s largest open submission contemporary art show.
The Loneliness of the Soul
15 November – 28 February 2021
Tracey Emin RA has long been fascinated and inspired by the work of Norwegian Expressionist Edvard Munch. So much so, she has hand-picked 19 of his oils and watercolours from Oslo’s Munch Museet to sit alongside 25 of her own pieces – paintings, neons and sculptures, some seen here for the first time – for The Loneliness of the Soul. Displayed across the Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries, the show’s theme focuses on grief, loss and longing, with the juxtaposition of the artists’ works inviting the visitor to draw comparisons between the two and how – though separated by time and history – they have both delved into the same emotional landscapes.
18 November – 9 May 2021
Fly In League With The Night is the first major survey of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, one of the most important figurative painters working today. The British artist is widely acclaimed for her oil paintings of fictitious people, ambiguous and enigmatic in their depiction; this show brings together 80 of her works, spanning almost two decades, from Yiadom-Boakye’s early graduate show pieces to some of her best-known paintings.
Until 24 January 2021
The British Museum houses one of the most comprehensive collections of Tantric materials in the world. This exhibition – which encapsulates the impact of Tantra, a set of beliefs and rituals that emerged in India around AD500 – brings these treasures to light.
The collection of extraordinary objects date from the 7th Century to the present, and includes masterpieces of sculpture, painting, prints and ritual objects, all allowing the viewer to better understand how this centuries-old philosophy has challenged global political, sexual and gender norms.
Until 14 March 2021
Artist Jan Hendrix explores humanity’s impact on the world in this thought-provoking exhibition at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery, focusing on Kamay Botany Bay in Australia. Once a pristine bay teeming with flora and fauna, colonial industrialisation, contemporary urbanisation and climate change have since robbed it of its botany.
Themes of habitat loss and the fragility of nature run throughout the show, a highlight of which is an immersive mirrored pavilion, with Jan using glass, silver leaf and tapestry to create a powerful commentary on the damage we are having on the environment.
Until 14 February 2021
An all-singing, all-dancing foray into the electronic and rave culture, from its origins to its future. Through a series of multi-sensory installations, soundtrack by DJ Laurent Garnier and a 3D Kraftwerk experience, visitors are taken to warehouses and dancefloors across the world as they discover how design, technology and innovation have powered this musical genre.
28 October – 7 March 2021
A deep dive into JMW Turner’s life and times, exploring how Britain’s leading landscape painter captured the momentous events of his day, from the Industrial Revolution to the Napoleonic Wars. The exhibition – which includes major loans and rarely seen works – is a visual feast but also a fascinating insight into what it meant to be a modern artist during the early 19th century.
21 November – 9 May 2021
For its first ever major photography exhibition, Dulwich Picture Gallery explores the history of the medium through depictions of plants and botany. Expect over 100 works by 37 leading photographers, starting from the Victorian greats including William Henry Fox Talbot through to contemporary artists like Robert Mapplethorpe and Nobuyoshi Araki, all of which manifest the startling technical innovations in photography.
Until 3 January 2021
Global insurance company Hiscox has been investing in modern and contemporary art for over half a century, and now owns seminal works by the likes of Joan Miró, David Hockney and Pablo Picasso. In the first of two consecutive artist-curated shows (the other artist is Sol Calero), Gary Hume draws from this rich collection, inviting us to escape the everyday in his personal selection.