London’s art exhibitions may be closed for now, but fear not. Enterprising galleries, museums, fairs and auction houses have shifted much of their activity online. From the inaugural Affordable Online Art Fair to a virtual tour of the Leila Alaoui exhibition at Somerset House, this is your guide to the best of the arts to virtually appreciate this November.
The Affordable Art Fair is best known for its curated edit of graduate talent, rising stars and big names at surprising prices. Launched in 1999 in London’s Battersea Park, the fair has since expanded overseas, opening outposts in capital cities around the world from New York to Singapore.
The inaugural online edition brings together 50 galleries from 15 countries, each with a dedicated viewing room on the Affordable Art Fair online marketplace. You’ll find everything from kaleidoscopic silkscreen prints and landscapes in oil, to works on paper, portraiture and black and white photography. There’s also a packed programme of online events to enjoy, including a quiz designed to help you discover artwork perfectly tailored to your taste. With prices starting as low as £50, there has never been a better time to pretty up the room.
The Affordable Online Art Fair, online, until 30 November
This summer, Alexandra Tolstoy – the Anglo-Russian mother, author and broadcaster – bid farewell to the beautiful Chelsea home she lovingly created with leading London interior design firm Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler. Converted from two artists’ studios, the property’s light, lofty rooms housed an eclectic mix of furniture, objects and works of art from all corners of the globe.
‘Alexandra has a strong sense of place and great style,’ says Daniel Slowik, director of Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler. ‘Her love of colour and the importance of home, both of which I consider to be part of her Russian heritage, massively influenced the interiors’.
After nearly 11 years at Glebe Place, Tolstoy is now offering part of its contents for sale in an online auction at Christie’s. Among the treasures up for grabs are a pair of Regency cut-felt collage pictures by George Smart and an Anglo-Dutch black-and-gilt Japanned press cupboard dating to around 1700. A star lot is a 19th-century Russian painted pine model of the Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius outside Moscow.
The sale of approximately 130 lots marks a new chapter in Tolstoy’s life, she says. ‘It was a great pleasure to be surrounded by such a diverse and highly personal selection of objects. I very much hope that these pieces will find a new home and be equally enjoyed.’
Alexandra Tolstoy: An Interior by Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler, online, until 25 November
Take a virtual tour of the brilliant new Somerset House exhibition, Leila Alaoui: Rite of Passage, guided by broadcaster Ekow Eshun, and you’ll come face to face with some of the most poignant photographic portraits of recent times. The first major UK retrospective on the French-Moroccan photographer, who was tragically killed in a 2016 terrorist attack aged 33 whilst working in Burkina Faso, charts the evolution of her breath-taking process and practice. Not only does it reveal her empathetic approach to her subjects but also her steadfast commitment to telling the stories of those displaced by conflict and unrest.
On ‘virtual’ display are three of Alaoui’s defining photographic series: Les Marocains (2010-14), No Pasara (2008) and Natreen (2013). These powerful life-size images of men, women and children address notions of identity, belonging and what it means to be human. Prepare to ‘pause’ and stare.
After your digital walk through, tune into a special pre-recorded online talk on Alaoui’s work between Ekow Eshun and the photographer Hassan Hajjaj.
Leila Alaoui: Rite of Passage, online, until the end of lockdown
White Cube’s latest online exhibition, Rear Window, is inspired by the titular 1954 Alfred Hitchcock film which explores the seductions and dangers of looking – and particularly the idea of ‘the gaze’.
It includes paintings and photographs by such celebrated names as Julie Curtiss, Laurie Simmons and Jeff Wall, among others. Also exhibited are photographic works from Carrie Mae Weems’ seminal Kitchen Tableseries (1990), in which the artist tells the story of one woman’s life through staged vignettes in her kitchen.
Of the decision to cast herself in the leading role, Weems recently said, ‘I’m very interested in the performative. I use my body as a landscape to explore the complex realities of the lives of women.’
Rear Window, online, 13 November – 19 January
London’s biggest celebration of pre-contemporary art returns this month with a rich programme of online selling exhibitions, events, talks and tours.
The winter edition brings together around 50 international dealers offering museum-quality pieces spanning millennia and media. Highlights of the week-long extravaganza include a virtual tour of Weiss Gallery’s exhibition of historical portraits depicting ‘men of action’ in combat and Philip Mould & Company’s multi-disciplinary display of work by British women artists from the past 500 years.
Elsewhere, New York-based gallery Mirelle Mosler presents an online exhibition of European works on paper from the 17th to the 20th century; while Trinity Fine Art mounts an exhibition of paintings and sculpture that represent important historic events. A standout work from the latter is Les deux majestés (The Two Majesties), an exquisite animal portrait by the celebrated French painter Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904).
In addition, there’s an online symposium celebrating the legacy of Raphael on the 500th anniversary of his death. You’ll need to register in advance to attend. With over 5,000 years of art history to browse, there’s plenty to discover, enjoy – even buy – at the click of a mouse.
London Art Week, online, 27 November – 4 December
Curated by artist Beatrice Hasell-McCosh, new online exhibition All These Gestures is a celebration of the creative process as well as the final product. ‘You rarely see small drawings and sketchbooks included in an exhibition alongside the larger, finished pieces,’ says the young artist, whose recent solo show at Blue shop Cottage garnered much attention on Instagram. ‘I am excited to highlight their importance in the artistic process in this presentation of work.’
On view are works by exciting early-career artists, such as Tyga Helme, Emilie Goldfinger, Casper White and Catherine Repko. In addition, the gallery is running a series of virtual studio visits via Instagram Live. Keep your eyes peeled to tune in.
All These Gestures, online, until 30 November
Philip Colbert is best known for his exuberant pop paintings that address the commercial realities of hyper consumption. Lobstertropolis, the largest UK survey of Colbert’s work to date, showcases a new body of large-scale paintings and sculptures featuring his much-loved cartoon lobster persona.
Although the physical exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery is now closed, you can virtually tour the show by registering online and booking a slot with your own automated robot machine. ‘Lobsteropolis is a vision of a sci-fi future where, due to lockdowns, we have robot selves who can go and explore the physical world, while we remain indoors,’ Colbert says.
As you navigate your way around the exhibition, you can zoom into the paintings and sculptures on display, among them Lockdown Triptych (2020), which sees Colbert’s lobster alter-ego disguised as a cactus, shark and flower.
Lobstertropolis, online, until 29 November