Though London boasts a world-class offering of exhibitions year-round, its museums put their best foot forward each autumn as the capital is overrun by art lovers during Frieze week. It seems to be the season of solo shows, with a mix of rising stars and members of the old guard stepping into the spotlight.
Marina Abramović’s retrospective at the Royal Academy (until January 1, 2024), which is, shockingly, the museum’s first solo dedicated to a woman artist, has already been the talk of the town for some weeks now. Another long-awaited show is Philip Guston at Tate Modern (October 5—February 25, 2024), which was controversially postponed to buy the curators more time to contextualize sensitive content addressing fraught race relations in the U.S. during the 1960s.
Elsewhere, Tate Britain is dedicated a retrospective to Sarah Lucas. Also much anticipated will be painter Nicole Eisenman’s show at Whitechapel (until January 14, 2024), on tour from the Museum Brandhorst in Munich, which offers contemporary spins on art historical classics.
Below, our European team have picked out five shows that they have penciled into their calendars.
Claudette Johnson: “Presence“
The Courtauld Gallery
September 29, 2023—January 14, 2024
Johnson’s first solo at a major public gallery in London marks a significant moment for one of the founding members of the Black British Arts Movement, which emerged in the 1980s as part of the BLK Art Group. This exhibition raises important questions about the role of Black artists within the British art establishment. The artist’s journey, as well as the broader narrative of the art world, is poignantly symbolized by a career overview in the distinguished and historically exclusive halls of the Courtauld Gallery.
Johnson’s monumental and evocative drawings, featuring friends, family, and herself, play with pose, gaze, color, and scale, creating a soft yet profoundly impactful effect. She aspires to “tell a different story about our presence in this country,” she said.
Trevor Yeung: “Soft ground“
September 28, 2023—December 18, 2023
“This is not an exhibition to be experienced during the opening,” Trevor Yeung said at the opening of “Soft ground” at the non-profit Gasworks in London’s Vauxhall. Indeed, the usual chatter and banter at crowded gallery openings are not the best fit for this particular show, the Hong Kong rising star’s first solo show in the U.K.
Rather than calling this an exhibition, “Soft ground” is perhaps more appropriately seen as one immersive work that requires the audience’s full attention and engages all of their senses to experience it fully. Inspired by the artist’s research on London’s gay cruising areas during his residency at Delfina Foundation, the experience of exploring this dimly lit gallery space is an artistic exploration of the social and emotional complexities of this hidden cultural phenomenon. In the dark, you may encounter a familiar scent that reminds you of a former lover, a sound resembling something you might have heard, and the sight of a large tree trunk, like the notorious one in Hampstead Heath known as an embodiment of sexual desires. As one of the finalists of the Sigg Prize this year and the representative of Hong Kong at next year’s Venice Biennale, Yeung has crafted a poignant work to savor.
Frank Walter: “Artist, Gardener, Radical“
October 4, 2023—February 25, 2024
Anyone in need of a break from London’s grey skies will discover that the vibrant landscapes of Antiguan artist Frank Walter possess an almost transportive power. This new retrospective at the relatively unsung Garden Museum features over 100 paintings and sculptures, most of which were created later in Walter’s life when he had withdrawn to a remote studio, dedicating his time to creative endeavors until his passing in 2009.
The museum utilizes these richly evocative works as a lens through which to explore the artist’s environmental and social activism. In addition to his prolific artistic output, Walter made history as the first Black man to manage a sugar plantation in Antigua. He was also a dedicated writer of political manifestos advocating for progressive policies, such as police training and support for small farms and fisheries.
October 11, 2023—January 7, 2024
Though the Japanese artist and architect recently made headlines for adding his 69-feet-tall “Point of Infinity” to the San Francisco skyline, he is best known for his photography. These striking, predominantly black-and-white works were produced over half a century using methods inspired by the very earliest 19th-century techniques and have been brought together for a new show at the Hayward Gallery. Among the subjects captured by Sugimoto are eerily lifelike wax figurines, modernist architecture, lightning, old-school cinemas, seascapes, and the eternally serene aura of the Buddha statues affixed to a 12th-century temple in Kyoto.
El Anatsui’s Hyundai Commission
October 10, 2023—April 14, 2024
Of all the things happening during Frieze week, the annual Hyundai commission at the Tate Modern is kept mostly under wraps until its grand unveiling during the busiest week in the October art world. Naturally, we are excited to check it out. Finding a way to intelligently fill the industrially scaled Turbine Hall is an artistic feat, though Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui—who was recently interviewed on Artnet News—should be more than capable of executing a powerful takeover. Known for gigantic and shimmering artworks crafted from recycled materials that envelop walls or spill across gallery floors, these triumphantly sized pieces are typically delivered to museums without instructions. Anatsui seeks full creative collaboration with his hosts, leaving it up to them to decide how to install them.
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