Art exhibitions in London and around the UK this weekend
Our ultimate guide to the best UK and London art exhibitions for your post-lockdown summer 2021 diary
Summer has arrived, and – persistant rain aside – the sun has risen on London’s long-fallow art scene.
Though many countries are still in the throes of lockdown restrictions, UK art galleries and museums can now open their doors to physical visitors. For many, these will be the first in-person art experiences in more than a year. For others, it will be months of show postponements and uncertainty coming to an end. Ultimately, this will provide an alternative to viewing art via pixels, which – bar recent NFT dramas – just hasn’t quite offered the same thrills.
As our diaries begin to rapidly fill, these are the shows, in the city and around the UK, worth pencilling in.
London art exhibitions
Exhibition: Sophie Taeuber-Arp
Location: Tate Modern
Dates: Until 17 October
Sophie Taeuber-Arp was a pioneer of the French avant-garde. She probed the intersections of abstract art, craft and design, and proved that, in practice, such distinctions need not exist. A major retrospective at Tate Modern – the first of her work ever held in the UK – is dedicated to the life and work of this trailblazer, and it’s been a long time coming. Through 200 key works and objects from collections across Europe and America, the show captures how an artist, once overlooked, quite literally gave geometric abstraction a new vocabulary. What is most striking about Taeuber-Arp’s work is its lasting influence on contemporary artists. One such artist is Haegue Yang, who recently shared her perspective on the legacy of this extraordinary artist.
Exhibition: Alan Schaller, ‘Life Goes On’
Location: Leica Gallery
Dates: Until 15 August 2021
Turning his lens to the pandemic-stripped streets of London during 2020, Alan Schaller captured the diversity of life in the city and beyond. Instead of dwelling on the well-documented global trauma, Schaller homed in on moments of joy and curiosity, introducing scenes of wildlife and nature into his signature geometric and architectural compositions. ‘Truth be told, photography really gave me structure and helped me hugely in terms of having a routine and feeling positive about life around me,’ he says. ‘I have had a particularly hard year, with the passing of my mother on 4 January 2021. These images and importantly, the pursuit of finding them, has helped me in an emotional sense immeasurably during the months of illness. This difficult experience has given me a renewed passion and appreciation for photography and has highlighted how much it brings me.’
Exhibition: ‘Peter Blake: Time Traveller’
Location: Waddington Custot
Dates: Until 13 August 2021
‘Peter Blake: Time Traveller’ is a journey through the British Pop Art star’s distinctive approach to collage-making. It reveals his knack for extracting fragments of banal reality and transforming them into compositions that could only exist in imagination. Works from Blake’s Alphabet and Museum of Black and White series, are presented alongside pieces made in homage to fellow artists Sonia Delaunay, Kurt Schwitters and Robert Rauschenberg. Blake’s London art exhibition begins with early experiments with collaged paper after he encountered work by Schwitters in the 1950s, and travels through his rise to prominence to his current, self-proclaimed Late Period and most recent digital-print photo collages. The show coincides with the release of a new book, Peter Blake: Collage, published by Thames & Hudson. Explore more about Blake’s life, work and studio of curiosities.
Exhibition: Ryoji Ikeda
Location: 180 The Strand
Dates: Until 18 September 2021
In his largest show in Europe to date, Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda has staged a sensory assault course. Presented by The Vinyl Factory and Fact magazine in collaboration with Audemars Piguet Contemporary, these all-consuming, subterranean light and sonic installations explore the data that surrounds, informs and shapes our existence. Emerging from the industrial labyrinth that is 180 The Strand, it’s customary to feel like your senses have been through the wash a few times. But after Ikeda’s show, your eyes can hear, and your nose can see. Ikeda doesn’t politely request your attention, he gets inside your head and plays your eardrum like a snare. In brief, the whole experience might be comparable to watching sci-fi thriller Cube (1997) to a soundtrack by Crystal Castles while at the tail end of a bad trip. When you eventually emerge, there’s euphoria. Not just because you’ve seen good art – which you undoubtedly have – but because you’re alive. Read the full review.
Exhibition: Claudia Andujar, ‘The Yanomami Struggle’
Dates: Until 29 Aug 2021
‘This small world in the immensity of the Amazon forest was my place and always will be. I am linked to the Indians, to the land, to the fundamental struggle.’ These are the words of Brazilian photographer Claudia Andujar, whose new exhibition at the Barbican is devoted to her life, work and collaboration with the Yanomami, one of Brazil’s largest indigenous peoples, with whom she has spent her career building relationships. Through more than 200 photographs, an audio-visual installation and a series of drawings by the Yanomami, Andujar explores the dual nature of her five-decade bond with them: one of art and activism. As she uses her camera as a tool for political change, the show demonstrates her journey, grappling with the visual interpretation of a complex and multifaceted culture. This is a time when the Yanomami’s territory and way of life are at risk, both due to ongoing illegal mining and the Covid-19 crisis. This show gives a platform to Andujar’s voice, and all those she has documented and defended.
On the post-lockdown London art scene, there seems to be a recurring theme: immersion. These include Ryoji Ikeda’s sensory ambush at 180 The Strand, and Es Devlin’s recent Forest for Change at Somerset House for London Design Biennale. But Tate Modern is hosting the piece of work that arguably redefined the role of immersion in contemporary art: Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Infinity Mirror Rooms’. The year-long show will comprise two of the artist’s acclaimed mirror room installations in a dizzying marriage of mirrors, light and water, which offers the illusion of limitless space. Also on view is The Universe as Seen from the Stairway to Heaven, 2021, Kusama’s brand new ’peep in’ sculpture, which has been created specifically for the show. At 92, Kusama remains a prolific force: the artist currently has a simultaneous shows at Victoria Miro, London, the New York Botanical Garden, and a major retrospective at Gropius Bau in Berlin. She has also recently collaborated with brands such as Veuve Clicquot, which involved a striking sculptural intervention on the French Champagne house’s premium cuvée, La Grande Dame.
Shows around the UK
Exhibition: ‘Masterpieces in Miniature: The 2021 Model Art Gallery’
Location: Pallant House, Chichester
Dates: Until spring 2022
The 2021 Model Art Gallery at Pallant House is a microcosm of contemporary British art featuring tiny new works created over the last year by 34 leading artists. The dolls house-esque gallery features new works sculptures by Julian Opie, ceramics by Grayson Perry, with a façade clad in Lothar Götz’s electric geometric mural, and pieces by Michael Armitage, Cecily Brown, Michael Craig-Martin, Gary Hume, Magdalene Odundo, and Rachel Whiteread. Ever thought you’d have to squint for a closer look at a Sean Scully or spot a porcelain pot by Edmund de Waal no bigger than a thimble? We didn’t either, but there’s a first time for everything.
Exhibition: ‘Karla Black: Sculptures (2001-2021)’
Location: Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh
Dates: Until 21 November 2021
For her latest show at the newly reopened Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh, Turner Prize-nominated artist Karla Black is ‘reimagining a retrospective’. Armed with 30 existing sculptures and new commissions, she has staged a full-scale material ambush that responds directly to the gallery, which has just been rejuvenated and extended by Reiach and Hall Architects. Black’s show is a lesson in materiality, and these sculptures are constructed from her signatures: cardboard, sugar paper, polystyrene, polythene, Cellophane, Sellotape, glass, mirror, net, Vaseline, plaster powder, powder paint, medicines, cosmetics and thread. The works – large and small – sprawl across brick walls, appear in gallery windows and spill across floors. The pièce de résistance, Waiver For Shade, is a major site-specific commission Black has created within the gallery’s new warehouse space.
Exhibition: Eduardo Chillida
Location: Hauser & Wirth Somerset
Dates: Until 3 Jan 2022
Spanish sculptor Eduardo Chillida’s craftsman’s intimacy, philosopher’s sensibility and cosmic vision is currently beingcelebrated in a new show at Hauser & Wirth Somerset. Last month, Wallpaper* contributing editor Nick Vinson offered us a first look. The show spans 51 years and includes 24 small- and large-scale sculptures, alongside works on paper, hung in three of the five original farm buildings and dotted on the landscape. The rural vernacular of Hauser & Wirth Somerset offers remarkable comparisons with Chillida Leku, the outdoor museum near San Sebastián, Spain, dedicated to the work of the pioneering artist. Among the Piet Oudolf-designed gardens, ancient farm buildings and expansive countryside surroundings, Chillida’s trailblazing work feels very much at home. Also at the gallery is show of work by Gustav Metzger, who, over a six-decade career, examined the intersection between human intervention, nature and man-made environments.
Exhibition: ‘Portable Sculpture’
Location: Henry Moore Institute, Leeds
Dates: Until 29 August 2021
As one might imagine, ‘Portable Sculpture’ at the Henry Moore Institute comprises sculptures from 1934 to the present day that are designed to fold up, deflate, pack down and dismantle. The group show is as varied as it is inventive. Curated by Claire O’Dowd, it features 15 artists who have responded to their individual circumstances by creating sculptures that are as mobile as their makers. These include late legends Louise Bourgeois, Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Calder, contemporary trailblazers Mohamad Hafez, Do Ho Suh, Andrea Zittel and Veronica Ryan, as well as new work by rising stars James Ackerley and inflatable sculptor Clare Ashley. Naturally, a Calder Mobile is present and correct (Chicago Black, 1949, to be precise), as is Do Ho Suh’s interactive Hub, Wielandstr 18, 12159 Berlin, 2015. Meanwhile, Clare Ashley’s monumental CLOWN (Laughing Stock) 2020, is enough to lighten any mood, unless you hate clowns.
Exhibition: ‘Tony Cragg at Houghton Hall’
Location: Houghton Hall, Norfolk
Dates: Until 26 September
Those craving an alfresco art experience need look no further than the palatial Houghton Hall estate in Norfolk. There, British sculptor Tony Cragg is currently dominating its grounds with a self-curated survey exhibition spanning a decade of work with a particular focus on new pieces, some of which have been created specifically for the show. The artist is well versed in turning the great outdoors into his gallery. In 2008, he founded Skulpturenpark Waldfrieden in Wuppertal, Germany, where he lives, works and exhibits, recently staging a joint show with fellow sculptor Sean Scully. Cragg has the distinctive ability to simulate motion in motionless forms – his imposing outdoor works, created in bronze, stainless steel, fibreglass and polyester swirl, drip and spill over like liquid. Cragg will also display more than 20 smaller pieces in the state rooms and gallery spaces inside Houghton Hall. As Cragg succinctly describes his feelings about his discipline: ‘Sculpture gives us new forms, new ideas and new emotions. It literally gives things meaning and opens new perspectives.’