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What’s on: London art galleries & museums

As lockdown restrictions continue to lift moving into summer, galleries and museums across London are preparing to reopen and welcome visitors once more. 

Many industries took major hits in 2020, and the art world was not exempt. The enduring legacy of the Guerilla Girls and other radical art critics have slowly but surely shaped the trajectory of art exhibition across the globe to feature fringe and marginalised works. Still, the significant pause in the progressive inertia this past quarantine-tainted year has pushed back interesting and emerging exhibits.

However, as galleries and museums prepare to re-open from May 17th,  locations across London are rescheduling and extending the viewing possibility for their most popular and most revolutionary shows.

Note: Due to Covid-19 restrictions, galleries, museums and exhibitions are requiring attendees to pre-book a time slot and present proof of booking, even for free events. If you want to check out what’s on, make sure you book your spot in advance!

The Saatchi Gallery 

The Saatchi Gallery just off King’s Road in Chelsea curates unique collections of contemporary and emerging artists, also acting as a charity to support up and coming artists. 

  • JR: Chronicles – The Saatchi is hosting French artist JR’s largest exhibition to date. His internationally acclaimed photographs function as political and sociological interventions into global communities in motion. 
  • Philip Colbert: Lobsteropolis – Colbert’s Lobsteropolis is a work of immersive worldbuilding, featuring cartoonish characters in situ. Colbert digitised the cultural fabric in an effort to make viewers turn inward and examine what it means to create and exist in the internet age. 
  • Antisocial Isolation Born out of Covid-19 isolation, this group exhibition of emerging artists blend unique perspectives on what it means to be isolated and how space takes on new meaning under these conditions.

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Famous for its sartorial archives, the V&A Museum in Kensington has a vast legacy as a world leader in art, design and costume exhibition.

  • Bags: Inside out – Sponsored by Mulberry, this long-running exhibition showcases the blend of individuality, style and function found in history’s leading editorial bags. From Fendi to Karl Lagerfield, from Faberge Egg inspired clutches to Winston’s Churchill’s carry-on, this collection surveys and historicises the craftsmanship of accessories. 
  • Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser – This immersive and theatrical show pays homage to a story that has stood the test of time. Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland has seen many different iterations and reformulations over its 150 years, and this exhibition celebrates it all. 
  • Epic Iran – To uncover the artistic achievements throughout Iran’s history, Epic Iran has been organised by the Iran Heritage Foundation in association with The Sarikhani Collection and explores 5,000 years of Iranian art history. 

If you’re not ready to join the public for an in-person stroll of the gallery, the V&A is offering a series of online talks. Upcoming lectures include:

  • The Naturally Beautiful Garden – Kathryn Bradley-Hole will discuss contemporary garden-making as an aesthetic and artistic practice.
  • Putnam & Putnam: Flower Colour Theory – Led by Michael and Darroch Putnam, this lecture will explore colour theory as a foundation for floral design, taking inspiration from artwork in the V&A’s collection.

The Tate Modern

One of the most loved and acclaimed art galleries in London, the Tate Modern has always boasted a robust repertoire of contemporary art, and their upcoming collections predominantly feature women. 

  • Zanele Muholi – Muholi is a progressive visual artist and photography that chronicles and celebrates the stories of Black LGBT South Africans. 
  • Sophie Taeuber-Arp – With the exhibition of her work noted as “long overdue,” Taeuber-Arp was a foremost abstract artist and Dadaist of the early 20th century. Her speciality was objects, combining traditional crafts with modernist aesthetics and sensibilities. 
  • The EY Exhibition: The Making of Rodin – This landmark exhibition showcases the experimental works of classical sculptor Auguste Rodin, noting the importance of plaster in his lesser-known works. 
  • Yayoi Kusama – Perhaps the most exciting of all the upcoming exhibitions at the Tate, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms are a triumph in immersive art installation and have garnered international acclaim for Kusama. Two of the mirror rooms, Filled with the Brilliance of Life and Chandelier of Grief, will be on display this spring. 
  • Magdelena Abakanowicz – Abakanowicz’s woven “Abkans” work to subvert sculpture as a practice, contrasting the traditional strength of sculpted pieces with the softness and malleability of organic fibre.
  • Maria Bartuszova – Having rarely been exhibited before in the UK, this exciting installation of Bartuszova’s nature-inspired abstract sculpture highlights the fragility of domesticity within a precarious state.

The Estorick Collection

Located just around the corner from our new Islington Square location, the Estorick Collection is the only gallery in the UK dedicated to modern and Futurist Italian art. Featuring the works of preeminent Italian artists such as Umberto Boccioni, Amedeo Modigliani, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Mimmo Paladino, the Estorick Collection is astonishingly unique and industrious.

Upcoming exhibitions at the Estorick include:

  • Italian Threads: MITA Textile Design 1926-1976 – Running through June, this exhibition features Genoa’s celebrated MITA textile firm. Reminiscent of Futurism, Abstract Expressionism and avante-garde themes, the MITA’s visual language grapples with post-war aesthetic sensibilities that mediate both the public and private spheres. 
  • Olivier Debré: Fervent Abstraction – Inspired by the styles of Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, and Japanese calligraphy, Debré was a key figure of lyrical abstraction. His artistic motivation was to express emotion in relation to powerful natural phenomena.

The Fashion and Textile Museum

The F&T Museum is the only museum in the UK that exclusively showcases contemporary fashion, design and textiles. Founded by fashion icon Dame Zandra Rhodes, the permanent collection includes experimental garments from Christian Dior, Balenciaga, Biba, Mary Quant and Vivienne Westwood. 

Running from May to August, upcoming exhibitions include:

  • Chintz: Cotton in Bloom – This exhibition tells the stories and secrets of cotton craftsmanship, detailing how a textile of the elite gained popularity and accessibility across England and the world. 
  • Annie Phillips: Ancient Technique and Contemporary Art – Batik artist Annie Phillips has revitalised the practice of wax-resist dying, creating unique, vibrant and contemporary textiles through the ancient techniques of Egypt, Indonesia and Ghana. 

Next on the docket for the F&T Museum is:

  • Beautiful People: The Boutique in 1960s Counterculture – As a celebration of the Chelsea boutiques that instigated a counterculture fashion revolution in the mid-1960s, Beautiful People will showcase the fabulous, radical and androgynous looks of British youth culture, as worn by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix.

180 The Strand

Experimental, immersive and multi-sensory, 180 The Strand is recognised for its groundbreaking and emerging exhibition network and Brutalist architectural space. On 180 The Strand’s re-opening docket is dynamic digital artist Ryoji Ikeda’s largest ever exhibition. Ikeda recontextualises the location into a sensory labyrinth of light and sound. 180 The Strand will only feature Ikeda’s work until August, so be sure to pre-book while you still can.

Richard Saltoun Gallery

A hidden gem of London’s art scene, the Richard Saltoun Gallery is a truly innovative showroom of contemporary art, design and sculpture that curates feminist, conceptual and performative works generally political in nature. The intimate walkthrough of the Richard Saltoun is a remarkable and transformative experience. Upon reopening, the gallery will feature group exhibitions of international artists that explore the ideas of political philosopher Hannah Arendt.

Written by:
Leah Wingenroth

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