These Are The London Exhibitions We're Talking About Right Now

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 9 months ago

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These Are The London Exhibitions We're Talking About Right Now

Looking for a dose of culture? Want to know what's hot on London's exhibition scene? Read on.

Natural Beauty

A more natural reclining nude.

A reclining nude appears to be constructed from burnt wood, trees and shrubs. The work is purposefully black in colour to reflect on Western ideals of beauty — lots of white reclining nudes may be found in historical art collections such as The National Gallery. On the walls are a take on Dutch flower paintings that were all about showcasing life and nature. Matthew Day Jackson's versions are made from artificial materials and look like they're dying, reflecting both humanity's impact on the environment and our movement away from the natural world. This is a superb multi-layered exhibition.
Matthew Day Jackson: Still life and the reclining nude at Hauser & Wirth, Mayfair. Until 28 April, free. ★★★★★ (Tuesday-Saturday)

Solving murders

Some detailed analysis into the different sounds of firing a normal versus rubber bullet. Courtesy ICA and Forensic Architecture.

Did an Israeli soldier murder a Palestinian teenager? Were students kidnapped by the Mexican police? Was enough done to help a sinking ship full of migrants? This heavy-hitting exhibition showcases the detailed analysis conducted by research agency Forensic Architecture to look into these cases and find the truth. The level of detail they go into with each case is astounding. Clear your mind before entering and dedicate at least two hours to this show and you'll be rewarded. This is nothing like what we'd expect to find in an art gallery and it blew our minds — more of the same please, ICA.
Counter Investigations: Forensic Architecture at ICA, The Mall. Until 6 May, £1. ★★★★★ (Tuesday-Sunday)

Hipsters in stone

We imagine he's saying 'Greco-Roman is so in right now'. Copyright Leo Caillard.

Look up when walking down Kingsway and you may spot the statues way up on Bush House with a new look. They're now wearing glasses and look more like the students at King's College than historic figures. It's part of a show across two King's College venues (Bush House and Inigo Rooms), exploring how Greek and Roman classical sculpture has inspired recent artists. The show includes a demonic Damien Hirst Medusa and a selection of souvenir statues of Winged Victory in the shape of the Greek flag, using souvenir statues to capture the grandiosity of the original. It's a fascinating journey through modern sculpture and contains some stunning works.
The Classical Now at King's College London, Bush House and Inigo Rooms. Until 28 April, free. ★★★★☆ (Tuesday-Saturday)

A shouting apology

Humanity's achievements made absurd by shouting them at the ocean. Copyright Marcus Coates.

Artist Marcus Coates stands naked in a little shelter and shouts about humanity's greatest achievements from the ballpoint pen to the United Nations. He's shouting at the vast ocean devoid of human life and in this context all our achievements seem pointless when confronted with the natural world that was here before us and will probably be here long after we're gone. He also manages to convince the mayor of a Canadian Island to broadcast an apology for the hunting to extinction of the Great Auk. We're won over by his Coates' humorous environmentalism.
Marcus Coates: The last of its kind at Workplace, Mayfair. Until 14 April, free. ★★★★☆ (Thursday-Saturday)

Removing the Nazis

Nazi ideology turned powerless. Copyright Gideon Rubin

What is the power and terror of Mein Kampf if all the Nazi ideology is blacked out? It just becomes another book. This is the extremely powerful central idea behind Gideon Rubin's exhibition at Freud Museum. Alongside this there are other images scattered throughout the museum with Nazi symbolism covered up, but they aren't as powerful as the single room display with the copy of Mein Kampf in it.
Gideon Rubin: Black Book at Freud Museum, Hampstead. Until 15 April, £8. ★★★☆☆ (Wednesday-Sunday)

British Life

Francis Bacon at his contorted chaotic best. Courtesy Ordovas.

Tate Britain has recently launched its fleshy British painting show All Too Human. To coincide with that show, here's a chance to see some smaller works by British powerhouse painters in a more intimate gallery setting. See Francis Bacon's lover George Dyer painted in Bacon's energetic style next to another painting of Dyer, this time more serene and painted by Lucien Freud. Throw in a small but densely layered portrait by Leon Kossoff and a Hockney and we have 12 paintings by some of Britain's best artists.
London Painters at Ordovas, Mayfair. Until 28 April, free. ★★★☆☆ (Tuesday-Saturday)

Victorian photography

Copyright: Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Photographic technology was limited in Victorian times so most of the work we see from that time is of statuesque portraits. This means most exhibitions on this topic often feel rather same-y. Thankfully this show does have a few tricks up its sleeves including some negatives we can light up to see how the images would have been created, and Oscar Rejlander's charming image of two children posed as Raphael's cherubs from the Sistine Chapel.
Victorian Giants: The birth of art photography at National Portrait Gallery. Until 20 May, £12. ★★★☆☆

He who dares wins

Enter the world of the SAS and other special forces regiments in this exhibition all about what's done in the shadows. There's plenty of history on the special forces and examples of the operations they've mounted. The interactive elements include some photographs where trying to spot the sniper will make your eyes hurt, though the iPad games are not particularly intuitive. As these men and women are by nature very secretive it feels like this show is missing the human element of real stories. However, there are plenty of fascinating weapons, artefacts and history to make for an engaging visit.
Special Forces: In the shadows at National Army Museum. Until 18 November, £8. ★★★☆☆

Bustling London

People watching at the Emirates. Copyright Ed Gray.

London is a hectic city and we rarely get the time to stop and look. If we did, we may spot Ed Gray observing us so he can use Londoners as inspiration for his bustling paintings about London life. Each one is packed full of people and details, with many unaware of what's going on around them. They emerge from every walk of life — lounging in the park, selfie taking football fans and someone lugging their shopping home.
The Passing Show: Adoration Paintings of London by Ed Gray at The Foyer of the Crypt, St. Martin's in the Field. Until 30 April, free. ★★★☆☆

Step into the light

Sprueth Magers Gallery has expanded from its former one floor of exhibition space to hosting works across three floors. The ground floor and upstairs contain simple geometric works including a version of Donald Judd's shelves, like the one a toddler famously clambered upon at Tate Modern. The real treat is tucked away downstairs with one of Anthony McCall's light works. Step into a darkened room and the beams of light appear solid even though our hands pass right through them. It's a beautiful illusion and even if it's just one of his works, it's breathtaking.
Crossroads & Anthony McCall at Sprueth Magers, Mayfair. Until 31 March, free. ★★★☆☆ (Tuesday-Saturday)

It's all Greek

Courtesy of Rosie Alison. © Benaki Museum 2018

Greek painter Niko Ghika, British painter John Craxton and British writer Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor met at the end of the second world war and became friends as they spent much of their remaining lives together in Greece. This exhibition tells their story through numerous paintings, photographs and documents. It's all centred on the paintings, which are competent but rather dull, the kind of pretty landscapes which would be a great find in a car boot sale but at the prestigious British Museum, they are seriously outclassed. The only aspect we like are the sunny yellow walls, and that speaks volumes about the paintings themselves.  
Charmed lives in Greece at The British Museum. Until 15 July, free. ★★☆☆

Nudes and skulls

John Copeland's technique is impressive but we're not sold on his painting. Copyright the artist.

Painter John Copeland creates art using motifs to be found throughout art history, such as skulls and nudes. In each work there is a desire to create a sense of ambiguity but this lack of narrative leaves us feeling emotionally disengaged.  His technique of lashing on layers of paint is visually impressive but the works themselves offer nothing new beyond what we've been seeing in paintings for centuries.
John Copeland: Your heaven looks just like my hell at Newport Street Gallery, Vauxhall. Until 28 May, free. ★★☆☆☆ (Tuesday-Sunday)

Poor photography

Copyright Rafal Milach

Every year we visit the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize and we seldom like all the works, but there are usually one or two that captivate us. This year is the weakest yet, with political works that lack impact and abstract works that fail to connect with us. We think the winner should be Mathieu Asselin for his investigation into Monsanto, including the numerous deformities caused by Agent Orange. Strangely his strongest works are in the book but not on the walls of this exhibition — a poor showing.
Deutsche Borse Photography FoundationPrize at The Photographers' Gallery. Until 3 June, £4 & free before 12pm. ★★☆☆☆

For more exhibitions see our massive International Women's Day round-up of exhibitions, which includes exhibitions at some of the venues in this article.

Last Updated 19 March 2018