The Biggest Exhibitions On Right Now: Reviewed

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 56 months ago

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The Biggest Exhibitions On Right Now: Reviewed

Which art exhibitions are unmissable right now?

Shaolin Kung-Fu practitioners. © Luo Pin Xi, China

STUNNING & MOVING PHOTOGRAPHY: Syrian family portraits include empty chairs for relatives who have died in the conflict, and there are understandably many more images of war and refugees in this annual exhibition. But we also see other aspects of life including brilliant landscapes, stunning wildlife and sporting triumphs. This is a monster exhibition across two wings of Somerset House — a snapshot of the diversity in photography today. Sony World Photography Awards & Martin Parr - 2017 exhibition at Somerset House. Until 7 May, £7-11. ★★★★★

Sappho and Erinna share an intimate moment in a Garden at Mytilene, by Simeon Solomon. Image courtesy Tate.

QUEER BRITISH ART: 50 years after the decriminalisation of homosexuality is the right time for this important show offering fascinating insights into how art history was shaped by queer artists. Great paintings and sculptures feature, but unfortunately much of the work fails to make an impact. A fantastic idea, but the show can't live up to it. Queer British Art: 1861-1967 at Tate Britain. Until 1 October, £15. ★★★☆☆

Self portraits as snakes and suspended sharks. Welcome to Ashley Bickerton's world. ® Victor Mara Ltd, photo Prudence Cuming Associates

SHARKS & SNAKES: Snakes serve as self-portraits of the artist; sharks are suspended from the ceiling, and a blubbery nude sits atop a scooter. It's all completely over the top, filled with satire that hones in on politics and consumerism. Chaotic, but brilliant fun. Ashley Bickerton: Ornamental Hysteria at Newport Street Gallery, Newport street, SE11 6AJ. Until 20 August, free. ★★★★☆ (Tuesday-Sunday)

The chaotic trading floor. Andreas Gursky, Chicago Board of Trade II, 1999, courtesy Sprüth Magers © Andreas Gursky / DACS

PHOTOGRAPHY TAKES CENTRE STAGE: The Zabludowicz Collection has put together a group show of their big photography stars. Wolfgang Tillmans — who currently has a big show at Tate Modern — gets a wall full of photos. A highlight is Andreas Gursky's chaotic collage of a ridiculously busy trading floor. Not all the photographers appeal to us, but there are some great works in this show. You Are Looking at Something that Never Occurred at Zabludowicz Collection, 176 Prince of Wales Road, NW5 3PT. Until 9 July, free. ★★★☆☆ (Thursday-Sunday)

From the Futurist phase of Balla's diverse career. Courtesy The Biagiotti Cigna Foundation

THE DIVERSE FUTURE: Realistic portraits, angular bright abstract works, fashion and furniture. This would be a great group show but, shockingly, it's the work of one extremely talented Italian artist, Giacomo Balla. The Estorick Collection delivers yet again with another show on an artist we knew little about. Giacomo Balla: Designing the Future at Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, 39a Canonbury Square, N1 2AN. Until 25 June, £6.50. ★★★★☆

An Anish Kapoor 'blood clot'. © Anish Kapoor; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

DISTURBING SEXUALISED VIDEOS & BIG RED BLOOD CLOTS: The duo Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg return with more surreal stop motion videos — this time involving fairy tale characters like Red Riding Hood in sexually charged situations. Anish Kapoor brings three big red misshapen sculptures that dominate the gallery. Kapoor is usually on to a winner when working at scale but these blood clot-like pieces feel directionless, compared to his other smaller works in the show. Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg at Lisson Gallery, 27 Bell street, NW1 5BY & Anish Kapoor at Lisson Gallery, 67 Lisson street, NW1 5DA. Until 6 May, free. ★★★★☆ (Monday-Saturday)

Some examples of the great works in this show. On the left is Auerbach (© The Artist/ Marlborough Gallery) and Frankfurther on the right (© The Estate of Eva Frankfurther).

REFUGEE PORTRAITS: Eva Frankfurther uses a drab, dull palette of browns and greys — perfect for her paintings of refugees and working people in austere times, Dockers have a meagre lunch and families go about their day to day lives. Downstairs is the work of Germans who fled to the UK, including some fantastic drawings and paintings by Auerbach. It’s a perfect time to look at the great contributions to art by refugees. Refugees: The lives of others at Ben Uri Gallery, 108a Boundary Road, NW8 0RH. Until 13 June (lower galleries until 4 June), free. ★★★★☆

Sit on a slope and watch a video. Courtesy the artist, Maureen Paley, London and Galerie Guido W. Baudach, Berlin; Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam; Anton Kern Gallery, New York; Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna. Photo Andy Stagg.

SPRAWLING ARCHITECTURE: We walk through a ramshackle tunnel and learn all about the cats living under the Hermitage in St Petersburg. We then sit on a large slope and watch a surreal video. The architectural element of this show is fantastic fun to navigate. Unfortunately the films are a let down as they are frankly impenetrable. Eric van Lieshout: Three Social Works at South London Gallery. Until 11 June, free. ★★★☆☆ (Tuesday-Sunday)

Cabinets of curiosities at Guildhall.

IN THE TRENCHES: Walk through a recreated first world war trench and immerse yourself in an artistic response to the conflict, at one of Guildhall Art Gallery's most innovative exhibitions ever. Artist Jane Churchill worked with pupils from London schools to create this significant collection of work. This is a high-quality response presented excellently: the planes and cases of paper moths are a moving memorial to those who died at the front, while apothecaries' cabinets, tobacco tins and cooks' matchboxes contain miniature worlds. Echoes Across The Century at Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Yard, EC2V 5AE. Until 16 July, free ★★★★☆

Rachel Kneebone's work among the V&A's permanent collection. Photograph courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, London

ARMS & LEGS APLENTY: Rachel Kneebone has created sculptures consisting of detached body parts, the works ranging from the small to a colossal tower. They sit among the V&A's collection of classical statues and make a great contrast — the chaos of a Kneebone sculpture next to the beauty of a Rodin piece. Rachel Kneebone: 399 Days at V&A, Galleries 21 & 50a. Until 14 January, free. ★★★★☆

Last Updated 24 April 2017