The best new art exhibitions: London 2021
From Francis Bacon to Helen Frankenthaler, your guide to the must-see London art exhibitions in 2021.
This major new exhibition charts the development of Bacon’s work – notably the human figure – through his fascination with animals. Co-curated by Bacon’s great friend, the writer Michael Peppiatt, Man and Beast includes everything from his early biomorphic creatures of the 1930s and 40s and portraits of his love and muse George Dyer, to later depictions of the ‘Furies’ – ghostly apparitions, neither man nor beast – derived from Greek tragedy.
In keeping with its broadly chronological hang, it will conclude with Study of a Bull (1991), a haunting two-metre high canvas that became known only in 2016. Expect an unsettling but mesmeric journey into the mind of a 20th-century artistic genius.
Francis Bacon, Second Version of Triptych 1944, 1988. Oil paint and acrylic paint on 3 canvases, 198 x 147.5 cm (each) Tate: Presented by the artist 1991 © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2020. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd
Although best known as a Surrealist, Eileen Agar (1889-1991) experimented with Cubism and Abstraction, too, finding inspiration in a myriad sources, from the natural world and ancient mythologies to sexual pleasure and her own biography.
Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy, the largest exhibition of Agar’s work to date, celebrates a phenomenal career that spanned almost a century. It brings together over 100 paintings, collages, photographs, assemblages and archive material, many of which has been rarely exhibited, to chart the development of her uniquely spirited style.
Highlights include Angel of Anarchy (1936-40), a plaster-cast head covered with feathers, fabric and diamanté stones; and Dance of Peace from 1945. ‘I’ve enjoyed life,’ Agar once said. This exhibition looks set to prove that.
Eileen Agar Eileen Agar 1927. Oil on canvas 765mm x 641mm. NPG 5881 © The estate of Eileen AgarRead more ...
There hasn’t been a major Dubuffet exhibition in the UK for over 50 years, but the Barbican is making up for it with this retrospective charting the artist’s tireless experimentation with tools and materials. It will also examine his steadfast determination to capture the gritty fabric of everyday life, a radical approach that would later influence artists from David Hockney to Eva Hesse.
There will be more than 150 works on display, from early portraits, lithographs and fantastical statues to enamel paintings, butterfly assemblages and giant colourful canvases. Shown alongside his work will be 18 pieces, many rarely seen, from Dubuffet’s own collection of Art Brut (‘raw art’), a term invented by the artist to describe art made outside the academic tradition. ‘Art should always make you laugh a little and fear a little,’ Dubuffet once said. We have no doubt this exhibition will do just that.
JeanDubuffet, MireG177(Bolero), 28 December 1983, Courtesy Galerie Jeanne Bucher Jaeger, Paris © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London
Lewis Carroll’s magical, mind-boggling story of Wonderland has been enchanting audiences for generations. Now Alice’s adventures are the subject of a major new show at the V&A charting the story’s evolution from manuscript to a global cultural phenomenon, inspiring the likes of Salvador Dali, Walt Disney and Tim Walker.
Described as a ‘theatrical, immersive journey down the rabbit hole’, Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser brings together over 300 objects spanning the story’s 158-year history. Highlights include original drawings by John Tenniel, set designs and models from the various film adaptations, album-artwork for Little Simz and Bob Crowley’s costume for the Queen of Hearts from the Royal Ballet’s 2011 production. Take the whole family on this extraordinary adventure. Just don’t be late.
Bradford-born David Hockney is one of Britain’s most popular living artists. Although he is perhaps best known for his paintings of Californian swimming pools and naturalistic double portraits, his prints and drawings are highly sought after too. In the past decade, however, Hockney has turned his attention from pencil and paper to digital technology – namely the iPad.
This exhibition presents a new body of work produced during lockdown at his house in Normandy. Painted using an iPad, the large-scale, vibrantly coloured works chart the unfolding and progression of spring. In such unprecedented times, this exhibition urges us to celebrate the natural world and ‘love life’, as Hockney puts it.
David Hockney, No. 241, 30th April 2020. iPad Drawing. © David Hockney
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) is celebrated today for his naturalistic sculptures in bronze and marble which convey intense human emotions: love, ecstasy, agony, grief. Before casting the final work, however, he would often model it in his studio. These pieces in clay and plaster reveal him to be one of the finest modellers in art history.
This is the starting point for a new show exploring the artist’s creative process and, in particular, the role of plaster in his practice. It will bring together over 200 works, many of which have never been seen outside France, to cast new light on a lesser-known side of a much-loved master.
Auguste Rodin, Study for The Thinker, 1881. Musée Rodin, S.01168
Born in 1928, Helen Frankenthaler would become one of the most important American Abstract Expressionists of the 20th century. She came to prominence in her early 20s with Mountains and Sea (1952), the first oil painting produced using her signature soak-stain technique. She also experimented with printmaking, trialling different orientations and colourways as well as a variety of new tools and methods.
The first major UK exhibition of Frankenthaler’s woodcuts examines her revolutionary approach to the medium, from experimentation to inspiration and collaboration. It features 30 works, none of which have been shown in the UK before, including her first woodcut East and Beyond (1973) and Madame Butterfly (2000), a magnificent triptych measuring over two metres in length that shows Frankenthaler at her most expressive and lyrical. It is time this trailblazing artist enjoyed the recognition she deserves in the UK.
Helen Frankenthaler, Madame Butterfly, 2000. One-hundred-two color woodcut. © 2020 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / DACS / Tyler Graphic Ltd., Mount Kisco, NY
Paula Rego is a phenomenal storyteller. Whether in paint or pastel, collage or ink, she conjures up images that speak of personal as well as social struggle. Over the course of her prolific career, Rego has drawn on a broad range of references, from comic strips to history painting, and experimented with both abstraction and figuration.
This major solo exhibition, the largest and most comprehensive of Rego’s work to date, features over 100 works that chart the artist’s creative trajectory. Early works dating from the 50s will hang alongside large pastels and richly layered, staged scenes from Rego’s acclaimed Dog Women and Abortion series. Prepare to delve deep into her rich and fertile imagination.
Paula Rego, The Dance, 1988. © Paula Rego
Like so many great women artists of the 20th century, Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943) was eclipsed by her more famous artist husband, Jean (Hans) Arp. Next year Tate Modern seeks to readdress this imbalance with a long-overdue retrospective of Taeuber-Arp’s multidisciplinary work, spanning textiles, painting, carved sculpture, set design, architecture, dance and performance.
In doing so, it will highlight Taeuber-Arp’s significant contribution to modern art and design, as well as her enduring influence on artists and designers around the world.
Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Composition of Circles and Overlapping Angles, 1930. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, Department of Imaging and Visual Resources. © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Spanning her 50-year career, this long-awaited exhibition – incidentally Abramović’s first major survey in the UK – explores how she captures and defines performance art through photographs, videos, objects, installations and live re-performances of her work.
It will feature iconic, career-defining pieces as well as a grouping of new works, conceived especially for this exhibition, that reflects on what the gallery describes as changes to ‘the artist’s body’ and her ‘perception of the transition between life and death.’ Curated in close collaboration with Abramović, it seeks to offer visitors ‘an intense, physical encounter’ for which the performance artist has become known.
Portrait of Marina Abramović. Photo © Marco Anelli
For more than 30 years the painter, writer and curator Lubaina Himid has dedicated her multi-disciplinary practice to exploring questions of race, gender, class and overlooked histories.
Inspired by her interest in theatre – Himid studied Theatre Design at Wimbledon College of Arts before becoming an artist – this large-scale exhibition will unfold in a sequence of scenes designed to thrust visitors centre stage.
New work will hang alongside selected highlights from across the artist’s influential career. It’s gratifying that the Turner Prize-winning Himid will finally receive such prestigious institutional recognition in the UK.
Lubaina Himid, Freedom and Change, 1984. Tate © Lubaina Himid
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