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The best art exhibitions to see in London in 2017 2

A guide to London’s best exhibitions in 2017, updated throughout the year. Check back for the latest shows in the capital

The big news at The Barbican is Basquiat: Boom for Real, (September 21 2017 – January 2018) which is the first large-scale UK exhibition of the iconic painter and New York downtown scene prodigy, Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Focusing on Basquiat’s relationship to music, text, film and television, the exhibition places the artist within the wider cultural context of the time via paintings, drawings and notebooks – alongside rare film, photography, music and ephemera.

Office of Ryue Nishizawa, Moriyama House, 2005. © Takashi Homma

The Barbican delves into domestic experimentation and innovation for The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945 (until June 25), which is the first major UK exhibition to focus on Japanese domestic architecture from the end of the Second World War to now.

Documentary photographer and Deutsche Börse Photography Prize winner Richard Mosse is in the Curve Gallery for the spring for Incoming (until April 23) a powerful, immersive multi-channel video installation. Mosse uses long range thermographic weapons and border imaging technology to create an artwork about the refugee crisis unfolding in the Aegean Sea, off the coast of Libya, in Syria, the Sahara, the Persian Gulf, and other locations.

Opening in summer 2017, Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction (June 3 – September 1) includes original objects and artworks from The Paul G. Allen Family Collection; concept art and models from films Godzilla, Stargate and Dark City; and original manuscripts from iconic authors such as Jules Verne alongside contemporary artistic responses.

A revolution at the British Library

The British Library is one of several London venues marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution with Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths (April 28 – August 29), which examines the experiences of the people caught up in the vents via posters, letters, photographs, banners, weapons, items of uniform, recordings and film.

The big autumn show is Harry Potter: A History of Magic (October 20 2017 – February 28 2018) showcasing a fascinating display of wizarding books, manuscripts and magical objects combined with centuries-old British Library treasures with original material from Bloomsbury’s and J.K. Rowling’s own archives.

Linocut image of gumball machine in blue, pink orange and green

Wayne Thiebaud (b.1920), Gumball Machine. Colour linocut, 1970. © Wayne Thiebaud/DACS, London/VAGA, New York 2016.

The British Museum’s American Dream, Pop to the Present (March 9 – June 18) is the the first major UK exhibition on modern and contemporary American printmaking. Tracing the creative momentum in American art over the past five decades – the exhibition begins the moment Pop art burst onto the New York and West Coast scenes in the early 1960s and travels through the rise of minimalism, conceptual art and photorealism.

The exhibition features works by artists such as Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Kara Walker, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol.

One of the most famous Japanese prints of all time is the BM’s jumping off point for Beyond the Great Wave (title TBC) (May 25 – August 13), which focuses on the last 30 years of Japan’s most renowned artist’s, Katsushika Hokusai’s (1760–1849), career from around 1820 to 1849. It features a broad selection of works including, of course, the Great Wave.

Places of the Mind: British watercolour landscapes 1850–1950 (February 23 – August 27 2017) features stunning works from the British Museum’s rich collection of prints by artists who have interpreted landscape on paper during the Victorian and early Modern (20th century) period.

The 125 watercolours and drawings on display range from highly coloured, detailed Pre-Raphaelite attempts to follow John Ruskin’s precepts to ‘go to nature’, to sweeping wash sketches painted on the spot by James McNeill Whistler and Philip Wilson Steer. There are also abstractions by Graham Sutherland and Henry Moore who followed a different aesthetic.

Treasures of the Scythian tombs

Treasures of the Scythians (title TBC) (September 14 2017 – January 14 2018) explores one of the great nomadic civilisations of antiquity. First mentioned by the Assyrians in the ninth century BC and admired by Herodotus, the Scythians developed a powerful alternative economy that dominated a huge region stretching from Siberia to the Black Sea.

Royal Scythian tombs from Siberia and Kazakhstan will be on display together with objects of exceptional beauty including some remarkable surviving objects like multi-coloured (ninth century BC!) rugs, fur-lined garments and accessories, unique horse headgear, beautiful gold objects and much more.

painting of landscape with Roman ruins

Marco Ricci, Caprice View with Roman Ruins,c.1729. Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

At Buckingham Palace, The Queen’s Gallery, Canaletto and the Art of Venice (opening May) brings the irresistible allure of one of the most beautiful cities into view with a spectacular selection of 18th-century Venetian art including some of Canaletto’s greatest works.

Charles II: Art & Power, (opening December), revels in the opulence of Charles II’s court and reveals the role of the arts in the re-establishment of the Stuart monarchy in 1660. John Michael Wright’s monumental portrait of Charles II in his coronation robes and old master paintings, together with tapestries and glittering furniture all make an appearance.

Revolutionary design at the Design Museum

As befits its glittering new building in Piccadilly, The Design Museum has an ambitious programme of events lined up for 2017.

Imagine Moscow (until June 4) is another exhibition marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution by exploring Moscow as it was imagined by a bold new generation of architects and designers in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Architects’ drawings, artwork, propaganda and publications from the period suggest an alternative reality for the city, that never came to fruition but which today offers a unique insight into the culture of the time.

California (May 24 – October 15) takes its jumping off point the idea that California has pioneered tools of personal liberation, from LSD to skateboards and iPhones. Cue a parade of political posters, personal computers and self-driving cars and a look beyond the hardware to explore how user interface designers in the Bay Area are shaping some of our most common daily experiences.

The summer exhibition is Breathing Colour: Hella Jongerius (June 28 – September 24), an installation-based exhibition that takes a deeper look at the way colour behaves, exploring shapes, materials, shadows and reflections.

painting of striped jug containing wallflowers

Vanessa Bell, Wallflowers, c. 1950, Oil on canvas, 35.6 x 25.4 cm, Private Collection. ©The Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy of Henrietta Garnett. Photo credit: © Christie’s Images / Bridgeman Images

Down in leafy Dulwich, Vanessa Bell (February 8 – June 4) is the latest 20th century English artist to emerge from the shadows with an overdue exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Bell’s reputation as an artist has long been overshadowed by her family life, Bloomsbury and romantic entanglements and the show reveals 100 paintings, ceramics, fabrics and photographs that reveal her pioneering work and fluid movement between the fine and applied arts, focusing on her most distinctive period of experimentation in the 1910s.

Singer Sargent watercolours in Dulwich

Sargent: The Watercolours (June 21 – October 8) is the first UK show in nearly 100 years devoted to watercolours by the Anglo-American artist, John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) and brings together 80 paintings from private and public collections, revealing Sargent’s idiosyncratic view of the world and the scale of his achievement.

watercolour painting of creatures sleeping within the roots of a tree

Tove Jansson, Sleeping in the Roots, 1930s, gouache and indian ink on paper, 22.1 x 26.7 cm, Tampere Art Museum, Moominvalley. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis.

Tove Jansson (October 25 2017 – January 28 2018) lifts the lid on the world of Moomins creator, Tove Marika Jansson who was born in Helsinki in 1914 and went to forge a career as an illustrator, children’s author writer and artist.

The newly refurbished Estorick Collection continues the year with Giacomo Balla: Designing the Future (April 5 2017 – June 25 2017), a major career-spanning retrospective of one of Italian Futurism’s most important and consistently inventive artists.

Summer brings Franco Grignani: Art as Design 1950-1990 (July 5 – September 10); Grignani’s swirling woolmark design anticipated many of the key ideas and visual characteristics of Op Art by several years.

The Fashion and Textile Museum begins the year with Josef Frank: Patterns – Furniture–Painting (until May 7), which explores the work of the Austrian born designer and artist who moved to Sweden in 1933 and, with the help of Estrid Ericson, invented Swedish Modernism.

The focus stays on Sweden for Gudrun Sjödén: Four Decades of Colour & Design (April 25 – May 7) looking at one of the country’s top fashion designing powerhouses which saw Gudrun and Björn Sjödén bring Swedish colour and style to the world.

Rock n roll romanticism

Rock-n-roll romanticism – courtesy of The World of Anna Sui (May 26 – October 1) – arrives at the Fashion and Textile Museum for the summer with a look at how the American fashion designer reinvents pop culture for every new generation. Over 100 looks from the designer’s archive present a roll call of archetypes from Surfers and School Girls to Hippies, Mods and Punks.

Presenting a new body of work created especially for the ICA, the exhibition includes exploratory vocal and movement performances of Elaine Mitchener, Barbara Gamper and her dancers: Eve Stainton, Ria Uttridge and Be van Vark, with an invited audience.

At Imperial War Museum London, 2017 marks 100 years of studying and displaying modern war with People Power: Fighting for Peace (March 23 – August 28) the first major UK exhibition exploring the evolution of anti-war protest from the First World War to the present day.

The museum is also planning a series of free exhibitions reflecting upon the ongoing conflict in Syria and in the autumn an exhibition called States of Emergency (dates TBC) explores how contemporary artists have responded to war and conflict since 9/11.

The return of Amy Winehouse

The Jewish Museum in London welcomes home one of its most poignant and successful exhibitions as Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait (March 16 – September 24) returns after its long stint on the road.

Leighton House Museum is showing Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity (7 July – October 29) – the largest exhibition about Leighton’s contemporary and closest competitor Lawrence Alma-Tadema to be shown in London since 1913.

A racy renaissance at the National Gallery

The Repentant Magdalene Guido Cagnacci, After 1660 © Norton Simon Art Foundation

The National Gallery‘s Gagnacci’s Repentant Magdalene (February 15 – May 21), is an exhibition looking at the elusive Italian Baroque artist Guido Cagnacci (1601–1663) and his greatest painting, which neatly encapsulates the unconventional life and interests of one of the most elusive and carnal of the Baroque artists.

The National then dives headlong into the earlier Renaissance period for Michelangelo & Sebastiano (March 15 – June 25), which explores the extraordinary artistic relationship between two great Renaissance masters and collaborators, Sebastiano del Piombo and Michelangelo, from the 1510s through to the 1540s.

Focusing on two paintings, the ‘Pietà’ for San Francesco in Viterbo (c.1512–16) and The Raising of Lazarus (1517-19), the exhibition also includes ‘intimate correspondence’ as well as works that precede and follow these two shimmering paintings.

Chris Ofili returns to the gallery for spring to reveal his recent foray into tapestry for Chris Ofili: Weaving Magic (April 26 – August 28) which is the result of a collaboration with the internationally renowned Dovecot Tapestry Studio who have produced a hand-woven tapestry reflecting Ofili’s ongoing interest in classical mythology and the stories, magic, and colour of the Trinidadian landscape he inhabits.

Giovanni da Rimini: An Early 14th-Century Masterpiece Reunited (June 14 – October 8) sees the exquisite ‘Scenes from the Lives of the Virgin and other Saints’ by Giovanni da Rimini, reunited with ‘Scenes from the Life of Christ’ to make the diptych that many experts believe the two masterpieces make.

By contrast Monochrome: Painting in Black and White (November 1 2017 – February 18 2018) comprises works on glass, vellum, ceramic, silk, wood, and canvas by artists such as Rembrandt, Picasso, and Gerhard Richter (1932–) and uncovers the fascinating but little-studied history of black-and-white painting.

photograph of woman dressed as weightlifter holding barbell

I am in training don’t kiss me by Claude Cahun c. 1927; Jersey Heritage Collections

Round the corner at the National Portrait Gallery, has the intriguing Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the mask, another mask (until May 29), which explores the fascination with self-portrait, self-image, identity, gender and masquerade shared by the two artists.

Howard Hodgkin: Absent Friends (until June 18) is the first exhibition of Hodgkin’s portraits – or more precisely the artist’s beguilingly abstract swathes of paint that evoke the human presence.

Cezanne’s portraiture at the NPG

Paul Cezanne’s portraits are slightly less elusive, and a major exhibition, Cézanne Portraits (October 26 2017 – February 11 2018) brings together over 50 of them from collections across the world, including works never before on public display in the UK.

In between, the BP Portrait Award Exhibition will run at the NPG from June 22 to September 24 2017 showcasing the very best in contemporary portrait painting.

And don’t forget, down in Greenwich, there’s still a chance to see the fascinating Emma Hamilton Seduction and Celebrity (until April 17) at the National Maritime Museum.

At The Royal Academy they begin the year by featuring the kitchen sink-autobiographical paintings of one of their own in Anthony Green RA: The Life and Death of Miss Dupont (January 18 — April 30 2017). The popular British painter this time turns his brush to a revealing domestic treatment of his own mother, seen through the eyes of Green as a child in the 1950s.

painting of Russian giant standing in street waving a banner

Boris Mikailovich Kustodiev, Bolshevik, 1920, State Tretyakov Gallery Photo © State Tretyakov Gallery

The RA has a pretty impressive roster of exhibitions lined up for 2017 and February ushers in a heavyweight. Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 (until April 17) marks the historic centenary of the Russian Revolution by bringing together names like Kandinsky, Malevich, Chagall and Rodchenko to explore one of the most momentous periods in modern world history through the lens of its groundbreaking art.

Taking in painting, photography, sculpture, filmmaking by pioneers such as Eisenstein, and evocative propaganda posters from what was a golden era for graphic design, the show focuses on the 15-year period between 1917 and 1932 when possibilities seemed limitless and Russian art flourished across every medium.

1930s America at the RA

Another nation-in-flux via the-prism-of-art exhibition arrives via America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s (until June 4), which looks at depression-era paintings by Jackson Pollock, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Thomas Hart Benton, Philip Guston and many others. There’s even an appearance by one of the most famous American paintings of all time – Grant Wood’s American Gothic (1930), which leaves American shores for the first time ever.

Summer sees the RA invite you into a recreation of Matisse in the Studio (August 5 – November 12) which will assemble his collection of exotica and ephemera featuring everything from African masks to Chinese calligraphy from which he drew inspiration.

Jasper Johns (September 23 — December 10) brings together the artist’s paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings for a show that tracks everything from his innovations in sculpture to his use of collage in paintings, giving focus to the different chapters of Johns’ career.

photograph of two men playing chess, shown from below through a sheet of glass

Robert Descharnes, Duchamp and Dali playing chess during filming for A Soft Self-Portrait, directed by Jean-Christophe Averty, 1966 Archivo Fotografico Pere Vehi, Cadaqués. Photo Robert Descharnes / © Descharnes & Descharnes sarl 2016 / Image Rights of Salvador Dali reserved. Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali, Figueres, 2016

The RA closes the year with a look at two giants of twentieth century art in Dalí / Duchamp (October 7 – January 3) which is the first exhibition to throw light on their surprising relationship and its influence on the work of both artists.

Bringing together around 60 works, including some of Dalí’s most inspired and technically accomplished paintings and sculptures, and Duchamp’s ground breaking assemblages and readymades, the exhibition will showcase some less familiar photographs by Dalí and paintings by Duchamp together with correspondence and collaborations between the two artists.

Robots at the Science Museum

The Science Museum’s Robots (February 8 – September 9) looks like it will be loads of fun fun as they take a fascinating look at the 500-year story of humanoid robots and the artistic and scientific quest to understand what it means to be human. Over 100 robots will be featured, including a 16th-century mechanical monk and one of the first two legged walking robots.

The Sir John Soane’s Museum has Marc Quinn: Drawn from Life (until September 23), in which the sculptor and avowed collector of things and ephemera responds to the museum collection with a series of ethereal fragmentary sculptures placed among the multiple antique casts and sculptures.

Hockney’s homecoming

painting of man in pink jacket looking into a swimming pool with a fiture swimming underwater towards him

David Hockney Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1971 Private Collection © David Hockney

The big winter into springtime show in London has to be Tate Britain’s David Hockney (February 9 – May 29), which gathers together some of the Yorkshire artist’s most famous works in painting, drawing, print, photography and video across six decades. His most comprehensive exhibition to date, this is probably one to book in advance.

Autumn ushers in Rachel Whiteread (September 12 – February 4), which celebrates 25 years of her sculpture and includes works such as Ghost (1990), Untitled (100 Spaces) (1995) and Untitled (Staircase) (2001) alongside works that have never been previously exhibited.

London Impressionists at Tate Britain

The last word at Tate Britain belongs to the nailed on crowd-pleaser, Impressionists in London (November 2 2017 – April 29 2018), which tells the story of the artists who fled to Britain to escape war in France. Cue captivating works by Monet, Tissot, Pissarro and their compatriots. Cha-ching!

At Tate Modern there’s still plenty of time to see Elton John’s collection of Modernist photography, Radical Eye (until May 7) before a packed programme of new exhibitions swings into gear for 2017.

photograph of the edge of a waterfall

Wolfgang Tillmans, Iguazu 2010 © Wolfgang Tillmans

The new programme begins with the stark and intimate realism of photographer Wolfgang Tillmans (until June 11), in an exhibition exploring not only the trademark photography of the Turner Prize winner but also his film, and music output. Tillmans and his mates will also be taking over a Tate Tank for a week of sound and visual immersion with live events.

Unseen Giacometti

Alberto Giacometti (May 10 – September 10) brings the work of the Italian sculptor back to Tate’s galleries 50 years after they first appeared there. Tate’s curators have mined the Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti’s extraordinary collection and archive to reveal his influences, the development of his style and to show some never before seen plasters and drawings alongside more familiar bronze sculptures and oil paintings.

Summer sees the large, abstract paintings of Turkish artist Fahrelnissa Zeid (June 6 – October 8) arrive for a major exhibition that explores the late painter’s geometric synthesis of Islamic, Byzantine, Arab, Persian and European influences.

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power (July 12 – October 22) explores how ‘Black Art’ developed in the United States between 1963 and 1983 via the work of artists like Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, Lorraine O’Grady and Betye Saar, alongside prominent British Guyanese painter Frank Bowling who was resident in New York much of this time.

There’s more in the 100 years since the Russian Revolution series of exhibitions with a contemporary entrée from Russian born conceptualists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov (October 18 2017 – January 28 2018) before Red Star Over Russia (November 8 2017– February 18 2018) explores artworks made by Russian and Soviet artists over five decades, from the first revolution of 1905 to the death of Stalin in 1953.

Child’s Play at the Foundling Museum

photograph of Children rehearsing for the Jungle Book at Sewickley Academy, Pittsburgh, USA

Mark Neville, ‘The Jungle Book Rehearsals, Sewickley Academy’, 2012, courtesy Mark Neville

There’s a typically intriguing show at the Foundling Museum called Child’s Play (February 3 – April 30) by artist Mark Neville who has made a series of images of children at play in diverse environments around the world – from war zones and refugee camps to playgrounds.

Set against the institutional play evidenced at the Foundling Hospital through their archive photographs and film footage, the exhibition intersects the worlds of art and documentary and aims to raise awareness and generate debate around the complex nature of and right to children’s play.

Roger Mayne’s 1950s at the Photographer’s Gallery

At The Photographer’s Gallery spring ushers in Roger Mayne (March 3 – June 11), the first major exhibition since 1999 to show the pioneering work of the British photographer who died in 2014. It includes his famous photographs of 1950s early 1960s community life in London’s Southam Street but also ventures further afield to showcase how his humanistic eye captured life on the mean streets of post war Britain beyond the capital.

Alongside, The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize exhibition (until June 11) celebrates its twentieth anniversary by introducing the work of Sophie Calle, Dana Lixenberg, Awoiska van der Molen, and Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs, with the winner announced mid-exhibition.

The mortal remains of Pink Floyd at the V&A

image showing pig floating over battersea power station

Pink Floyd: Animals ©Pink Floyd Music Ltd

In many ways the perfect follow up to landmark shows like Bowie and Sixties should be The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains (opening May 13), which is the first international retrospective of the band. The V&A seem to have a patented secret ingredient for successful music themed exhibitions. But can the Floyd match Bowie? Either way the V&A have proved they can deliver an immersive and entertaining trip.

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion (May 27 2017 – February 18 2018) looks at the life and work of haute couturist Cristóbal Balenciaga who is widely regarded as one of the most innovative and influential designers of the last century.

You may not be surprised to learn that Plywood (July 15 – November 12) will be the first major exhibition on the ubiquitous engineered wood material, but with works by Eames and designs for surfboards, aircraft and a Frank Lloyd Wright workshop in the mix, it may well surprise.

A night at the opera

The V&A’s major exhibition for the autumn is Opera: Passion, Power and Politics (September 30 2017 – February 25 2018) a suitably opulent inaugural show for their new purpose built exhibition space, the Sainsbury Gallery. The exhibition will take visitors back to seven opera premieres in seven different cultural and historical settings. A splendid bombastically brilliant time is guaranteed for all.

It might be worth mentioning here that the V&A is also opening a new photography gallery on the first floor of the historic North East Quarter of its South Kensington building in 2017 to house its own historic collection and that of the Royal Photographic Society, which travelled south from the National Media Museum to Kensington in 2016.

The final V&A exhibition of the year will attempt the tricky business of doing what Disney Pixar and Dreamworks do on a regular basis by serving up something designed for adults and children.

Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring A Classic (December 16 2017 – April 8 2018) will draw on the V&A’s own archive of pencil sketches, proofs, letters and photographs and many key loans to reveal the story behind the creative partnership of A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard and the factors contributing to the success and enduring popularity of Winnie-the-Pooh.

In King’s Cross The Wellcome Collection’s engaging investigation into how we see and relate to nature, Making Nature: How We See Animals (until May 21) is followed up with an investigation into our relationship with electricity.

Turning up the voltage at the Wellcome Collection

black and white photograph of woman modeling a machine for perming hair

Woman modelling the latest permed hairstyles for the hairdresser Eugène Limited 1923, Alexander Bassano Photographic Studios, © Museum of London

Electricity: The spark of life (February 23 – June 25) will trace the story of mankind’s quest to understand, unlock and master the power of a force that exists in everything from the building blocks of the universe to the human brain.

The Whitechapel’s Eduardo Paolozzi (until May 14), a major retrospective spanning five decades featuring over 250 works – from the artist’s post-war bronzes and brutalist concrete sculptures to the collages, textiles and fashion designs.

Terrains of the Body: Photography from the National Museum of Women in the Arts (until April 16) brings the Washington DC-based collection to London for a showcase of photography and video work by seventeen contemporary artists from around the world.

Finally, in Walthamstow, The William Morris Gallery is marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of Frank Brangwyn with Sheer Pleasure – Frank Brangwyn and the Art of Japan (until May 14) which looks at the 20th century muralist’s collaborative printmaking foray with Japanese artist Yoshijiro Urushibara (1888-1953).




















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2 comments on “The best art exhibitions to see in London in 2017

  1. Cal on

    A great round up of whats on . Love your website layout and descriptions. Great diversity too including some maybe not so mainstream venues.


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