One of my favourite things about living in London is the amazing array of galleries and museums this city contains. From immersive installations to classic works of art, there is always something fascinating to see and experience. So, here are the latest exhibitions in London that I’ve been lucky enough to see and would highly recommend you do too.
Looking for something else to do in London? Check out my events guide.
Matthew Barney: Redoubt and Igshaan Adams: Kicking Dust at the Hayward Gallery
For the first time in over a decade, American artist Matthew Barney has returned to London with a solo exhibition. The centrepiece is a two-hour dialogue-free film, which plays on loop during Hayward’s opening hours. I opted to watch all of it, which I realised was the first time I’d challenged my brain after a year in the safety of Covid-induced cosiness.
Inspired by the myth of Diana the Huntress, the film follows a hunter and her two dancers on a series of stalks through the snow-covered mountains of Idaho. They are watched by The Engraver, played by Barney, who etches images on copper as he follows them. Like all of his films, this is a sumptuously shot creation that leaves you feeling more than a little unnerved.
Redoubt is a great exhibition to try this summer on a cloudy day so you can enjoy immersing yourself in the darkness for a few hours. In addition to the film, Barney’s work spreads across another floor with the engravings on display plus several gigantic tress sculptures. I wish I’d watched the film before exploring this part of the exhibition as it would have made more sense.
The Hayward often does excellent pairings with their exhibitions, running a well-known name with an up-and-coming artist simultaneously on the same ticket. On this occasion, Barney’s work is complemented by a smaller exhibit by queer South African artist Igshaan Adams.
This beautiful one-room display wowed me when I entered. Adams has taken over most of the space with plush floor weavings that are cut like landscape. Hovering above this are vast clouds of ‘dust’ – suspended clusters of what appears to be thread, hair, beads and other organic matter. It’s a visually impressive combination inspired by the dust clouds that occur when the Nama people of the Northern Cape perform their Rieldans dance.
Hanging on the walls are tapestries, some featuring reinterpretations of Islamic motifs, plus several other cloud-like sculptures. One is a mass of dark hair beads, which hilariously I found reminiscent of Aughra, the wizened sorceress with only one working eye from The Dark Crystal.
📅 Both exhibitions run till 25 July 2021
📍 Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XX
Following a profoundly strange and uncertain year, this landmark exhibition has arrived with impeccable timing. After all, this pandemic has probably made us all feel like we’ve tumbled down a dystopian rabbit hole at times.
Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser unpacks the mythology and explores the endless reimaginings of Lewis Carol’s highly influential 1865 novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, including film, fashion and VR in a comprehensive and sumptuous display. From the original miniature drawings to a giant funfair-sized caterpillar, the exhibition’s scale grows and shrinks in Alice-sized proportions.
The V&A is the ideal museum for an exhibition that delves into one of the most enduring works of the Victorian era. Released during quite a priggish time, Alice includes a fascinating array of attitudes around mental health, drug use and philosophy for a children’s book, which is probably why it sparked the imagination of adults as well.
Alice is one of those exhibitions where you swoon a little as your enter each room, moving from one visual delight to the next, making it one of the most Instagrammable exhibitions in London this year. The V&A always outdoes itself with an exhibition of this calibre. Though this isn’t on the same scale as their iconic retrospectives like David Bowie Is… or Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, it still managed to exceed my very high expectations.
My highlights from this exhibition were Bob Crowley’s towering costume for the Queen of Hearts from the Royal Ballet’s 2011 production, Ralph Steadman’s unsettling 1970s illustrations and RuPaul as the Queen of Hearts in Pirelli’s Alice in Wonderland-Themed 2018 Calendar. I also really loved Chris Riddell’s illustrations for Macmillian’s new edition last year as he drew inspiration from the actual Alice’s dark bob and turned the Mad Hatter into a more androgynous character.
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