From new openings to last chances, welcome to a month of spirit-lifting art in the capital
In art, as in life, January is a funny old month. Bitter weather and the back-to-work grind set the world in slow-motion as it emerges from a deep end-of-year slumber.
Perhaps that’s why so many New Year art openings seem to happen in February, when our holiday hangovers have subsided and the world runs at its usual pace.
Despite all that, January is an excellent time to capitalise on the clean-slate psychology of a new year by checking out some fresh art offerings. It’s also the last chance for many exhibitions carrying over from the previous year. It’s your chance to tick off the cultural goodies that fell victim to the Christmas rush.
Read on for WWS’ January art picks, to get you up to speed before February’s influx of openings. We’re off to hole-up in a warm gallery.
Motherhood is a Big Theme…
Foundling Museum, 24 January 2020 – 26 April 2020
Adult museum admission £10.50
From Instagram pregnancy portraits (hello, Beyoncé) to that miscarriage scene in Fleabag, via Marc Quinn’s Breath sculpture of 8-month-pregnant Alison Lapper, depictions of pregnancy are becoming infinitely more nuanced.
Yet, states of pregnancy are largely absent from art’s surviving portraiture. That’s mind-blogging when you consider that, until birth control became available in the twentieth century, many women spent most of their adult lives pregnant and nursing.
Why the lack of expecting subjects? A mix of societal norms, patriarchal pressures and the possibility of death in childbirth made representations of pregnancy highly problematic.
In this fascinating exhibition, curator Karen Hearn brings together paintings, prints, photographs, objects and textiles to examine the representation – or lack of it – given to pregnant women.
The result is a poignant celebration of “women’s identity, emotion, empowerment and autonomy – in a 500-year context”.
Dorothea Tanning’s Legacy Continues…
Alison Jacques Gallery, 24 January 2020 – 21 March 2020
Painter. Printmaker. Sculptor. Wordsmith. American artist Dorothea Tanning, known for her darkly dream-like works of Surrealism, was a true multidisciplinarian. A woman ahead of her time, both in terms of her art and gender politics.
Trained at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Tanning later relocated to New York, where she first encountered the Surrealists. She went on to marry German avant-garde artist Max Ernst and lived to the age of 101.
For anyone who adored the major Dorothea Tanning retrospective at the Tate Modern last year, this exhibition offers a more intimate experience, honing in on a series of works on paper.
These works, made by Tanning when she returned to New York after a long period in France, feature recurring bicycle motifs. The artist returned to the form time and again after witnessing an accident close to her studio.
A Guatemalan Rainforest Lands In London…
Vivian Suter: Tin Tin’s Sofa
Camden Arts Centre, January 17 2020 – April 5 2020
Bringing bold splashes of tropical colour to the greyest of months, Vivian Suter’s paintings draw on the flora and fauna of the Guatemalan rainforest. With bold, sweeping strokes and use of the brightest pigments, there’s something incredibly joyous about the Swiss painter’s works. Even the manner in which they canvases hung – dangling overhead like loosened sails, unstretched and informal – feels incredibly freeing. Head to Camden Arts Centre for this playfully mesmeric exhibition. Suter’s concurrent solo show at Tate Liverpool runs until March.
Picasso Gets A Papery Ode…
Picasso and Paper
Royal Academy of Arts, 25 January – 13 April 2020
Tickets £18 – £22
Shaping up to be one of the big-hitter exhibitions of early 2020, the RA charts Picasso’s 80-year career – through the medium of paper.
Of course, the anarchic artist would never have done anything so conventional as to draw on paper. Instead, he cut into it, made dazzling three dimensional forms, ripped it apart and burnt it.
From illustrated poems to large-scale collages such as the sepia-toned Guernica. The 300 works in this lovingly curated exhibition build a fascinating and often unexpected picture of a man so thoroughly profiled that sharp new angles for retrospectives like this one cut through the noise like – well, scissors through paper.
One of the most charming aspects of the exhibition is the assembly of the extraordinary and the everyday. Picasso was as likely to transform napkins, newspaper and café tablecloths as he was rare imported papers and parchments from all over the globe.
If you loved Tate’s 2018 The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy, which examined a single year of the great artist’s life in granular detail, then this similarly (read: brilliantly) niche exhibition is for you.
It’s Your Last Chance to Catch…
Southbank Centre, until 26 January
Adult tickets £18
Bold. Graphic. Hypnotic. Bridget Riley’s works are as riotous as the socio-political emancipation of the 1960s that shaped so many of them. Don’t miss the opportunity to catch the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of her work to date.
Into the Night: Cabaret and Clubs in Modern Art
The Barbican, until 19 January
Take a tour of some of the most iconic clubs and cabaret bars of our time, seen through the prism of the artist’s gaze. What leaps from the canvas is the palpable sense of these elusive venues and subterranean dens as spaces where boundaries are broken and new cultures formed.
South London Gallery, until 23 February
Providing a vital platform for new-gen visual artists since 1949, this calendar staple is always cheering, a chance to get a good look at the freshest green buds of the art world as they emerge. Roei Greenberg’s photographs of an abandoned 1970s Syrian tank in the leafy forests of Israel’s National Park are a highlight.