Apollo Magazine

Frieze week highlights: Alice Neel and Victor Willing

An exhibition of Alice Neel’s portraits and abstract works by Victor Willing are among the shows we’re looking forward to seeing this year

Alice Neel

Left: Ellie Poindexer (1961); right: Ellie Poindexer (1962), Alice Neel. Courtesy the Estate of Alice Neel and Victoria Miro; © The Estate of Alice Neel

With hundreds of exhibitions and events vying for your attention in London during Frieze week, Apollo’s editors pick out the shows they don’t want to miss

Speaking to ARTNews in 1966, the American portraitist Alice Neel described her fourth sitting with the poet Frank O’Hara. ‘When he came in the door for the fourth time,’ Neel said, ‘he looked different.’ Capturing the ‘difference’ in her subjects became something of an obsession for Neel who developed an appetite for studying and painting the same set of sitters to the point of perfection. Coinciding with a retrospective of the artist’s work at the Centre Pompidou which opened earlier this month, an exhibition at Victoria Miro Gallery (11 October–12 November) brings together pairings of works that reveal the transformations in not just the subjects, but also Neel’s artistic technique between 1930s and 1980s. Highlights include intimate portraits of family and friends, such as her mother and the American businessman John Rothschild.

Left: John with a Bowl of Fruit (1949); right: John (1933), Alice Neel. Courtesy the Estate of Alice Neel and Victoria Miro; © The Estate of Alice Neel

Meanwhile, Timothy Taylor Gallery presents an exhibition of paintings by the Egyptian-born British artist Victor Willing (until 5 November). During his time at the Slade School of Fine Art in the late 1950s, Willing studied under the landscape painter William Menzies Coldstream and met his future wife, the artist Paula Rego. Perhaps best known for his large-scale nude studies – including a series of Rego – Willing moved away from figuration during the 1970s, following his family’s relocation to Rego’s native Portugal, and began experimenting with abstraction. Revealing Willing’s fascination with psychology and the subconscious, the exhibition explores the vivid works produced during this period, which combine unusual, fragmented images and hallucinatory scenes.

Matisse’s Sideboard (1974), Victor Willing. Courtesy Timothy Taylor, London/New York; © Victor Willing

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