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Opening season – exhibitions not to miss in the UK this summer

9 July 2020

As museums and galleries in the UK begin to reopen, Apollo’s editors pick out the exhibitions they’re most looking forward to visiting in coming months.

‘Art Deco by the Sea’
Sainsbury Centre, Norwich
Until 20 September

‘Barnett Freedman: Designs for Modern Britain’
Pallant House Gallery, Chichester
5 August–1 November

Having spent four months in a small corner of north London, with occasional forays into Zone One by bike, I’ve found the world elsewhere is calling – and is once again accessible, thank God. These two exhibitions are among the many outside London that I’m keen to reach this summer. And they’ll make a good pairing, I think, with their different visions of modern Britain at work and play: in Norwich, the style and aspiration of the seaside in the ’20s and ’30s, and in Chichester, a great designer who enlightened and enlivened everyday life before, after and indeed during the Second World War. Thomas Marks

London Transport poster (1936), Barnett Freedman.

London Transport poster (1936), Barnett Freedman. © Barnett Freedman Estate

‘Cao Fei: Blueprints’
Serpentine Gallery, London
4 August–13 September

I’m keen to book a timed ticket for Cao Fei’s show at the Serpentine. Fei’s multimedia works – which will be displayed in an immersive setting – ask questions about the ways in which we engage with the virtual world. The Eternal Wave is Fei’s latest VR experiment, in which a reproduction of a real kitchen in the artist’s studio in Beijing is coupled with a virtual copy, leaving the viewer in doubt as to what is truth and what is fiction. Imelda Barnard

‘Denzil Forrester: Itchin & Scratchin’
Nottingham Contemporary
Until 31 August (reopens 4 August)

Night Strobe by Denzil Forrester was painted in 1985 at a time when the Grenada-born British artist frequently visited London’s dub-reggae clubs – it captures the frenetic energy of the dimly lit dance floor. This work is on show alongside other nocturnal scenes as part of this exhibition which spans his 40-year career and which also includes works influenced by the Caribbean and Cornwall, where he now lives. IB

‘Derek Jarman: My garden’s boundaries are the horizon’
Garden Museum, London
Until 20 September

The outside world – whether experienced in reality or, more often than not, through images and imagination – has been a source of both comfort and yearning for many of us over the last few months. It’s only natural, then, that the call of the Garden Museum in south-east London should be particularly loud at present for this city-dweller. And having recently made a day trip to Derek Jarman’s garden at Prospect Cottage, which sits open on its shingle beach between the sea and Dungeness power station, I look forward to filling in the picture with this exhibition of artworks, films and other items usually kept inside the cottage. Sophie Barling

Song for Dungeness (1988), Derek Jarman.

Song for Dungeness (1988), Derek Jarman. Courtesy Keith Collins Will Trust and Amanda Wilkinson Gallery

‘Otobong Nkanga: From Where I Stand’
Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art
Until end 2020 (reopens soon)

I’m glad Otobong Nkanga’s solo exhibition at MIMA – her largest in the UK to date – has been extended until the end of the year, given that it had only been open for a few days before lockdown. ‘From Where I Stand’ includes nearly 50 works and considers the relationship between land and the body, and histories of empire and environmental change. Similar themes are explored in an exhibition of the artist’s work at Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin, which opens on 10 July. IB

‘Picasso and Paper’
Royal Academy of Arts, London
Until 2 August

I managed to grab an hour in this exhibition just before the lockdown started. But you’ll need at least three hours, from what I saw, to begin to fathom the sheer promiscuousness of Picasso’s exploits with paper – and not just the restlessness of his draughtsmanship, or his audacity in print-making, but the cutting and tearing, the pasting and pinning, the scrap-work and scribbling. It looks as though public tickets have sold out, but do your damnedest to get in to this show. I’ll be going back. TM

Mask, Paris (1943), Pablo PIcasso.

Mask, Paris (1943), Pablo Picasso. Photo: © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris)/Béatrice Hatala; © Succession Picasso/DACS 2020

‘Radical Figures: Painting in the New Millennium’
Whitechapel Gallery, London
Until 30 August (reopens 14 July)

It’s the scale of paintings I’ve missed above all during lockdown; the new sensations as you move closer and further away, and from one canvas to the next. So my first port of call will be a pop down the road to this group show of contemporary figurative painting, which includes works by Michael Armitage and Cecily Brown. When I saw it in February I was knocked flat by the vast Boschian nightmare-scapes of the New York-based artist Nicole Eisenman. These are paintings on an epic scale – whole worlds that bring you under their unnerving spell – and the perfect sight for screen-fatigued eyes. Samuel Reilly

‘Sixty Years’
Tate Britain, London
Reopens 27 July

More than exhibitions, I’ve really missed visiting my favourite collections of art – being able to drop in and spend time in familiar spaces, with works that I know I’ll never tire of. So I’m very excited to return to Tate Britain and roam through the display of British art from 1545 to the present day. One section I haven’t seen before is the temporary display of work by women artists from the past 60 years, which was meant to come down in May but has now been extended. Artists featured include Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Rose Wiley and Pauline Boty. I have a feeling some new favourites might emerge. Gabrielle Schwarz

Generosity (2010), Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Tate.

The Generosity (2010), Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Tate. © Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

‘Toyin Ojih Odutola: A Countervailing Theory’
Barbican Art Gallery, London
11 August–24 January 2021

Looking a little ahead, Toyin Ojih Odutola’s first show in the UK is an exciting prospect. For this commission, the Nigerian-American artist has created a series of 40 drawings, which tell the tale of an imagined prehistoric civilisation, ruled by women, set in an uncanny landscape inspired by the rock formations of the central Nigerian plateau. Ojih Odutola is an artist who thinks deeply about both mark-making and myth-making – how her chosen mediums of pastel, charcoal and pencil can be called upon to construct fictive realities that reveal hidden truths. Spanning the 90-metre sweep of the Curve Gallery, this new cycle promises exactly the kind of immersion we’ve been missing. SR

‘We Will Walk: Art and Resistance in the American South’
Turner Contemporary, Margate
Until 6 September (reopens 22 July)

I recently had the privilege of interviewing the American activist, artist and scholar Doris Derby, whose photographs from the 1960s and ’70s document the daily lives and extraordinary work of those – herself included – involved in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Now I’m even more keen to see these images off-screen, along with the many sculptures, paintings, textiles and photographs by the other artists included in this wide-ranging exhibition. I can’t wait to get a close look at the quilts of the women of Gee’s Bend, a rural black community in Alabama, who have been producing their patchwork masterpieces for generations – the selection on display here spans almost a century. Plus, who wouldn’t want a trip to the seaside? GS

‘Young Rembrandt’
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Reopens mid August

Perhaps more than making new artistic discoveries, the desire to revisit old favourites has been a common feeling as galleries and museums begin to open up. The Ashmolean’s cast gallery is one of Britain’s oldest and best (the collection was begun in 1884, shortly after the V&A’s magnificent cast courts were installed) – and its plaster copy of Laocoön and his Sons is almost as terrifying as the original in the Vatican. And while I’m there, I’ll want to catch both the brilliance and blundering of an Old Master’s early years, in ‘Young Rembrandt’. SB

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