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Art lovers, get set! The exhibitions to see when London galleries open

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Art lovers, get set! The exhibitions to see when London galleries open
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he terrific accidental wheeze which means that, as ‘non-essential retail’ (argue that one, philosophers) commercial art galleries are able to open on-slash-not-before April 12 is a boon to those of us who have sorely missed strolling round white spaces looking at things we don’t quite understand and are mildly terrified to find out the price of. In all seriousness, there’s a fantastic crop of exhibitions coming up at London’s stellar for-profit art spaces, and they’re absolutely free to wander into. From Damien Hirst (inevitably) to John Akomfrah, Sandra Mujinga to Thomas Demand, these are the shows you should be seeing come the first week of the spring awakening.

Damien Hirst: Fact Paintings and Fact Sculptures

Notre-Dame on Fire, 2019

/ Damien Hirst and Science Ltd

The idea of representing reality is behind Hirst’s long-running series of ‘fact’ works, which range from photorealistic paintings to a life-size tea cart (a reference to the snooker tournaments he attends with his pal Ronnie O’Sullivan). This show, which kicks off a solid year of Hirst exhibitions at the Britannia Street space (crikey), will feature some older but mostly unseen works created in his studio over the last 15 years.

Gagosian Britannia Street, from April 12

Rachel Whiteread: Internal Objects

Detail of Doppelgänger, 2020-21

/ Rachel Whiteread

After a 40-year career based on the casting and revealing of the insides of things, from the underside of chairs to the space within an entire house, Rachel Whiteread has done a handbreak turn and switched to the skin and bone of an object. This show of new sculptures is centred on two new works, hand-built by the artist and resembling the skeletons of dilapidated sheds. It’s a bold move, and a rather beautiful one.

Gagosian Grosvenor Hill, from April 12

Jessica Rankin

Strange Currents EA, 2020

/ Jessica Rankin

The Australian artist Jessica Rankin appropriates methods traditionally associated with women’s work (embroidery and needlework) and incorporates them into her painting practice, creating ‘mental maps’ that explore notions of memory, intuition and interpretation. Previously her gorgeous, gestural work has evoked landscape – this new body of work represents a shift towards abstraction.

White Cube Bermondsey, from April 12

Park Seo-Bo

Ecriture No 071208, 2007

/ Park Seo-Bo

A highly influential contemporary Korean artist and educator, Park Seo-Bo is considered the father of the Dansaekhwa (“monochrome painting”) movement, which evolved in South Korea in the late 1970s. Despite its aesthetic similarity to Western minimalism, it’s actually much more about a return to nature and materiality, and Park’s own practice is rooted in the spiritual philosophies of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Just what we need to recalibrate.

White Cube Bermondsey, from April 12

Gilbert and George: New Normal Pictures

PRIORITY SEAT 2020

/ Gilbert and George

Possibly the antithesis to the restful work of Park Seo-Bo is this cheerfully loud series of 26 new paintings by London’s favourite living sculpture, Gilbert and George. This new series follows the pair on a sort of Pilgrim’s Progress on foot through the streets of London, charting its changes, gentrification and redevelopment as they head to the city’s eastern edges.

White Cube Mason’s Yard, from April 12

Sabine Moritz: Mercy

Sabine Moritz Flow IV, 2020

/ Sabine Moritz

New paintings, works on paper and, for the first time, photographs, reflect on the political, economic and environmental shifts of the past year through the lens of series, sequence and abstraction (don’t we wish we could all do that, it feels like it might be more palatable somehow). As a whole, they explore the dynamics of memory – but they’re also genuinely beautiful.

Pilar Corrias, from April 12

Charles Gaines: Multiples of Nature, Trees and Faces

Numbers and Faces: Multi – Racial/Ethnic Combinations Series 1: Face #13, Ellen Yoshi Tani (Japanese/Irish/Danish/English)

/ Charles Gaines

The American conceptual artist Charles Gaines’ first ever solo show at the gallery comprises two new series of plexiglass grid works that reflect his fascination with structures and rules-based systems. His Numbers and Trees series continues a long-standing body of work that methodically plots images of trees to examine their structural form, while his new Faces series maps faces of people who identify as multi-racial over each other to explore political and cultural notions of representation. It’s a lot to get your head around but it’s also gorgeous to look at.

Hauser & Wirth, from April 12

Ugo Rondinone: a sky. a sea, distant mountains. horses. spring.

A work from a sky . a sea . distant mountains . horses . spring .

/ Ugo Rondinone, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London

The New York-based Swiss sculptor Ugo Rondinone’s work never fails to cheer me up. There’s not much info out there about this new exhibition of sculptural and wall-based works but it seems to continue several series in his practice, which meditates with wit and good cheer (day-glo colours are a frequent characteristic) on everyday life, time and the world.

Sadie Coles, from April 12

Sue Williamson: Testimony

It’s a pleasure to meet you brings together the children of two men killed by apartheid police

/ Sue Williamson

This is the first solo exhibition in the UK for the British-South African artist Sue Williamson and presents a sort of mini-retrospective of work from the 1990s to today. One of a pioneering generation of artists who stood up against the apartheid regime, Williamson uses many media, from video to sculpture and installation, to powerfully explore South Africa’s history and ideas of trauma, memory and identity. A must-see.

Goodman Gallery, from April 12

Navid Nuur

Apart from the secret that it holds, 2020

/ Navid Nuur

Following the Iranian artist’s major show at the Kunstmuseum den Haag, among other cool things this exhibition features new pieces from one of my favourite of his bodies of work, The Tuners, for which Nuur appropriates, enlarges, and recolours anonymous doodles collected from scrap paper used to try out pens in stationery stores across the world – an unconscious, universal language that transcends time and place. Neat, huh?

Max Hetzler, from April 12

Mika Tajima

Negative Entropy (TAE, Cryopump, Pink, Full Width, Hex)

/ Mika Tajima

Complex stuff, but beautiful, conceptual artist Mika Tajima’s work (paintings, textile works, sculptures) explores the relationships between technology, physical and psychic energy, incorporating and referring to everything from yoga breathing techniques to the ambient sound of a high tech energy fusion facility. Densely layered but worth trying to work your way into.

John Akomfrah: The Unintended Beauty of Disaster

A still from The Unintended Beauty of Disaster

/ Courtesy Smoking Dogs Films and Lisson Gallery

One of the most consistently interesting artists working in video today, John Akomfrah creates meditative reflections on our collective consciousness (his Stuart Hall Project is still one of my favourite artworks of all time which is a lot for a 96 minute film about a cultural theorist). This new body of work, featuring footage filmed over the last six months, responds directly to the events of 2020, most notably the Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations against imperialist monuments.

Lisson Gallery, April 13 to June 5

An Infinity of Traces

Sola Olulode, Laying in the Grass III

/ Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Sitting alongside Akomfrah’s exhibition will be this group show, curated by the writer and curator Ekow Eshun, featuring UK-based established and emerging Black artists whose work explores notions of race, history, being and belonging through a variety of media. With the likes of Alberta Whittle, Ayo Akingbade, Jade Montserrat and Ufuoma Essi, it promises to be fascinating.

Lisson Gallery, April 13 to June 5

Threadbare

Huguette Caland, Inaash (dress #7), 1970

/ Huguette Caland

This group show of new and historical works from Jonathan Baldock, Huguette Caland, Jeffrey Gibson and Tau Lewis explores and challenges questions of identity, gender, sexuality and race through the transformative and performative qualities associated with textiles via their connection with the body. Wit and playfulness provide a way into multi-layers of meaning and narrative.

Stephen Friedman Gallery, April 13 to May 15

Sandra Mujinga: Spectral Keepers

Spectral Keepers

/ Sandra Mujinga. Courtesy the Artist and The Approach, London

The eeriest show you’re likely to see this spring, Sandra Mujinga’s installation at the Approach gallery is inspired by the world-building practices in video games, science-fiction novels and Afrofuturism. It’s also very, very green, which sounds restful but isn’t, and works, as related to the green screen of movies, as a proxy for blackness – a non-colour; a camouflage; hypervisible but invisible at the same time.

Approach, April 13 to May 1

Melanie Smith: Leave it to the Amateurs

Vortex by Melanie Smith

/ Melanie Smith

Surprisingly, this is only Melanie Smith’s second solo exhibition in the UK, though she has exhibited widely internationally. Working across painting, film and performance (and often combinations of those) she explores notions of modernity in relation to art history and contemporary society. Her remotely directed new film, Vortex, and associated works pulls apart the picture plane in the creation of a sort of tableau vivant based on William Blake’s The Circle of the Lustful (1824-27).

Parafin, April 13 to June 26

Not Vital; Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg’s Bounders (Phantom), 1991

/ Robert Rauschenberg Foundation

Two shows at the gallery strip the world down in different ways. A series of portraits unseen in the UK by the Swiss artist Not Vital reduce their subjects (often well-known figures such as Nina Simone or Mahalia Jackson) to the interplay of light and dark using a limited greyscale palette. Alongside these sits a show of Robert Rauschenberg’s Night Shades and Phantoms, made as part of his decade-long experiments painting on metal, making them seem to flicker in and out of existence.

Thaddaeus Ropac, April 13 to May 26 (Vital) and July 31 (Rauschenberg)

Thomas Demand

Nursery, 2020

/ Thomas Demand

Thomas Demand’s large-scale photographs are never quite what they seem – this body of work blends and blurs the natural and the artificial and considers the role of models in how we structure the world. Images of lily ponds and indoor plant nurseries are meticulously constructed out of paper, shot and then destroyed; the images themselves consider the crossover of technology and nature. Another series looks at the working paper models used in the atelier of the designer Azzedine Alaïa, known for his architectural forms.

Sprüth Magers, April 13 to May 15

Michael Landy Break Down: 20 Years

Michael Landy contemplating the destruction of his own life in 2001

/ Michael Landy. Courtesy the artist, Thomas Dane Gallery and Artangel

It was “like witnessing my own funeral” Michael Landy later said about his seminal work Breakdown, in which he publicly destroyed all his possessions (from a single tea bag to a Saab) in the old C&A building on Oxford Circus. To mark 20 years since, Thomas Dane Gallery is mounting a display of archive material alongside documentary photographs by Wolfgang Tillmans which are exhibited for the first time.

Thomas Dane, April 13 to June 6

Arturo Herrera: From This Day Forward

Untitled, 2020

/ Arturo Herrera

An homage to collage from the Venezuelan artist, continuing his examination of modernist legacies and visual culture with a group of new works created from images gleaned from popular culture, alongside immersive wall painting and bookmaking in his fourth exhibition at the gallery.

Thomas Dane, April 13 to June 6

Markus Lüpertz

Jason’s Abschied (Jason’s Farewell), 2020

/ Markus Lupertz

The influential German painter presents a new body of work returning (as many painters have before him) to the theme of Arcadia. His gestural, expressionist works pull figures from Italian Renaissance and Dutch Golden Age paintings, give them identities as characters from Greek mythology and place them into idyllic landscapes, often inspired by the surroundings of his studio in Märkisch Wilmersdorf, Germany.

Michael Werner, April 13 to May 15

Frank Walter

Untitled (Abstract Triangles, Red, Yellow, Black and Silver)

/ Courtesy Kenneth M Milton Fine Arts

This is the first solo exhibition in London by the late Antiguan artist – Francis Archibald Wentworth Walter, self-styled 7th Prince of the West Indies, Lord of Follies and the Ding-a-Ding Nook, to give him his proper title. A remarkably talented painter, if deeply eccentric (not, of course, mutually exclusive) Walter created a vast body of work (in addition to writings and sound recordings) over six decades on materials from wood, to Masonite, and using oil paint, tempera, watercolour, crayon, pencil, shellac, and glitter. A real treat.

David Zwirner, from April 15

Entertainment

It’s official: Andrew Scott is the greatest actor of our generation

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It’s official: Andrew Scott is the greatest actor of our generation

Andrew Scott: do I want to be him, snog him, or just watch everything he ever appears in? I think it’s all three. Either way, from now on I’m going to ask everyone I meet if they agree that he is the greatest actor of our generation. If they don’t, sorry, we cannot be friends.

Not everyone loved the BBC’s lavish adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love (I did), but everyone who watched it agreed on one thing: Scott, who played louche bright young thing Lord Merlin, lit up every second of his screen time. As we watched him dancing to T-Rex in silk pyjama suit with a harem of beautiful people following him around, we wanted to have a pyjama party in his honour.

He became a legend of this nation as Fleabag’s Hot Priest, the gin and tonic-drinking clergyman who ensured that the second series of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s hit show was even better than the first. It was an emotional rollercoaster: we sobbed and got hot under the dog collar. Paloma Faith spoke for us all when she infamously told Scott on the Graham Norton sofa that she’d needed “alone time” after watching the show.

BBC

But we bow down to him as the very best actor we have right now because of a long career of stellar performances, elevated by his own personal life philosophy. “Acting without humour is bad manners – it’s not the way human beings work,” he said last year in an interview for Elizabeth Day’s How To Fail podcast. That’s the key to his brilliance: he brings both humanity and levity to all of his characters.

The first time I ever saw him was on stage in Birdland at the Royal Court, back in 2014 as a rock star going off the rails in a metallic jacket. He’d already played Moriarty in Sherlock by then and won a Bafta for being the best thing in the show, but I had no idea who he was (I don’t watch things about men who are really good at doing maths in their heads). I still remember sitting at the back of the circle and thinking: that man is a star. His performance was vintage Scott: manic charisma, sexy but in a way that felt a bit dangerous, all with a vulnerable tenderness at its heart.

Fleabag finds religion in season 2 – but is it enough to save her? / BBC

He’s an actor who can do the biggies. In 2017 he played Hamlet, making the prince into a sensitive man whose life has become unmoored by grief. I saw the nearly four hour running time of Robert Icke’s production and went to the theatre with a visceral sense of martyrdom, but Scott made it feel like it wasn’t long enough. It was the first time I’d watched Hamlet and not fallen asleep; usually I wake up and everyone on the stage is dead. But Scott made it so that I could understand every word he was saying… suddenly I understood why everyone else liked it so much.

And as Garry Essendine in Noel Coward’s Present Laughter in 2019, he picked up a host of gongs including Best Actor at our Evening Standard Theatre Awards. Not only did his hilarious performance light up our summer, but the production had an important political meaning too, allowing the queer subtext in Coward’s work to be openly expressed. As Scott himself said in his acceptance speech, “I think sometimes [Coward is] accused of being a dusty old playwright but he smuggles through comedy really modern ideas about sexuality and gender. He sort of says it’s okay to live a life that’s less ordinary.”

We feel like we could have a deep and meaningful with him at 2am in a toilet

/ Theodora Films Limited & Moonage Pictures Limited/Robert Viglasky

But whatever he’s in, he always becomes the bit you never forget. Psychotic taxi driver in Black Mirror? Tick. Upper class World War One officer getting through the trauma with gallows humour in 1917? Tick. Welsh bookshop owner disowned by his family for being gay, who made us cry every tear in our body in Pride? Tick. Priest who would make you hotfoot to confession (even though you are an atheist) in Fleabag? As we know, tick, tick, tick.

His next project is playing Tom Ripley in a new mega-series about Patricia Highsmith’s enigmatic con artist, alongside Johnny Flynn and Dakota Fanning, and we already know Scott will make us forget every other Ripley depiction we’ve ever seen – apols Matt Damon.

It’s not just his first class acting chops, though. Scott has an electric quality to him that makes us feel intimately connected to him. Who else could have us hanging off his every ‘to be or not to be’ and also make us feel like we could have a deep and meaningful with him at 2am in a toilet?

Give Scott an Oscar. Give him a knighthood. Give him our phone numbers. Give him everything. We pledge allegiance to the way of the Scott.

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