As the art world shakes off its summer snooze, it’s our pleasure to recommend five commercial and five non-commercial exhibitions taking place in London, and further afield, over the coming months.
Cy Twombly: The Last Paintings, Until 29 September
Gagosian Gallery, 6 – 24 Britannia Street, London, WC1X 9JD
One of the greatest abstract painters of his generation, Cy Twombly (1928 – 2011) sadly passed away at the end of last year. His final body of work, which has travelled extensively across Gagosian’s numerous locations throughout the world, is as powerful and striking as ever. Large canvases with ebullient, life-affirming swirls of red, yellow and orange on green backgrounds, are imbued with the raw energy and emotion we have come to expect from the artist. Given his recent retrospective at the Tate Modern (2008) this may be one of the last opportunities to see a significant and coherent group of his large works in the UK for some time.
Theaster Gates: My Labor is My Protest, Until 10 November 2012
White Cube, 144 – 152 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3TQ
If you haven’t encountered Theaster Gates (b.1973) before, now is the time. His much acclaimed Huguenothouse at dOCUMENTA (13) 2012 has been responsible for bringing his practice to a global audience. Combining roles as urban regenerator, race activist, mentor, musician, carpenter and artist, Gates formulated an inspired model for improving the lot of his neighbours in Chicago. The artist has worked tirelessly to acquire derelict buildings in his local neighbourhood and subsequently refurbish them with reclaimed materials, transforming them into cultural centres as well as affordable studio and working space for artists.
In a deceptively simple and highly effective redistribution of wealth, the funds Gates raises from the sale of his actual art works in commercial galleries is used to finance his numerous community projects which have inspired justly deserved admiration, not only from the contemporary art establishment, but also from the many disadvantaged individuals who have benefitted.
For his solo show at White Cube a diverse array of substantial sculptures, wall mounted works and installation elements have been commissioned to provide a well-rounded insight into his practice. A primary concern for the artist are the on-going race struggles in the USA, and an attempt to repair at least some of the trauma suffered by African-Americans in still recent history.
Elmgreen and Dragset: Harvest, 21 September – 10 November 2012
Victoria Miro, 16 Wharf Road, London, N1 7RW
You may have seen this duo’s current contribution to the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, Powerless Structures, Fig. 101 which was unveiled in February of this year. Marked by their unfailing sense of wit, elaborate understanding of the mise-en-scène and consistent exploration of institutional critique, the work brings a childlike joy to the square and eloquently mocks the pomp and self-conscious grandeur of monumental equestrian statuary.
Their forthcoming solo show at Victoria Miro, Harvest, will combine several of the gallery’s generous spaces in a two part examination of culture in its different guises, and the value systems of each. One space will be dedicated to sheets of white paint ‘harvested’ from the walls of prestigious institutions across the world – the Serpentine Gallery in London and the Solomon R. Guggenheim in New York, among others – which have been later applied to canvases. By collecting this seemingly worthless paint from gallery walls, and turning it into defacto abstract paintings, a typically conceptual reworking of the minimalist aesthetic, the artists probingly explore desire and value in the art world.
The cavernous ‘barn-like’ space of the gallery’s first floor will play host to an alternative dimension, creating a rustic scene with a ‘lexicon of rural iconography’. Like previous works which staged whole environments (for example their work The Collectors, 2009, at the 53rd Venice Biennial) Elmgreen and Dragset here beckon the viewer to enter a distorted reality whose ruptures and quirks expose the artists’ larger conceptual project. Forever interested in the nature of power and the forms it takes in the art world, we are invited here to question the relative merit of different forms of culture, ‘from simple lived experience to institutionalised fine art’.
Frieze and Frieze Masters, 11 – 1 4 October
Regent’s Park, London
Now entering its tenth year, Frieze Art Fair has begun to expand dramatically. Frieze New York launched in May this year to an appreciative American audience. Apart from our American counterparts enjoying a considerably larger tent within which to contemplate their latest purchases, the fair was recognised as maintaining its high standard of exhibitors. But, lucky as we are, the expansion also continues closer to home. Frieze Masters, showing works from the Antiquity to the end of the Twentieth-Century represents a dramatic, but eminently sensible, departure into a realm of the market normally dominated by TEFAF Maastricht and Art Basel (which now operates in Basel, Hong Kong and Miami Beach).
As ever, we recommend arriving early, booking tickets in advance, and being prepared to shoulder barge through the aisles as this year’s event promises to teem with visitors.
Sunday Art Fair, 11 – 14 October
Ambika P3, 35 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5LS
A short walk from Frieze, this will be the third edition of the gallery-led Sunday art fair. Initiated by three galleries (Limoncello from London, Croy Nielsen from Berlin and Tulips & Roses from Brussels) this fair is a quieter alternative to Frieze. The small number of participating galleries present exhibitions which tend to bleed into each other, as the fair has eschewed the traditional stand format. Expect the work to be more conceptual, more dematerialised and a bit smugger. It is, however, free to enter and the atmosphere is markedly different to the Frieze jamboree.