Welcome to a new year and a new schedule of exciting art exhibitions opening in London in the coming months. The year begins with an overlap of last year’s shows, but as we head for February, most major galleries are launching their new season’s exhibitions. From solo shows featuring contemporary artists Barbara Kruger and Yoko Ono to group shows on the subjects of colonialism, contemporary artists from the African diaspora and the use of textiles in art, it promises to be another enthralling year.
Barbara Kruger: Thinking of
You. I Mean Me. I Mean You.
Serpentine South Gallery
1 February – 17 March 2024
American artist Barbara Kruger (b. 1945, Newark, New Jersey, USA) is widely known for her impactful work with images and words. Drawing from an early career as a graphic designer for magazines, Kruger developed an iconic visual language that frequently borrows from the techniques and aesthetics of advertising and other media. Since the 1970s, her artworks have continually explored complex mechanisms of power, gender, class, consumerism, and capital.
Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You. at Serpentine South is Kruger’s first solo institutional show in London in over twenty years. It features a unique selection of installations alongside moving image works and multiple soundscapes.
Entangled Pasts 1768 – now: Art, Colonialism and Change
Royal Academy of Arts
3 February – 28 April 2024
The RA brings together over 100 major contemporary and historic works as part of a conversation about art and its role in shaping narratives of empire, enslavement, resistance, abolition and colonialism – and how it may help set a course for the future.
Artworks by leading contemporary artists including Sonia Boyce, Frank Bowling, John Akomfrah and Isaac Julien will be on display alongside works by artists from the past 250 years including Joshua Reynolds, J.M.W.Turner and John Singleton Copley – creating connections across time which explore questions of power, representation and history.
When Forms Come Alive
7 February – 6 May 2024
Spanning over 60 years of contemporary sculpture, this exhibition highlights how artists draw on familiar experiences of movement, flux and organic growth.
Inspired by sources ranging from a dancer’s gesture to the breaking of a wave, from a flow of molten metal to the interlacing of a spider’s web, the artworks in When Forms Come Alive conjure fluid and shifting realms of experience.
The exhibition features work by 21 international artists: Ruth Asawa, Nairy Baghramian, Phyllida Barlow, Lynda Benglis, Michel Blazy, Paloma Bosquê, Olaf Brzeski, Choi Jeong Hwa, Tara Donovan, DRIFT, Eva Fàbregas, Holly Hendry, EJ Hill, Marguerite Humeau, Jean-Luc Moulène, Senga Nengudi, Ernesto Neto, Martin Puryear, Matthew Ronay, Teresa Solar Abboud and Franz West.
Frank Auerbach: The Charcoal Heads
The Courtauld Gallery
9 February – 27 May 2024
A remarkable series of hauntingly beautiful, large-scale drawings by Frank Auerbach (born 1931), will be presented together for the first time at The Courtauld Gallery.
During his early years as a young artist in post-war London, Frank Auerbach produced one of his most remarkable bodies of work: a series of large-scale portrait heads made in charcoal. Auerbach spent months on each drawing, working and reworking them during numerous sessions with his sitters.
Frank Auerbach: The Charcoal Heads will be the first time Auerbach’s extraordinary post-war drawings, made in the 1950s and early 1960s, have been brought together as a comprehensive group. They will be shown together with a selection of paintings he made of the same sitters; for him, painting and drawing have always been deeply entwined.
Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art
Barbican Art Gallery
Tue 13 Feb—Sun 26 May 2024,
Using textiles, fibre and thread, 50 international artists challenge power structures and reimagine the world in this major group exhibition. These intergenerational artists use textiles to communicate vital ideas about power, resistance and survival. From intimate hand-crafted pieces to monumental sculptural installations, these works offer narratives of violence, imperialism and exclusion alongside stories of resilience, love and hope.
Artists include Magdalena Abakanowicz, Louise Bourgeois, Judy Chicago, Tracey Emin, Harmony Hammond, Sheila Hicks, Ibrahim Mahama, Teresa Margolles, Faith Ringgold, Tschabalala Self, Yinka Shonibare CBE RA and Cecilia Vicuña.
Dulwich Picture Gallery
14 February – 2 June 2024
Dulwich Picture Gallery will present Soulscapes, a major exhibition of landscape art that will expand and redefine the genre.
Featuring more than 30 contemporary works, it will span painting, photography, film, tapestry and collage from leading artists, including Hurvin Anderson, Phoebe Boswell, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Kimathi Donkor, Isaac Julien, Marcia Michael, Mónica de Miranda and Alberta Whittle, as well as some of the most important emerging voices working today. Soulscapes will explore our connection with the world around us through the eyes of artists from the African Diaspora.
It will consider the power of landscape art and reflect on themes of belonging, memory, joy and transformation.
Yoko Ono: Music of the Mind
15 Feb – 1 September 2024
Yoko Ono is a leading figure in conceptual and performance art, experimental film and music. Developing her practice in America, Japan and the UK, she is renowned for her activism, work for world peace, and environmental campaigns. Ideas are central to her art, often expressed in poetic, humorous and radical ways.
Spanning more than seven decades, the exhibition focuses on key moments in Ono’s career, including her years in London from 1966 to 1971, where she met John Lennon.
The show explores some of Ono’s most talked about artworks and performances, from Cut Piece (1964), where people were invited to cut off her clothing, to her banned Film No.4 (Bottoms) (1966-67) which she created as a ‘petition for peace’.
Alongside her early performances, works on paper, objects, and music, audiences will discover a selection of her activist projects such as PEACE is POWER and Wish Tree, where visitors can contribute personal wishes for peace.
Through her instructions and event scores, Ono invites visitors to take part in both simple acts of the imagination and active encounters with her works.
£20 / Free for Members
Zineb Sedira: Dreams Have No Titles
15 Feb – 12 May 2024
In Spring 2024, Whitechapel Gallery presents the UK debut of Zineb Sedira’s critically acclaimed exhibition Dreams Have No Titles.
Originally conceived for the French Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022, Dreams Have No Titles is an immersive installation comprising film, sculpture, photography and performance, that interweaves the artist’s biography with activist films produced across France, Algeria and Italy in the 1960s and 1970s, a pivotal moment in the history of avant-garde film production.
Sargent and Fashion
22 Feb – 7 July 2023
Celebrated for his striking portrait paintings, this exhibition sheds new light on John Singer Sargent’s acclaimed works. It explores how he worked like a stylist to craft the image of the sitters he painted, who he often had close relationships with.
Sargent used fashion as a powerful tool to express identity and personality. He regularly chose the outfits of his collaborators or manipulated their clothing. This innovative use of costume was central to his artwork and allowed him to express his vision as an artist.
Almost 60 of Sargent’s paintings, including major portraits that rarely travel, will be displayed. Several period garments will also be showcased alongside the portraits they were worn in. The show examines how this remarkable painter used fashion to create portraits of the time, which still captivate today.
£20 / Free for Members
The Time is Always Now: Artists Reframe the Black Figure
National Portrait Gallery
22 February – 19 May 2024
A major study of the Black figure – and its representation in contemporary art.
The exhibition, curated by Ekow Eshun (former Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts), showcases the work of contemporary artists from the African diaspora, including Michael Armitage, Lubaina Himid, Kerry James Marshall, Toyin Ojih Odutola and Amy Sherald, and highlights the use of figures to illuminate the richness and complexity of Black life. As well as surveying the presence of the Black figure in Western art history, we examine its absence – and the story of representation told through these works, as well as the social, psychological and cultural contexts in which they were produced.
The exhibition will feature the work of leading artists including Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Hurvin Anderson, Michael Armitage, Jordan Casteel, Noah Davis, Godfried Donkor, Kimathi Donkor, Denzil Forrester, Lubaina Himid, Claudette Johnson, Titus Kaphar, Kerry James Marshall, Wangechi Mutu, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Chris Ofili, Jennifer Packer, Nathaniel Mary Quinn, Thomas J Price, Amy Sherald, Lorna Simpson, Henry Taylor and Barbara Walker.
Top Photo: John Singer Sargent, Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau), 1883–1884 Oil on canvas. Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art,