Dalí, Duchamp, Basquiat and beards: the best art of autumn 2017
The subway invaded the art gallery in 1980s New York. Basquiat, who died in 1988 aged 27, crystallised this moment, embodying a new youthful attitude that helped make today’s art what it is. He left behind a legacy of scrawled and slashed paintings that punch themselves into your mind. His angry electric style seems even more relevant now than it did then.
The Argentine artist presents 50 new sketches of buildings from the second half of the 20th century alongside rarely seen historical material to examine “the long reign of pseudo-Georgian architecture” as a force shaping the British vernacular.
Jasper Johns: Something Resembling Truth
Almost every trend in 21st-century art can be traced back to things Jasper Johns did in the 1950s. American pop art can be dated from the moment he started painting a stars and stripes flag over collaged news stories in 1954. Minimalism starts there too, or maybe his monochrome 1955 version. As for body art, it was seeded by his strange casts of mouths and noses in 1955. It goes on. Like dreams, his creations can be endlessly interpreted without ever truly yielding up their secrets. A single work by Jasper Johns can hit you like a truck with its profundity, so this huge retrospective may be almost unbearable in its intellectual might and poetic power.
Turner prize 2017
Somehow the Turner prize survived the sensationalist 1990s, and renews itself by finding new purpose. Its maturity is said loud and clear by the inclusion of two artists older than 50 on this year’s list: Lubaina Himid was born in 1954; Hurvin Anderson in 1965. They’ve crashed the barrier imposed back in the days of Young British Art: good for them. Also shortlisted are Andrea Büttner and Rosalind Nashashibi in what may prove a vintage year.
Danish architect Bjarke Ingels’ BIG practice has created a brick-shaped fun palace for the world’s favourite toymaker, where visitors can get creative in blue, red, green and yellow “experience zones”, see what master builders get up to in its gallery, then chill out with a Brickaccino coffee.
Opera: Passion, Power and Politics
The roots of opera go back to Renaissance Italy, where fantastic court spectacles designed by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci mixed with melancholy love songs to create a new art of myth and passion. In 1607, Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo gave opera dramatic and musical depth. This exhibition traces the history of an art form that has been uniquely interwtined with the politics of modern Europe, from Verdi’s operas of power and liberation to the controversial impact of Wagner in Germany. Paintings by Degas, Manet and more feature alongside relics in a show that will surely be sumptuous.
The visionary art of Waqas Khan has the power to lift you into a poetic paradise of shimmering lines in cosmic space. He is a true original, whose big, abstract drawings are as intricate as the structure of a leaf, as alive as water, as absorbing as a book. He lives and works in Lahore and this, his first solo show in a British gallery, is an unprecedented chance to explore his artistic magic in depth.
Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites
The early 15th-century Flemish artist Jan van Eyck painted with such eye-fooling and intricate skill he was rumoured to be an alchemist. The Arnolfini Portrait, a painting of an Italian merchant couple standing with strange formality in their bedroom in Bruges while Van Eyck himself is reflected in a convex mirror at the back of the room, is arguably his strangest and most miraculous work of all. This exhibition explores the instant impact it made on British art when it was bought by the National Gallery in 1842.
Free beer! Well, perhaps not this time, but one of the revolutionary projects created by this Danish art collective was an “open source” beer that subverted capitalism by extending the culture of the internet to the material world. Expect something similarly cheeky and radical when they take over the vast space of the Turbine Hall. Superflex was founded by Danish artists Jakob Fenger, Bjørnstjerne Christiansen and Rasmus Nielsen but works with a shifting army of specialists in projects called “Tools”, because they are meant to be useful. Ideas will pour freely, even if the beer doesn’t.
Everything At Once
This all-star exhibition in the spectacular brutalist architectural setting of the Store Studios is a 50th-anniversary celebration of one of London’s leading commercial galleries. Founded in 1967 in the heyday of the conceptual art movement, the Lisson Gallery has maintained its thoughtful approach with surprising success into the age of pop conceptualism. Participants range from the unpredictable wit of Ryan Gander to video pioneer Susan Hiller and epic walker Richard Long.
Two artists who were obsessed with sex team up to create what will surely be autumn’s kinkiest show. Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) and Salvador Dalí (1904-89) both gloried in perversity. Duchamp said eroticism was the heart of his work and proved it with his final installation, Étant donnés (“Having been given”), which allows the visitor to look through a peephole at a pornographic sculpture. As for Dalí, where to begin? His paintings include The Great Masturbator (1929), whose title is self-explanatory, and his confessions of depravity even shocked his surrealist comrades. This is a marriage made in art heaven: the genius of Duchamp should shine a light on Dali’s deconstructions of aesthetic beauty, while Dali’s wickedness will free Duchamp from the academic theorists who hold him prisoner.
- 7 October-3 January, Royal Academy, London.
Arp: The Poetry of Forms
In the age of Brexit, an exhibition of this sculptor who transcended Europe’s borderlines is a timely reminder of how art can defy national boundaries. Arp (1886-1966) called himself either Hans or Jean depending on whether he was speaking German or French. He came from the disputed region of Alsace-Lorraine, so it was a moot point. In the first world war, he escaped to the neutral polyglot Swiss city of Zurich where he helped found dadaism. His endlessly playful abstract creations are as liberated as the man.
Rebecca Warren: All That Heaven Allows
The imaginative, sensual and hilarious sculpture of Rebecca Warren is one of the joys of modern British art. It’s amazing she has never won the Turner prize (she was shortlisted in 2006). Then again, perhaps an artist whose most celebrated work, Helmut Crumb, combines the styles of two of the most sexist artists going will always strike some people as lacking radical seriousness. Which is a shame because Warren has helped put sculpture – as opposed to readymade objects – back into the mainstream of contemporary art.
Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Not Everyone Will Be Taken Into the Future
Of all the exhibitions that have marked this year’s centenary of the October Revolution, this is the most exciting. Ilya Kabakov is one of the greatest artists produced by the Soviet Union – and one of the most subversive. In the 1980s, he left the USSR and started working with his niece Emilia on installations as labyrinthine as a Russian Orthodox church and as rich in their storytelling as a Dostoevksy novel. What is it like to live in utopia? And what happens when it goes wrong? Find out in these poetic reveries on the strange history of the world’s first communist state.
Chaïm Soutine painted with savage expressionism in a Paris dominated by abstract art. Born near Minsk, he arrived in the French capital of modernism in 1913 but instead of embracing cubism or any other art fashions, he painted compassionate, almost childlike portraits of workers in the hotels and kitchens of the art deco age. Soutine went into hiding to escape being captured by the Nazis but became ill on the run and died in 1943. The paintings in this show prove him one of the most humane visionaries of modern art.
Instant Stories: Wim Wenders’ Polaroids
For a long time, film director and photographer Wenders took Polaroids as a day-to-day visual notebook and diary. Quick images of passing moments full of intense Polaroid colour, these pictures shot in the 1970s and 80s record what his world looked like in the years when he was working on films such as The American Friend (1977) and Wings of Desire (1987). It is a nostalgic trip into a lost visual world.
Explorers stranded in the endless emptiness of outer space are the protagonists of the 2010 Turner prize winner’s new work, which is based on Karl-Birger Blomdahl’s 1959 science-fiction opera Aniara. The plight of these would-be colonists of Mars is heard on a 12-speaker installation by this artist with a rare ear for the melancholy emotional resonance and sculptural solidity of sound. The exhibition also includes homages to Bowie from her back catalogue and the socialist anthem the Internationale.
This exhibition proves that Cézanne is the true father of modern art. It is astonishing to see how early he was deconstructing the very idea of portraiture in paintings from the 1880s that ask who we really see when we look in the mirror. From early portraits of his friends and family with their tragicomic sense of the human condition to self-portraits unrivalled since those of Rembrandt, there is a staggering intellect and courage to Cézanne’s depictions of people.
Black and white – a lot of artists have used it. This exhibition makes connections between the Renaissance and Baroque technique of grisaille, in which scenes were shown in shades of grey to make them look like sculptural reliefs, and modern monchrome art. The 1960s paintings of Bridget Riley, Olafur Eliasson’s installation Room for One Colour and other cool modern things are juxtaposed with the likes of Dürer and Rembrandt.
Impressionists in London
Thank God, the nation’s gallery of British art has found an excuse to show some French art instead. The artists who would first exhibit as impressionists in 1874 fled to London to escape the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71. While in Britain, they painted views of the city and its suburbs whose vitality and freshness put homegrown Victorian art to shame. To look at Pissarro’s The Avenue, Sydenham (1871) is to breathe a fresh air stuffy British art never let in. Monet would return in later years to stay at the Savoy and paint views from his hotel room that are simply the greatest visions of London in art.
Taylor-Wessing photographic portrait prize
The most sensational contender for this year’s prize is Maija Tammi’s disconcertingly soulful portrait of a female android, casting thoughtful shadows on its – her? – face so that we seem to encounter a conscious mind. The other shortlisted artists, César Dezfuli and Abbie Trayler-Smith, show powerful photojournalism. Dezfuli deserves first prize for his commandingly intense portrait of migrant Amadou Sumaila. A snapshot of the modern world.
Surrealism in Egypt
Where could this art of dreams and the unconscious make more sense than in Cairo, where the unreal pyramids loomed over a rich collision of cultures? This exhibition surveys the Art and Liberty group, who explored the radical possibilities of surrealism there in the 1930s and 40s. A little-known chapter of surreal history.
Gilbert and George: The Beard Pictures and their Fuckosophy
This autumn is the 50th anniversary of Gilbert and George. They met on 25 September 1967 at St Martin’s College and have been together ever since. They’re celebrating their golden jubilee with exhibitions in London that include this big show of new work. Fashionable as ever, they’ve caught up with the 21st century’s love of beards. And as ever they aim to provoke with their latest “fuckosophy”. Let’s raise a glass to artists who never got bored because they were never being boring.
Twelve nudes by this doomed romantic hero of modern art should make for a stupendously sensual show. Modigliani is much more curious figure than his myth might suggest. It’s true that the naked paintings at the heart of this show got him into trouble with the Paris police in 1917. Yet his art is a beautiful blend of the cubist style he encountered in France and the much older Renaissance tradition of the nude he grew up with in his native Italy. That mix of modernity and tradition is what makes him so accessible. Add to that his short, intense life with sex and drugs aplenty, and you have an artist who will always be young.
Now that age appears no bar to winning the Turner prize, 82-year-old Rose Wylie may well be on next year’s shortlist. Meanwhile, this prestigious showcasing of her anything but pompous pictures is a milestone in a very long career. Wylie’s paintings are dadaist free-for-alls of cartoonish daubing that look like she painted them in 10 seconds. Has she grown up now she’s entered her 80s?
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