The art fairs Frieze London and Frieze Masters have returned to Regent’s Park this week after a year’s hiatus. In that time, Londoners had ample space to reflect on what matters most to the city’s rich cultural landscape.
While many surely missed the social energy and market momentum of the art fairs during lockdown, it was also a time to rediscover London’s stellar art institutions and how they contribute to fabric of our lives in ways that are very different from the two pop-up tents in one of London’s royal parks.
To that end, here’s a round up of what not to miss in museums this week.
Through October 17
Abbas Akhavan: curtain call, variations on a folly” is on view at 64 Chisenhale Road London E3 5QZ
South London Gallery
Through November 21
Installation view, “Alvaro Barrington: Spider The Pig; Pig The Spider” at South London Gallery. Photo by Naomi Rea.
Unbelievably, this is Alvaro Barrington’s first solo show in a U.K. institution. The market star—whose is represented by a full eight galleries internationally—is a prolific producer, and his bespoke installation at the South London Gallery responds to the architecture of the space in a way I’ve not seen before. Titled “Spider The Pig, Pig The Spider,” the show presents several new bodies of work that, in line with Barrington’s practice, play with historical and contemporary cultural references—including a new series of Hermès blankets smeared with concrete and hung up like cloud paintings, and mixed media paintings that smoosh the children’s TV character Peppa Pig with the pigs from Orwell’s animal farm.
“Alvaro Barrington: Spider The Pig, Pig The Spider” is on view at 65–67 Peckham Road London SE5 8UH.
Mixing It Up
Through December 12
Mixing It Up: Painting Today” is on view at Hayward Galley, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX.
Camden Art Center
Through December 23
Installation views of Phoebe Collings-James, “A Scratch! A Scratch!,” at Camden Art Centre, September10–December 23, 2021. Photo: Rob Harris.
London-based artist Phoebe Collings-James is having her first institutional solo show in the U.K. Titled “A Scratch! A Scratch!”—after Mercutio’s reaction to being slain by Tybalt in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet—the wide-ranging exhibition presents a sensory environment of sound and sculpture that—invoking the traditions of mythology, folklore, and Black queer sound—explores themes of grief, heartbreak, and desire.
New bodies of work on view include a group of torso casings resembling Roman armor plates, multi-panel clay paintings inscribed with images, words, and phrases, and an audio patchwork of sounds captured from daily journeys through the streets of London echoing out of water-filled vessels. It also includes new recordings of poetry generated in tarot circles, led by artist and poet Daniella Valz Gen over the past year.
“Phoebe Collings-James: A Scratch! A Scratch!” is on view at Camden Art Centre Arkwright Road London NW3 6DG
Through January 2
Gallery view the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition 2021. Photo: ©David Parry/ Royal Academy of Arts.
Anyone can enter their work for consideration for the Royal Academy’s annual summer exhibition, meaning it offers a true bird’s eye view of the landscape of contemporary art and architecture. Delayed until fall this year due to the pandemic, it includes work by leading artists including Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Rose Wylie, as well as slews of emerging talent. Hung across the RA’s main galleries, it is always a delight and full of discovery, and if you are in a buying mood, most of the work is also for sale.
“The Summer Exhibition” is on view at Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD
Through January 9
Installation view: “Theaster Gates: A Clay Sermon,” Whitechapel Gallery, September 29, 2021–January 9, 2022. Image courtesy Whitechapel Gallery. Photo by Theo Christelis.
Both his practice as a potter working with clay and his deep religious belief are central to the work of Theaster Gates, who says both teach you how to “shape the world.” Fittingly then, the Chicago-based artist’s latest outing at the Whitechapel Gallery is titled “A Clay Sermon,” and includes work spanning two decades of production, from early hand-thrown pots to his large-scale Afro-Mingei sculptures. The artist has also selected historic ceramics from public and private collections to show alongside his own, and is debuting a new, musically rich film that takes the form of a sermon on clay.
The exhibition also seeps across London to an intervention in the ceramics galleries at the V&A, and a concurrent show at White Cube Mason’s Yard. The project will culminate next summer when the artist takes on the annual Serpentine pavilion commission.
“Theaster Gates: A Clay Sermon” is on view at 77-82 Whitechapel High St London E1 7QX