There is much to look forward to this year in the UK. Here is our prediction for the best art shows of 2015:
Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915-2015
15 Janurary-6 April 2015
Beginning the year will be this exhibition which draws together more than 100 abstract art works by 100 modern and contemporary artists. With Malevich’s infamous 1915 Black Square as its starting point the exhibition aims to show how this simple act of defiance spawned a century’s worth of abstraction. Tracing from its origins in Soviet Russia, abstraction became a tool for dispersing political ideas and spread across the continents. As well as following the trajectory of abstraction throughout fine art the exhibition will also consider its place within contemporary branding and design, with a section of the show dedicated to logos, architecture and technology. For those that enjoyed Tate Modern’s 2014 Malevich show this will be an excellent follow-on.
Rubens and His Legacy: Van Dyck to Cézanne
Royal Academy of Arts
24 January- 10 April 2015
Rubens has acquired a not entirely positive reputation due to his fleshy female nudes. His name has even passed into German slang, with a German tabloid dubbing the German Chancellor Angela Merkel a ‘Rubensfrau’. This blockbuster exhibition at the Royal Academy will hopefully prove that there was a little more to Rubens than swathes of pink flesh. The show will focus on Rubens’ considerable career as a scholar and diplomat and examine his legacy through the works of Van Dyck, Watteau, Turner, Manet, Cézanne, Renoir and Picasso.
Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden
5 February-10 May 2015
The South-African born, Netherlands based artist Marlene Dumas claims that ‘second hand images…can generate first hand emotions’. Her work is evidence of this philosophy with all her subject matter deriving from personal and public imagery, but never directly from life. One of the most important contemporary figurative painters, Dumas believes that in an age where media dominates, painting still possesses a unique and powerful capacity for expression. Her subjects range from herself and her daughter to Pasolini, Amy Winehouse, Alan Turing, Jesus and Osama Bin Laden.
Human Rights Human Wrongs
6 February- 6 April 2015
With more than 250 prints from the Black Star agency archive that includes photographers such as Robert Capa, Bill Brandt and Henri Cartier-Bresson, this exhibition considers the importance of imagery in conflict and during times of political unrest. The show aims to explore how photography was able to raise awareness and to empower those active in key moments of social history from the civil rights movement in the USA, to the Vietnam War, to protests in Europe and uprisings in the Middle East.
Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends
National Portrait Gallery
12 February-25 May 2015
The American painter Sargent has been rather maligned for his deceptively simple societal portraits, but this exhibition will draw attention to the genius of his work. Born in Florence in 1856, Sargent moved around Europe for several years before settling in Paris where he became acquainted with the work of the French impressionists and was a personal friend of Monet before finally moving to London where he spent the rest of his life until his death in 1925. Sargent’s portraits are perfect accompaniments to the work of Henry James, who was indeed one of his sitter’s, and are strikingly revealing and modern portrayals of his colleagues and friends.
Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester
Opens 14 February
The gallery, which first came into existence in 1889, will open its new £15m expansion to the public in February and will celebrate it with several exhibitions featuring newly commissioned work by Cornelia Parker, Thomas Schütte and the Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang. The expansion will allow visitors to access to exhibitions inside and outside the building itself and connect it to the surrounding park.
6 March-31 May
Born in England, Carrington fell in love with fellow artist Max Ernst before she’d even met him when she saw one of his paintings exhibited in London. After they met a year later, Ernst took her back to Paris with him where they began an intense personal and artistic relationship. During the second world war Ernst fled to America with the help of Peggy Guggenheim, who he married in 1941, meanwhile Carrington was committed to an asylum. After being discharged Carrington moved to Mexico where she continued to work and eventually married Imre Weisz, the darkroom manager for Robert Capa during the Spanish Civil War. If all this isn’t enough to interest you in Carrington, then her pieces themselves are beguiling and curious works of surrealism that merit a visit.
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
Victoria and Albert Museum
14 March-19 July
Recently described by the Guardian as ‘the sartorial contemporary of the Young British Art generation’ McQueen’s work has left a lasting impression on the fashion world. This show at the V&A presents the first and largest retrospective of the late British designer’s work. The designs will be presented with staging that recalls his famously theatrics catwalk shows. The exhibition is likely to be extremely popular: the original version of the exhibition in 2011 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York became one of the museum’s top ten most visited exhibitions.
Defining Beauty: The Body in Ancient Greek Art
26 March-5 July
This blockbuster exhibition will take place in the Sainsbury’s Exhibition Gallery of the British Museum and will feature works from the museum’s collection of Parthenon sculptures as well as loans from across the world. The show will examine the birth of the ‘classical’ style which began around the start of the 5th century BC as a reaction against the restraints of the archaic forms of Greek sculpture. The resulting movement is responsible for some of the most beautiful works of the ancient world and the exhibition will consider amongst its themes the depiction of gods and mortals and classical sexuality in sculpture.
24 June-25 October 2015
This show will present the work of the British sculptor famous for her piece ‘Single Form’ which is located in the plaza of the United Nations building in New York. Made from a range of media including wood, stone and bronze, Hepworth’s distinctive sculptures will be accompanied by drawings, collages and textiles from throughout the artist’s career. This is an excellent opportunity to see so much of the modernist sculptor’s work in one place.
The World Goes Pop
17 September 2015- 24 January 2016
After Saatchi Gallery’s ‘Post Pop: East Meets West’ exhibition, this latest tribute to global pop art suggests a surging interest in the movement’s influence beyond the West. Moving away from the land that brought the world Coca Cola and Andy Warhol, the show comprises some 200 works made between the 1960s and 1970s and will explore how pop art came to be taken on and adapted by countries across Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe.
Royal Academy of Arts
19 September-13 December 2015
Now forbidden from leaving his native China, Ai Weiwei continues to exert influence on the art world at large. In 2011 Ai Weiwei was named an Honorary Academician by the Royal Academy and in his absence the gallery presents his first extensive British exhibition. His work has spanned three decades and is predominantly centred on political criticism, which has in turn led to several disputes with the Chinese authorities and most recently to his restriction from leaving China. A fantastic chance to see the work of one of the world’s most important living artists and not to be missed.
Goya: The Portraits
7 October 2015-10 January 2016
Goya will be much in evidence in London this year with a show at the Courtauld Gallery in the Spring followed by this exceptional exhibition at the National Gallery in the Autumn. This will be the first ever show concentrating on the artist’s portraits. The court painter to King Charles III of Spain and one of the most important painters in the history of art, Goya’s work continues to have a psychological depth that is rarely rivalled.
Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture
11 November 2015–3 April 2016
Tate Modern will present the first major retrospective of the modernist sculptor’s career. Born in 1898, Calder’s pioneering work saw the invention of the mobile and transformed sculpture from a dense, static medium to weightless, elegant shapes. There is none of the austerity of the sculpture of the preceding centuries in Calder’s buoyant, rhythmic pieces which have earned him acclaim worldwide. Calder thought of his works as ‘performers’ that were made dynamic by wind and touch and this exhibition will consider the artist’s connection to the performing arts.