Edit: London Art Exhibitions

This year is setting up to be a cracking one for art exhibitions across the capital. The doors have opened on some fascinating exhibitions.

This year marks 100 years since the Russian revolution and so there is a rare opportunity to see some remarkable Russian art. Standing opposite, as always, is the USA with two shows focusing on their twentieth century art. The appeal of these exhibitions lies in the broad spectrum that is covered. Different artists, styles and movements sit side by side all in one show. It is a fabulous way to get an overview and learn about contemporary art.

These are our pick of the current must-see exhibitions on right now.

1. America After the Fall, Royal Academy, ends 4th June

What’s it about?

The Wall Street stock market crash of 1929 heralded a turbulent time in American history. Millions of people were plunged into poverty leading to The Great Depression. The situation was exacerbated by The Dust Bowl, a drought combined with dust storms and poor farming techniques that brought poverty to rural communities. This exhibition looks at the art that was produced during this tumultuous time and how artists responded to the challenges being faced by the country.

The collection of 45 paintings is arranged in themes such as country life, urban life, looking to the past and looking to the future. It includes some iconic pieces by household names such as Jackson Pollock and Edward Hopper.

Why should you go?

The show covers different movements in art that developed at the time and thereby provides a good overview. By showing different concepts side by side it is possible see how different ideas feed into each other, and how modern art developed. If you don’t know much about American art or art movements, this is a great place to start learning.

America After the Fall – Bombardment, by Philip Guston, 1937, from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This powerful image was a response to the Spanish Civil War and a general statement about the cruelty of war.

2. The American Dream: pop to the present, British Museum, ends 18th June

What’s it about?

This exhibition explores print-making in the USA from the 1960s to the present day. It looks at how print making evolved in terms of techniques, and its use by artists to comment on political crises, the rise of consumerism, the idea of the American Dream and the shattering of that ideal. The iconic images produced during this time continue to impact us today.

Why should you go?

It is unusual to have a show dedicated to print making, and it covers a fascinating period of history. The art world fed straight into the advertising industry, and created the visual language we still see all around us.

The American Dream: Pop to Present – Standard Station, screenprint by Edward Ruscha, 1966, from the Museum of Modern Art New York.

3. Revolution: Russian Art 1917 to 1932, Royal Academy, ends 17th April

What’s it about?

This exhibition marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution by bringing together art produced between the October Revolution of 1917 and the violent repression by Joseph Stalin that began in 1932. It was a hopeful period in Russia. The ideals of communism, where everything is shared equally, were expected to bring prosperity to everyone, but gave way to an oppressive Stalinist state.

Why should you go?

Russia is often portrayed as an ‘enemy’, but the United Kingdom’s relationship with this world power is complex. This exhibition provides a window into a hopeful, optimistic period in Russian history and looks at how the ideals of communism were corrupted. By understanding this history, we can understand current Russia society and politics.

Revolution: Russian Art 1917 to 1932 – Bolshevik, by Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiev, 1920 from State Tretyakov Gallery

4. David Hockney, Tate Britain, ends 29th May

What’s it about?

David Hockney is considered to be one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century, and this retrospective is a celebration of his eightieth birthday. The exhibition covers his work from the early years to his most recent works.

Why should you go?

If you don’t know much about contemporary art, this is a good place to start. David Hockney has been hugely influential and is respected around the world. Go and see what all the fuss is about, and see if you agree.

David Hockey – Portrait of an Artist, Pool with Two Figures

5. The Japanese House, Barbican, ends 25th June

What’s it about?

This is the first exhibition in the UK to look at domestic Japanese architecture. The show features over 40 architects, some internationally renowned masters and some only known in Japan. The highlights will be a full size recreation of the Moriyama House, a prize winning modern house, and a full scale tea house.

Why should you go?

This is a great opportunity to see how other people live and how the constraints of their environment, culture and society impact on design and architecture. Japan is densely populated and situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, which means it is susceptible to earthquakes. In addition, it lies in the path of typhoons. It will be fascinating to see how architects respond to these issues, while also creating impressive design.

The Moriyama House, by the Office of Ryue Nishizawam
The Japanese House – The Moriyama House, by the Office of Ryue Nishizawam, 2005 © Takashi Homma


Feature Image: America After the Fall: Cotton Pickers by Thomas Hart Benton, 1945, Royal Academy


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