Unbelievably, summer is almost over. Despite months of drizzle, grey skies and cold wind, yet more drizzle, grey skies and cold wind are just around the corner. Autumn is looming. But don’t get too glum, because with all the bad weather comes a whole bunch of great art. Autumn is the best time for exhibitions in London, with every major gallery saving its big shows for the colder months, and this year’s sweater season is looking damn exciting for art fans.
The best autumn exhibitions in London
The mononymic Julianknxx has been popping up in various London institutions in recent years (180 The Strand, the Whitechapel Gallery, Tate Modern’s ‘A World in Common’ exhibition) with haunting, hallucinatory video celebrations of Blackness. Now it’s the Barbican Curve’s turn to play host, and this is the artist’s most ambitious work yet, fusing poetry, music, performance and film.
Julianknxx: ‘Chorus in Rememory of Flight’ is at the Barbican Curve, Sep 14-Feb 11 2024. More details here.
This show has been in our ‘most anticipated exhibitions of next year’ lists for what feels like forever because it just keeps getting delayed. But maybe this is the year we finally get the RA’s huge, major Marina Abramovic retrospective. Or maybe the annual postponement IS the art. Marina, you so crazy.
Marina Abramovic is at the Royal Academy of Art, Sep 23-Dec 10. More details here.
Sarah Lucas is an icon of contemporary British art, making her name with the YBAs and creating a body of work full of brash humour, full frontal sleaze and heaps of razor sharp conceptualism. This big Tate retrospective is long overdue, and genuinely exciting.
Sarah Lucas is at Tate Britain, Sep 26 2023-Jan 14 2024. More details here.
Art history’s greatest painter of smirks, grins and smug looks is the subject of the National Gallery’s big autumn exhibition. Best known for his now iconic ‘Laughing Cavalier’ (who, it should be noted, is neither laughing nor a cavalier), seventeenth century Dutch painter Frans Hals made a name for himself with lively, joyful portraits of people at ease and relaxed. He was the antithesis of the often stuffy portraiture of his time, even if he can’t tell a laugh from a smirk.
Frans Hals is at the National Gallery Sep 30-Jan 21 2024. More details here.
This exhibition has been dogged by controversy, and has been repeatedly postponed and delayed as a result. Initially due to go on display in the USA, the show was pulled due to the inclusion of Guston’s paintings of hooded Klu Klux Klan figures, which some worried might be seen as racist. Obviously they’re not racist, they’re about racism. Very stupid, very pointless. Guston is one of the twentieth century’s best painters, and he tackled some important, hard subjects. That’s worth exploring, and it’s worth celebrating.
Philip Guston is at Tate Modern, Oct 25 2023-Feb 25 2024. More details here.
Works by 50 women and non-confirming artists are being brought together for the Barbican’s big exploration of the relationship between ecology and gender. The idea is to look at how ‘women’s understanding of our environment has often resisted the logic of capitalist economies’. Yes, it’s a ticketed exhibition.
re/sisters is at the Barbican, Oct 5-Jan 14 2024. More details here.
Over 100 paintings are being assembled for this in-depth look at the work of French-American artist Nicole Eisenman. Her humorous, busy, colourful compositional style tackles big themes like gender, identity, sexual politics and recent civic and governmental turmoil in the United States.
Nicole Eisenman: ‘What Happened’ is at Whitechapel Art Gallery, Oct 11-Jan 14 2024. More details here.
The epic, haunting, minimal photography of Hiroshi Sugimoto will grace the concrete walls of the Hayward Gallery this autumn. The Japanese architect and photographer uses his work to dive deep into concepts of time and memory, and the results are quiet, subtle, meditative visions of dioramas, wax figures and architecture.
Hiroshi Sugimoto is at the Hayward Gallery, Oct 11-Jan 7 2024.. More details here.
After all the freedom and liberation promised by the Swinging Sixties, British women in the 1970s had to deal with the reality: that not much had changed, and there were plenty of battles still to be fought. This brilliantly confrontational show promises to look at the artists who stood up to the man, kicked against the system and made some of the most vital, unappreciated, important work of their generation in the process. Absolutely revolting.
‘Women in Revolt!’ is at Tate Britain Nov 8-Apr 7 2024. More details here.
Can’t wait? Here are the top ten exhibitions you can see in London right now.
And here are London’s best free exhibitions.