these-seven-amazing-london-art-exhibitions-are-closing-in-may

These seven amazing London art exhibitions are closing in May

As London’s galleries gear up for their big summer exhibitions, they’re closing the doors on their spring shows. Which is a shame, because it’s been a pretty special season in the art world.

Small gallery shows like Nick Waplington’s amazing ‘Living Room’ jostled for space with major institutions’ exhibitions like the Hayward’s huge sculpture show ‘When Forms Come Alive’ and big in-depth historical extravaganzas like Raven Row’s Brazilian art rundown ‘Some May Work As Symbols’. There was photography, painting, sculpture, immersive installations, the whole shebang, and you’ve only got a couple of weeks to catch them.

Last chance to see these 7 London exhibitions

Tara Donovan, Untitled (Mylar), 2011/2018. Installation view, MCA Denver. Photo: Christopher Burke. Courtesy the artist and Pace Gallery.
Tara Donovan, Untitled (Mylar), 2011/2018. Installation view, MCA Denver. Photo: Christopher Burke. Courtesy the artist and Pace Gallery.

‘When Forms Come Alive: 60 Years of Restless Sculpture’ at the Hayward Gallery

This show looks at 60 years of artists hellbent on the impossible: creating sculptures that ooze and bulge and throb and breathe. It’s all bodily and undulating, implying movement and growth and change and guts.  It’s just about ooze, about seeping and twisting and morphing, about form and structure. And that’s a pretty good thing. Because when it works, the illusion of transformation is so real it makes your brain feel floppy.

Closing May 5, more details here

. Thjorsá River #1, Iceland, 2012 photo © Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Flowers Gallery, London *
. Thjorsá River #1, Iceland, 2012 photo © Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Flowers Gallery, London *

Edward Burtynsky: ‘Abstraction/Extraction’ at Saatchi Gallery

The guts of society are hidden away, but Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky has spent his long career eviscerating them and putting them on display. He photographs salt marshes carving up the Spanish coastline, gold mines spilling cyanide into the Johannesburg’s groundwater, circular crops sucking Saudi Arabia’s aquifers dry, diamond mines leaking toxic waste into the hills of South Africa. It would make for grim viewing if it wasn’t all so beautiful.

Closing May 6, more details here

4. Zineb Sedira Installation view from Dreams Have no Titles at the Venice Biennale 2022 Photo_ Thierry Bal 2
4. Zineb Sedira Installation view from Dreams Have no Titles at the Venice Biennale 2022 Photo_ Thierry Bal 2

Zineb Sedira: ‘Dreams Have No Titles’ at Whitechapel Art Gallery

Sedira’s immersive love letter to militant cinema is a celebration of the death of colonialism, the early sparks of liberation and the ecstatic potential of revolution. Cinema provides a moment of fantasy where you can feel close to these events, and by allowing you to participate in these films of freedom and rebellion, Sedira is allowing you to taste just a hint of what it might mean to shrug off the shackles of oppression.

Closing May 12, more details here

Nathanial Mary Quinn. Copyright the artist, courtesy Gagosian. Photo by Rob McKeever.
Nathanial Mary Quinn. Copyright the artist, courtesy Gagosian. Photo by Rob McKeever.

‘Time Is Always Now’ at The National Portrait Gallery

At some point in the past, this show might have been a shock, it might have caused uproar. But this isn’t the past, this is 2024, so seeing room after room of paintings of Black figures by Black artists in the National Portrait Gallery isn’t shocking: instead, it’s just totally normal. The artists here depict the Black figure in endless ways and contexts. As straight portraits by Amy Sherald, as forgotten figures from art history by Barbara Walker, as characters of memetic mythology by Michael Armitage. The Black figure, like Blackness itself, isn’t one thing, it’s complex, indefinable.

Closing May 19, more details here

Nick Waplington, from the series Living Room, 1985-97  © Nick Waplington
Nick Waplington, from the series Living Room, 1985-97 © Nick Waplington

Nick Waplington: ‘Living Room’ at Hamiltons Gallery

What is working-class England if not grey, sullen, broken, monochrome, damp and sad? That’s the classic vision of this crumbling nation presented to us by photography, film and TV. But in the early 1990s, photographer Nick Waplington rocked the metaphorical boat by showing another side of England; one filled with colour, laughter, love and happiness. Waplington’s photos work because they’re not patronising. He isn’t a passive observer, but an active participant letting us into this world for just a second. Nothing really happens in these photos, but the whole universe is here, and it’s as beautiful, powerful, genuine and moving now as it would have been three decades ago

Closing May 25, more details here

Rubem Valentim, Emblema – Logotipo Poético [Emblem – poetic logotype], 1975 Courtesy Museu Afro Brasil Emanoel Araujo Photograph by João Liberato
Rubem Valentim, Emblema – Logotipo Poético [Emblem – poetic logotype], 1975 Courtesy Museu Afro Brasil Emanoel Araujo Photograph by João Liberato

‘Some May Work As Symbols’ at Raven Row

The story goes that modernism ripped everything up and started again; and nowhere did more of that mid-century aesthetic shredding than Brazil. Helio Oiticica, Lygia Pape, Lygia Clark, Ivan Serpa et al forged a brand new path towards minimalism, shrugging off the weight of figuration and gesturalism in favour of geometry, colour and simplicity. But Raven Row’s incredible new show is challenging that oversimplified narrative, showing how figuration, traditional aesthetics and ritual symbolism were an integral part of experimental Brazilian art from 1950-1980. It’s a gorgeous, in-depth, museum-quality exploration of creativity at its most fertile, modernism at its most exciting and abstraction at its most beautiful. 

Closing May 25, more details here.

2. Frank Auerbach The Charcoal Heads at The Courtauld Gallery. Installation View. Photo Fergus Carmichael
Frank Auerbach The Charcoal Heads at The Courtauld Gallery. Installation View. Photo Fergus Carmichael

Frank Auerbach: ‘The Charcoal Heads’ at The Courtauld Gallery

Heads hang heavy, bodies sink into the shadowy corners of the room. Frank Auerbach’s charcoal portraits are dismal, dour things, heaving with hurt and pain, but they’re also brutally, shockingly beautiful. It feels like the work can’t escape the shadow of atrocity.  But I don’t know if this is actually about the war, the Blitz, the Holocaust. I think this might just be about us as people, as beings who wear the passage of time on our faces and in our shoulders, who survive only by enduring the scarification of what we live through. We carry the marks of our experience in the flesh, and that’s what’s on these sheets of ripped paper: the battered, bruised and broken signs that somehow, despite it all, we’re still here.

Closing May 27, more details here

Want more? Here are the top 10 exhibitions in London right now.

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