Want the bad news first? Following two years of prolonged summer heat waves that made London feel more like Long Beach (California), we are back to what Great British Summer normally feels like. I.E. Perpetually reaching for a jumper. The good news: our fair capital is a global cultural epicentre, meaning that truly, you can never run out of things to do, even when it’s pouring out. And that includes world class art exhibitions. For lovers of film, photography and decadent colours, here are some of the most inspiring ones you can see in London over the next few months.
Cindy Sherman, National Portrait Gallery
American photographer Cindy Sherman is known for her elaborately "disguised" self-portraits that focus on social role-playing and sexual stereotypes. (Basically, a much higher level of what we now do with Instagram and Snapchat filters.) This major new retrospective will explore the development of her work from the mid-1970s to the present day, and will feature around 180 works from international public and private collections, as well as new work never before displayed in a public gallery. Focusing on the artist’s manipulation of her own appearance and her deployment of material derived from a range of cultural sources, including film, advertising and fashion, the exhibition will explore the tension between façade and identity.
In the exhibition, we can see her adopt a number of stereotypical female identities: the 1950s Hollywood movies star, the struggling supporting actress in film noir, as well as the office girl, the girl on the run, and the housewife.
Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, describes Sherman's work as “more relevant and prescient than ever in an era of social media and selfies”. Of course, Sherman was the master of playing with her appearance, long before Instagram selfies existed.
National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place, London, WC2H 0HE
Nearest Tube: Charing Cross
When: 27 June – 15 September 2019
William Blake: The Artist, Tate Britain
As one of Britain's most famous cultural figures, William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Yet in his lifetime, as often happens, the father of the Romantic movement went widely uncelebrated. In the largest exhibition of Blake's work since 2001, Tate Britain sheds light on the man behind the reputation – the obstinate activist who has come to be seen as a true visionary.Fun fact, he’s also kind of a feminist for his time. When Blake married Catherine Sophia Boucher on August 18, 1782 in St Mary’s Church, Battersea, she was illiterate, and signed her wedding contract with an X. Blake taught her to read and write, and even taught her engraving so they can work together.
Bringing together more than 300 of Blake’s startlingly diverse works — including watercolours, prints of his poems and well-known images. William Blake lived and worked in London all his life, and it’s high time we celebrate this influential figure.
Tate Britain, Millbank, London, SW1P 4RG
Nearest Tube: Pimlico
When: 11 September 2019 – 02 February 2020
Tim Walker Exhibition: V&A
If you love fashion, and have ever been awed by Vogue’s most iconic fashion photography, it’s likely you’ve seen the extraordinary, fantastical work of fashion photographer Tim Walker. “Wonderful Things”, the largest exhibition of works by Tim Walker, is coming to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London later this year. Walker, author of the 2018 Pirelli Calendar, has been working with the museum for three years, stating that “To me, the V&A has always been a palace of dreams – it’s the most inspiring place in the world.” The British photographer has spent years in the museum’s 145 public galleries, speaking to the curators, conservators and technicians. The homage to Walker’s fantastic imagination and extraordinary 25-year career will showcase 300 items.
Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, Knightsbridge, London SW7 2RL
Nearest Tube: South Kensington
When: 21 September, 2019 - March 8, 2020
Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition, Design Museum
Passing in 1999, Stanley Kubrick was an American filmmaker known for directing cult classics such as Dr Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining and Full Metal Jacket. And this year, the Design Museum has staged a blockbuster exhibition that immerses visitors in the dystopian worlds of the fascinating director. Kubrick’s films pushed the boundaries of storytelling and paved the way for countless future productions. Daring, ground-breaking and often divisive, his work inspired directors such as George Lucas, James Cameron, Tim Burton, and Wes Anderson.After being greeted by a corridor of screens playing scenes from Kubrick’s greatest hits – the closest most of us will ever get to actually walking into one of his films – visitors will enter a room packed full of artefacts. It is absolutely filled to the brim with items, including Kubrick’s director’s chair, film posters and various items that look as though they’ve come straight from the set. There’s also production art, costume designs and props, including the masks that Tom Cruise wore in Eyes Wide Shut and the model maze that appeared in The Shining. Kinda scary, but really cool.
Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High Street, Kensington, London, W8 6AG
Nearest Tube: Kensington (Olympia) or High Street Kensington
When: 26 April – 15 September 2019