The best art exhibitions to see in London during 2014

By Richard Moss | 30 December 2013 | Updated: 30 September 2014

Want to get the inside track on the best art exhibitions in London during 2014? Here's the Culture24 pick of the top confirmed art shows in the capital over the coming year

a red painting of a girl with red hair having her hair combed by a maid
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, Combing the Hair ('La Coiffure') about 1896. Colour at the National Gallery.© National Gallery
The Hayward Gallery's autumn exhibition, called MIRROR CITY (October 14 – January 4) is having another crack at the "digital revolution" or rather the "challenges, conditions and consequences of living in a digital age".

Expect a wide range of media including painting, film and video, sculpture, drawing, sound and performance, from artists including Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq, Laure Prouvost, Lindsay Seers, Susan Hiller, John Stezaker and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

Tate Britain, which boasts the beguiling and chaotic installations of Phyllida Barlow for its 2014 Duveen Galleries commission (March 31 - November 2), welcomes the gallery’s talisman, JMW Turner, with Late Turner: Painting Set Free (September 10 2014 – January 25 2015), which reveals his extraordinary (and some would say best) works in a glowing display of Victorian abstraction that should make Turnerists very happy.

Oh and let's not forget The Turner Prize 2014 exhibition which returns to London (September 30 2014 to January 4 2015). The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony, broadcast live on Channel 4 on Monday 1 December 2014.

Also watch out for the ever-changing and excellent spotlight displays, which this year shine a light on everything from Alan Davie (until September 28) to Drawing the Everyday 1800 - 60 (October 28 - November 2).

Tuttle at Tate Modern - A Canadian in Dulwich

Malevich (until October 26) seems to have taken a few by surprise at Tate Modern whose sparkling retrospective is the first in 30 years to feature the works of the great Russian avant-gardist - who witnessed the transition from Tsarist to Communist state and became a true revolutionary of art.

German Sigmar Polke is widely regarded as one of the most experimental artists of the twentieth and early twentieth centuries and Tate's Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010 (October 9 - February 8) is another autumn exhibition offering a thorough delve into five decades of innovation and experiment.

a cut out drawing in blue of a female figure
Henri Matisse, Blue Nude (I) 1952© Foundation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel © Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2013
Tate Modern also responds to the Centenary of the First World War with 100 Years Later: Conflict, Time, Photography (November 19 2014 – April 6 2015) which looks at the different ways photography has responded to sites of conflict over time.

Meanwhile, down in the Turbine Hall, a special commission by poetic sculptor Richard Tuttle (October 14 - December 14) arrives as part of an autumn season developed with the Whitechapel Gallery (see below). 

Last year the Barbican Art Gallery was Dancing Around Duchamp; this year the beautifully Brutalist arts venue is Constructing Worlds (September 25 - January 11) which brings together eighteen exceptional photographers from the 1930s to the present day who have changed the way we view architecture and think about the world we live in, including: Walker Evans, Andreas Gursky, Ed Ruscha and Thomas Struth.

And how about this for an exhibition title? A Partial Disassembling of an Invention Without a Future: Helter-Skelter and Random Notes in Which the Pulleys and Cogwheels Are Lying Around at Random All Over the Workbench is what the London-born, Los Angeles-based artist Walead Beshty has chosen to describe his transformation of The Barbican's Curve Gallery (October 19 2014 - February 8 2015) which he plans to cover with more than 12,000 blue cyanotype prints. To be fair, it looks amazing.

Whitechapel Art Gallery
follows up its absorbing examination of the forgotten Berlin Dada-ist Hannah Hoch with their Tate partnership for the UK’s largest ever survey of the renowned American sculptor and poet Richard Tuttle (October 14 - December 14) The major exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery surveys five decades of his career, whilst at the same time Tate Modern's Turbine Hall welcomes a large-scale sculptural commission.

The project called I Don’t Know, Or The Weave of Textile Language has been specially devised by the artist and focuses on the particular importance of textiles in his work.

At the Serpentine Gallery they follow 'pioneer of performance art’ Marina Abramović's residency with the light-transformative installations of Trisha Donnelly (until November 9).

Outside in the gardens, it looks like a UFO balancing in a series of megaliths but it is in fact the brilliant Serpentine Pavilion 2014 designed by Smiljan Radic (June 26 - October 19) - wonderful stuff.

Dulwich Picture Gallery continues its pursuit of 20th century painters with the first major exhibition in the UK dedicated to the work of Canadian artist Emily Carr (1871 - 1945) (1 November 2014 – 22 February 2015).

Carr was one of the first Canadian artists to experiment with Modernism and although her work is little known on this side of the Atlantic visitors will find much to admire in her Modernist landscapes and aboriginal forms.

Schiele at the Courtauld - Gods and Monsters at the Photographers' Gallery

a drawing of a skinny female nude with stockings
Egon Schiele (1890-1918), Standing Nude with Orange Stockings, 1914© Leopold Museum, Vienna
The Courtauld Gallery's autumn showcase is Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude (October 23 – January 18), which makes the remarkable claim of being “the first ever museum show in this country devoted entirely to the artist”. Strange. But true.  

The British Museum summer/autumn show Ming: 50 Years that changed China (September 18 2013 - January 5 2015) promises some spectacular treasures including porcelain, gold, jewellery, furniture, paintings, sculptures and textiles from museums across China and the rest of the world.

Contemporary art has long been a staple at the home of one of the best British art collections in the UK, the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth and they continue their focus on the First World War centenary with a film installation by Jane and Louise Wilson.

Undead Sun (October 15 - January 11)
explores camouflage, aerial reconnaissance and lines of sight with the help of gauze screens and an atmospheric setting. And while you're there you should check out what the IWM has done with the First World War art collection and the wonderful Truth and Memory: British Art of the First World War (until March 8, 2015)

At the ICA the contemporary art programme includes French artist and filmmaker Neil Beloufa (September 17 – November 16 2014).

There’s also Beware Wet Paint (September 22 – November 9 2014) which brings together 10 contemporary painters from across the world who “propose a new path for painting”.

Contemporary continues to be the watchword at The Saatchi Gallery which also looks at emerging artists of Latin America in Pangaea: New Art from Africa and Latin America (April 2 - November 2) and the first UK solo exhibition of renowned Spanish and Latin American artist Xavier Mascaró (until October 5) featuring a range of sculptural works.

The Saatchi's Premonition: Ukrainian Art Now (October 9 - November 3) is the largest survey of contemporary Ukrainian art to date and provides a broad introduction to the troubled country's art-scene via 160 works by 38 artists.

Eastern Europe also comes under the spotlight for Spasibo by photographer David Montelone (October 11 - November 3) whose images of Chechnya were taken between December 2012 and April 2013.

William Morris at the NPG - Kiefer at the RA

a photo of a young woman in cafe resting her head in her hands while holding a cigarette.
John Deakin, Girl in Cafe, unknown date.
The Photographers' Gallery summer/autumn show offers a splash of colour with the highly intriguing Primrose: Russian Colour Photography (July  25 - October 19).

And a busy autumn/winter continues with Edward Steichen: In High Fashion: The Condé Nast Years 1923-1937 (October 31 2014 - January 18 2015) which includes over 200 vintage prints many on public display for the first time since the 1930s.

There's also a look at contemporary fashion photography in Analemma: Fashion Photography 1992 – 2012 (October 31 - January 18), which is the first London presentation of works by Dutch-born photographer Viviane Sassen.

At the National Portrait Gallery there's a potential blockbuster in Anarchy & Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy, 1860-1960 (October 16 - January 11) for which the NPG has secured the curatorial services of Morris biographer Fiona McCarthy in a show that will not only explore the great man's ideas but also his legacy.

Another biographer gets curatorial for the NPG's homage to one of its best postcard sellers with Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision (July 10 — October 26 2014). Guest curated by Frances Spalding it looks at Woolf's early works and ideas via a wealth of diary entries, photographs and paintings of her circle. 

Among the NPG's many free displays, The World of Rupert Potter: Photographs of Beatrix, Millais and friends (May 13 - November 16) and Suffragettes: Deeds not Words (July 2 2014 - April 1 2015) stand out as shows worth seeking out.

Staying with portraiture, the Sir John Soane's Museum new art space has got an intriguing autumn show called Face to Face: British Portraits from the Clifford Chance Art Collection (October 10 2014 – January 24 2015).

Charting the development of portraiture by British printmakers in the 20th and the first decade of the 21st Century it features works by Patrick Caulfield, David Hockney, Gavin Turk, Peter Howson and Gary Hume. Oh, and William Hogarth as well of course...

A packed programme at The Royal Academy really clicks into gear in the autumn with the first major UK retrospective of German painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer (September 27 – December 14 2014) which is followed by another UK first - an exhibition of work by Titian’s contemporary Giovanni Battista Moroni (October 24 2014 – January 25 2015).

Fashion at the V&A - Rembrandt at the National Gallery

a photo of a man in a suit posing with models
Valentino posing with models nearby Trevi Fountain. Rome, July 1967. Part of Italian Fashion at the V&A© Courtesy of The Art Archive / Mondadori Portfolio / Marisa Rastellini
Once again fashion is the passion at the V&A whose Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 (May 3 2014 – March 15 2015) traces the development of the fashionable white wedding dress and its interpretation by leading couturiers and designers over the last two centuries.

Disobedient Objects (July 26 2014 – February 1 2015) looks at everything from Suffragette teapots to protest robots, in a show all about the powerful role of objects in movements for social change.

The big autumn show sees a return to fashion with Horst: Photographer of Style (September 6 2014 - January 4 2015) which promises the definitive exhibition of peerless fashion photography by Horst P. Horst (1906-99).

September at the V&A also brings Constable: The making of a Master (September 20 – January 11) which looks at how the great JC created his masterpieces and examines his stylistic relationship to classical landscape masters Ruisdael and Claude.

There's another Georgian-flavoured show at the Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace who mark the 300th anniversary of the beginning of the Georgian era with The First Georgians: Art and Monarchy 1714-1760 (April 11 - October 12), which explores royal patronage and taste in the reigns of George I and George II.

The Design Museum's Louis Kahn (1901-1974) (until October 12) explores the work of a great master builder of the Twentieth Century via plans, photos, models and more. The autumn brings WOMEN FASHION POWER (October 29 2014 – April 26 2015) which looks at how influential women have used fashion to define and enhance their position in the world.

Designers in Residence (September 10 - February 1)
showcases the best up and coming designers.

The Fashion and Textile Museum's fittingly autumnal show is Knitwear in Fashion – Chanel to Westwood (September 19 2014 – January 18 2015).

At The National Gallery the role of architecture in Italian Renaissance painting is explored in Building the Picture (April 30 – September 21) before Rembrandt, the Final Years (October 15 – January 18) rounds off an impressive year with what has the makings of an autumnal blockbuster offering a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to see a massive haul of Rembrandt’s defining later works.

Gothic terror at the British Library - Rossetti at the William Morris

The British Library
's Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination (October 3 2104 - January 20 2015) promises over 200 rare objects tracing 250 years of the Gothic tradition, exploring our enduring fascination with the mysterious, the terrifying and the macabre.

Camden Arts Centre's programme for 2014 includes a major exhibition of work by British artist Shelagh Wakely (1932-2011), who is represented here via print, video, unfired ceramics, a series of delicate drawings in pencil and wire, and an intricate floor installation - all of it full of ephemeral magic and myriad meanings.

Similarly diverse is the work of US artist Glenn Ligon (September 19 – November 23) who uses painting, neon lights, installations, videos and printing to critically explore race and homosexuality in American heritage.

The William Morris Gallery's Rossetti's Obsession - images of Jane Morris (October 4 - January 4) takes us into the world of the Pre-Raphaelites and the obsession of one of its key proponent with the archetypal Pre-Raph "stunner" Jane Morris - wife of William.

Finally, have you ever visited the wonderful Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art? If not, perhaps 2014 will be the year to venture to Islington as
Ostia Antica (September 24 – December 21) brings together the art of two very different eras: stunning fragments of ancient statuary and mosaic from Ostia Antica – a large archaeological site located close to Rome – and the dynamic, abstract sculpture and painting of Umberto Mastroianni (1910-1998).

An artist whose work has been described as ‘pulsing with the history and life’ of the twentieth century, he makes a fitting end to a year of fine exhibitions in the capital.

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