The best art exhibitions to see in London during 2014

By Richard Moss | 30 December 2013 | Updated: 02 June 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
Art - What’s the Point of It? The Hayward Gallery's first major survey of work by Martin Creed (January 29 - April 27) may have set the tone for their summer exhibition called The Human Factor (June 17 – September 7). Bringing the likes of Jeff Koons, Yinka Shonibare, Thomas Schütte, Thomas Hirschhorn and several others together for a look at how artists over the past 25 years have reinvented figurative sculpture - it may just provide some answer's to Creed's question.

Tate Britain, which boasts the beguiling and chaotic installations of Phyllida Barlow for its 2014 Duveen Galleries commission (March 31 - November 2), has a survey of the impact of twentieth century Titan of British art criticism and patronage Kenneth Clark (May 20 – August 10), and British Folk Art (June 10 – September 7) featuring more than 100 paintings, sculptures, textiles and objects from collections across the UK.

The gallery’s talisman, JMW Turner, returns in the autumn with Late Turner: Painting Set Free (September 10 2014 – January 25 2015). 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).

Matisse at Tate Modern - Hockney in Dulwich

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
At Tate Modern the big show of the year is Henri Matisse: The Cut Outs (April 17 – September 7) which Nic Serota reckons is “one of the most beautiful, evocative and compelling exhibitions ever seen in London.” By the looks of it, he might be right.

Tate Modern's autumn show is a response to the Centenary of the First World War. 100 Years Later: Conflict, Time, Photography (November 19 2014 – April 6 2015) looks at the different ways photography has responded to sites of conflict over time.

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

Last year the Barbican Art Gallery was Dancing Around Duchamp; this year they are getting hip to the digital revolution with a programme of events and happenings centring around a major exhibition called, erm... Digital Revolution (July 3 - September 14).

Celebrating digital creativity across the arts, the show will feature work from will.i.am (yes, him) Chris Milk, Christopher Nolan, an immersive installation by Umbrellium and a DevArts collaboration with digital search and data deities, Google.

Elsewhere in the galleries of this beautifully Brutalist arts venue, The Fashion World of John Paul Gaultier (April 9 – August 17) celebrates the work of the affably camp couturier.

For the autumn Constructing Worlds (September 25 - January 11) 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.

Whitechapel Art Gallery
follows up its absorbing examination of the forgotten Berlin Dada-ist Hannah Hoch with a summer of film art beginning with Artists Film International (until June 22) which shows a trio of very different films by Burak Delier, Tejal Shah and Milica Tomic who explore narrative of conflict, the rise of neo-liberalism and our relationship to nature.

Alongside this is an overview of one of the gods of the experimental art film whose La Jete is a staple of every art student's education, in Chris Maker: A Grin Without a Cat (also until June 22). Featuring many of the late Frenchman's key works the show also explores some of his interests including the museum, travel, film, revolution and war together with portrayals of his friends Roberto Matta and Andrei Tarkovsky.

Another big show for the Whitechapel sees them partner with Tate 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 summer sees 'pioneer of performance art’ Marina Abramović in residence with newly developed work and the most comprehensive survey yet of the work of young, British multi-media artist Ed Atkins (both June - August).

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 an impressive 2014 programme which includes Art and Life: Ben Nicholson, Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood, Alfred Wallis, William Staite Murray, 1920 – 1931 (June 4 – September 21 2014) and the first major exhibition in the UK dedicated to the work of Canadian artist Emily Carr, (1 November 2014 – 22 February 2015).

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 summer showcase is Bruegel to Freud (June 19 – September 21) which draws on their considerable prints collection before they end the year with 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 it must be true.  

Modern German art is explored at the British Museum whose Germany Divided: Baselitz and His Generation (February 6 - August 31) takes Baselitz and five of his contemporaries for a fascinating insight into how German art developed in the 1960s and 1970s.

The BM's equally fascinating summer show Ming: 50 Years that changed China (September 18 2013 - January 5 2015) promises some spectacular treasures.

Expect a haul of rarely exhibited treasures including porcelain, gold, jewellery, furniture, paintings, sculptures and textiles from museums across China and the rest of the world.

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

There’s also Beware Wet Paint (22 September – 9 November 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 - August 31) before the next installments of Painter's Painters and Objectified: Sculpture Today (dates tbc).


David Bailey 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 show is a real swinger; Under the Influence: John Deakin and the Lure of Soho (April 11 – July 13 2014) - explores the hidden corners and colourful characters of 1950s and early 60s Soho. In other words boozers like Francis Bacon, Jeffrey Bernard et al...

They follow this up in high summer with another splash of colour and the highly intriguing Primrose: Russian Colour Photography (July  25 - October 19).

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.

A packed programme at The Royal Academy includes an intriguijng show at their Burlington Gardens gallery, which showcases Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album (June 26 – August 25) featuring 400 of the late hell-raising actor’s photographs taken between 1961 and 1967 and only discovered after his death in 2010.

Radical Geometry: Modern Art of South America from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection (July  5 – September 28) ushers in the summer season at the RA with an exploration of art produced during a fifty-year period up to the 1970s.

The first major UK retrospective of German painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer (September 27 – December 14 2014) 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 spring 2014 exhibition The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945 – 2014 (April 5 – July 27) offers a comprehensive look at Italian sartorial style from the end of the Second World War to the present day.

It’s followed up by Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 (May 3 2014 – March 15 2015) which traces the development of the fashionable white wedding dress and its interpretation by leading couturiers and designers over the last two centuries.

William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain (March 22 – July 13 2014) explores the most prominent architect and designer in early Georgian Britain and M. F. Husain: Master of Modern Indian Painting (May 28 – July 27) which showcases the final nine paintings by one of the most celebrated Indian artists of the 20th century.

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

September at the V&A 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 Designs of the Year exhibition (March 26 - June 22), profiling the best in design from 2013 and the autumn's 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).

The big summer show at the National is Making Colour (June 18 – September 7), which features a series of rooms dedicated to each colour of the spectrum - as well as silver and gold.  With stunning paintings at its heart the exhibition charts a 700-year history from the Renaissance to the Impressionists. It also includes textiles, ceramics and glass.

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.

Comics at the British Library - Deller's English Magic at the William Morris

a comic book cover featuring a green man with glasses
Trials of Nasty Tales features in the British Library's Comics Unmasked.© Dave Gibbons
The British Library
's (Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK, May 2 to August 19) looks at the work of Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Mark Millar, Grant Morrison and many others in a revealing show that uncovers the layered world of comic book art and production - and everything from gender and politics to sex and violence.

Camden Arts Centre features Moyra Davey life without sheets of paper to be scribbled on is masterpiece  in which the Canadian artist's visual tone poem marks her out as something of a flaneur and Philip Lai whose spatial arrangements seem to be all about estrangement, incongruity and abstraction (both April 11 - June 29)

Camden’s programme for 2014 also 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 Help is better than sympathy: Frank Brangwyn and the First World War looks at Brangwyn's prolific output of poster designs during the Great War (May 24 - September 14).

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
The Years of La Dolce Vita (April 30 – June 29) delves into the golden era of Italy’s cinematic history during the 1950s and ’60s via the archive of Marcello Geppetti – one of the inspirations for the character of Paparazzo in La Dolce Vita (1960).

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