The best art exhibitions to see in London during 2014

By Richard Moss | 30 December 2013 | Updated: 12 August 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 summer exhibition, called The Human Factor (June 17 – September 7) brings 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. The result is series of intriguing - some would say jarring - juxtapositions.

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 other examples of "magical art" 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 autumn 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 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 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 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 (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 - August 31) and a look at contemporary American abstract artists in Abstract America Today (until September 28).


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 offers another splash of colour with 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 intriguing show at their Burlington Gardens gallery, which showcases Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album (June 26 – August 25) and features 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 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.

Autumn 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 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).

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'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 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
Gerardo Dottori The Futurist View (July 9 – September 7 2014) explores one of the pivotal figures of Italian Futurism during the inter-war years.

They round off an impressive year with Ostia Antica (September 24 – December 21) which 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.
 

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