The best art exhibitions to see in London during 2014

By Richard Moss | 30 December 2013

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? This is exactly what the Hayward Gallery will be asking when it serves up the first major survey of work by Martin Creed (January 29 - April 27). It promises everything from a spot of blu-tack to extravagant room-sized installations, films, and paintings. The point of all of this will hopefully be apparent to most visitors.

The Hayward's Project Space welcomes Sun Xun (January 16 - February 23) who brings his beguiling traditional Chinese drawings and cutting edge digital animations to the UK for a first major show on these shores.

Top prize for one of the best exhibition names of the year goes to Tate Britain for Ruin Lust (March 4 – May 18) which examines our love of ruination and dilapidation via a cast list that includes JMW Turner, John Constable, Rachel Whiteread and Tacita Dean. All of them, in their own way, highly lustful towards ruined abbeys, deserted bunkers and the like.

Tate Britain, which has confirmed Phyllida Barlow for its 2014 Duveen Galleries commission (March 31 - November 2), also has a major exhibition of Richard Deacon (February 5 – April 27); a survey of the impact of twentieth century Titan of British art criticism and patronage Kenneth Clark (May 20 – Auguist 10), and British Folk Art (June 10 – September 7) featuring more than 100 paintings, sculptures, textiles and objects from collections across the UK.

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

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 opening gambit of the year features another Richard in the shape of Richard Hamilton (February 13 – May 26 2014) with a career spanning retrospective of the late artist. This is followed by Henri Matisse: The Cut Outs (April 17 – September 7) which Nic Serota reckons will be “one of the most beautiful, evocative and compelling exhibitions ever seen in London.” Say no more.

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.

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 (dates tbc).

Celebrating digital creativity across the arts, the show will feature work from (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 while the Barbican’s Curve welcomes United Visual Arts (February 13 – June 1) for a time/space-themed installation that promises a carefully choreographed sequence of light, sound and movement.

Whitechapel Art Gallery
begins the year by lifting the lid on the career of forgotten Berlin Dada-ist Hannah Hoch (January 15 -March 23) whose playful collages of the 1920s and 1930s seem to recall everything from Kurt Schwitters to Linder Sterling.

At the Serpentine Gallery they fill their two spaces with an adventurous programme that begins with a wide ranging show of works by American painter, installation artist and collector of objects, Haim Steinbach: once again the world is flat. In the new Sackler space influential London-based Italian designer Martino Gamper guest-curates an exhibition of contemporary design, (both March 5 - April 21).

Summer at the Serpentine brings '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).

Dulwich Picture Gallery continues its pursuit of 20th century painters with an impressive 2014 programme which includes Hockney, Printmaker (5 February 5 – May 11 2014); 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).

At the Courtauld Gallery a roster of tightly focused exhibitions begins with A Dialogue with Nature: Romantic Landscapes from Britain and Germany (January 30 – April 27) which pitches the likes of Samuel Palmer and JMW Turner against uber-Romantics like Caspar David Friedrich and Karl Friedrich Lessing.

Schiele at the Courtauld - Burroughs at 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 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 spring blockbuster Vikings: Life and Legend (March 6 - June 22) will also be awash with artworks such as amulets, sculpture and jewellery - as well as a longships, helmets, swords and the like but the 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 they complement Tate’s Richard Hamilton retrospective with Richard Hamilton at the ICA (February 12 – April 6 2014); a recreation of two of the installations he staged there in the 1950s. The contemporary art programme, meanwhile, includes Berlin-based artist and writer Hito Steyerl (5 March – 27 April 2014), Tauba Auerbach (16 April – 15 June 2014) and French artist and filmmaker Neil Beloufa (17 September – 16 November 2014).

There’s also the first institutional exhibition in over 20 years of David Robilliard, The Yes No Quality of Dreams (16 April – 15 June 2014), and 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 with its New Order II: British Art Today (January 24 - March 23) and promises "an arresting insight into art being made in the UK today".

The emerging art of Latin America is the focus for the gallery's 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).

The Photographers' Gallery kicks off the year with a triumvirate of counter culture characters in the shape of Burroughs, Lynch and Warhol (17 January - 30 March 2014). It includes the first major exhibition of William S Burroughs’ photography, together with David Lynch’s moody snaps of factories and Andy Warhol’s little-known 8 x 10’’ photographs.  

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

At the National Portrait Gallery they address the strange fact that top photographer David Bailey has never had a major retrospective (in a major gallery) with Bailey’s Stardust (February 6 – June 1), which will stretch thematically across a series of contrasting rooms.

The NPG is also staging The Great War in Portraits (February 27 – June 15) which looks at the radically different roles, experiences, and ultimately, destinies, of those caught up in the conflict.

A packed programme at The Royal Academy kicks off with Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined (January 25 – April 6) which promises to “evoke the experience and power of architecture” via seven top architectural practices who will transform the main galleries with site-specific installations.

The RA’s Sackler Wing welcomes Renaissance Impressions: Chiaroscuro woodcuts from the Collections of Georg Baselitz and the Albertina, Vienna (March 15 – June 8), highlighting a short-lived woodcut printing technique that flourished in the sixteenth century.

There's also an intriguijng show at the Burlington Gardens gallery of the RA, which showcases Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album (June 26 – Augist 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.

In a packed year the first major UK retrospective of German painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer (September 27 – December 14 2014) is follwed 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 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 In the Making (January 22 - May 4) takes twenty objects "mid manufacture" to uncover the secret life of cricket bats, felt hats, shoes, boots, marbles, light bulbs, whistles, pencils, coins, horns, lenses and Olympic torches.

Spring brings their Designs of the Year exhibition (March 26 - June 22), profiling the best in design from 2013 and the autmn's Designers in Residence (September 10 - February 1) showcases the best up and coming designers.

Fashion, design and art come together beautifully at The Fashion and Textile Museum for Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol (January 31 - May 17) featuring work by everyone from Georges Braque, Alexander Calder and Marc Chagall to Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Ben Nicholson.

At The National Gallery they start the year by displaying two of Van Gogh’s Sunflower paintings (January 25 – April 27), together for the first time in 65 years, then follow it up with Strange Beauty: Masters of the German Renaissance (February 19 – May 11) featuring, amongst others, Holbein, Durer and Cranach.

One of the most influential painters of the Venetian Renaissance comes under the spotlight in Veronese, Magnificence in Renaissance Venice (March 19 – June 15) while 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 Colour (June 18 – September 7), which will feature 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 will chart 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.

There’s an intriguing show at the JVA Jerwood Space where the Jerwood Open Forest exhibition (January 15 – February 23) examines art in the environment with the likes of Chris Watson and Semiconductor on hand for a Forestry Commission-funded project.

PM Gallery and House features Contemporary glass making in Just Glass: The art of the possible (January 24 – March 8) and Camden Arts Centre features Silke Otto-Knapp (January 17 – March 30) whose beautiful, spatial paintings, rendered in silver and black, reference Romantic landscapes and stage design.  

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.

Jeremy Deller was a busy  boy in 2012 and there's no let up in 2014 as The William Morris Gallery is the first British gallery to host his Venice Bienale masterpiece, English Magic (January 18 - March 13).

One of the capital's most intriguing exhibitions of the new year can be found at Two Temple Place whose extraordinary interiors play host to the collections of Cambridge Museums and a microcosm of the limitless notion of discovery through time. Discoveries: Art, Science & Exploration from the University of Cambridge Museums (January 31 -April 27) features cabinets of curiosities displaying objects that span millennia, from the majestic to the minuscule. Quite apart from the objects it's a chance to have a neb inside this intriguing building.

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 they kick off another interesting season with Giorgio de Chirico: Myth and Mystery (January 15 – April 19), a rare exhibition of the enigmatic artist's Metaphysical sculpture.   

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