The best art exhibitions to see in the South West during 2014

By Richard Moss | 30 December 2013

Explore the best art exhibitions in 2014 in the South West of England with this Culture24 guide

an abstract painting of blues and whites
Peter Lanyon, Thermal (1960). Part of Tate St Ives' summer show for 2014© Tate. The estate of Peter Lanyon
In a very impressive year for art exhibitions in the South West, Bath’s recently revamped Holburne Museum really get into its stride with Joseph Wright of Derby: Bath and Beyond (January 25 – Monday May 5) which will place Wright’s brief yet pivotal time in the Georgian spa town into perspective.  

Julian Opie: Collected Works (May 22 – September 14) arrives with new and unseen works for the summer and the autumn sees a welcome chance for South West audiences to catch High Spirits: The Comic Art of Thomas Rowlandson (September 27 2014 – January 25 2015). Rowlandson's piercing portrayals of Regency-era political machinations and the perils of love arrive fresh from a stint at the Queens Gallery in Edinburgh.

The Holburne’s programme of Wirth Gallery exhibitions is worth a mention too, with several intriguing shows including Picasso in 3D (February 165 – June 1), which features a series of pioneering colour photos taken during a weekend in 1957 by Robert Mouzillat.

The installation programme includes Kathy Dalwood’s The Secret Society: The Sculptural Banquet (February 15 – April 22) and the strange Gothic fairy and insect world of Tessa Farmer (June 14 – September 17).

Elsewhere in Bath at The Royal West of England Academy there are exciting rumours of an exhibition re-uniting Paul and John Nash with the working title Brothers in Art (dates tbc), which will explore how the pair responded to their experiences of war by developing some of defining landscapes of the inter-war period.

There's a treat in store for visitors to Bristol Museum and Art Gallery as they host Jeremy Deller's English Magic (April 12 - September 21) as it wends its way across the country after a triumphant residency in the British Pavilion at last year's Venice Bienale.

At Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum, the ARTISTS ROOMS tour arrives with some challenging work by Gilbert and George (March 22 – June 22) followed by the eyebrow-raising Intimate Worlds: Exploring Sexuality through the Sir Henry Wellcome Collection (April 5 – June 29), which sees the Albert ask visitors to “open up their minds and reflect on the value and significance of sex to us today”.

After all this excitement a beautifully serene painting show, Detached and Timeless: Contemporary artists inspired by nature and spirit of place (July 12 to November 2) explores how painters such as David Bomberg, Edward Burra, Prunella Clough and Terry Frost responded to landscape, nature and the seasons.

An impressive year is rounded off with Art and Soul: Victorians and the Gothic (November 2014 to April 2015), which focuses on the revival of medieval inspired architecture, fine art, craft and literature in the Victorian period.

There's an interesting winter 2014 show at Exeter Phoenix whose exhibition showcasing contemporary artists’ interpretations of the classic Tarot de Marseille deck of cards, Outrageous Fortune: Artists interpret the Tarot (January 24 - March 15), includes works by Mike Nelson, Adam Chodzko, Cerith Wyn Evans, Lindsay Seers and Susan Hiller.

Spring at the gallery brings S Mark Gubb: History is Written by the Winners (March 28 - May 10). Gubb brings his installation, sculpture, photography and performance to bear on the world of politics, history, religion and contemporary culture.

Elsewhere in the Devon capital, Spacex opens Soft Estate (March 8 - May 3), which promises an immersive environment inspired by the verges of our motorways and roads.

Down into Cornwall and Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange welcomes the Hayward Touring show Curiosity: Art and the Pleasures of Knowing (January 25 - April 26), which includes a selection of curious items from Helston Folk Museum alongside the contemporary works.

Another touring show 3am: Wonder, paranoia and the restless night (May – July) delivers a range of psychological, sociological, natural and astronomical artworks that capture something of the strangeness of the night.

Falmouth Art Gallery's impressive 2014 programme opens with Tom Early and Friends (April 26 - Jun 21) which explores the work of the self-taught artist. Encouraged by Ben Nicholson, Early became part of the St Ives art colony in the late 1940s and 50s.

The Boy who bit Picasso (June 28 - September 13) tells the story of a very unique and touching friendship between Antony Penrose and Pablo Picasso - and the world of Penrose's parents, Lee Miller and Roland Penrose.

The autumn brings a welcome splash of colour in Brilliant Colour (September 20 - November 22), celebrating the abstraction of Grace Gardner in the company of artists like Trevor Bell, Terry Frost and Roger Hilton.

Penlee House Gallery and Museum in West Cornwall lifts the lid on the etchings of Edward Bouverie Hoyton 1900-1988 - in a welcome retrospective of works by the master etcher and former principle of Penzance School of Art. 

Finally, the show that visitors to Tate St Ives have surely been waiting for arrives in the shape of International Exchanges:  Modern Art and St Ives 1915–1965 (May 17 – September 28).

Exploring the wider national and international contexts which shaped art in St Ives in the 1940s, 1950s and 60s, it features major works by, among others, Peter Lanyon, Patrick Heron and Bernard Leach alongside their European and North American contemporaries -  a blockbuster for the South West.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.


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