Culture preview 2014: Top ten cultural events, exhibitions and festivals this year

| 05 March 2014

From 1,000-year-old Viking warships and dangling V2 rockets to high contemporary art and Scottish storytelling, here are ten cultural highlights for 2014

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Vikings, British Museum, March 6 - June 22

A fearsome, gleaming treasure chest of skeletons, weapons, gold and silver, shimmering with some of the finest hoards ever found and backed by star exhibits from museums in Denmark, Berlin and Edinburgh. The centrepiece is an incredible reconstruction of the original timbers of Roskilde 6, a 37-metre Viking warship connected to the battles fought by Cnut the Great at the height of an age when much of England and Scandinavia was united under his rule. See some of the exhibits.

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, Tate Modern, April 17 - September 7 2014

An exuberantly colourful, constantly dazzling homage to the highly prolific final years of the French artist’s career. Tate’s famous Matisse work, The Snail, will be accompanied by its sister work and the 10 metre long Composition with Masks, arriving from New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

Museums at Night, hundreds of UK venues, May 15-17

The chance to see museums and galleries in a different light is always exciting – never more so than when the whole country’s going for it. From the Roman Baths and historic mansions to contemporary art and gigs by top bands, this after-hours festival of fun aims to inspire and amuse you wherever you are.

Mondrian, Turner Contemporary / Tate Liverpool, May-October

Twin shows on the 70th anniversary of the death of one of the most influential artists of the past century. See the Dutch godfather of grid’s works on the Kent coast or by the docks of the Mersey.

Colour, National Gallery, June 18 - September 7 2014

Each room of the National Gallery’s Sainsbury Wing will be devoted to a different colour in this spectrum-inflected run through the rainbow, informed by the institution’s scientific experts and dedicating one decadent chamber purely to gold and silver. Pigments, minerals, glass and textiles make this the perfect chance to piece together 700 years of artistic method and mastery.

Imperial War Museum London reopening, July 2014

A six-month, £35 million transformation sees Britain’s flagship war museum reopen in spectacular style. Look out for hovering Harriers, Spitfires and V2 rockets, a T34 tank and a vehicle damaged in Gaza in the atrium, along with a recreated trench and interactive displays.

First World War Centenary, from February

This is the first of a four-year global commemoration of the First World War. In Britain, it has a strong focus on the everyday stories of those affected by the conflict, from rent strikes in Glasgow and the tireless women’s land army to business owners appealing to avoid conscription and mothers forced to bring up children alone. Eight large-scale public processions are part of an expansive programme across the country. Find out more about the First World War Centenary Partnerships.

Festival 2014, Scotland, July-August

All eyes will be on Glasgow when the city hosts its largest ever sporting fiesta – the 20th Commonwealth Games – for 11 days in midsummer. Its cultural programme is more of a marathon than a sprint, but it’s invigorating rather than exhausting – you’ll find dance, film, exhibitions and aerial theatre in the line-up, as well as storytelling tours of Scotland, hit musicals, comedy and music. Find out more.

Liverpool Biennial, July 5 - October 26

Launched 15 years ago, Liverpool’s contemporary art celebration attracts 600,000 people to a city with some of the best venues in the country to choose from. Look out for pop-up talks, interactive street games and superb exhibitions in a festival with an international reputation. Read our Review of the 2012 Biennial.

Dylan Thomas Centenary, from October 27

As the poet famed for his belief in “the greatness of the individual and the sacredness of the masses”, it’s perhaps no surprise to see hundreds of museums, galleries and groups across Wales coming up with novel ways to honour the writer’s career and inspire the public in the process. The broad programme encompasses everything from pop artist Peter Blake’s illustrations of Under Milk Wood (at Pembrokeshire’s magnificent Oriel y Parc) to literary tours travelling through the pubs and pony trails his wife – the dancer and poet Caitlin Thomas – followed during the Second World War.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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The best art exhibitions to see in London during 2014

The best art exhibitions to see in Scotland during 2014

The best art exhibitions to see in Wales in 2014

Pics: British Museum; Tate Liverpool; Tate; The Late Shows; National Gallery, London; Courtesy Peter Blake; IWM; Glasgow 2014; 2013 Mondrian / Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International; Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Claude Planchet / Succession Henri Matisse / DACS 2013
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