The best art exhibitions to see in London during 2014

By Richard Moss | 30 December 2013 | Updated: 18 November 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

group portrait of Dutch merchant men in black clothes and hats
Rembrandt at the National: The Sampling Officials of the Amsterdam Drapers’ Guild, known as ‘The Syndics’ Rembrandt about 1662 © Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (SK-C-6)
The Hayward Gallery's autumn exhibition, called MIRROR CITY (October 14 – January 4) is having another crack at the "digital revolution" or rather the "challenges, conditions and consequences of living in a digital age".

Expect a wide range of media including painting, film and video, sculpture, drawing, sound and performance, from artists including Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq, Laure Prouvost, Lindsay Seers, Susan Hiller, John Stezaker and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

Warming to the web theme, The Hayward's Web We Want Festival delivers another "digital" exhibition with End User (November 27 2014 - January 18 2015) which explores digital footprints, privacy implications, information ownership and the newer forms of news and labour distribution presented by t'internet.

Tate Britain welcomes the gallery’s talisman, JMW Turner, with Late Turner: Painting Set Free (until January 25 2015), which reveals his extraordinary (and some would say best) works in a glowing display of Victorian abstraction that is making Turnerists very happy.

After you have admired the Turner’s why not see how another Tate favourite, Olafur Eliasson, creator of the acclaimed Turbine Hall commission The Weather Project 2003, has  been inspired with his new series of paintings Turner colour experiments (until January 25 2015).

Also look out for the wonderful spotlight displays, which tackle everything from rediscovered constructivist Marlow Moss (until March 22 2015) to Victorian Art and Stereoscopic Photography (until April 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 December 1 2014.

Tuttle at Tate Modern - A Canadian in Dulwich

a painting of a face montaged onto a background of astronauts
Sigmar Polke Polke as Astronaut (Polke als Astronaut) 1968 Private Collection © The Estate of Sigmar Polke / DACS, London / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
German Sigmar Polke is widely regarded as one of the most experimental artists of the twentieth and early twentieth centuries and Tate Modern's Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010 (until February 8 2015) offers a thorough delve into five decades of innovation and experiment.

Tate Modern also responds to the Centenary of the First World War with 100 Years Later: Conflict, Time, Photography (November 19 2014 – April 6 2015) which looks at the different ways photography has responded to sites of conflict over time.

Meanwhile, down in the Turbine Hall, a special commission by poetic sculptor Richard Tuttle (until December 14) is part of an autumn/winter exhibition developed with the Whitechapel Gallery (see below). 

Last year the Barbican Art Gallery was Dancing Around Duchamp; this year the beautifully Brutalist arts venue is Constructing Worlds (until January 11 2015) which 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 (until February 8 2015) which he has covered with more than 12,000 blue cyanotype prints. To be fair, it looks amazing.

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 (until December 14).

The major exhibition surveys five decades of his career, whilst at the same time Tate Modern's Turbine Hall welcomes a large-scale sculptural commission. 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 the winter months see German sculptor and conceptualist Reiner Ruthenbeck bring his bizarre piles of dust and stuff for a first major UK exhibition (November 25 - February 15 2105).

The Sackler gallery meanwhile offers another winter UK first as it goes all kinetic with the work of veteran Argentinian artist, Julio le Parc (born 1928), providing a truly kaleidoscopic experience (November 25 - February 15 2105).

Outside in the gardens an unruly mass of garden houses spouting water is a creation by Bernard Lavier called Fountain (until October 2015). As you will see, the French artist is a big fan of modified and found objects.

Dulwich Picture Gallery continues its pursuit of 20th century painters with the first major exhibition in the UK dedicated to the work of Canadian artist Emily Carr (1871 - 1945) (until February 22 2015).

Carr was one of the first Canadian artists to experiment with Modernism and although her work is little known on this side of the Atlantic visitors will find much to admire in her Modernist landscapes and aboriginal forms.

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 autumn showcase is Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude (until January 18), which makes the remarkable claim of being “the first ever museum show in this country devoted entirely to the artist”. Strange. But true.  

The British Museum summer/autumn show Ming: 50 Years that changed China (September 18 2013 - January 5 2015) promises some spectacular treasures including porcelain, gold, jewellery, furniture, paintings, sculptures and textiles from museums across China and the rest of the world.

The BM's Witches and Wicked Bodies (until January 11 2015) is also worth checking out for all the naughty depictions of witches and sorcerers down the years - culled from the Museum's prints and drawings collections together with a few key loans. 

At the home of one of the best British art collections in the UK, the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth and they continue their focus on the First World War centenary with a film installation by Jane and Louise Wilson.

Undead Sun (until January 11 2015)
explores camouflage, aerial reconnaissance and lines of sight with the help of gauze screens and an atmospheric setting. And while you're there you should check out what the IWM has done with the First World War art collection and the wonderful Truth and Memory: British Art of the First World War (until March 8, 2015)

At the ICA Bloomberg New Contemporaries (November 26 2014 – January 25 2015) reveals what promising artworks selectors Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Enrico David and Goshka Macuga have unearthed from from UK art schools this year.

At The Saatchi Gallery Post Pop: East meets West, (November 26 2014 - February 23 2015) is a typically ambitious undertaking bringing together 256 works by 112 artists from China, the Former Soviet Union, the UK and the USA in a comprehensive survey celebrating Pop Art's legacy.

And how about this for another strong painting show from the Ben Uri Gallery? Refiguring the 50s (until February 22 2015) features figurative work by Joan Eardley, Sheila Fell, Eva Frankfurther, Josef Herman and L S Lowry - all of whom had a strong sense of place.

William Morris at the NPG - Kiefer at the RA

a photo of aveiled woman
Edward Steichen. Actress Gloria Swanson, 1924 (Vanity Fair, February 1, 1924) The Sylvio Perlstein Collection.
The Photographers' Gallery
has a busy autumn/winter with Edward Steichen: In High Fashion: The Condé Nast Years 1923-1937 (October 31 2014 - January 18 2015) which includes over 200 vintage prints, many on public display for the first time since the 1930s.

There's also a look at contemporary fashion photography in Analemma: Fashion Photography 1992 – 2012 (October 31 - January 18), which is the first London presentation of works by Dutch-born photographer Viviane Sassen.

At the National Portrait Gallery there's a corker in Anarchy & Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy, 1860-1960 (until January 11 2015) for which the NPG has secured the curatorial services of Morris biographer Fiona McCarthy in a show that not only explores the great man's ideas but also his legacy.

While you're there, make sure you see The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered (until March 1 2015) which is the most complete presentation of portraiture of the well-known Tudor monarchs staged to date.

Among the NPG's many free displays, Suffragettes: Deeds not Words (until April 1 2015) and Grayson Perry: Who Are You? (until March 15 2015) both stand out as shows worth seeking out.

Staying with portraiture, the Sir John Soane's Museum new art space has got an intriguing autumn show called Face to Face: British Portraits from the Clifford Chance Art Collection (until January 24 2015).

Charting the development of portraiture by British printmakers in the 20th and the first decade of the 21st Century it features works by Patrick Caulfield, David Hockney, Gavin Turk, Peter Howson and Gary Hume. Oh, and William Hogarth as well of course...

A packed programme at The Royal Academy really clicks into gear in the autumn and winter with the first major UK retrospective of German painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer (until December 14 2014) which is followed by another UK first - an exhibition of work by Titian’s contemporary Giovanni Battista Moroni (until January 25 2015).

Fashion at the V&A - Rembrandt at the National Gallery

a photo of a golden silk wedding dress
Silk satin wedding dress, designed by Norman Hartnell, 1933, given and worn by Margaret, Duchess of Argyll. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Once again fashion is the passion at the V&A whose Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 (until 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 (until 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.

The big autumn show sees a return to fashion with Horst: Photographer of Style (until January 4 2015) which is the definitive exhibition of peerless fashion photography by Horst P. Horst (1906-99).

Autumn at the V&A also brings Constable: The making of a Master (until January 11 2015) which looks at how the great JC created his masterpieces and examines his stylistic relationship to classical landscape masters Ruisdael and Claude.

And just one more to look out for - the V&A's new display Russian Avant-Garde Theatre: War, Revolution and Design 1913 - 1933 (until January 25 2015) chimes nicely with a lot of their pet themes and will be of interest to anyone with an eye for art and design in the interwar period.

At the Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace Cairo to Constantinople: Early Photographs of the Middle East (until February 22 2015) follows the journey taken by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) in 1862, as he undertook a four month tour around the Middle East.

The Design Museum's WOMEN FASHION POWER (until April 26 2015) looks at how influential women have used fashion to define and enhance their position in the world.

Designers in Residence (until February 1 2015)
showcases the best up and coming designers.

The Fashion and Textile Museum's fittingly autumnal show is Knitwear in Fashion – Chanel to Westwood (until January 18 2015).

At The National Gallery Rembrandt, the Final Years (until January 18 2015) rounds off an impressive year with an autumnal blockbuster offering a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to see a massive haul of Rembrandt’s defining later works.

Gothic terror at the British Library - Sex at the Wellcome

a photograph of a man in Edwardian costume
Richard Mansfield as Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde© British Library
The British Library
's Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination (October 3 2104 - January 20 2015) promises over 200 rare objects tracing 250 years of the Gothic tradition, exploring our enduring fascination with the mysterious, the terrifying and the macabre.

Staying on the literary theme, the Museum of London's paean to Sherlock Holmes is by turns arty and forensic. The Man Who Never Lived And Will Never Die (until April 2015) uses film, photography, paintings and, of course, the books to conjure his world. Accompanying it, ...he wasn’t an easy gentleman to describe: Photographs by Kasia Wozniak offers a fashion photography take on the man and the myth.

And just one more - waffer thin - literary themed art show for you - William S Burroughs: Can you all hear me? (December 3 2014 - February 7 2015) sees the October Gallery return to a favourite theme via the works of artists influenced by him including Genesis P-Orridge, Brion Gysin, Lilian Lijn and Shezad Dawood - amongst others.

Ever ones to push the envelope, the Wellcome Collection's The Institute of Sexology (November 20 2014 - September 20 2015) is a candid exploration of the most publicly discussed of private acts with artworks, archives, films, photographs and generally lots of naughty exhibits and live events of a sexual nature.

Camden Arts Centre's Glenn Ligon's Call and Response (until January 11 2015) fuses painting, neon lights, installations, videos and printing to critically explore race and homosexuality in American heritage.

The William Morris Gallery's Rossetti's Obsession - images of Jane Morris (until January 4 2015) takes us into the world of the Pre-Raphaelites and the obsession of one of its key proponent with the archetypal Pre-Raph "stunner" Jane Morris - wife of William.

And if you like that you will need to see this...At Leighton House Museum, A Victorian Obsession: The Pérez Simón collection (until March 29 2015) comprises 50 exceptional paintings from the largest Victorian private art collection outside Great Britain, shown for the first time in the UK.

Gloriously overblown portraits and richly symbolic paintings by the likes of Leighton, Alma-Tadema, Rossetti, Burne Jones and Waterhouse make this a must-visit for fans of Victorian art.

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 Ostia Antica (until December 21) 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, he makes a fitting end to a year of fine exhibitions in the capital.

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