The cultural calendar in London comes alive in the summer months, with fascinating exhibitions opening at galleries, museums and parks across the capital. Permanent fixtures such as the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and the Serpentine Pavilion are this year joined in the line-up by appearances by some of fashion and music's most iconic figures and muses; from Michael Jackson and Azzedine Alaïa to Frida Kahlo and Georgia O'Keeffe. With so much to see, we've put together a handy guide to the very best shows and experiences on offer, so you needn't miss a thing...

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up at the V&A

The V&A is well-known as the go-to destination for all things fashion, but this exhibition goes a little deeper than merely a look at Frida Kahlo’s clothes. Featuring items from the artist’s personal archive, many that have never been seen since her death in 1954, Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up is an intimate journey through the life of the Mexican icon. Kahlo herself was often the subject of her own artwork, and her image, art and troubled personal life were entirely intertwined in the careful construction of her outward appearance. The importance of dress as part costume, and part protection are just some of the themes explored in this powerful exhibition, including clothing, prosthetics and cosmetics. 

The V&A, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL.

FRIDA KAHLO WITH OLMEC FIGURINE, 1939. © NICKOLAS MURRAY PHOTO ARCHIVES.

Monet & Architecture at The National Gallery

Whilst more widely known for his expressive paintings of the natural world, flowers and trees were not the only subject matter that fascinated Monet, who remains one of the most revered figures in the history of art. This comprehensive exhibition explores his interest in man-made structures and the famous landmark buildings in London, Paris, Venice and beyond. 

The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN.

CLAUDE MONET, HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT, SUNSET, 1900-01. © KUNSTHAUS ZURICH. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. COURTESY THE NATIONAL GALLERY, LONDON.

Michael Jackson: On the Wall at National Portrait Gallery

Nearly a decade after the death of Michael Jackson, and coinciding with what would have been Jackson’s 60th birthday, this ambitious display surveys the life and distinctive style of the superstar – from his Motown days in the Jackson 5, though to his later military-inspired dress, on and off stage. Works by more than 40 artists including Andy Warhol, Grayson Perry, Isa Genzken and David LaChapelle celebrate Jackson as a cultural icon and master of reinvention. 

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place, London WC2H 0HE.

DAVID LACHAPELLE, AN ILLUMINATING PATH, 1998. © DAVID LACHAPELLE. COURTESY OF THE ARTIST.

The Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion 

Since the inaugural Serpentine Pavilion commission in 2000, this oasis in the park has become a must-see destination on the London art trail. Designed by a different architect every year, this year’s commission is conceived by Mexico City-based Frida Escobedo. The pavilion will be a secluded courtyard with a central pool of water, offering a tranquil place for visitors to sit and reflect and to escape the crowded streets of London. Escobedo is the youngest architect to have undertaken the project, and the first solo woman to design the pavilion since the late Zaha Hadid in 2000

Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, London, W2 3XA.

SERPENTINE PAVILION 2018 DESIGNED BY FRIDA ESCOBEDO, TALLER DE ARQUITECTURA, DESIGN RENDERING, INTERIOR VIEW © FRIDA ESCOBEDO, TALLER DE ARQUITECTURA, RENDERINGS BY ATMÓSFERA.

Sotheby's Modern and Post-War British Art, Impressionist & Modern Art, Contemporary Art and Old Master Painting exhibitions and sales

Beginning on 8 June, Sotheby's opens it doors for the summer sale season in the New Bond Street Galleries, with five weeks of exhibitions, exclusive events, talks and sales – presenting an array of artworks by the world's leading artists from Picasso and Jean Arp to Damien Hirst and Barbara Hepworth. 

Sotheby's, 34–35 New Bond St, London W1A 2AA.

Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier at the Design Museum

As trends come and go in the fashion world, there are several figures whose designs truly stand the test of time. In a career spanning nearly 40 years, Alaïa’s handmade creations have graced the pages of magazines and red carpets the world over, and devoted fans include Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga and Nicole Kidman. By displaying the exquisite dresses against specially designed architectural screens, the couture creations take on a sculptural quality. With the addition of archival photography, the exhibition goes inside the mind of the man and the brand – the legacy of which plays a starring role in the history of fashion. Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier was co-curated by the designer himself, before his death in November 2017. 

Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High Street, London, W8 6AG.

LINDA EVANGELISTA AND AZZEDINE ALAÏA PHOTOGRAPHED IN 1990 BY SANTE D'ORAZIO.

250 Years of the Royal Academy of Arts

After a  major three-year renovation, the Royal Academy of Arts is reopening, and reinforcing it’s dedication to new art and ideas, as it has done since it first opened in 1768. With a host of events, exhibitions and artist projects, the new RA will be unveiled on 19th May. The aptly named The Great Spectacle, exploring the history of the institution's exhibitions, and the Festival of Ideas will kick off the new programme, alongside the 250th instalment of the Summer Exhibition – showcasing works by one thousand artists, and this year curated by Turner Prize-winning academician Grayson Perry. 

Read about the new RA on Sotheby's Museum Network.

The Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD.

ARTIST BOB AND ROBERTA SMITH AT THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS. 

Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art at Tate Modern

Tate Modern does blockbuster exhibitions well, and manages to toe the lie between crowd-pleaser and educational seamlessly; moving the art-historical conversation forward whilst allowing viewers access to works by the most significant artists of our times. From the early experimental photography of Man Ray and Alfred Stieglitz through to contemporary practitioners such as Thomas Ruff and Antony Cairns, Shape of Light presents an under-explored history of the relationship between photography and abstract art. Whilst visiting, you can also pop in to Picasso 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy on the 3rd floor of the Boiler House, which devotes ten rooms to Picasso’s ‘Year of Wonders’.

Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG.

ANTONY CAIRNS, LDN5_051, 2017. © ANTONY CAIRNS; MAYA ROCHAT, A ROCK IS A RIVER (META LOVE), 2017. © MAYA ROCHAT. COURTESY LILY ROBERT. FROM SHAPE OF LIGHT: 100 YEARS OF PHOTOGRAPHY AND ABSTRACT ART AT TATE MODERN.

Rodin and the art of ancient Greece at the British Museum 

This exhibition brings together works by perhaps the most famous sculptor in history, and exquisite examples of the Greek artefacts that inspired his practice. On visits to the British Museum in the 1800s, Auguste Rodin was deeply inspired by objects in the museum's collection, and these works are now displayed side-by-side in this major exhibition, including his most revered works –The Thinker and The Kiss

The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG.

RODIN AND HIS ANTIQUITIES. MUSÉE RODIN. PHOTO: JEAN DE CALAN.


Further afield...

America's Cool Modernism: O'Keeffe to Hopper at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. 

The work of some of America’s most important artists are brought together in this bold exhibition, with many works being shown in Britain for the first time. Against the backdrop of the Great Depression, many artists of the period were recording the changing world around them, whilst simultaneously experimenting with abstraction. The large-scale industrialisation of the country provided artists such as Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe and George Ault with plentiful subject matter, allowing them to produce images of an America on the on the cusp of wealth, prosperity and expansion. 

Ashmolean Museum, 35 Beaumont St, Oxford OX1 2PH.

GEORGIA O’KEEFFE, BLACK ABSTRACTION, 1927. © 2017 ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK. MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK.

Liverpool Biennial 2018: Beautiful world, where are you?

Held in galleries, museums and public spaces all over Liverpool including the Bluecoat, Tate Liverpool and FACT, the art world will once again descend on the city for a four month festival of international contemporary art. Commissions and residencies by the most exciting talents working in visual arts and culture are accompanied by programme of talks, films and interactive installations – with a carefully curated online element, allowing people from around the world the opportunity to take part in the Biennial from any location. 

Various locations, Liverpool.

HAEGUE YANG, INTERMEDIATE – NARRATING SEA SQUIRT ALIENAGE, 2016, SHOWING AT TATE LIVERPOOL © HAEGUE YANG. 

Patrick Heron at Tate St Ives

As one of the founding figures of the St Ives School, Patrick Heron’s paintings are beautifully expressive studies of colour and form. Inspired by the light and landscape in his adopted Cornwall, Heron’s abstract canvasses will be exhibited in the town that nurtured the creative experimentation of many of British Modernism’s most significant figures. 

Read more about the St Ives School artists

Tate St Ives, Porthmeor Beach, St Ives TR26 1TG.

PATRICK HERON, FIVE DISCS 1963.  © ESTATE OF PATRICK HERON. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, DACS 2018.


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