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The London Report: What’s Happening This Summer on the Art and Gallery Scene

By Lorna Cumming-Bruce, Contributing Writer, Summer 2016

Summer is here! The Queen’s birthday bash has been and gone and Wimbledon’s about to begin; the roses are blooming and the Pimms is out; the sun is shining and a bonanza of summer seasons are opening at museums across the city.

The Switch House

The Switch House

Tate Switch House, Tate Modern (from 17th June)

Just 15 years after Tate Modern opened its Thames-side galleries, it boasts a place on the top five most visited museums in the world. Bowing to popular pressure, this summer sees an extension increase the gallery’s space by 60%. The new 10-story building includes three new gallery levels, a performance art space and a panoramic roof terrace. The June opening corresponds with a comprehensive rehang to showcase more than 300 artists, including the likes of Mark Rothko, Cildo Meireles and Ai Weiwei. Look out for the unprecedented display of female artists’ work—part of new director Frances Morris’ exciting new vision.

Georgia O’Keefe, Tate Modern (6th July until 30th October)

The first show to open post rehang of the Tate Modern collection, this will be the biggest exhibition of Georgia O’Keefe’s work ever to be held in Britain. Amongst the 100 works on display will be the most expensive painting by a female artist ever sold – ‘Jimson Weed, White Flower No 1’ (1932) (bought for $44m in 2014). An exciting celebration of women in art, this is a must see on the summer circuit.

Summer Exhibition, RA (until 21st August)

The world’s biggest open submission show, this annual star of the London summer season showcases new talent and established artists side by side. With the majority of the 1000+ works up for sale, this is a golden opportunity to own an original piece by an artist of tomorrow. Look out for world-renowned duos Jake and Dinos Chapman, Heather and Ivan Morison and Jane and Louise Wilson amongst the masses.

Royal Academy

Royal Academy

David Hockney RA: 82 Portraits and 1 Still Life, Royal Academy (July 2 – October 2)

The RA is at it again – a celebration one of their most renowned academicians. If his last show is anything to go by, there’ll be queues around the block for a look at the prolific painter’s latest body of work. Prepare for an insight into his social circle – family, friends, staff and gallerists, all painted in the same three-day timeframe, in the same chair, with the same blue background, on the same sized canvas. This promises to be an exhibition of candid immediacy with a hearty helping of personal warmth.


Serpentine Pavillion

Serpentine Pavilion and Summer Houses, Kensington Gardens (until 9th October)

Each summer sees the Serpentine Galleries commission an architectural group to construct a pavilion in the heart of Hyde Park. This year, Danish architects Bjarke Ingels Group deliver an innovative design in the manner of an ‘unzipped wall’. Beside this main event, a new programme of Summer Houses heralds the UK premier of four world-renowned architects. The result is a swansong that outgoing director, the recently knighted Julia Peyton Jones, can be more than proud of.

The National Gallery

The National Gallery

Painters’ Paintings: From Freud to Van Dyck, National Gallery (until 4th September)

Spanning over 500 years of art history, this blockbuster show celebrates the collections of world-renowned artists – exploring the connection between painters and the paintings they possessed. With works by the likes of Bellini, Degas and Lucian Freud, this exhibition provides an instructive insight into the artistic tastes of our master painters.

Inside National

Dutch Flowers, National Gallery (until 29th August)

This single room display at the National Gallery packs a serious punch. A psychedelic celebration of the evolution of Dutch floral painting, 200 years are presented in a panoply of spring colours. Free to peruse, this small but perfectly formed exhibition is more than worth your time.


National Portrait Gallery

BP Portrait Award, National Portrait Gallery (until 4th September)

Selected from over 2,500 entries from artists across the globe, this is the world’s most prestigious celebration of contemporary portraiture. The winning work will be honored on the 21st June. Until then take care to notice the shortlisted artists – Clara Drummond (Girl in a Liberty Dress), Benjamin Sullivan (Hugo) and Bo Wang (Silence).

'Sunken Cities' at the British Museum

‘Sunken Cities’ at the British Museum

Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost World, British Museum (until 27th November)

Having led the recent excavation of two Ancient Egyptian cities, the British Museum celebrates their findings in a memorial to a people long since consigned to history. From kitchen pottery to major icons, a veritable treasure trove of artifacts is on display – all hidden for centuries beneath the Nile Delta. This is more than an exhibition, it’s a mythical journey.

'Undressed' at the Victoria and Albert Museum

‘Undressed’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear, V&A (until spring 2017)

The V&A returns to fashion with a show full of sex appeal. Exploring the intimate relationship between fashion and lingerie, and the impact of that liaison on morality, sex and gender, the V&A asks some serious questions as it surveys the development of our relationship with our undies. Fun and informative, this is the perfect outing for a titillating summer’s afternoon.

Newport Street Gallery

Newport Street Gallery

Jeff Koons: Now, Newport Street Gallery (until October 16)

The daring darling of contemporary art is back, with his most extensive UK exhibition to date. The second ever show to grace Damien Hirst’s new gallery, the exhibition boasts a number of works from Hirst’s private collection. Spanning 35 years of Koons’ radical career, the exhibition provides just what Koons always promises – an explosion of iconic colour.

The Saatchi Gallery

The Saatchi Gallery

Exhibitionism: The Rolling Stones, Saatchi Gallery (until 4th September)

Exactly what it says on the tin: an exhibition of the Stones’ celebrity with over 500 original artifacts from the band’s lionized career. Backed by Mick, Keef, Ronnie and Charlie, never before seen paraphernalia, footage, even personal diary entries are on display in an attempt to record something of the 50 years of Stones success.

The British Library

The British Library

Shakespeare in Ten Acts, British Library (until 6th September)

Part of the multitude of anniversary events – celebrating 400 years since the Bard’s death – this exhibition of Shakespeare through his plays seeks to cast new light on how he became the cultural icon he is today. Amongst the treasures on display are the only surviving play-script in Shakespeare’s hand and one of only six authentic Shakespeare signatures. Done with typical British Library gusto, this is a must see for any even mildly culturally inclined London visitor.


Sculpture in the City, Square Mile (until spring 2017)

Finally, if the British summer delivers and you’re loathe to step inside a museum or gallery, take a visit to the Square Mile for the latest edition of Sculpture in the City. Now in its fourth year, this open-air exhibition presents 15 works from contemporary heavyweights amid the towering architecture of the Financial District. Tick off iconic landmarks (the Gherkin, the Lloyds and the Cheesegrater) and artists (Damien Hirst, Ai Weiwei, Sarah Lucas) in one – all under the sunny summer’s sky.

London at night


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