Art critic Tabish Khan brings you ‘The Top Art Exhibitions to see in London’ this month. Each one comes with a concise review to help you decide whether it’s for you.
Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde @ Barbican Art Gallery
The history of the arts are full of artist couples who drove and inspired one another, with tempestuous relationships being rather common. There are 40 couples in this massive exhibition filled with excellent artworks — with the juicy narratives behind how these couplings came about. There are stories of infidelity, love and polyamory in a show that stretches beyond just visual art and also includes music and literature. Come for the artworks and stay for the fascinating stories. Read my full review here. Until 27 January.
Courtauld Impressionists: From Manet to Cezanne @ The National Gallery
The Courtauld Gallery is closed for a major refurbishment so some of its Impressionist masterpieces are now hanging in The National Gallery. Sure we’ve seen all these works before but it’s a rare treat to see Manet’s ‘A Bar at the Folies-Bergère’ side by side with his outdoor scene of a fashionable crowd listening to musicians, or Seurat’s massive bathers at Asnieres paired with a smaller Riverside scene from the Courtauld collection. Two of London’s finest Impressionist collections coming together is a special sight. Until 20 January.
Chris Burden: Measured @ Gagosian, Britannia Street
A polished classic Porsche hangs from a steel fulcrum, counter-balanced by a meteorite. It looks so delicate that a single push could send it spinning. The natural and man-made worlds in a delicate equilibrium feels like an ideal we should be striving towards. In the adjacent room a Ford pick-up truck is similarly just about holding up a one ton weight in this eye-catching two work show. Until 26 January.
Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait prize @ National Portrait Gallery
It’s a strong year for this annual prize. Out are the majority of celebrity portraits and there are more creative approaches to photography than we’ve seen in previous years. Brightly costumed drum majorettes contrast with their rundown backgrounds near their homes, a man is transformed into Michael Jackson using make up and a mustachioed see through mask on artist Joan Jonas confuses us as the two faces become impossible to separate out. Until 27 January.
Robert Rauschenberg: Spreads 1975-1983 @ Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
Layered works are filled with found objects including mirrors, lights and umbrellas. These works are so dense that I could stare at them for 10 minutes and still miss have of the finer detail. The Spreads were only afforded one room at Rauschenberg’s Tate Modern retrospective in 2016 so here’s a chance to appreciate them away from the rest of his works and across both floors of this magnificent gallery space. Until 26 January.
Carlo Rea: Forms and Harmonies @ Tornabuoni Art
These single colour works erupt from the canvas with plaster designs that make you want to run your fingers along them. The crevices and undulations are both consumed by one colour and also made more prominent by the monochrome background. The interplay of light and shadow across the works is beautiful. Until 23 January.
Ladies of quality and distinction @ Foundling Museum
The portraits of men who founded the Foundling Hospital have been replaced with the women who helped make the Foundling hospital what it was today, and have been largely overlooked historically. This re-organisations is recognising their contribution and an exhibition downstairs provides some background to these impressive women. Until 20 January.
All images copyright gallery and artists unless otherwise specified. Modern couples image © John Philips / Getty Images. Rauschenberg image copyright Ben Westoby. Chris Burden image copyright the artist / ARS. Photo: Lucy Dawes. Taylor Wessing image copyright Alice Mann.