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'DRAG: Self-portraits and Body Politics' at Hayward Gallery
'DRAG: Self-portraits and Body Politics' at Hayward Gallery | Photo: Tim Bowditch
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The Best Exhibitions To See in London for Free This Week

Picture of Freire Barnes
Art & Design Editor
Updated: 6 September 2018
Here’s a round-up of the very best exhibitions you can see for free around the city, from pop-up showcases to extended commercial gallery shows.

Martine Syms at Sadie Coles

For her second show at Sadie Coles, the young American artist wants to explore performed identities in the digital age by engaging with gallery visitors. But instead of meeting the real Syms, you’ll encounter her interactive avatar, made using advanced VR and motion capture technology. You’ll be able to interact with Syms’ avatar via your mobile phone.

Martine Syms: Grand Calme is at Sadie Coles HQ, 62 Kingly Street, W1B 5QN from 6 September to 20 October 2018.

Martine Syms
Martine Syms, Mythic Being, 2018 | Courtesy Sadie Coles

DRAG at Hayward Gallery

This group show, featuring over 30 artists including VALIE EXPORT, Cindy Sherman, Robert Mapplethorpe, Adam Christensen and Paul Kindersley, considers how gender and identity are constructed and enacted. Using the medium of the self-portrait, the show brings together historical and contemporary perspectives on drag to explore themes ranging from politics and oppression to class and fetishism.

DRAG​: Self-portraits and Body Politics is at HENI Project Space, Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX until 14 October 2018.

Samuel Fosso – ‘Self-Portrait’ (2008) | Courtesy Hayward Gallery

Mikhail Karikis at Whitechapel Gallery

The Greek-British artist Mikhail Karikis worked with a group of local schoolchildren for this new Whitechapel Gallery commission. Appropriating Ted Hughes’s 1993 children’s science fiction novel The Iron Woman, Karikis film looks at how sound can empower and encourage change.

Mikhail Karikis: No Ordinary Protest is at Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High St, London, E1 7QX until 6 January 2019.

Mikhail Karikis – ‘No Ordinary Protest’ (2018) | Courtesy Mikhail Karikis

Ketty La Rocca at Amanda Wilkinson

The Italian conceptual artist who passed away in 1976 was a member of Gruppo 70, a collective founded in Florence by a group of artists dedicated to “visual poetry”. Featuring two of La Rocca’s important bodies of work, Riduzioni and the Craniologie, the show reveals the artist’s search for an alternative language to the one of the male-dominated 1970s.

Ketty La Rocca: The Ritual of Gesture is at Amanda Wilkinson Gallery, 1st Floor, 18 Brewer Street, London, W1F 0SH until 27 September 2018.

install_ 1
Installation view of ‘Ketty La Rocca: The Ritual of Gesture’ | Courtesy Amanda Wilkinson Gallery

Victor Burgin at Richard Saltoun

Inspired by a photograph of the Basilica in Pompeii taken by Neapolitan photographer Carlo Fratacci in 1864, conceptual artist and writer Victor Burgin created Voyage To Italy. Composed of a single screen video and two photo-text works, Burgin reinterprets the original photograph from a number of different perspectives to consider the potency of archaeological spaces, the act of looking, the presence of absent figures and the subjective point of view.

Victor Burgin: Voyage To Italy is at Richard Saltoun, 41 Dover Street, London, W1S 4NS until 29 September 2018.

Victor Burgin
Installation view of ‘Victor Burgin: Voyage To Italy’ | Courtesy Richard Saltoun

On Collecting: Panza Collection Archives at Hauser & Wirth

What does it take to start an art collection? This two-week show and series of events looks at the practices of Giuseppe and Giovanna Panza, who accumulated an impressive contemporary art collection over more than five decades. One of Sol Lewitt’s wall drawings will be realised during the exhibition as a performative act along with a presentation of various archival material including correspondences with artists and research material.

On Collecting: Panza Collection Archives is at Hauser & Wirth, North Gallery, Savile Row, London, W1S 2ET until 15 September 2018.

Portrait of Giuseppe Panza | Courtesy the Panza Collection

Enter Through The Headset 3 at Gazelli Art House

In partnership with Blue Hire VR, Gazelli Art House presents virtual reality works by artists from their online residency. Michael Takeo Magruder, design studio Mbryonic (Tom Szirtes and Xan Adderley) with Xavier Sole and CiRCA69 (Simon Wilkinson) will each showcase works that reflect on the impact of human existence and sustainability. Expect to be immersed in a fabricated metropolis based on descriptions from the ‘Book of Revelation’ in Takeo’s A New Jerusalem or the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall filled with decapitated heads in Mbryonic’s Appropriation.

Enter Through The Headset 3 is at Gazelli Art House, 39 Dover Street, London, W1S 4NN until 30 September 2018.

Takeo_NJ@KUBE_P1080735 (2)
Michael Takeo Magruder – ‘A New Jerusalem’ (2014) | © The artist

Ed Ruscha at the National Gallery

The industrial buildings of Los Angeles take centre stage in Room 1 of the National Gallery. Loosely inspired by a series of American landscape paintings by Thomas Cole (1801-1848) – also currently on view at the National Gallery – Ruscha’s series Course of Empire sets simple, utilitarian structures against changing skies to explore the cyclical nature of progress.

Ed Ruscha: Course of Empire is at the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN until 7 October 2018.

The Old Tech-Chem Building, 2003
Ed Ruscha – The Old Tech-Chem Building (2003) | The Broad © Ed Ruscha / Photography: Paul Ruscha

Tomma Abts at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery

The winner of the 2006 Turner Prize gets her first UK institution survey at the Serpentine Sackler this summer. For the past 20 years the German painter has worked to a consistently small format for her abstract oil and acrylic paintings. Here, her intuitive, intense optical experiments from the past 10 years will be shown alongside never-before-seen works.

Tomma Abts is at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, West Carriage Drive, London, W2 2AR until 9 September 2018.

Tomma Abts – ‘Weie’ (2017) | Courtesy Collection of Danny and Lisa Goldberg

Want to see more art in London? Here at the best photography exhibitions to see in the capital.