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What's On in London: 10 Unmissable Events this Autumn
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What's On in London: 10 Unmissable Events this Autumn

Picture of Chris Beer
Updated: 9 February 2017
London is home to a plethora of revered art galleries, but this autumn it is the turn of up-and-coming cultural spaces to shine, particularly those south of the Thames. There are highly anticipated exhibitions from enigmatic Asian artists as well as exhibits from home-grown talent, promising something for everyone. We explore the top ten cultural events in the British capital that you cannot afford to miss this autumn.

Arts | Adoration: Londonessence

10-26 October

See the city via the eyes of a classical architect with Ed Gray’s Adoration: Londonessence, featuring refigured urban scenes displayed at the GXgallery. Gray’s style is self-consciously inspired by Renaissance crowd paintings, with titles such as Adoration in the Emirates [Stadium], yet he simultaneously evokes the characteristics of 20th century British large-scale painters such as LS Lowry and Stanley Spencer. Vivid in colour and rich in detail, the paintings are intensely urban without becoming claustrophobic. Gray’s creations are a real tribute to the diversity of London and the rhythm of daily life in the twenty-first century. Every Saturday morning for the duration of the exhibition, Gray himself will provide insight into his inspiration and influences.

Londonessence, GXgallery, 43 Denmark Hill, London, UK +442077038396


work gallery
Photographer Unknown, Anti-Nuclear Bomb War Protest Sign, 1967 | Collection of John O’Brian.

Photography | After the Flash

10 October – 20 December

Curated from John O’Brian’s extensive personal archive, After the Flash is at once an individual perspective on the Atomic age whilst also forming a storyboard on the ubiquity of the bomb as a global symbol since 1945. Hosted at the independent WORK gallery located in King’s Cross, the photographs are divided into three sections, allowing the viewer to take in familiar tropes – the missile, the mushroom cloud etc – whilst also exposing the effect of the bomb upon particular individuals and communities. A haunting exhibition, this showcase deserves attention for its power and insight into recent human history, never before displayed so thoroughly in an artistic form.

After the Flash, WORK, 10A Acton Street, London, UK, + 442077135097


lawrence weiner
Lawrence Weiner, installation view at the South London Gallery, All In Due Course, 2014 | Courtesy of Lawrence Weiner, ARS, NY and DACS, London 2014. Photos by Andy Keate.

Arts | All In Due Course

Until 23 November

There are no safe picture frames or helpful captions at Lawrence Weiner’s All in Due Course exhibition at the South London Gallery. Instead, the space explores into colour with enigmatic paint and vinyl phrases and dizzying line patterns applied directly to the gallery walls. As with Ed Ruscha’s prints, Weiner’s pieces tread the line between text and image, drawing attention to the malleability of language as the commanding phrases come to mean at once everything and nothing. The seeming omnipresence of the lines, in tandem with the exhibition title, conjures the impression of invisible manipulation by an unseen force – enjoy the sensory assault and try to interpret the message in this airy, clean exhibition space.

All in Due Course, South London Gallery, 65-67 Peckham Road, London, UK + 442077036120


Anselm Kiefer
Installation shot: Anselm Kiefer, Ages of the World, 2014, Private collection, Photo courtesy Royal Academy of Arts. Photography: Howard Sooley / © Anselm Kiefer.

Arts | Anselm Kiefer Retrospective

Until 14 December

The largest exhibition ever hosted in the UK will be held by the Royal Academy this autumn in the form of the Anselm Kiefer Retrospective, encompassing sculpture and painting in works of colossal proportion. Engaging with Nazi appropriation of mythical themes, Kiefer constructs vast pieces which allude to civilisations long since demolished or dissipated. Kiefer is not afraid to question the notion of detritus and rubbish in such works, his creations showcasing an impressive amount of compositional and thematic detail. Innenraum seems to almost leap away from the gallery walls due to the density of material on the canvas, signifying the inevitable burden of ages, whereas Schwarze Flocken centres upon a symbol close to German national identity – the forest – and reduces it to a scene of desolation.

Anselm Kiefer Retrospective, Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, London, UK, +4420730080000


lee bul
Installation View: Lee Bul, Diluvium, 2014, KCC London | Photo © Junyong Cho | Courtesy the artist, KCC and Ikon

Arts | Diluvium

Until 1 November

As the evenings begin to draw in, one can expect spiders to make their presence felt, and Lee Bul’s Diluvium has a decidedly arachnidan edge to coincide with its autumn debut. The piece was commissioned according to the specifications of the Korean Cultural Centre and is thoroughly interactive, yet possesses a cold steeliness which leaves it unclear whether you are part of a playground or a giant, imprisoning web. The exhibition in London is running in conjunction with Lee Bul’s residency at the IKON gallery in Birmingham and promises to be both pleasing and puzzling in equal measure.

Diluvium, Korean Cultural Centre UK, Grand Buildings, 1-3 Strand, London, UK + 442070042600


chicken fingers peta
Dan Witz, Chicken Fingers, Smithfield Market | © PETA, Image courtesy of PETA

Street art | Empty the Cages


Legendary street artist Dan Witz has worked in conjunction with PETA to scatter his Empty the Cages collection of street art throughout bustling central London – pieces which are simultaneously unsettling and profound. Pasting the works to abandoned sections of industrial architecture, Witz thrusts some of the unconsidered consequences of urban living to the forefront of the viewer’s consciousness. Whether it be depictions of disembodied animals or other chilling representations of gradual neglect, this is art that deliberately stresses its own importance and meets the viewer head-on. Keep your eyes open in King’s Cross and Pentonville Road or check the website to find them all.

Various locations across London


JMW Turner, Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway, 1844, oil on canvas, 91 x 121.8cm, © The National Gallery, London. Image courtesy of Tate Britain.

Arts | Late Turner: Painting Set Free

Until 25 January

Featuring the work of the UK’s best-known and best-loved painter, the Late Turner: Painting Set Free exhibition displays the artist at his most triumphantly experimental. The true success of the exhibition at the Tate Britain lies in its lucid and detailed analysis of Turner’s mythological and sociopolitical influences, preserving the impact of the astonishing canvases whilst explaining the motivation behind the works. An artist almost unsurpassed in his ability to produce striking contrasts of colour, Turner’s late works are characterised by their piercing optical brilliance. The extent to which he was able to compose in such a dedicated and detailed manner – during a period in his life in which many of his contemporaries thought he was going mad – is something to be seen in person and up-close.

Late Turner, Tate Britain, Millbank, London, UK, + 442078878888


cindy chang
Candy Chang, Sidewalk Psychiatry, various locations, 2014 © The artist, image courtesy of Better Bankside

Culture | Merge Festival

Until 19 October, with some events continuing until 30 October

Now in its fourth year, the Merge Festival is considered a veteran compared to the constantly emerging and evolving cultural offerings appearing on London’s bankside. The Festival assumes a variety of different artistic forms across a selection of locations: enjoy live theatre in a 1970s gold safari caravan; observe a series of improvised performances under the shadow of a railway arch or get to grips with an app for Tamiko Thiel’s Fractured Visions project, promising a distorted view of the Shard. With many more secret events to be announced via the festival’s Twitter page, this is a smorgasbord of cultural events that caters for everyone.

Various locations across London


yayoi kusama
Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin (S, M & L), 2013, Bronze, 110 x 120 x 120 cm | © Yayoi Kusama, image courtesy of KUSAMA Enterprise, Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore and Victoria Miro, London

Arts | Pumpkins

Until 19 December

Jack o’lanterns may traditionally only be customary on 31st October, but the gardens of the Victoria Miro gallery will host a series of Yayoi Kusama’s bronze Pumpkins for the duration of the autumn season. Decorated with her distinctive, hypnotic dots, these artworks mark the first occasion that Kusama has worked with bronze on such a grand scale. In a poem accompanying the exhibition, the artist celebrates the ‘wonderfully wild and humorous atmosphere’ of pumpkins and states that their size alone contributes to their imaginative power, recalling the disproportionate flora and fauna of fairy-tales and children’s fiction. Pumpkins are an important symbol for Kusama, as they call to mind her family’s livelihood as Japanese wholesalers and the inevitable glut of ripe pumpkins that would roll in every autumn.

Kusama Pumpkins, Victoria Miro, 16 Wharf Road, London, UK +44 207336810


ivan alifan
Ivan Alifan, Melt, 2014, oil on canvas, 236 x 216 cm | Image courtesy of The Unit London

Arts | ‘U: Modern Portraiture’

Until 18 October

The Unit London is vying for the top spot on the London art scene, particularly with this year’s confronting exhibition, Modern Portraiture. Established in 2013, the gallery is operated by Jonny Burt and Joe Kennedy, who are both eager to utilise social media to increase the gallery’s exposure. In their latest exhibition, they present portraiture in a much different form to the ‘grand manner’ espoused by canonical British artist Joshua Reynolds, in his Discourses on Art. The disfiguration and severe emotion perceived upon the faces of the subjects recalls Francis Bacon, with several artists adopting a collage approach in order to raise the question of how trustworthy face-value can be in this digital age of masked representation.

Modern Portraiture, The Unit London, 7 Earlham Street, London, UK + 44 7946221476


By Chris Beer