London Gallery Weekend 2024 | Our critics pick their top shows

London Gallery Weekend 2024 | Our critics pick their top shows

Not surprisingly for what is the largest event of its kind in the world, London Gallery Weekend offers an eye-watering variety of work in all media in spaces ranging from the gritty to the glitzy.

But it’s a reflection of our turbulent, troubled times that there is a noticeably more sombre critical spirit to much of what is on show, whether Nan Goldin’s searing elegy to her late sister in Gagosian’s pop-up in a former Welsh chapel; Jacqueline de Jong’s paintings exploring the human cost of the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine at Pippy Houldsworth or Harminder Judge’s ritualistic funereal Ghost Dance at both Sunday Painter and Matts Galleries.

This year’s headline performance comes from the radical Turkish Feminist artist Nil Yalter, the winner of a lifetime achievement Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Biennale and known for her work relating to immigration and women’s experience, while there’s also an undertow to John Akomfrah’s specially commissioned LGW banners, which carry over diasporic themes and images from his British pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

But as our roundup of the best shows in central, south, east and west London confirms, seriousness comes in many and various forms…

Central and West

Michaël Borremans: The Monkey

David Zwirner, W1, Opening in London Gallery Weekend 31 May-2 June; exhibition dates: 6 June-26 July

Michaël Borremans, The Monkey (2023) © Michaël Borremans Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner

Almost a decade on from Michaël Borremans’s last exhibition with Zwirner, The Monkey continues the Belgian artist’s now decades-long exploration of painting’s capacity to explore the romantic and absurd. It features a series of works that lend the exhibition its title, featuring an 18th-century porcelain monkey, a figure common amid the “singerie” craze of the Rococo period, satirising human society. As ever with Borremans, it has an art historical nod: Chardin and Watteau, two of the cornerstones of his art, both made images in which the artist appeared as a monkey. Taking up this theme, with his customary exquisite touch, Borremans questions the role of the artist today.

Jacqueline de Jong: La petite mort

Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, 31 May–6 July

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Jacqueline de Jong, Upheaval (2023) Image: courtesy the artist and Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London. Photo: © Mark Blower

Born at the outset of the Second World War, Jacqueline de Jong has, since the 1960s, developed a distinctive brand of figuration that reflects on the social and political upheavals that have punctuated her life. The Dutch artist began as a cultural-political activist, and published an influential Situationist journal in the 1960s; she was involved in the May 1968 protests in Paris. Her latest exhibition finds her harking back to the teeming, expressive figurative language of her paintings of that period, the Suicide Paintings and Accidental Paintings (some of which are included in the show) to reflect on contemporary war and violence, including in Ukraine and Gaza.

John Baldessari: Ahmedabad 1992

Sprüth Magers, 31 May–27 July

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John Baldessari, Street Scene (With Blue Intrusion)/Single Leaf (Green), (1992) © John Baldessari 1992. Courtesy Estate of John Baldessari © 2024. Courtesy John Baldessari Family Foundation. Courtesy Sprüth Magers

In 1992, John Baldessari took up residence at the Villa Sarabhai in Ahmedabad, the Tropical Modernist brick and concrete house designed by Le Corbusier in the 1950s. There, thanks to the visionary patronage of the Sarabhai family, the California conceptualist produced a series of mixed-media assemblages which reflected on the copious visual stimuli that surrounded him in the western Indian city. In some ways, it is his most important documentary series, with photographs taken as he made his way around the metropolis and found or adapted objects inspired by the materiality of everyday Ahmedabadi life, including paintings on rubber responding to the rickshaw mud flaps decorated by local sign painters.

Ithell Colquhoun: Elemental

Ben Hunter, 31 May-26 July

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Ithell Colquhoun, Volcanic Landscape (1969) Courtesy: Ben Hunter, London

Sometime next year, the Surrealist and full-time occultist Ithell Colquhoun will have a major Tate St Ives show. Ben Hunter’s exhibition should be an excellent primer, with works from all stages of her long career, from a self-portrait made in 1929 to Colquhoun’s elemental landscapes of the 1960s and 1970s. Too devoutly occultist for some Surrealist peers, she was expelled from the movement. But, as her works in the show prove, she absorbed their automatist techniques like decalcomania, and explored key Surrealist themes, including a pronounced eroticism. For Colquhoun, everything was bound up with her mystical belief in the interconnectedness of humans, other creatures, and the earth and a primal energy abounds through the works here.

Erin Manning: 100 Acres

Richard Saltoun Gallery, 31 May – 22 June

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Erin Manning, Stitching Time, Installation View at the 18th Sydney Biennale, Australia, 2012/13 Image: © the artist

Erin Manning is as much a cultural theorist as an artist, and a key figure in The 3ecologies Project (3E), a nonprofit organisation based in Quebec. The three ecologies it refers to are the social, the environmental and the conceptual, and these are embedded in Manning’s installation in this, her first solo exhibition in the UK. Two huge textiles—with a deeply tactile surface of knotted, tufted and sewn threads—will fill Richard Saltoun’s gallery and evoke one of the core aspects of the 3E’s work: the forest. One of the organisation’s aims is to buy land and remove it from economic circulation in order to promote environmental, artistic and pedagogical activities; Manning hopes that her participative environment will provide an echo of woodland experience, and a sense of 3E’s aim to “give the forest back to itself”.

Kenturah Davis: Clouds

Stephen Friedman Gallery, 31 May-20 July

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Kenturah Davis, volume II (marjani) (2024) © Kenturah Davis. Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London and New York; and Matthew Brown, Los Angeles and New York

Another UK first. Los Angeles-based Davis’s debut in London consists of three distinct bodies of work, united by Davis’s text reflecting on cultural and scientific ideas that calls on the voices of luminaries including the author Toni Morrison, the theorist Saidiya Hartman and the choreographer Katherine Dunham. Davis’s words are embossed onto paper in a grid, alongside exquisite drawings. In one group, she captures multiple images of figures in movement, based on her own photographs, in another she presents single or double portraits set in frames with sculpted vessels alongside them, and the final series consists of a time-honoured scientific-artistic subject: cloud studies, rendered in powdered indigo pigments.

Jodie Carey: Guard

Edel Assanti, 30 May-23 August

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Jodie Carey, Guard (detail) (2024). Photo: Dor Even Chen

The significance of Jodie Carey’s title for her installation at Edel Assanti is clear immediately as you confront it: a gathering of tall sentinel-like sculptures based on flowers that have been transformed through a complex sculptural process. The forms are made using earth-casting: Carey wraps plants with cloth and thread before pressing the sculptures into soil to form a mould, into which she pours jesmonite. Like much of Carey’s work, the sculptures at once encapsulate that technique but exude an almost spectral strangeness. They also challenge the monumental history of sculpture, particularly in reference to flowers’ commemorative or nationalistic symbolism; it is no accident that Carey’s sentinels also evoke shrouded or etiolated bodies.

Nan Goldin: Sisters, Saints, Sibyls

Gagosian Open, Welsh Chapel, 83 Charing Cross Road, 30 May-23 June

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Nan Goldin in her Brooklyn, New York apartment in 2023 Photo: Jason Schmidt. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian

The latest of Gagosian’s off-site projects is set in a 19th-century Welsh chapel in the heart of London’s West End. There, it is showing Sisters, Saints, Sibyls, Nan Goldin’s ambitious three-screen video installation that was first made for the Hôpital de la Salpêtrière in Paris, where Jean-Martin Charcot practised his infamous experiments into female “hysteria”. Goldin takes the story of Saint Barbara, the martyr who was kept in a tower by her father and eventually killed by him, as the frame for a typically searing look at the story of her sister, also Barbara, who died by suicide after experiencing familial trauma and incarceration in institutions. It moves on to document Goldin’s own deliverance from a similar fate, as she escaped to find her own “family”, captured so unflinchingly in her photographs and videos over the decades.

Mohammed Z Rahman: A Flame is a Petal

Phillida Reid, 31 May-13 July

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Mohammed Z Rahman, Weeping Grooms 2 (2022) Image courtesy the artist and Phillida Reid, London.

London born and based, Mohammed Z Rahman has a distinctive narrative figurative painting style with which they allude to personal and cultural memory and history while looking back to both Western and non-Western art historical periods. Spaghetti House is their largest painting to date; reflecting both a playful moment of imagination with their niece—in picturing the pasta abode of the title—and a paean to childhood innocence amid current and ongoing socio-political contexts. It draws on the continuous narratives and domestic scenes in Mughal and Flemish painting. Also here are Festivals, stage-set panels depicting communal scenes drawing on Rahman’s own experiences, including Diwali celebrations and a patio barbeque.

Marcus Jefferson: Free Cuzzy

Harlesden High Street, 31 May-30 June

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Image: courtesy of Harlesden High Street

Marcus Jefferson’s largely conceptual practice is informed by his experience in north London, exploring urban everyday life, and particularly the culture and language around trap music, a distinctive form of hip hop. He uses domestic and commonplace materials and manipulates them in various ways that transform their function and meaning. “Free Cuzzy” is slang used to express solidarity with people in prison, and among the works that feature in the exhibition are wall works that contain prisoner badge numbers, and pieces featuring lottery tickets, which were once used as the wraps for cocaine deliveries in middle-class London neighbourhoods.

East

Magda Stawarska: DRIFT

Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix Gallery, 1 June-6 July

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Magda Stawarska, Found Boat, Lost Memory – New Iteration II (2024) Image: courtesy of the artist and Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix

Ten new works across various media—including painting, photography, etching, silkscreen prints and slide projection—take the form of two distinct installations, split across the gallery’s upper and lower floors. Stawarska conjures up the ebb and flow of cityscapes in multiple combinations and juxtapositions, whether of patterned wallpapers, painted printed linen, or abstract projected images all of which form dense coverings up and down and around the gallery walls. These rich, rhythmic over layerings also form a visual equivalent to the ways in which we forge our own personal relationships with spaces and places, introducing our own particular histories of memory and movement, presence and absence and leaving atmospheric residues and resonances to mingle with those which have gone before.

Hannah Starkey

Maureen Paley, until 14 July 2024

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Hannah Starkey, Untitled, April 2024 (2024) © Hannah Starkey, courtesy Maureen Paley, London

Hannah Starkey is known for making large scale photographs that reveal women in moments of private reflection or everyday social interactions usually deemed too mundane for artistic consideration. This is her eighth solo show with the gallery, and here Starkey has worked with female students in Wakefield (where she had a major survey last year) to make images of young women photographing each other. Starkey shows her subjects through windows and mirrors, disrupting and fragmenting the viewer’s access to these women through this use of glass and reflections. The artist herself also appears in the reflection of splintered mirrors,  becoming a subject while also placing herself behind the gaze of the camera lens and further complicating its all-consuming gaze.

In Paley’s Studio M in the Rochelle school she is showing Cuando el depredador está lejos, los pájaros cantan (When the predator is far away, the birds sing), a new series of painted dreamlike landscapes and celestial bodies by the Colombian born, Berlin-based artist Daniel Correa Mejia.

Dean Sameshima: Being Alone

Soft Opening, until 8 June

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Dean Sameshima, being alone (No. 20) (2022) Image: Courtesy the artist and Soft Opening, London. Photo: Lewis Ronald

Taken covertly in Berlin’s adult cinemas, each of the 25 black-and-white photographs that comprise Sameshima’s recent series Being Alone present the outline of a solitary viewer, sitting bathed in light from the glowing screen. No identifying features are revealed and no on-screen images are shown, the figures are isolated and anonymous, adrift in the emptiness of these private rooms. This is the first time that this series has been shown in its entirety and it continues Sameshima’s ongoing interest in depicting the architecture and physical characteristics of queer spaces. Here, as in so much of his work, gaps, absences and openings confirm that desire can be expressed more powerfully by what is concealed.

BLCKGEEZER : Black Nausea / 24

Alma Pearl, until 22 June

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BLCKGEEZER, Vascular Monumenta (love is breastistential) (2024) © BLCKGEEZER. Courtesy of Alma Pearl. Photo: Reliant Imaging

This important platform for artists deserving more extensive exposure makes its first London Gallery Weekend appearance with the paintings of BLCKGEEZER (AKA Miya Jazmin Browne), which also marks her debut solo show since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2023. Made in the aftermath of a gruelling personal illness, in these powerful monochrome paintings BLCKGEEZER evokes Black—with and without the capital B—as “a material, a state, a colour, a mood and a site of abstraction.” The term Black-Nausea was coined by the artist after the experience of chemotherapy and she regards this condition/notion as “an ongoing speculation and pillar” carrying both negative connotations of unease and discomfort as well as being a more constructive space “to think, question and speculate”. This is rich, complex and trenchant work that packs a physical as well as a conceptual punch.

Judith Bernstein; TRUTH AND CHAOS

Emalin, until 15 June

Clerk’s House: Adriano Costa; ax-d. us. t.

Emalin, until 13 July

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Judith Bernstein, Truth (1995) Courtesy the artist, Emalin, London and Karma International, Zurich. Photo by Stephen James

Judith Bernstein’s first show in London in over a decade spans more than 30 years of direct, confrontational practice and feminist rage. There are historical works from her 1990s Word Drawings series alongside the maximalist phallic Screw drawings that she’s been making since 1969. Detached from any host body, these colossal twisting totems act as furious symbols of the male psyche and its consequences, whether military violence or industrial extraction. They also ushered in a complicated relationship with censorship and 1970s feminism, which resulted in Bernstein being sidelined in the art world for nearly a quarter century, until she was ‘rediscovered’ in the 2010s with a major retrospective at the New York’s New Museum.

Over at Emalin’s other gallery in the historic Clerk’s House in the cemetery grounds of St Leonard’s Church in Spitalfields, the Brazilian artist Adriano Costa blurs boundaries between trash and treasure, and the precious and the throwaway by casting bronze sculpture from discarded moulds retrieved from his foundry in Sao Paulo.

South

Jade de Montserrat: In Defence of Our Lives

Bosse & Baum, 31 May-15 June

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Jade de Montserrat, Ain’t I a Woman (2023) Image courtesy the artist and Bosse & Baum

Jade de Montserrat describes her work as being “driven by a necessity to understand my body’s positioning within histories and legacies of cultural and social inequalities”. In Defence of Our Lives, her second solo show in Peckham, presents both large- and small-scale works on paper that combine text and fractured images of bodies to voice de Montserrat’s highly personal experiences of exploitation and violation and to interrogate issues of reproductive justice, race and trauma. Stemming from her experiments with collage, handmade books, original photographs and filmed performances, text and image are combined to address the viewer directly, and nowhere more so than in the piece from which the show takes its title, where text is overlaid against the colours of the Palestinian flag, a act which also affirms the artist’s solidity with “all oppressed peoples worldwide”.

Harminder Judge: Ghost Dance

Sunday Painter and Matts Gallery, both until 7 July

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Installation view of Harminder Judge’s A Ghost Dance at The Sunday Painter Photo: Ollie Hammick

Working across two South London spaces, Ghost Dance references funeral rites, processions and the presence of ghosts and spirits—the exhibition title itself comes from an Indigenous American Ceremony. Using what has become his signature medium of pigmented plaster in different forms, colours and combinations, Judge continues his exploration of themes around life, death, ritual and rebirth, combining influences that encompass Western Modernism, Indian Tantric painting and family funeral traditions from rural Punjab. At Matts Gallery this finds him developing a monumental, enveloping expanse of material, pigment and colour that engulfs the space and converses with new semi-figurative sculptural works, redolent of both funeral urns or totems; while a few streets away at The Sunday Painter smaller scale works combine with a dramatic new sculpture.

Intension (the concept ‘dog’ encapsulates its ‘dogness’)

Copperfield, 1 June- 22 July

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Becky Beaskey, Flora, A Life (2016) Image: courtesy of the artist and Copperfield, London

Copperfield celebrates its tenth anniversary with a provocative show devoted to celebrating and interrogating neurodiversity. Or perhaps that should be recast as exceptional ability? From cast bronze tongues to a sculpture made from bended biros and a performance involving the excruciating ingestion of kilos of melted chocolate, the works applaud the strength of neurodiversity without glossing over the accompanying hardship. Some, but not all, of the artists have a formal diagnosis of some kind; but whether in Alberta Whittle’s life-sized cast bronze tongues; Larry Achiampong’s film about two brothers growing up in Ghana and England, Becky Beasley’s whirling postcard rack, or Elsa James’s Black Series of black font texts on black, different ways of thinking are depicted and confirmed and celebrated as being intrinsic to the creative process.

Sophie Goodchild: The Sand in the Pearl

Trafalgar Avenue, until 22 June

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Tonsils shrinking to seeds and lungs to cores (2021), Asylum Chapel Image: courtesy of the artist

Suspended felt tapestries envelop the viewer in a series of imaginary landscapes drawing on the artist’s experience of early motherhood, encapsulating memories and moments of care, nourishment and comfort. The built-up surfaces of these works—fashioned both by hand and by machine, with each successive layer informed by what lies beneath—reference natural phenomena, biological processes and geological time, including storms and whirlpools, breastfeeding and osmosis, fossilisation and stratification. The result is a very particular environment that merges the specific circumstances of one new mother with more universal expressions of maternal archetypes.

Tim Garwood; Loud It Up

Sim Smith, until 15 June

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Tim Garwood, Urban Riser (2024) Image: courtesy of Sim Smith

Tim Garwood’s bold, vivid paintings live up to the show’s title. He’s always pushed his painterly language by incorporating materials gathered from the area around his studio directly into his work. When based in London this involved such urban detritus as scraps from local fabric shops, found metal objects and general street-scavenged flotsam dipped, sprayed and slathered in paint. Now he’s moved to rural Somerset and these new paintings find Garwood reflecting on his bucolic surroundings by tapping more into a landscape tradition and embedding locally sourced dried flowers, splintered wood and plant fronds to enrich his paint surfaces.

• The Art Newspaper is a media partner of London Gallery Weekend

https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2024/05/29/london-gallery-weekend-2024-%7C-our-critics-pick-their-top-shows

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