August Monthly Arts Round-Up

"Marilyn Diptych" (1962) by Andy Warhol - Courtesy of the artist

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With summer now well-and-truly in full swing, and many London galleries and museums reopening their doors again, August has a refreshing wealth of culture and inspiration for one to dive into…

Whilst a number of exhibitions have been extended over the summer after being cut short by the global pandemic, there is a treasure-trove of new and exciting premier shows to catch around the capital. As with many institutions now who are having to abide by new social distancing measures, be sure to check online before popping out, as many galleries are asking that you book a slot first.

“To See and To Know: Future Lovers” from A Countervailing Theory (2019) Toyin Ojih Odutola

 Heading this month’s recommendations is the first-ever UK exhibition by Nigerian-American artist Toyin Ojih Odutola – a creative who is taking conventional methods of drawing to new heights. Sourcing inspiration from ancient history and mythical folklore, to popular culture and contemporary politics, A Countervailing Theory utilises such conventional materials as pastel and charcoal to formulate the physical parameters of her worlds that are both eerily familiar and remotely strange.

The work includes an immersive soundscape too by Peter Adjaye, and promises to take the audience through an episodic journey through the annals of time and place. A Countervailing Theory opens on 11 August at Barbican. Admission is free. 

“Untitled” (1985) by Rotimi Fani-Kayode


One of the major draw cards of Barbican Centre has got to be its curation of work that always seems to resonate with the social condition and climate of the contemporary world around us. In keeping with this tradition, their major exhibition Masculinities: Liberation through Photography certainly doesn’t disappoint. For this ambitious show they have amassed the work of over 50 notable artists, photographers and filmmakers to explore how the idea of masculinity has been perceived, expressed and constructed from the 1960’s to the present day. This exhibition runs until 23 August. 

Among the Trees at Hayward Gallery.
Photo by Linda Nylind. 29/2/2020.

Those craving a dose of nature and a little greenery should head riverside this month – for the Hayward Gallery’s new critically acclaimed exhibition Among the Trees places the spotlight upon these natural environments through a melange of original work from 37 international artists. Presented here in a wide variety of mediums, encompassing sculptures, installations, drawings, paintings and photographs, Among the Trees celebrates the diversity and beauty of these natural wonders, whilst reminding us of the fragility and resilience of the world we inhabit. 

“Cochlea Brick Tuft” by Hamish Pearch – Courtesy of the Artist

Lovers of art in the natural world are encouraged to venture across the bridge to Somerset House, where a peculiarly fascinating exhibition is on display courtesy of writer and curator Francesca Gavin. Mushrooms plucks this remarkably versatile funghi from the wild and plants it on the centre stage; showcasing work from over 40 leading artists, designers and musicians, including Takashi Murakami, Cy Twombly, John Cage and Beatrix Potter.  

“A fascinating and timely exhibition celebrating one of humanity’s great, unsung alliances” – City AM on Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Funghi

Tate Modern has also extended a number of noteworthy exhibitions to run through the month of August too. This includes the first major retrospective of iconic pop artist and cult figure Andy Warhol’s work to be featured here in nearly 2 decades. On display here are some of his most celebrated works – such as his pop images of Marilyn Monroe, Coca-Cola and Campbell’s Soup cans, but in the mix too are a number of other works never-before seen in the UK. For those that are members, there is a private viewing being held on the evening of 19 August.

“Marilyn Diptych” (1962) by Andy Warhol – Courtesy of the Artist

Also at Tate Modern from 7 August, you can also catch fellow Londoner and Academy Award winning filmmaker/artist Steve Mcqueen’s first major exhibition since he won the coveted Turner Prize back in 1999. Featuring 14 of his most recent major works on film, photography and sculpture, one can expect to see up close how this important artist is using various mediums to invoke discussion and challenge conventional stereotypes. 

“Untitled” (2019) by Peter Schuyff – Image Courtesy of the Artist

If you’re south of the river, be sure to head down to White Cube Gallery before 8 August to catch the large-scale acrylic paintings of celebrated international artist Peter Schuyff, seen here in his first comprehensive London show. The majority of this work was produced during a particularly prolific period for Schuyff during the 1980’s, after he relocated to New York upon commencement of his studies at the Vancouver School of Art. 

“Some of my best abstract paintings were reduced to a clearly simple set of rules which I simply had to follow till the end” – Peter Schuyff

Good news too for fans of South London Gallery; with plans to reopen its doors to the public on 15 August. On display will be a number of installation art works, film and media that aim to celebrate both young and emerging local talent – as well as showcasing a range of diverse artists using various mediums for which to highlight social and political issues, as well as challenging the way in which we engage and interact with the contemporary world around us. 

A couple of online events to keep an eye out for too this month are being held in conjunction with Autograph and Photographer’s Gallery. On 5 August, Autograph’s curatorial project manager Bindi Vora will be in conversation with multi-disciplinary artist and activist Poulomi Basu; whilst on 18 August you can tune into a discussion headed by writer and author of Feminism Interrupted, Lola Olufemi – featuring a panel of academics and activists for a talk on Rights in Light of Covid-19: Sex Work, Prison, Abolition and Public Health.   

 Reopening to the public also on 4 August is London’s Serpentine Gallery; with the work of Beijing-based multimedia artist and filmmaker Cao Fei being exhibited in his first large-scale UK show for Blueprints.

“Blueprints (Installation View)” by Cao Fei – Photo by Gautier Deblonde

Expanding upon such rapidly evolving themes as automation, virtuality and technology, this exhibition ties together Fei’s work in a site-specific installation that makes for an immersive sensory experience. 

“Together, these works further the layering of virtual, physical and cinematic spaces that are encountered in the first part of the exhibition, leading visitors through alternative realities and multiple frames of experience” – Blueprints at Serpentine Gallery 

Following suit, the V&A is scheduled for reopening its doors on 6 August – and you can now book your free-timed entry slot online. 

“Wings of Kelp” (2009) by Hertha Kluge-Pott – Image courtesy of the artist

Finally, on 8 August Rebecca Hossack Gallery will be presenting the work of 6 Western and Indigenous Australian printmakers that have each utilised their creative practice in order to explore the complex relationship between humans and our natural environment. Each of the artists featured here in Marking Out The Territory encompass a diverse array of styles and techniques, and have their work displayed in Australia’s state and national galleries.

Article written by Sonny Arifien @sonnyandhispen

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