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Your Autumnal Art Calendar

If there ever was a moment which perfectly encapsulated the British love of the arts it was Winston Churchill’s retort to a request to reduce the art budget in favour of increased military spending during WWII; he remarked: “if we cut funding for the arts, then what are we fighting for?”.

In this simple offhand comment, Churchill summed up the centuries-old tradition of an educated and creative art-loving British public. Indeed still to this day, we find sanctuary in art and respite in the transformative impact it has on our lives. Even during times of strife, art serves to elevate us and free the mind to explore new possibilities. 

And if art is fuel for the soul, its galleries and museums are its conduit – necessary havens in a sea of uncertainty. Luckily, London is a harbour for some of the world’s best art institutions and has weathered through restrictions and lockdowns to continue to bring us world-class programmes and exhibitions for us all to enjoy. 

With that, DDW takes a closer look at the very best to watch out for this Autumn and mark in your calendars:

Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts

The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition (RA) is the undisputed pinnacle of British artistic calendar and has been for over 250 years. This year, for the first time, the Exhibition has inevitably been shifted to the latter part of the calendar giving us plenty of time to enjoy it from now until the beginning of January. Coordinated by artistic duo Jane and Louise Wilson RA, this autumn’s exhibition is sure to introduce you to art you’ll love, art you’ll hate, and art that puts a smile on your face. You might even find art to take home. The Summer Exhibition acts as a retrospective of the art of the moment and includes works from masters such as Julian Schnabel, Tracey Emin, Ai Weiwei and Anselm Kiefer among many others.

When: 6th of October until the 3rd of January 2021

Where: The Royal Academy, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD


Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer, Barbican Centre

The first major exhibition of dancer and choreographer Michael Clark. This exploration of Clark’s work establishes his radical presence in British cultural history. Looking back to his meteoric rise as a young choreographer in the 1980s, the exhibition presents a comprehensive vision of Clark’s career to date. It will showcase his unique multi-disciplinary approach that incorporates a wide range of subcultural influences. Film, photography, and material from Clark’s practice will be presented alongside his legendary collaborations across visual arts, music, fashion and film.

New works include Charles Atlas revisiting the acclaimed Hail the New Puritan (1986), which featured Leigh Bowery and The Fall, as an immersive film installation, along with work by Sarah Lucas, Wolfgang Tillmans, Cerith Wyn Evans, Peter Doig, Silke Otto-Knapp, Duncan Campbell and more.

When: 6th of October until the 3rd of January 2021

Where: The Barbican Centre, Silk Street, Barbican,  EC2Y 8DS


Bruce Nauman, Tate Modern

A restlessly inventive artist since the late 1960s – Nauman has continually tested what an artwork can be, by reshaping old forms and creating new ones. His ground-breaking works using sound, film, video and neon have influenced generations of artists. As the first major exhibition of his work in London in more than 20 years – the Tate invited visitors to engage with the artist’s universe through immersive installations with a strong emphasis on sound and moving image, as well as poetic sculptures and neon pieces.

Major works on display like Double Steel Cage Piece 1974, Anthro/Socio (Rinde Spinning) and Clown Torture 1987 highlight Nauman’s distinctive preoccupations and how he incessantly revisits them – yet never repeats himself. The Exhibition is organised by Tate Modern and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in collaboration with Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan

When: 7th of October until the 21st of February 2021

Where: Tate Modern, Bankside, London,  SE1 9TG


Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern

Zanele Muholi is one of the most acclaimed photographers working today, and their work has been exhibited all over the world. With over 260 photographs, this exhibition presents the full breadth of their career to date. Muholi describes themself as a visual activist. From the early 2000s, they have documented and celebrated the lives of South Africa’s black lesbian, gay, trans, queer and intersex communities.

In the early series Only Half the Picture, Muholi captures moments of love and intimacy as well as intense images alluding to traumatic events – despite the equality promised by South Africa’s 1996 constitution, its LGBTQIA+ community remains a target for violence and prejudice.

In Faces and Phases each participant looks directly at the camera, challenging the viewer to hold their gaze. These images and the accompanying testimonies form a growing archive of a community of people who are risking their lives by living authentically in the face of oppression and discrimination.

Muholi turns the camera on themself in the ongoing series Somnyama Ngonyama – translated as ‘Hail the Dark Lioness’. These powerful and reflective images explore themes including labour, racism, Eurocentrism and sexual politics. 

When:  5th of November 2020 until the 7th of March 2021

Where: Tate Modern, Bankside, London,  SE1 9TG


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