The 5 Best Shows in the UK this April

From an unexpected exhibition of works by a Renaissance oddball at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, to Ming Smith’s first UK solo show at Pippy Houldsworth, London

BY frieze in Exhibition Reviews , UK Reviews | 08 APR 22

‘Surrealism Beyond Borders’ 

Tate Modern, London 

24 February – 29 August 2022 

Rene Magritte
René Magritte, Time Transfixed, 1938. Courtesy: The Art Institute of Chicago, Joseph Winterbotham Collection, 1970.426 © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022

In ‘Surrealism Beyond Borders’, the show’s curators, Stephanie D’Alessandro and Matthew Gale, have deliberately decentralized the movement, with André Breton, the author of 1924’s Manifeste du surréalisme (‘Surrealist Manifesto’), warranting only an occasional mention. Despite Breton’s autocratic control over membership of its French wing, surrealism moved far beyond his jurisdiction, with groups in Portugal, Yugoslavia, Egypt and elsewhere, and surrealist-adjacent artists working in Mexico, Cuba, Martinique and Japan. The most famous surrealist works are mostly absent, although Salvador Dalí’s Lobster Telephone (1936) is here, alongside René Magritte's instantly recognizable Time Transfixed (a 1938 painting of a train chugging out of a fireplace on invisible tracks). – Juliet Jacques 

‘Fashioning Masculinities’

The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

19 March – 06 November 2022 

Robert Longo
Robert Longo, ‘Men in the Cities’, 1981, graphite on paper. Courtesy: © Robert Longo / ARS New York, 2021, and collection Thaddaeus Ropac, London, Paris, Salzburg and Seoul; photograph: Ulrich Ghezzi

The exhibition’s second gallery shows how in the 17th and 18th centuries European men signalled their wealth and status with opulent fashion, and how these references have been repurposed by others: for example, court beauty Frances Stewart, dressed like a high-ranking soldier in Jacob Huysman’s portrait (c.1664), or in 2019, actor Billy Porter wearing a custom Randi Rahm cloak, echoing Italian prince Alessandro Farnese in a portrait by Sofonisba Anguissola (c.1560). Masculinity’s traditional aversion to colour and pattern is reassessed, starting with the premier transgression, pink, with Joshua Reynolds’s portrait of nobleman Charles Coote (1773–74) juxtaposed with work by contemporary designer Thom Browne (whose outfits feature matching codpieces) and Grace Wales Bonner, whose tailoring explores representations of Black male sexuality and identity. – Sophie Tolhurst 

Ming Smith

Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London 

18 March – 30 April 2022 

Ming Smith
Ming Smith, Setting the Stage, Harlem, New York (painted), 1976/2000, oil paint on vintage gelatin silver print, 50.5 × 40.7 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London

‘I never considered myself an artist or a photographer when I was younger. I liked making art because, being shy and self-conscious, it shifted my focus onto the subject I was photographing; I found that very freeing. My goal was to ensure I didn’t make work that was derogatory or void of love and beauty. I wanted to capture encounters in my life, specifically in relation to Black culture.' – Ming Smith

Carlo Crivelli 

Ikon Gallery, Birmingham 

23 February – 29 May 2022

Carlo Crivelli
Carlo Crivelli, Virgin and Child, c. 1480, tempera on panel, 48.5 × 33.6 cm. Courtesy: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

While Carlo Crivelli’s figuration is striking, it is his backgrounds that display his strange brilliance most vividly. That ‘strong decorative sense’ expresses itself in settings that are simultaneously stylised and hyperrealist, rich in trompe l’oeil effects that seem designed to dazzle and confuse. Crivelli seems unable to resist, even in his smallest, least hectic pieces. Saint Catherine of Alexandria (c. 1491-94), which hangs beside Mary Magdalene, stands in her niche perhaps a foot tall, perfectly scaled down from life. But on the stone beside her rests a fly, exquisitely rendered, not at Catherine’s scale but the viewer’s, such that its naturalism undoes hers. – Tim Smith-Laing 

Louise Bourgeois 

Hayward Gallery, London 

09 February – 15 May 2022

Louise Bourgeois
Louise Bourgeois, Spider, 1997, steel, tapestry, wood, glass, fabric, rubber, silver, gold and bone, 4.5 × 6.7 × 52 m. Courtesy: © The Easton Foundation/VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2021. Photo: Maximilian Geuter

In Louise Bourgeois's ‘The Woven Child’ at the Hayward Gallery, London, the themes of re-creation are vividly present in the form of the works on display. In contrast to the intense, metallic work so often associated with Bourgeois – such as Hole of Anxiety (1999) and the ominous, unsettling Twosome (1991) – the focus on fabric and woven work offers another perspective on the themes to which Bourgeois returned throughout her career. What does it mean to be torn apart by trauma, only to be able somehow to put yourself back together again? – Sam Moore

Main image: Kati Horna, Untitled from Ode to Necrophilia, Mexico City, 1962 (Leonora Carrington). Courtesy: © Kati Horna Estate and Michael Hoppen Gallery

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