The Best Shows in London During Frieze Week

Our guide to the shows not to miss, from Tania Bruguera’s Turbine Hall commission to Amy Sillman’s canvases at Camden Arts Centre


BY Hettie Judah in Critic's Guides | 28 SEP 18

Richard Wilson 20:50, 1987, installation view. Courtesy: © the artist and Hayward Gallery; photograph: Mark Blower

‘Space Shifters’

Hayward Gallery

26 September 2018 – 6 January 2019

‘Space Shifters’ amounts to a glorious architectural ego-trip for the Hayward Gallery’s freshly renovated and spunkily skylit galleries. Luscious coloured resin works from Californian Light & Spacers De Wain Valentine and Robert Irwin glow like sheeny Jell-O. The high ceilings hosts suspended works by Leonor Antunes (a new commission in brass and hemp rope), Daniel Steegmann Mangrané (lightly jangling chain curtains strung in ovals to echo the gallery’s stairwells) and Felix Gonzalez-Torres (the beaded curtain work “Untitled” (Golden), 1995).

The headliners here, though, are large-scale pieces that mess with perception, turning the orderly geometry of this Brutalist building’s interior to unexpected ends. Alicja Kwade’s mind-bending perceptual labyrinth WeltenLinie (2017) – a highlight of last year’s Venice Biennale – here gets the focus it deserves. Marrying boulders and tree stumps in stone, and various metals, Kwade’s work throws out questions about the nature of matter and space.

‘Space Shifters’ bows out on that much-loved London work, Richard Wilson’s 20:50 (1987): a narrowing walkway through a room half filled with oil, recently sold by the Saatchi Collection and soon to be installed at MoNA in Tasmania. However well you know the piece, seeing it in new architecture is to see it fresh.

Courtesy: the artist and Serpentine Galleries; © Kamitani Lab / Kyoto University and ATR

Pierre Huyghe

Serpentine Gallery

3 October 2018 – 10 February 2019

As yet untitled, and kept behind closed doors until the Tuesday opening, Pierre Huyghe’s first significant work since his 2017 Skulptur Projekte Münster installation, After ALife Ahead, introduces artificial intelligence into the environmental equation. Rather than excavate the floor, as in Münster, the artist has sanded into the gallery walls to expose layers of paint from previous exhibitions in the space, leaving fine dust that threatens to adhere to visitors’ garments, taking a journey through time on a journey through space.

Human visitors will be kept company by a large swarm of flies – fed on sugar up in the rotunda of the central gallery – and hints of an intelligent presence manifested on five large LED screens around the gallery. Continuing his exploration into artmaking without authorship, Huyghe has worked with a team in Kyoto using machine learning for Deep Image Reconstruction. A subject was asked to picture a set of images and ideas during a functional MRI scan: what we see is the resulting analysis of his brain activity as the AI searches to identify the image in his mind’s eye. There are smells, too. A neural network monitoring human activity in the gallery rounds off Huyghe’s new ecosystem.

Tania Bruguera, Hyundai commission, 2018, installation view, Tate Modern. Courtesy: Tate Modern, London; photograph: © Tate photography, Andrew Dunkley

Tania Bruguera

Tate Modern

2 October 2018 – 24 February 2019

The artist behind this year’s Turbine Hall Hyundai commission has history in the space. For Tania Bruguera’s 2008 work Tatlin’s Whisper #5 two members of the mounted police entered Tate Modern and conducted crowd-control tactics on the public. The horses, as Bruguera herself admits, are going to be a hard act to follow.

This new work will involve participants drawn from Tate Modern’s SE1 postcode – a group of neighbours rather than a community in a traditional sense, breaking through the big city tendency to live cheek-by-jowl yet somehow in total isolation. Bruguera has so far remained quiet about the new work, teasing only that her work somehow involves portraiture, sending out three clues on her Instagram feed. Clue #1: Gustave Caillebotte, The Floor Scrapers (1875); Clue #2: Hans Holbein the Younger, The Ambassadors, (1533); Clue 3#: Caravaggio, Narcissus (1597-9). A strong theme of reflective floors, then. But where does the collective action come in? And – this being Bruguera – the politics?

Amy Sillman, Y18, 2017, acrylic, gouache and ink on paper, 1 x 0.7 m. Courtesy: © the artist and Capitain Petzel, Berlin; photograph: John Berens

Amy Sillman, ‘Landline’

Camden Arts Centre

28 September 2018 – 6 January 2019

Such is Sillman’s humour and ripe, vivid sense of colour that even the darker works in this show – notably the vast double-sided installation of pictures Dub Stamp (2018) based on drawing made in the days following the election of Donald Trump – have a kind of hopefulness to them. The show includes drawings, prints and oils as well as animations and zines (available to buy: definitely GBP£1 well spent).

On paper, Sillman’s brushy, heavy-lined forms (legs, lungs, figures apparently hunched to puke or poo) appear in series, morphing from one sheet to the next. That tendency reaches satisfying expression in her drawn, painted and collaged animations. After Metamorphosis (2015–16), projected in the central hallway, takes its cue from Ovid as a series of animal and human forms mutate through one another in a long, delightful sequence. Hints of human figures and agricultural landscape stretch themselves across Sillman’s intensely coloured canvases – movement comes here, too, with silvery metallic paint that slithers disconcertingly in the light.

Hannah Wilke, Untitled, 1974-77, Terracotta, 3 x 152 x 152 cm. Courtesy: Alison Jacques Gallery, London

Hannah Wilke

Alison Jacques

27 September – 21 December 2018

Works spanning three decades by the pioneering feminist artist include the familiar – performance stills of Wilke using her body as a malleable, mouldable substance; arrangements made with clitoral buds of chewing gum – and the unexpected.

Chief among these are a trio of paintings from the early 1960s not shown since Wilke’s death in 1993. Using delicate, sherbet shades, Wilke unites crisp geometric panels with anthropomorphic forms suggesting the contorted female body. In their flattened abstracted approach to the feminine body, there’s a hint of Evelyn Axelle and perhaps Maria Lassnig, but the palette is disconcerting. Those colours are the commercial shades of soft ultra femininity: sanitary towel packaging, baby clothes, talc.

The tones are picked up in some of the glazes later used by Wilke in her folded labial sculptures, here shown not only in ceramic but also bronze, raw terracotta and latex. A large pinned many-petalled sculpture in muscle-red latex hangs like an altarpiece in the side room showing smaller, early works on paper, swimming with suggestive forms.

General Idea, study for Great AIDS (Cadmium Red Light), 1990/2018. Courtesy: © General Idea and Maureen Paley, London

AA Bronson + General Idea

Maureen Paley

30 September – 11 November 2018

AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal met 50 years ago in Canada, living and working together as the collective General Idea from 1969 to 1994. Alongside conceptual exhibitions including ‘Going Through The Notions’ (1975) and ‘The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavilion’ (a hoarding for a fictional pavilion that burned down in a fictional fire), the trio were responsible for the experimental cultural journal FILE Megazine [sic]. The journal used the ‘found format’ of LIFE magazine – landing General Idea with a lawsuit from Time/Life in 1976 – and attracted contributions from countercultural figures from William Burroughs to Talking Heads.

General Idea’s first ‘AIDS’ painting – this time using the ‘found format’ of Robert Indiana’s LOVE (1967) – was created in the mid 1980s, after the group’s move to New York. It became the first work in the ‘Imagevirus’ series, a graphic intended to spread freely, infecting the city, but also normalizing a disease that was, by that point, already part of many people’s day-to-day. This celebratory exhibition will show paintings from the ‘Imagevirus’ series within a gallery hung with ‘Imagevirus’ wallpaper.

Felix Clay, Portrait of Kerry James Marshall, 2018. Courtesy: © the artist and David Zwirner, London

Kerry James Marshall, ‘History of Painting’

David Zwirner

3 October – 10 November

After the success of his 2016 retrospective ‘Mastry’ – which toured from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, to the Met and LA MOCA – what next for Kerry James Marshall? At David Zwirner he’s setting himself up with a grand, vainglorious gesture in a set of works grouped under the title ‘History of Painting’. ‘It seems to me the only way forward is to take up a challenge that seems so outsized as to present you with the real possibility of a massive failure’ he explained in a recent interview.

Marshall will address landscape, still life, portraiture, abstraction, and history painting, yes, but also the history of painting in terms of process and industry, from the acquisition of knowledge, through exhibition, auction, ownership and collection. In the moving image era, why make paintings? Marshall asks. The conclusion suggested by his arch auction house paintings – listing artworks as if they were second hand goods on a Xeroxed flyer (Untitled (Sotheby’s Sale), 2005) – is all rooted in big ideas and sheer enjoyment. 

For more shows on during Frieze Week head over to On View.

Main image: Tania Bruguera, Hyundai commission, 2018, installation view, Tate Modern. Courtesy: Tate Modern, London; photograph: © Tate photography, Andrew Dunkley

Hettie Judah is a writer based in London, UK.