The Best Shows to See in London During Frieze

From Tai Shani’s inaugural exhibition at Gathering, a new art space in Soho, to Christopher Kulendran Thomas’s first institutional outing at ICA

BY Alice Bucknell in Critic's Guides , Reviews | 11 OCT 22

Christopher Kulendran Thomas

Institute of Contemporary Arts

11 October 2022 – 22 January 2023

Christopher Kulendran Thomas, The Finesse, 2022, film still, in collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann. Courtesy: the artist and ICA, London

British-Tamil artist Christopher Kulendran Thomas is known for a kaleidoscopic body of work that thrives in the hazy crossovers of art, technology, cultural memory and global financial systems. With projects such as New Eelam, a real-estate technology company the artist founded in 2016, he has even skirted the line between conceptual installation and tech start-up. For his first institutional survey, held in tandem at ICA, London, and KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Thomas and his long-term collaborator, Annika Kuhlmann, will debut The Finesse (2022) – a new film and immersive installation that centres on lost legacies of the Tamil liberation movement – alongside other multimedia works. Fusing speculative fiction, archival footage, AI-generated paintings and ceramics by Tamil artist Aṇaṅkuperuntinaivarkal Inkaaleneraam, ‘Another World’ offers a compelling case for excavating the past in order to envision alternative futures.

Natasha Tontey

Auto Italia

17 September – 4 December

Natasha Tontey, Garden Amidst the Flame, 2022, film still. Courtesy: the artist and Auto Italia; photograph: Henry Mills

Indonesian artist Natasha Tontey’s latest film, Garden Amidst the Flame (2022), follows a young girl named Virsay, from the Minahasan Indigenous group in the North Sulawesi province of Indonesia, as she undergoes a queered version of karai: a ceremony that typically sees its male warriors donned with invincible armour. Here, Tontey flips this hypermasculinized ritual on its head: by shaving off her eyebrows, Virsay accidentally creates a ritual for cross-dimensional consciousness. Working closely with a dance troupe of schoolgirls in North Sulawesi, who appear in the film alongside its browless protagonist, Tontey conjures an alternative narrative for the ceremony in a magical, neon-soaked work that centres on care, collaboration and multispecies equilibrium.

Rene Matić and Simeon Barclay

South London Gallery

23 September – 27 November

Rene Matić, upon this rock, 2022, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and South London Gallery; photograph: Andy Stagg

This autumn, South London Gallery presents two solo exhibitions by British artists Rene Matić and Simeon Barclay. A gigantic fake boulder, suspended puppets and a row of locked office doors in Barclay’s Main Gallery installation conjure an ominous architecture packed with cultural references and splintered symbolism. Meanwhile, Matić’s ‘upon this rock’ unfurls across multiple spaces and media, offering a powerful collage of faith, family and life cycles that frame the artist’s work. Of particular note is 60 and 25, alive (2022), an installation by Matić that incorporates 1970s domestic interiors, skinhead subculture and a sculptural reconfiguring of the crucified body, modelled on the artist’s father, to reflect on intergenerational trauma and the exhausted Black British body.

Tai Shani


6 October – 6 December

Tai Shani, The Neon Hieroglyph: Crypt 7, 2022, oil and acrylic on canvas. Courtesy: the artist and Gathering

Hallucinogenic fungi, witchy candelabras, dreamy pastel watercolours and mythological architectures merge in Tai Shani’s ‘Your Arms Outstretched Above Your Head, Coding with the Angels’: the inaugural exhibition of Gathering, a new art space in Soho. Aiming to platform contemporary work with a social focus, the gallery is an apt venue for Shani’s poetic, multidisciplinary practice. Spanning two floors, the Turner Prize-sharing artist’s remarkable presentation includes The Neon Hieroglyph (2021) – an ethereal, episodic film that fuses CGI aesthetics with Shani’s writings on psychedelic liberation – and a sculpture-heavy basement assemblage. Later this month, the artist will debut a new performance, commissioned by Art Night and Museum of London in Fabric nightclub, seeding more spores of a world (de)composed of feminist magic.

Zadie Xa

Whitechapel Gallery

20 September 2022 – 30 April 2023

Zadie Xa, 'House Gods, Animal Guides and Five Ways 2 Forgiveness', 2022, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Whitechapel Gallery; photograph: Andy Keat

Korean-Canadian artist Zadie Xa works across painting, performance, sculpture and textile to construct multispecies sanctuaries in which magic, folklore and intergenerational knowledge combine to facilitate new forms of survival on a damaged planet. For her commission at Whitechapel Gallery, Xa worked with her long-time collaborator, artist Benito Mayor Vallejo, to produce a patchwork home for deities that’s inspired by a hanok, or traditional Korean house. In and around this structure, vibrant paintings, sculptures, textile works, masks and suspended marionettes draw upon shamans and animal characters from Korean folktales, creating a dream-flecked environment with its own cosmology.

Paul P.

Maureen Paley, Studio M

16 September – 30 October

Paul P., Untitled, 2021, watercolour on paper paper, 29 × 21 cm. Courtesy: © Paul P and Maureen Paley; photograph: Mark Blower

Alongside abstract landscapes depicting its namesake flying mammal, Canadian painter Paul P.’s latest presentation, ‘Vespertilians’, offers a number of intimate, close-cropped portraits of male subjects, rendered in effusive, bruise-tinted watercolours. They seem to gaze anywhere but the viewer – save for Untitled (2022), on whose head rise up two wisps of dark hair like two vespertilian ears. Appropriated from gay erotica of the 1960s to ’80s – an era of burgeoning gay liberation followed by the devastating AIDS/HIV crisis – these delicate paintings and their subjects simultaneously hold the weight of cultural tragedy and an esoteric queer symbolism that’s at home in the liminality of the night.

Tschabalala Self

Pilar Corrias

6 October – 17 December

Tschabalala Self, 'Home Body', 2022, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Pilar Corrias; photograph: Mark-Blower

Lockdown made us all-too-familiar with the confines of domestic space; for the New York-based artist Tschabalala Self, this enforced seclusion gave way to a new body of work. In ‘Home Body’, presented across both of Pilar Corrias’s London galleries, the artist finds new modes of expression in the great indoors: assemblage portraits combining sewn and printed materials with acrylic and spray paint appear to be held up by silhouettes painted onto the gallery walls. At the same time, functional objects – pastel-hued, powder-coated tables and pattern-clashing upholstered chairs – add a heightened sense of theatricality. A highlight here is the trippy video installation of Sounding Board (2021) for Performa last year, which explores issues of race, domesticity and gender through subtle distortions of time. 

Amy Sherald

Hauser & Wirth

12 October – 23 December

Amy Sherald, For Love and for Country, 2022, oil on linen, 312.4 × 236.2 cm. Courtesy: © Amy Sherald and Hauser & Wirth; photograph: Joseph Hyde

Amy Sherald is one of the most prominent portraitists working today, known for her distinctive, stylized realism that focuses on the multiplicity of Black American life. In ‘The World We Make’, Sherald’s first solo presentation in Europe, the artist deconstructs traditional American symbolism and recasts it in scenes that elevate her subjects. For Love and for Country (2022), for instance, replaces the white heterosexual couple that Alfred Eisenstadt famously photographed kissing in Times Square at the end of World War II in 1945 with a Black male couple. Across these large-scale, multichromatic canvases, Sherald’s subjects face stand defiantly, facing the viewer head-on with an active, unyielding gaze. As suggested by the exhibition’s title, Sherald’s paintings provide a kind of world-building practice, wherein scenes of everyday Black life are rendered monumental.

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Main image: Paul P., Untitled, 2022, watercolour on paper paper: 28 × 21.5 cm. Courtesy: © Paul P. and Maureen Paley, London; photograph: Mark Blower

Alice Bucknell is a North American artist and writer based in London. In 2021, she established New Mystics, a collaborative platform for exploring the intersection of magic and technology, featuring texts co-written with the Language AI GPT-3. She has exhibited her video work internationally, recently including the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, Bloomberg New Contemporaries, Kunsthalle Wien, Ars Electronica, König Galerie, White Cube, and Serpentine Galleries.