Here Are the Best Shows to See in the UK

From a major Carrie Mae Weems survey in London to a city-wide Biennial in Liverpool 

BY frieze in Exhibition Reviews , UK Reviews | 23 JUN 23

Liverpool Biennial 

Various venues, Liverpool 

10 June – 17 September 

Albert Ibokwe Khoza on the catwalk.
Albert Ibokwe Khoza, The Black Circus of the Republic of Bantu, 2023. Courtesy: Liverpool Biennial; photograph: Mark McNulty

This year, Cape Town-based curator Khanyisile Mbongwa’s Liverpool Biennial – titled after the isiZulu term uMoya, which translates loosely as ‘wind’, ‘climate’, ‘breath’ or ‘soul’ – forms a cartography of the city, homing in on the history of international slave trading that haunts its famous docks. In preparation, Mbongwa spent extended periods dockside, feeling the wind on her skin, just as people had done before her – albeit under very different circumstances. – Joe Bobowicz

Kent Chan

Gasworks, London 

25 May – 10 September 

Kent Chan
Kent Chan, ‘Future Tropics’, 2023, exhibition view. Courtesy: the artist and Gasworks, London; photograph: Andy Keate

Chan’s two-channel film Future Tropics (2023) contains fictional characters who, backdropped by open windows and sweltering heat, describe how the seasons have vanished into a yearlong summer. Those who used to live in the now-inhospitable Old Tropics have either fled to the expanded New Tropics or taken off to Venus (in a bout of science fiction) in hopes of acclimatizing to its evaporated oceans and infernal temperatures. ‘Many came, but few landed’, narrates a figure sitting on a stool at a shore with their feet in the water. ‘One can step foot on land, but not everyone has the privilege of landing’, they continue. – Nevan Spier 

Chris Ofili

Victoria Miro, London 

2 June – 29 July 

Chris Ofili, The Fountain, 2017-2023.
Chris Ofili, The Fountain, 2017–2023, oil and charcoal on linen, 3.1 × 2 m. Courtesy: © Chris Ofili and Victoria Miro, London

Never before have I seen such a sassy satyr. Or is he a minotaur? The devil? A man? The fantastical beast reclines in the undergrowth, propped up on one elbow, in a pose that’s vaguely reminiscent of the French girls painted by Édouard Manet in 19th-century Paris. A high heel-like hoof and matching horns dazzle in fluorescent pink, yellow and blue. A long, slender tail snakes up and around, its feathered tip flickering in the celestial light. He brings a flower stem to his lips, its leaves rubbing up against a vulva-shaped bloom. Only then do I notice the woman swinging on a golden vine tossing her head back with orgasmic abandon. – Chloë Ashby

Carrie Mae Weems 

Barbican, London 

22 June – 3 September 

Magenta coloured girl looking down.
Carrie Mae Weems, Magenta Colored Girl, 1990, gelatin-silver print, 41 × 41 cm. Courtesy: © Carrie Mae Weems and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Carrie Mae Weems is the best-known photographer of black women in the world, now or ever. Mirror, Mirror (1987–88) is among the most famous pictures she has made. I’m obliquely asserting that black femininity is not contained within the black woman’s body; also, thoughts about her cannot be engulfed by visible representations of her body. Or, in this case, her face. I believe that I belong to a community of black women but/and knowing anything about being a black woman at this sad-ass moment in time means that I can only see my true (sexual) self in a hall of mirrors: that is, I am visible everywhere, no matter what optical distortions are imposed upon my form. – Simone White 


Sadie Coles HQ, London 

25 May – 5 August 

Person lying underneath another body screaming
Cindy Sherman, Untitled #257, 1992, chromogenic colour print, 172.7 × 114.3 cm. Courtesy: © Cindy Sherman and Hauser & Wirth

‘Hardcore’, a new group show at Sadie Coles HQ, explores sexual power dynamics through the diverse practices of 18 artists. Many of the works contain suggestions of bodies rather than direct representations, including a leather jacket bound in chains (Elaine Cameron-Weir’s Hairshirt with Lucky Cilice SS 23 Cartoon Violence Collection, 2023), stainless-steel coat hangers holding underwear (Tayeba Begum Lipi’s Comfy Bikinis, 2013) and a suspended wall piece comprising a black fabric woven from men’s belts (Monica Bonvicini’s Beltdecke #6, 2023). – Thomas McMullan


Main image: Chris Ofili, The Great Beauty, 2020–2023, oil and charcoal on linen, 3.1 × 2 m. Courtesy: © Chris Ofili and Victoria Miro, London

Contemporary Art and Culture