Top 7 Shows to See in the UK this Summer

From Pakui Hardware's medical examination room in Gateshead to a London show by New York collective and label CFGNY, here are our editor's picks 

BY frieze in Exhibition Reviews , UK Reviews | 02 JUN 21


rana begum 2021 kate macgarry
Rana Begum, No. 973, 2019–20, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Kate MacGarry, London; photograph: Angus Mill

Rana Begum

Kate MacGarry, London

Light takes centre stage in Begum’s first solo exhibition at Kate MacGarry. In the gallery, the artist explains that light makes her feel ‘elated’ and this exhibition captures the ‘weightlessness’ it generates within her. In contrast with the bold units of colour that characterize Begum’s previous, wall-mounted metal sculptures, No. 973 features galvanized mesh in different overlapping shades, affording the individual pieces of spun metal a new virtuality. Begum’s choreographed dance with fractals magnetizes the viewer with its morphogenic playfulness. ‘How can you create a sense of balance?’ she asks. Made in direct response to the sunbeams flooding through the skylight of the east London space, No. 973 elicits an uncontained surrealist encounter, where curves in perception mimic a virtual reality experience. – Natalie Nzeyimana 

pakui hardware virtual care
Pakui Hardware, 'Virtual Care', 2021, installation view, commissioned by BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. Courtesy: the artists and carlier|gebauer, Berlin/Madrid; photograph: Rob Harris 

Pakui Hardware 'Virtual Care'

Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead

Pakui Hardware’s intervention, ‘Virtual Care’ (2021), is pared back and clinical. Designed in collaboration with Lithuanian architecture studio Isora x Lozuraityte, this seven-and-a-half-metre-tall, shrine-like space, fitted with oversized light panels and mismatched LEDs, evokes a dated surgery. Slate-grey vinyl flooring swallows all sounds of life while the luminescent exterior paint echoes the precise blue-grey of a N95 face mask. In the centre of the room, a giant mechanical general practitioner (GP) dangles from the ceiling, its glass eyes surveilling yet tender. All metal brawn and sheen, the machine flexes a hi-tech muscularity, but it is equally gossamer and vulnerable, swaying with the slightest movement of bodies in the room. – Alice Bucknell

everlyn nicodemus silent strength
Everlyn Nicodemus, Silent Strength no 33, 1990, oil on canvas, 70 × 80 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

'On Hannah Arendt: What Is Authority?'

Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

‘On Hannah Arendt: What Is Authority?’ – the third in a series of exhibitions themed around the work of the 20th-century political philosopher – sees artists Lili Dujourie, Everlyn Nicodemus and Lerato Shadi toy with different perspectives of authority, as wielded from the individual to the state. Disentangling the term from its common association with totalitarian power, Arendt’s titular 1954 essay seeks instead to reclaim authority as ‘authentic and indisputable experiences common to all’ and ‘an obedience in which men retain their freedom’ – a definition more in line with individual agency. – Aurella Yussuf

liz johnson artur
Liz Johnson Artur, Spring…Times, 2020, photo prints on perforated PVC, 298 × 150 cm each. © Liz Johnson Artur; courtesy: the artist and Lisson Gallery, London

'An Infinity of Traces'

Lisson Gallery, London

Greeting visitors from the back wall of Lisson Gallery’s current group show, ‘An Infinity of Traces’, is Liz Johnson Artur’s Spring ... Times (2020), which feels like an exercise in mythmaking. The Ghanaian-Russian photographer presents three photoprint banners, with a single figure the focus of each: in the first, a young woman raises her fist in solidarity; in the middle, a man dances, dressed like a pirate; and, on the right, a glamorous woman in PVC boots and a dress printed with a full-frontal nude holds an arm aloft. Any initial incongruity between the three images is diminished not just by their equal size and greyscale colouring but by their suspension from the ceiling, compelling our gaze upwards and conferring on each a dignified grandeur of the kind that turns ordinary people into heroic figures. – Aida Amoako 

 1 Rashid Johnson Image Credits Rashid Johnson, Stacked Heads, 2020. Installation view at Canning Dock Quayside. Photograph: Mark McNulty
Rashid Johnson,Stacked Heads, 2020, installation view at Canning Dock Quayside; Courtesy: the artist and the Liverpool Biennial; photograph: Mark McNulty

Liverpool Biennial 'The Stomach and the Port'

Various venues, Liverpool 

The 2021 Liverpool Biennial – rescheduled from 2020 due to COVID-19 – brings together 50 international artists and two collectives to present works in various locations around the city. Larry Achiampong has installed eight Pan-African flags on buildings and streets across the city centre, referencing Liverpool’s connection to the transatlantic slave trade while evoking a sense of solidarity and collective empathy. Yael Davids presents a new public performance, Wingspan of the Captive (2021), at Liverpool Central Library, responding to the naturalist illustrations of John James Audubon’s The Birds of America (1827). Rashid Johnson’s public sculpture Stacked Heads (2020) – a totem that uses resilient flora to speak to present-day racial discrimination – is presented at Canning Dock Quayside. And Luisa Ungar’s interactive tours, taking place throughout the city, point to elements of medicine, stigmatization and otherness. – Frieze 

emma talbot ghost calls
Emma Talbot, 'Ghost Calls', 2021, installation view at Dundee Contemporary Arts. Courtesy: the artist and Dundee Contemporary Arts; photograph: Ruth Clark

Emma Talbot 'Ghost Calls'

Dundee Contemporary Arts

‘It is not a first-person statement, not ego, but a moan of grief, gathered and gathering.’ This sentence, near the end of So Mayer’s ‘Listen to the State of Us’ – a sinuous, splintering, urgently beautiful text commissioned to accompany ‘Ghost Calls’, Emma Talbot’s first solo exhibition in Scotland – refers to the preceding line, a torrential cry of vowels: ‘Aiaiai’. Might Mayer’s description refer to Talbot’s work, too?Published in a slim volume that also includes poetry by Helen Charman and an interview between Talbot and curator Eoin Dara, Mayer’s text articulates the intense physicality of grief through an experience of collectivity understood not only as a gathering of individuals, but as a precondition upon which individuality is even possible. – Tom Jeffreys

CFGNY, Island IIII, 2019, Plexiglas, giclee print and brass, 41 × 56 cm. Courtesy: CFGNY

CFGNY 'Collecting Dissonance' 

Auto Italia, London

As the New York collective and label present a new collection of garments at Auto Italia, we revisit Simon Wu's profile from 2019:

‘Lightly worn by Franky’ reads the tag on a pair of black briefs studded with rhinestones, designed by art/fashion collective CFGNY (Concept Foreign Garment New York, or Cute Fucking Gay New York). We might imagine purchasing them to enjoy the uncanny, erotic intimacy with a stranger they afford. Their inner label, meanwhile, says ‘Made in Vietnam’. Even if Franky put them through the wash, might residue have been left by the seamstress who sewed them, or by the machine she used? Who else do these briefs put us in contact with?  

CFGNY belongs to a wave of other young fashion labels drawing aesthetic inspiration from marginalized communities, such as Telfar, Barragán and Maroon World. However, unlike much positivist work in this vein, which focusses primarily on questions of belonging, Chew and Nguyen are just as interested in alienation as an integral aspect of identity. Their clothing reflects what many diasporic children feel when they travel to their countries of ‘origin’ and feel a profound sense of rootlessness.

'Collecting Dissonance' at Auto Italia, London, is on view until 22 August. 

Main image: Evan Ifekoya, Disco Breakdown, 2014, video still. © Evan Ifekoya; courtesy: the artist and Lisson Gallery, London

Contemporary Art and Culture