Must-see exhibitions December 2021


From ancient Peruvian masks at British Museum to visionary paintings, documentary photography, fashion, film and sculpture by Caribbean artists at Tate, there’s a whole host of exciting exhibitions to see this holiday season. Many of the museums and art galleries featured in this round up are our long-standing partners, including V&A and the newly-reopened Courtauld Gallery.

The Courtauld Gallery reopens after a three-year closure

The Courtauld Gallery in London has reopened its doors to the public again following the most significant modernisation project in its history. Visitors to the Gallery at Somerset House will be able to see masterpieces from The Courtauld’s collection, ranging from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century, completely redisplayed and reinterpreted across elegantly refurbished galleries.

New spaces have been created for The Courtauld’s acclaimed temporary exhibitions as well as for projects which highlight the institution’s research-led educational mission. Designed by Stirling Prize-winning architects Witherford Watson Mann with gallery design by Nissen Richards Studio, the redevelopment revitalises and opens up the building conceived by Sir William Chambers in the 1770s to create an inspiring setting for the twenty-first century. Current exhibitions include Van Gogh’s Self Portraits, Kurdistan in the 1940s, Modern Drawings: The Karshan Gift, and the Gallery’s much-loved collection of masterpieces ranging from the Middle Ages to the 20th century found in the permanent collection.

Illustration of Courtauld Connects redevelopment courtesy Witherford Watson Mann Architects

Late Constable, Royal Academy, until 13th February 2022

The Royal Academy is presenting the first survey of the late work of John Constable (1776-1837). Late Constable will explore the last twelve years of the artist’s career, from 1825 until his unexpected death in 1837. Characterised by the expressive brushwork that came to define Constable’s late career, the exhibition brings together over 50 works including paintings and oil sketches as well as watercolours, drawings and prints, taking an in-depth look at the development of the artist’s late style.

John Constable, Rainstorm over the Sea, ca. 1824-1828, Oil on paper laid on canvas, 23.5 x 32.6 cm, Photo © Royal Academy of Arts, London; photographer: John Hammond

Peru, a journey in time, The British Museum, until 20th Feb 2022

 A landmark loan of ancient objects will travel from Peru to the British Museum for a major new exhibition on the ancient cultures of the South American country. Over 40 remarkable objects – some dating from over 3,000 years ago – will come to the British Museum in London from nine museums across Peru. Most of them have never travelled to the UK before. 

They will go on show alongside around 80 other pieces from the British Museum’s collection in Peru. The special exhibition explores thousands of years that humans have lived in the remarkable landscapes of the Andes mountains and beyond. It is the first major exhibition the British Museum has ever staged on Peru. It coincides with the 200th anniversary of the country’s independence and is supported by PROMPERU. Rita Keegan, Untitled, 1986, © Rita Keegan

Copper and shell funerary mask, Peru, Moche, AD100–800. MuseodeArtedeLima, Peru. Donated by James Reid

Hogarth & Europe, Tate Britain, until 20th March 2022 ​​

The most comprehensive exhibition for over thirty years of the leading eighteenth-century artist, William Hogarth (1697-1764), opens at Tate Britain on 7 February 2007. No other artist’s work has come to define a period of British history as powerfully and enduringly as that of Hogarth. He was also greatly admired and collected on the international stage, influencing a broad range of artists across the centuries, including Greuze, Goya, the Pre-Raphaelites, Whistler and Hockney. The exhibition incorporates the full range of Hogarth’s work, highlighting his unique contribution to the development of modern British art.

Installation view of Hogarth & Europe, Tate Britain

Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art 1950s- Now, until 3rd April 2022

This landmark exhibition explores the extraordinary breadth of Caribbean-British art over four generations. It will be the first time a major national museum has told this story in such depth, showcasing 70 years of culture, experiences and ideas expressed through art, from visionary paintings to documentary photography. The exhibition will feature over 40 artists, including those of Caribbean heritage as well as those inspired by the Caribbean, such as Ronald Moody, Frank Bowling, Sonia Boyce, Claudette Johnson, Peter Doig, Hew Locke, Steve McQueen, Grace Wales Bonner and Alberta Whittle, working across film, photography, painting, sculpture and fashion.

The exhibition begins with artists of the Windrush generation who came to Britain in the 1950s, including Denis Williams, Donald Locke and Aubrey Williams. It will explore the Caribbean Artists Movement, an informal group of creatives like Paul Dash and Althea McNish, whose tropical modernist textile designs were inspired by the Caribbean landscape. The rise of Black Power in Britain will be shown in works such as Horace Ové’s photographs of Stokely Carmichael and Neil Kenlock’s Black Panther school bags 1970. The exhibition will also include a new iteration of Michael McMillan’s The Front Room, a reconstruction of a fictional 1970s interior, evoking the role of the home as a safe space for social gatherings at a time of widespread prejudice.

Frank Bowling Kaieteurtoo 1975. UK Government Art Collection © Frank Bowling. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2021, on display at Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art 1950s- Now, Tate

Denzil Forrester Jah Shaka 1983. Collection Shane Akeroyd, London © Denzil Forrester, on display at Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art 1950s- Now, Tate

Helen Frankenthaler: Radical Beauty, Dulwich Picture Gallery, until 18th April 2022

Dulwich Picture Gallery has opened its first major UK exhibition of woodcuts by the leading Abstract Expressionist, Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011). Shining a light on the artist’s groundbreaking woodcuts it will showcase works never shown before in the UK, to reveal Frankenthaler as a creative force and a trailblazer of printmaking, who endlessly pushed the possibilities of the medium.

Ranging from Frankenthaler’s first ever woodcut in 1973, to her last work published in 2009, this major print retrospective will bring together 30 works on loan from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, including Madame Butterfly (2000) and East and Beyond (1973) to reveal the enormous diversity in scale and technique in her oeuvre. Challenging traditional notions of woodcut printmaking, the exhibition will reveal the charge and energy behind Frankenthaler’s ‘no rules’ approach, arranged thematically to spotlight the elements crucial to her unique style of mark-marking, from experimentation to inspiration and collaboration.

Helen Frankenthaler, Cedar Hill, 1983. Ten color woodcut © 2021 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / ARS, NY and DACS, London / Crown Point Press, Oakland, CA

Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution, V&A, until 8th May 2022

Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution is the first major exhibition devoted to the international prominence of the legendary Russian goldsmith, Carl Fabergé, and the importance of his little-known London branch. With a focus on Fabergé’s Edwardian high-society clientele, the exhibition shines a light on his triumphs in Britain as well as a global fascination with the joyful opulence of his creations. 

The largest collection of the legendary Imperial Easter Eggs in a generation are on display together as part of the exhibition’s dramatic finale, several of which are being shown in the UK for the first time. Showcasing over 200 objects across three main sections, the exhibition tells the story of Carl Fabergé, the man, and his internationally recognised firm that symbolised Russian craftsmanship and elegance – an association further strengthened by its connection to the romance, glamour and tragedy of the Russian Imperial family.

Installation shot of Faberge in London, Romance to Revolution at the V&A

A French bulldog by Fabergé, carved from petrified wood, enamelled gold collar, diamond eyes, St. Petersburg, circa 19, Faberge in London, Romance to Revolution at the V&A

Lubaina Himid, Tate Modern, until 3rd July 2022

2017 Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid was one of the first artists involved in the UK's Black Art movement in the 1980s and continues to create activist art. This autumn, Tate Modern will present Himid’s largest solo exhibition to date, incorporating new paintings and significant highlights from across her remarkable career. Taking inspiration from the artist’s interest in opera and her training in theatre design, the show will unfold across a sequence of scenes which put the visitor centre-stage.

Through a series of questions placed throughout the exhibition, Himid asks us to consider how the built environment, history, personal relationships and conflict shape the lives we lead. Presenting over 50 works that bring together painting, everyday objects, poetic texts and sound, the exhibition will offer a rare chance to experience the breadth of Himid’s influential career. 

Lubaina Himid, Ball on Shipboard, 2018, Rennie Collection, Vancouver, © Lubaina Himid

You might also like