Pi Arts & Culture’s ‘Best of 2018’ series highlights the favourite things we’ve seen, heard and read this year. With London’s array of world-renowned museums and galleries, there’s always an intriguing exhibition around the corner; here are five of our favourites from the year gone by.
Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up – Victoria & Albert Museum
For the first time on display in London, the sizable collection of memorabilia belonging to the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo at the V&A Museum left some lay people and critics in an ambivalent attitude. The curator’s direction was vulnerable to criticism due to the failure to contextualise the (often mundane and irrelevant) items with the artistic legacy of Kahlo. However, it is undeniable that the exhibition achieved its goal: to showcase the pain at the centre of her artistry. Frida’s prosthetic leg, corsets, medicine, subtly presented on a background of mirrors, leave the viewer unnerved, frequently catching their own expression. While ambiguously curated, the collection did not fail to provoke thought in the hundreds of daily visitors from July to November.
Institute of Asian Performance Art – The David Roberts Foundation
The David Roberts Art Foundation welcomed curator Victor Wang this year for the eleventh instalment of its Curators’ Series. Titled Institute of Asian Performance Art, the exhibition focused on indigenous traditions of performance art in Japan, Korea, China, and Taiwan. The form emerged across these countries in the late 20th century. With changing politics and societies, personal expression became political statement. Institute of Asian Performance Art sheds refreshing perspective on these works for a contemporary audience and was perhaps off the beaten path of London exhibitions and Western art history as a whole.
Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy – Tate Modern
Tate Modern’s landmark exhibition of 2018 did more than just titillate the viewer with exuberant paintings of Picasso’s famed mistress, Marie-Thérèse. It delves into one of the most creatively prolific and passionate years of his career, the so called “year of wonders” for the artist. Arranged chronologically from January to December 1932, this in-depth retrospective allows a completely fresh, exciting experience of Picasso’s work, as he toyed with Surrealism, intense emotion, violence and desire, obsessing over the erotic and the grotesque as his personal life becomes more and more estranged. Rightfully highly praised, this show definitely leaves a lot to think about.
Space Shifters – Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre
If you ever thought minimalism was just white paint on a canvas, Shape Shifters will make you think again. Featuring 20 artists spanning roughly 50 years, this exhibition challenges the viewer’s perception of space – the works don’t just exist in the space, they are the space, and you become part of it. Whether that’s Josiah McElheny’s mirrored pieces that sit on the shoulders of performers, being able to wander through Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus Garden, or Richard Wilson’s iconic and mind-altering 20:50, literally a room filled with oil; the exhibition does not fail to impress. The ‘instagrammable’ quality of the pieces can’t hurt, either.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year – Natural History Museum
Over 45,000 images were submitted to this 54th edition of Wildlife Photographer of the Year. The 100 chosen to appear in the NHM’s exhibition each arrest your attention in their individual ways. There are those that fascinate – a giant salamander engaged in deadly aquatic battle with a water snake; those that provoke – a distressed macaque forced to wear a mask and chain by its owner; and those that are simply incredibly beautiful – a smoothly contoured iceberg floating serenely off the Antarctic Peninsula. Add the immersive captions, dimmed lights, ethereal background music, and for a couple of hours you almost feel like you’re in Norway/Colombia/Namibia/anywhere but South Kensington.