10 art exhibitions to see in December

Published 1 December 2018

‘Tis the season to be creative and cultured! From deep neural networks to bronze-cast peanut butter on toast, these are our selections of what to see over the festive period…

  • Alexis Hunter: Sexual Warfare

    Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art, London, 23 November 2018 – 3 February 2019
    Following its opening in September this year, the Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art hosts the first solo show of works by Alexis Hunter in the UK since 2006. Hunter was an important figure within the Women’s Art Movement in Britain throughout the 1970s, and was directly involved in the Women’s Workshop of the Artist’s Union. The political was inseparable from her life and artistic practice. She used painting and photography to expose gendered stereotypes and the sociological and institutional barriers women faced, from domestic labour, to fashion and the art industry itself. The exhibition comprises key works made between 1968—86, including several staged photographic works. Through these, Hunter confronted difficult and often violent scenarios, deploying narrative sequences against a stark conceptualism. Curated alongside the artworks are sketches and lecture slides from Hunter’s personal archive and the Women’s Art Library at Goldsmiths, University of London. Set against this context, and the wider context of the #MeToo movement, the strength and anger of Hunter’s work is as prescient as ever.

    A nearby companion to Sexual Warfare could be Revisiting Women and Work, an archival display at South London Gallery (until 17 February 2019). The material revisits the original Woman and Work: A Document on the division of Labour in Industry 1973––1975 study by British artists Margaret Harrison, Kay Hunt and Mary Kelly, which examined changes in industry and working conditions for 150 female labourers in a metal box factory in Bermondsey, after the Equal Pay Act (EPA) was passed in 1970.

  • Alexis Hunter , Sexual Warfare

    Alexis Hunter , Sexual Warfare , 1975 .

    Courtesy Alexis Hunter Estate.

  • Hannah Wilke

    Alison Jacques Gallery, London, 26 September 2018 – 21 December 2019
    Hannah Wilke is renowned for her video, performance and photographic work and has often been seen as a defining voice within contemporary feminism, despite her complex relation to many of its key voices. At Alison Jacques Gallery, however, Wilke’s practice takes on a fresh vulnerability, and her drawings and sculptures from the early 1960s to 1987 speak with a material language that is at once tender and fraught. Her gestural, folded sculptures are stand outs. Composed of terracotta and ceramic (some licked in pastel glaze, others raw), as well as latex, erasers and gum – more radical materials for her time – the works are compact, multifarious and often overtly sexual in their purse-like forms. As Wilke herself stated, their process was ‘concerned with the creation of a formal imagery that is specifically female’.

  • Hannah Wilke , Installation view of Hannah Wilke: Alison Jacques Gallery

    Hannah Wilke , Installation view of Hannah Wilke: Alison Jacques Gallery .

    © Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon and Andrew Scharlatt, Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles / Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), New York, DACs, London. Courtesy Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles, and Alison Jacques Gallery, London.

  • Pierre Huyghe: UUmwelt

    Serpentine Gallery, London, 3 October 2018 – 10 February 2019
    In his current show at the Serpentine, French artist Pierre Huyghe embraces neuroscience and artificial intelligence to create an ecosystem of human, animal and technology. Huyghe is known for creating otherworldly environments, and this particular world is no exception in its ability to insert the mind’s eye into the space of the gallery and use external forces to distort what we think we see. To prepare for the show, Huyghe showed a series of images and descriptions to a person, who was then asked to mentally recreate them. An fMRI scanner tracked this activity and fed the data into a deep neural network that analysed what they imagined against a databank of learned images. The five imposing LED screens distributed throughout the gallery present what was generated from this data: a mutating machine vision, the meaning of which can never quite be determined. And the live flies populating the ceiling of the gallery reinforce this sense of inhabiting our reality with unknown intelligences.

  • Pierre Huyghe, UUmwelt, installation view

    Pierre Huyghe , UUmwelt, installation view , 2018 .

    Courtesy the artist and Serpentine Galleries / Photo Ola Rindal.

  • Emma Hart: Banger

    The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, 27 October 2018 – 3 February 2019
    London-based artist Emma Hart’s solo exhibition roves across multiple mediums, to make eclectic and at times personal installations that revel in the quotidian. The show brings together works from her Whitechapel Gallery exhibition Mamma Mia!, commisioned as part of her Max Mara Art Prize for Women win in 2016, with new installations collectively titled Banger. Hart describes the starting point for the show as “being about relationships. Relationships between family members and also about how art makes relationships with its viewer”. Familiar items from urban and domestic scenes appear; variously found, corrupted, or else sculpted from scratch in ceramics – spinning knives and forks, illegible street signs, ceramic lamps projecting speech bubbles of light into the gallery space, waiting to be filled with exclamation.

  • Emma Hart, BANGER, installation view The Fruitmarket Gallery

    Emma Hart , BANGER, installation view The Fruitmarket Gallery , 2018 .

    Courtesy the artist and The Sunday Painter, London / Photo Ruth Clark.

  • Tate Artist Rooms: Anselm Kiefer

    Herbert Art Gallery’s, Coventry, 19 October 2018 – 27 January 2019
    In Coventry, a display spanning 40 years of work by German post-war artist Anslem Kiefer marks the Herbert Art Gallery’s first collaboration with Tate Artist Rooms, which brings collections of modern and contemporary art to museums and galleries across the UK. The display offers a rare chance to see a number of paintings and prints together, including the Occupation series (1969) and Palette (1981), a painting that confronts the painter’s essential tool, which is suspended between burning tightrope. This focused show highlights how themes of national identity, collective memory and judgment persist as driving creative forces in Kiefer’s work.

  • Anselm Kiefer, Exhibition view

    Anselm Kiefer , Exhibition view , 2018 .

    © Artist Rooms Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Acquired jointly through the d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and Art Fund 2011.

  • Penny Woolcook: Fantastic Cities

    Modern Art Oxford, 17 November 2018 – 3 March 2018
    Penny Woolcook has led an audacious career as artist, filmmaker and opera director. Much of her practice is committed to interrogating issues around social inequality and the marginalisation of certain groups. In her first solo exhibition at Modern Art Oxford, Woolcock presents three new site-specific film and sound installations, at once relating and reacting to this city where she got her start. The Same Road is a Different Road (2018) introduces two responses to the same street in Oxford, one from the artist, another from a member of a local gang. The show’s namesake Fantastic Cities (2018) disrupts the mythologies of Oxford (as well as Los Angeles) as a places glamourised by film and fiction, but which never quite tells the whole story. In revealing Oxford not as one city, but as a realm of parallel worlds, Woolcock also makes the case for art with a social conscience.

  • Penny Woolcock, Fantastic Cities, installation view.

    Penny Woolcock , Fantastic Cities, installation view. , 2018 .

    © Modern Art Oxford / Photo Ben Westoby.

  • Martin Creed: Toast

    Hauser & Wirth, London, 30 November 2018 – 9 February 2019
    Ever irreverent, Turner prize-winning artist Martin Creed’s latest exhibition at Hauser & Wirth has the viewer puzzling over what the joke is, and at whose expense. Sculpture, tapestry, painting and drawing are all assembled here, along with film and choral performances that took place on the opening night. A comic despair punctuates the show: in the film Difficult Thoughts (2018), this is emblematised in the artist’s repeated action of bending forward to clutch head in hands on a busy Central London road, or banging his head against a hedge wall. Perspex cases hold nonsensical objects and visual puns, as though in parody of formal museum displays: a pair of shoes is cast out of concrete blocks and strapped with Velcro, for instance. There are also slights at the values of the art world itself. A slice of toast – the exhibition’s emblem – features, but this one is cast in patinated bronze with a generous topping of gold (Work No. 3071 Peanut Butter on Toast, 2018). Despite this critique of value, you may nonetheless catch yourself smirking at the mechanised dancing sock.

  • Martin Creed, Work No. 3071 Peanut Butter On Toast

    Martin Creed , Work No. 3071 Peanut Butter On Toast , 2018 .

    © Martin Creed. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2018 Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

  • Amie Siegel: Backstory

    Thomas Dane Gallery, London, 30 November 2018 – 16 February 2019

    A stone’s throw from the Royal Academy of Arts, the latest exhibition at Thomas Dane Gallery features new films and works on paper from New York-based artist Amie Siegel. The show contemplates formal qualities of cinema and gender, deconstructing artefacts of male authorship and desire. In The Noon Complex (2016), a multi-channel video installation recomposes sequences from Le Mépris (Contempt) (1963), Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 film adaptation of the 1954 novel Il disprezzo by Alberto Moravia. Here, the figure of the female protagonist as played by Brigitte Bardot in Godard’s incarnation has been digitally removed to leave only empty tracking shots of the Italian coastline. On a second screen, an actress restages Bardot’s movement with the effect of uncanny doubling – a resistance to a female form made historically synonymous with landscape and architecture.

    At Tate St Ives, Siegel also screens the multi-element work Provenance (until 6 January 2019), which examines the value of objects through “the journey taken by modernist chairs from their original location in the city of Chandigarh, India, to auction houses and collectors’ homes in Europe and America”.

  • Amie Siegel, The Noon Complex

    Amie Siegel , The Noon Complex , 2016 .

    Image courtesy the artist, Simon Preston Gallery and Thomas Dane Gallery / Photo Luke A. Walker.

  • Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2018

    South London Gallery, London, 5 December 2018 – 24 February 2019
    Established in 1949, Bloomberg New Contemporaries annually showcases over 50 new artists selected by open submission, who are either completing or have graduated in the past year with a UK fine art degree. This year’s crew takes over the South London Gallery’s recently unveiled Fire Station building, designed by 6a architects. The unexpected is always to be expected with the New Contemporaries: mediums span from film and moving image to performance, painting, drawing and sculpture. Given that many previous exhibitors have gone on to become key players in the art world – Royal Academicians Paula Rego, David Hockney and Tacita Dean have all featured in the New Contemporaries over the years – a visit to see this exhibition is highly recommended.

  • Bloomberg New Contemporaries, Installation view

    Bloomberg New Contemporaries , Installation view , 2018 .

    Courtesy South London Gallery / Photo Andy Stagg.

  • Athi-Patra Ruga: Of Gods, Rainbows and Omissions

    Somerset House, London, 4 October 2018 – 6 Jan 2019
    South African artist Athi-Patra Ruga crafts new mythologies to imagine alternative futures. In collaboration with 1-54 African Art Fair and Somerset House, Ruga brings together three series of work that connect as a single epic: The Future White Women of Azania (2012-15), Queens in Exile (2015-17) and The BEATification of Feral Benga (2017-). The show touches on a diverse range of media – from sculpture to intricately handcrafted petit-point tapestry – but it is the print photography that leaps out, with its depictions of vibrant and surreal scenes populated by avatars which allow Ruga to confront various cultural, social and political realities of a post-apartheid country. In the image of ‘The Future White Woman’, for instance, an ambiguous figure seated atop a stuffed zebra is shrouded in party balloons and tights, performing a playful resistance against categories of identity such as biological sex, nationality and race.

  • Athi-Patra Ruga, Night of the Long Knives I

    Athi-Patra Ruga , Night of the Long Knives I , 2013 .

    © Athi-Patra Ruga and WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery / Photo Hayden Phipps.