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10 art shows to see in February

Published 1 February 2018

Steal away from the grey skies to explore art from around the world this month. Our picks include modern art from Algeria, China and Morocco, a new perspective on North Korea, and a devastating reminder of the ongoing Syrian conflict.

  • Yto Barrada: Agadir

    Barbican Curve, London
    This dramatic multimedia installation at the Barbican Curve is the first major London commission for Moroccan artist Yto Barrada. While much of her work has focused on weaving narratives around Tangier, where she grew up, this piece shifts the focus to Agadir, a coastal Moroccan city that suffered a devastating earthquake in 1960. Seven years after the tragedy, the writer Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine described his experience of trying to rebuild the city in a surrealist novel also titled Agadir, which Barrada uses as a starting point for her own modern take.

  • Yto Barrada, Untitled (painted educational boards found in Natural History Museum, never opened, Azilal, Morocco; fig. 1-6)

    Yto Barrada , Untitled (painted educational boards found in Natural History Museum, never opened, Azilal, Morocco; fig. 1-6) , 2013-2015 .

    © Yto Barrada, courtesy Pace Gallery; Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg, Beirut; and Galerie Polaris, Paris Photograph by Damian Griffiths.

  • Made in North Korea: Everyday Graphics from the DPRK

    House of Illustration, London

    North Korea has been shut off to the western world for almost half a century, leaving us with little knowledge of the contemporary art scene behind its borders. In this first-ever UK exhibition of North Korean graphic art, a diverse collection of seemingly inconsequential ephemera, such as sweet packets, hotel brochures and stamps, is used to paint a picture of the country’s state-controlled visual culture. The works on show were primarily sourced by author Nicholas Bonner, who spent over 20 years running tours of North Korea and building his collection, first published in his 2017 book.

  • , Tinned food label - apples
  • , Tinned food labels - apples; flatfish

    Tinned food labels - apples; flatfish

    Collection of Nicholas Conner, image courtesy of Phaidon.


    MAC Belfast

    Followers of Gilbert & George RA won’t be surprised to hear that this exhibition warns of “language which some visitors may find offensive”. Fifty years into their creative partnership, Gilbert & George remain as provocative and challenging as ever, filling the galleries of MAC Belfast with larger-than-life pictures exploring themes of surveillance, terrorism and religious intolerance. They continue to be inspired by everyday sights and sounds around their East London home; as they insist, “nothing happens in the world that doesn’t happen in the East End.”

  • Gilbert and George in the MAC galleries on the launch of SCAPEGOATING PICTURES for Belfast.

    Gilbert and George in the MAC galleries on the launch of SCAPEGOATING PICTURES for Belfast.

    Photographer: Melissa Gordon

  • Virginia Woolf: an exhibition inspired by her writings

    Tate St Ives

    Throughout the author Virginia Woolf’s unconventional life, she maintained a strong connection to St Ives, associating it with happy childhood holidays. The title of one of her most celebrated books, To The Lighthouse, refers to a local landmark and was inspired by the area, despite its eventual Scottish setting. This new exhibition at Tate’s Cornish outpost draws on those links to present art made both in response to and alongside her writing, featuring artists including Royal Academicians Sandra Blow and Laura Knight as well as Woolf’s sister, Vanessa Bell.

  • Vanessa Bell, Interior with a Table

    Vanessa Bell , Interior with a Table , 1921 .

    Oil paint on canvas. 540 x 641 mm. © Tate.

  • Lydia Ouhramane: the you in us

    Chisenhale Gallery, London

    The artist Lydia Ouhramane divides her time between London and her family home in Oran, Algeria, taking inspiration from both homes for this new exhibition. Through a combination of photography, film installation, sound and sculpture, she tells stories from her own family history of living under the French occupation of Algeria and questions what it takes for a community to recover from collective trauma. Several works were created at her home in Algeria, including a sound installation of field recordings and a silent film, shot on her mobile phone in Paradis Plage, Oran.

  • Lydia Ourahmane, Notes on the Wait

    Lydia Ourahmane , Notes on the Wait , 2018 .

    Limited edition.

    Commissioned and produced by Chisenhale Gallery, London. Photo: Andy Keate..

  • A.R. Penck

    Michael Werner Gallery, London

    Born in Dresden in 1939, the painter born Ralf Winkler lived through WWII and grew up in its immediate aftermath, circumstances that undeniably shaped his artistic approach. He failed to get into East Berlin’s art schools, possibly due to the nonconformist nature of his work, and exhibited illegally in West Germany under a series of pseudonyms – one of which, A.R. Penck, stuck. This London exhibition focuses on the 1980s, a decade in which Penck was expelled from East Germany, began to receive international recognition (including showing at the Royal Academy) and defined the neo-primitivist style for which he’s known.

  • A.R. Penck, Landing on a Planet

    A.R. Penck , Landing on a Planet , 1983 .

    Dispersion on canvas. 180 x 300cm. Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery New York and London.

  • Syria: A Conflict Explored

    IWM North, Manchester

    As the civil war in Syria approaches its seventh year with little prospect of peace, Story of a Conflict at IWM North seeks to explain and untangle the complex origins of the crisis. Its focus is on the first-hand perspectives of those directly affected by the fighting, as told through objects, stories and a film installation. At the same time, a photography exhibition, Sergey Ponomarev: A Lens on Syria, presents more than 60 images that follow the journey from the devastation in Syria, to the rise in refugees attempting to build a better life in a new country.

  • Sergey Ponomarev, Homs, Syria, Assad’s Syria (2013-2014)

    Sergey Ponomarev , Homs, Syria, Assad’s Syria (2013-2014) , 15 June 2014 .

    Abu Hisham Abdel Karim and his family use a local taxi to salvage possessions from their ruined apartment in the Khalidiya district of Homs.

    © Sergey Ponomarev for the New York Times.

  • Anthony Fry: a retrospective

    The Holburne Museum, Bath

    A figurative artist who still attracts comparisons with Rothko, Anthony Fry painted landscapes and figures in rich, dreamlike colours. He lived in Corsham, near Bath, for almost 60 years, making this an appropriate location for the first major retrospective of his work, but chiefly sought inspiration for his paintings abroad, spending long periods of time in Italy and the south of India. Over the course of his 89 years, Fry enjoyed commercial success and acquired many devoted followers, several of whom have now lent works from their private collections to make this exhibition possible.

  • Anthony Fry, Mango and Rice Paddies, Thirunelli

    Anthony Fry , Mango and Rice Paddies, Thirunelli , 1991 .

    Oil on canvas. 106 x 132 cm. © Permission kindly granted by the estate of Anthony Fry / Browse & Darby Ltd.

  • David Milne: Modern Painting

    Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

    One of Canada’s most celebrated painters receives his first major UK show at Dulwich Picture Gallery this month. Born in Ontario in 1882, David Milne studied in New York and served in Europe as a war artist during the Second World War, before returning to his native country and making his name with unique modernist paintings that capture the wintery, inhospitable beauty of the Canadian landscape. The exhibition moves chronologically, tracing a path from the artist’s early works – heavily influenced by Monet, Matisse and Cézanne – through to Milne developing his own interpretation of modernism.

  • David Milne, Blue Lake

    David Milne , Blue Lake , 1935 .

    Art Gallery of Ontario. Gift from the J.S. McLean Collection, by Canada Packers Inc., Toronto, 1990. © The Estate of David Milne.

  • Ye Funa: From Hand to Hand

    Nottingham Contemporary

    Beijing-based artist Ye Funa has produced a new episode of her online series, Peep-stream, for this solo exhibition. Ping-Pong Stream tells the story of a former ping-pong world champion watching his sport’s popularity fade in the face of “celebrity sports”, like basketball and football. The exhibition is part of NOW: a dialogue on female Chinese contemporary artists, a programme led by Manchester’s Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art in collaboration with five other UK art institutions. Its aim is to explore how rapid changes in Chinese society are being reflected through the work of modern female artists.

  • Ye Funa, Peepstream: The book of kichiku

    Ye Funa , Peepstream: The book of kichiku , 2015 .

    Video still. Courtesy of the artist.

    • This month at the RA

      Find out about our current exhibitions, including Charles I and From Life, as well as our full events programme for February.

      Installation view of 'From Life'