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10 art exhibitions to see in March

Published 1 March 2020

From Titian to photos of Thatcher-era Gateshead, here’s our pick of the exhibitions across the UK we think you should see in March. And don’t you dare say you’re too busy.

    • 1. Sarah Lucas: HONEY PIE

      Sadie Coles HQ, London, 16 March – 10 May 2020
      A contorted tangle of bulging nylon limbs dominating a threadbare chair is one of many new sculptures on show in Sarah Lucas’ latest solo exhibition.

      With high waist knickers, bright blue stockings and killer heels, Lucas’ new work, COOL CHICK BABY, offers a twist on her long-running Bunny series, started in the 90s. Continuing to exploit her signature anthropomorphic stuffed tights, but revitalising the slumped, splay-legged Bunny blueprint with a more assertive presence, Lucas unravels and complicates ideas around sexuality and the eroticisation of the female body.

      Sarah Lucas, COOL CHICK BABY

      Sarah Lucas, COOL CHICK BABY, 2020.

      © Sarah Lucas, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London. Photo: Julian Simmons..

    • 2. Tom of Finland: Love and Liberation

      House of Illustration, London, 6 March – 28 June 2020
      Tom of Finland’s first UK public solo show celebrates the prolific artist’s homoerotic visions and their profound impact on gay communities across Europe and North America.

      Produced both before and after the decriminalisation of homosexuality, Tom of Finland’s sensuous hyper-masculine figures celebrate queerness with a cool graphic approach that revolutionised the image of gay men in popular culture. Untitled (1979) sees a broad-shouldered motorcyclist in glistening leathers approaching a hitchhiking biker, whose thumb slips suggestively in his front pocket. The double entendre of this man seeking a ‘ride’ is implicit, while the fetishisation of these leather clad masculine ‘types’ demonstrates the artist’s sleek subversion of stereotypes in an affront to the conservative conventions of his time.

      Tom of Finland, Untitled

      Tom of Finland, Untitled, 1979.

      © Tom of Finland, Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection..

    • 3. Titian: Love, Desire, Death

      The National Gallery, London, 16 March – 14 June 2020
      For the first time in over four centuries, Titian’s epic series of large-scale mythological paintings, known as the poesie (c.1551–1562), will be displayed in its entirety at the National Gallery.

      Titian’s masterful use of colour and nuanced brushwork captures flesh and sumptuous fabrics with eloquent detail, as seen in Danaë (c.1554–56). An explosion of colour illuminates the voluptuous, reclining Danaë who remains unperturbed by Jupiter’s imminent seduction, with the god disguised as a shower of gold. The clothed, elderly maid preparing to catch the downpour of precious metal injects the fabled scene with a sense of realism, highlighting the artistic tendency to mask carnal desires with classical myth.

      Titian called these works his poesie because he considered these rich, expressive works to be the visual equivalents of poetry. Their rare reunion offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness the works together as the artist had intended.

      Titian, Danaë

      Titian, Danaë, c.1554-56.

      Oil on canvas. 114.6 × 192.5 cm. Wellington Collection, Apsley House, London © Stratfield Saye Preservation Trust.

    • 4. Ida Applebroog: Mercy Hospital

      Freud Museum, London, 29 February – 7 June 2020
      An amorphous mass reclines, amoeba-like, in swathes of watery green and oozing orange and yellow hues. The work is just one of over 70 drawings from Ida Applebroog’s Mercy Hospital series (1969-70), on display at the Freud Museum.

      The abstracted human form’s state of repose unintentionally conjures images of Freud’s infamous couch. But with its small hand-scrawled ‘me?’ in the bottom corner, Applebroog uses a burst of creative energy – rather than psychoanalytic methods – to grapple with her sense of self. The result of a period of intense introspection, the drawings were produced by the artist during a stay at San Diego’s ‘Mercy Hospital’, from which the series takes its name. Moving between abstraction and figuration, Applebroog’s small-scale works, with their torn perforations down the side of each page, convey a powerful sense of intimacy and unfettered creativity.

      Ida Applebroog, Mercy Hospital

      Ida Applebroog, Mercy Hospital, 1969.

      © Ida Applebroog. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

      Watercolor, ink and pencil on paper. 27.9 x 38.1 cm.

    • 5. Toyin Ojih Odutola: A Countervailing Theory

      The Curve, Barbican Centre, London, 26 March – 26 July 2020
      For Toyin Ojih Odutola, drawing is an investigative practice. In her first-ever UK commission, Ojih Odutola relays an imagined ancient myth, unfurling as an epic monochromatic cycle across The Curve’s 90-metre-long gallery. The work will be accompanied by an immersive soundscape by artist Peter Adjaye.

      The artist creates a surreal yet familiar world; This is How You Were Made; Final Stages (2019) sees a crouched figure wince as their tendons appear to be etched into flesh by a conscientious craftsman, a thigh-high boot-clad assistant watching on intently.

      Realised in pencil, pastel, ballpoint pen and charcoal, Odutola’s monumental work tells its stories with an arresting, graphic delicacy.

      Toyin Ojih Odutola, This is How You Were Made; Final Stages from A Countervailing Theory

      Toyin Ojih Odutola, This is How You Were Made; Final Stages from A Countervailing Theory, 2019.

      © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

    • 6. Cranach: Artist and Innovator

      Compton Verney, Warwickshire, 14 March – 14 June 2020
      In its latest exhibition, Compton Verney highlights Lucas Cranach the Elder’s lasting artistic influence. A selection of the Renaissance master’s idiosyncratic paintings is shown alongside works by modern and contemporary artists, including Picasso, Ishbel Myerscough and Michael Landy RA.

      Cranach developed a daringly distinctive aesthetic to depict temptation and its consequences. In Lot and His Daughters (c.1530), the crisp, crimson, pleated costumes, detailed foliage and distant flaming carnage almost distract from the painting’s subject matter. But the seated daughter’s knowing gaze toward the viewer hints toward the scene’s sinister, incestuous undertones.

      On display nearby, a contemporary painting by Raqib Shaw uses similarly beguiling techniques. Reimagining Cranach’s apocalyptic composition, Reflections on a journey without a compass after Cranach drips with intricate details that belie the violent and sexual nature of its imagery.

      Lucas Cranach the Elder, Lot and His Daughters

      Lucas Cranach the Elder, Lot and His Daughters, c.1530.

      Oil on panel. 55.9 x W 39 cm. © Compton Verney.

    • 7. Suzanne Lacy: We Are Here

      Manchester Art Gallery and the Whitworth, Manchester, 27 March – 23 August 2020
      Suzanne Lacy – pioneer of socially engaged art and public practice – has her first European retrospective taking place at not one but two Manchester galleries.

      Manchester Art Gallery’s presentation highlights Lacy’s major projects about women and ageing, investigating the activism and “invisibility” of older women. One such work is Whisper, the Waves, the Wind (1983-84), in which 154 women dressed in white convene on a Californian beach to share their personal histories, hopes and fears. Meanwhile at The Whitworth, an exhaustive overview of Lacy’s work is shown alongside the premiere of Across and In-Between, a film exploring the Irish border in the Brexit era.

      Occurring concurrently, these exhibitions span nearly five decades of Lacy’s diverse practice. Re-activations of key performances, new installations and collaborative work are testament to the artist’s enduring commitment to social engagement.

      Suzanne Lacy and Sharon Allen, Whisper, the Waves, the Wind

      Suzanne Lacy and Sharon Allen, Whisper, the Waves, the Wind, 1983–84.

      Photo by Edith Kodmur..

    • 8. Judy Watson

      IKON Gallery, Birmingham, 4 March – 31 May 2020
      Taking inspiration from her matrilineal Waanyi heritage, Judy Watson creates deceptively seductive works that draw attention to the destruction of Aboriginal Australians’ country, culture and community.

      For her most comprehensive UK exhibition to date, Watson’s video and sculptural pieces are shown alongside a series of new paintings that respond to ancient British stone sites. A sheet of canvas stained with pools of blue, standing stone, kangaroo grass, bush string (2020) layers shadowy, spectral stone forms with Indigenous Australian fauna in an ethereal topographic arrangement. Appearing as though submerged in water, the Aboriginal vegetation floats to the surface, articulating Indigenous strength and resilience in the face of cultural and environmental decimation.

      Judy Watson, standing stone, kangaroo grass, bush string

      Judy Watson, standing stone, kangaroo grass, bush string, 2020.

      Image courtesy the artist and Milani Gallery. Photograph by Carl Werner..

      Acrylic, graphite on canvas. 246 x 181cm.

    • 9. Helen Cammock: They Call it Idlewild

      Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge, 2 March – 3 May 2020
      Inspired by forgotten materials uncovered in the gallery’s archive, a large-scale film forms the centre-piece of this show – the culmination of Helen Cammock’s residency at Wysing Arts Centre.

      Within this new film, one vignette shows a dimly lit, garden-facing studio housing an array of abandoned clay pots. The vessels are foregrounded against two walls, one angular and brightly painted with another storing wine bottles, placing productivity and relaxation within one frame.

      Taking Wysing as her starting point, Cammock reflects on the wider politics of idleness, drawing on writers from James Joyce to Audre Lorde to consider what it means creatively, emotionally and culturally. Part way through, Cammock recites Lazy Bones, a Depression-era song rife with racial stereotypes. It serves as an explicit reminder of the ways racism and hypocrisy underpin notions of perceptions about who, in society, has the right to be lazy.

      Helen Cammock, They Call It Idlewild

      Helen Cammock, They Call It Idlewild, 2020.

    • 10. The Station by Chris Killip

      Martin Parr Foundation, Bristol, 25 March – 23 May 2020
      The recent discovery of a box containing “lost” contact sheets provides the basis for this new exhibition. The show features a photographic series documenting the anarcho-punk music venue, The Station, in Thatcher-era Gateshead.

      Using a large-format camera, Killip captures minute details with a delicacy of delineation that brings these raw and immediate images to life. In one image, a tattooed figure with a safety pinned ear and feathered mohawk, and dressed in a cut-off vest protesting animal abuse, cradles a fellow reveller in their arms, in an embrace with all the baroque theatricality of a pietà.

      This tender moment, caught in the heat of celebration, reflects The Station’s atmosphere of inclusivity. But there is a glimpse, in the fingers which cling to the back of the chair, of the desperation that gripped mid-1980s Gateshead. When the series was made, the town was crippled with mass unemployment, which came in the aftermath of the miners’ strike.

      Chris Killip, From 'The Station'

      Chris Killip, From 'The Station', 1985.

      © Chris Killip, 2020.