10 art exhibitions to see in November

Published 1 November 2019

From David Bomberg’s fascination with the Old Masters to Kiki Smith’s first solo show in the UK, here are 10 exhibitions not to miss this November.

    • 1. Hal Fischer, Gay Semiotics and other works

      Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, 15 November 2019 – 30 May 2020
      The subtitle of Hal Fisher’s deadpan, pioneering Gay Semiotics work is “A Photographic Study of Visual Coding Among Homosexual Men”. It’s made up of 24 black-and-white portraits dissecting quintessential gay looks seen in 1970s USA – jock, hippie, basic gay, urbane, western, leather, forties funk, dominance, submission and many more. As with other works in this exhibition, Fischer was exploring urban gay life when people were balancing a secret history of sartorial communication – from handkerchiefs to earrings – with new liberation brought about by the 1969 Stonewall uprising. He recently said of his work, “It was about my desire as a young white gay man living his life in San Francisco… What I captured is what existed here: the freedom to be who you are”.

      Hal Fischer, Signifiers for a Male Response

      Hal Fischer, Signifiers for a Male Response, 1977.

      From the series ‘Gay Semiotics’.

      Courtesy of Glasgow Museum of Modern Art.

    • Joy Labinjo, Man Drinking Coffee

      Joy Labinjo, Man Drinking Coffee, 2019.

      Oil and acrylic on canvas. 140 x 160 cm. (JLA 034). Courtesy of Tiwani Contemporary.

      2. Joy Labinjo: Our histories cling to us

      BALTIC, Gateshead, 19 October 2019 – 23 February 2020
      Labinjo’s source materials are often family photo albums, whose contents straddle both England and Nigeria – “I found it interesting how sometimes you couldn’t tell which was which”, she says. In part she turned to the photo albums out of a desire to paint black people, having found lack of suitable real-life subjects in Newcastle where she was studying. Fusing the images to create collaged portraits of relatives, friends and strangers, Labinjo has built up a rich body of work filled with what she calls “black people doing everyday things”. For this exhibition, she’s been working on new large-scale oil paintings based on images from Instagram as well as her own photography.

    • 3. Nan Goldin: Sirens

      Marian Goodman Gallery, London, 14 November 2019 – 11 January 2020
      This exhibition will be legendary American photographer Nan Goldin’s first solo show in London since 2002. In the years since then, Goldin has (among many other things) developed and then begun to recover from an addiction to prescription pain relief Oxycontin, and campaigned to change policies around pharmaceutical drugs. It’s these parts of her life that are the focus of two new digital slideshows: Memory Lost, an assemblage of intimate photographs recounting a life lived through a lens of drug addiction, and Sirens, a visual and acoustic recreation of the experience of being high. These new works are accompanied by a freshly edited version of Goldin’s tribute to her transgender friends, The Other Side, as well as important historical works from the artist’s lifetime of lovingly documenting marginalised subcultures.

      Nan Goldin, Sirens

      Nan Goldin, Sirens, 2019.

    • Kiki Smith RA, Pool of Tears II

      Kiki Smith RA, Pool of Tears II, 2000.

      Published by Universal Limited Art Editions. © Kiki Smith and Universal Limited Art Editions. Image courtesy of Universal Limited Art Editions.

      4. Kiki Smith: I am a Wanderer

      Modern Art Oxford, Oxford, 28 September 2019 – 19 January 2020
      Kiki Smith’s first UK solo show in two decades is bristling with wolves, cats, fawns, owls, spiders, frogs, and other creatures – including Octopussy: half-cat, half-octopus tentacle. The artist and honorary Royal Academician has laid out a curious wander through worlds of myth, allegory, magic, nature and realism, exploring the rich connections between humans and other living things. As she says, “We are interdependent with the natural world… our identity is completely attached to our relationship with our habitat and animals.” Her exhibition features recent large-scale tapestries, a cabinet of curiosities, small-scale sculptures and a range of prints from the past 30 years.

    • 5. Radical Women: Jessica Dismorr and her Contemporaries

      Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, 2 November 2019 – 23 February 2020
      “The direction of the modern world, has reared up steel trees where the green ones were lacking… the forms of machinery, Factories, new and vaster buildings, bridges and works.” So said the 1914 manifesto of the Vorticists, signed by Jessica Dismorr and 10 fellow avant-garde artists who were trying to forge a bold new art movement fitting of 20th-century life. This painting (on display at Pallant House) is one of Dismorr’s few surviving Vorticist works; it’s thought that the executor of her will destroyed many others because he thought they cast doubts on her sanity. In the 1930s Dismorr turned her abstract painting skills to aiding anti-fascist campaigns, as Mussolini, Franco and Hitler gained increasing power across Europe. Through her work, she formed alliances with other political, radical women, whose art is on show alongside hers in this show.

      Jessica Dismorr, Abstract Composition

      Jessica Dismorr, Abstract Composition, c. 1915.

      Oil paint on wood. 41.3 x 50.8 cm. Courtesy: Tate, London.

    • Celia Paul, Self Portrait, Early Summer

      Celia Paul, Self Portrait, Early Summer, 2018.

      Oil on canvas. 138 x 147.5 cm. © Celia Paul. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London/Venice.

      6. Celia Paul

      Victoria Miro Mayfair, London, 13 November – 20 December
      “Living both within a religious community and going to boarding school meant that I didn’t really have any privacy. So painting became a way of controlling my inner world.” Celia Paul has been painting contemplative, intimate portraits of her four sisters, her mother and herself for decades. This year, as well as showing recent works at Victoria Miro, she’ll expand on her “inner world” with a memoir (titled Self-Portrait), and a documentary about her life by fellow artist Jake Auerbach. As she says of her work, “I’m not a portrait painter. If I’m anything, I have always been an autobiographer.”

    • 7. Sargy Mann: Let it be felt that the painter was there

      Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester 9 November 2019 – 23 February 2020
      Sargy Mann declared himself “probably the best blind painter in Peckham”. He experienced deteriorating eyesight from the age of 36 and continued painting well into his 70s – this 2005 painting was made in Italy, where the brighter sunlight made it easier to discern the figures and landscapes that were his subject matter. It was painted the same year that the artist became completely blind, but found that he could still picture the paint colours in his mind as he worked with them. As he said, “the only times I can see now are when I’m dreaming and when I’m painting”, so he developed mechanisms of sticks, elastic bands and Blu-Tack to plan out his canvases and carry on making work. At this retrospective exhibition, Mann’s rich colour palette and attention to sun-drenched light can be traced throughout his five-decade career.

      Sargy Mann, The Family at Breakfast Borgo Pace

      Sargy Mann, The Family at Breakfast Borgo Pace, 2004.

      Oil on canvas. 60 x 78 ins.

    • Charlotte Salomon, Leben? oder Theater? Ein Singspiel (Life? or Theatre? A Play with Music)

      Charlotte Salomon, Leben? oder Theater? Ein Singspiel (Life? or Theatre? A Play with Music), 1941-42.

      Gouache on paper. Collection Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam. © Charlotte Salomon Foundation. Charlotte Salomon ®.

      8. Charlotte Salomon: Life? or Theatre?

      Jewish Museum, London, 8 November 2019 – 1 March 2020
      Life? or Theatre? is German-Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon’s extensive project that she undertook in the early 1940s while hiding from Nazis in France. The project includes 769 small, colourful gouache paintings documenting her childhood in Berlin, her complex family history, love, relationships, the rise of fascism, and her exile in France. In 1943, age 26, she entrusted Life? or Theatre? to a friend, asking him to “take good care of it, it is my entire life.” A few months later she was caught, deported and killed by the German state. At this exhibition at the Jewish Museum, there are more than 200 of the paintings on display, alongside Salomon’s own written texts.

    • 9. Young Bomberg and the Old Masters

      The National Gallery, London, 27 November 2019 – 1 March 2020
      David Bomberg was thrown out of the Slade art school where he was studying because his approach was considered too radical and a “disruptive influence”, though his tutors also suggested he could benefit from “a little more modesty and humility”. Rather than focusing on traditional drawing techniques, he was interested in creating abstracted, angular, animated human figures – like those in this painting. But he actually considered Botticelli, Michelangelo and other canonical painters among his favourites, and spent hours in galleries copying their works (though he destroyed many of these studies once he’d mastered his own style). In this show at the National Gallery, Bomberg’s early works are on show alongside the historical paintings that inspired him.

      David Bomberg, Vision of Ezekiel

      David Bomberg, Vision of Ezekiel, 1912.

      Oil on canvas. 114.3 × 137.2 cm. Tate, London (T01197). Purchased with assistance from the Morton Bequest through the Contemporary Art Society, 1970. © Tate.

    • Dora Maar, Portrait of Ubu

      Dora Maar, Portrait of Ubu, 1936.

      Photographic, gelatin silver print. 240 x 180 mm. Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris. Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI / P. Migeat / Dist. RMN-GP © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019.

      10. Dora Maar

      Tate Modern, London, 20 Nov 2019 – 15 Mar 2020
      Dora Maar was one of the few women counted among the Surrealists – a group of artists, writers and philosophers exploring the unconscious workings of the human mind – but her work has only become recognised in the years after her death in 1997. Through photographs and photomontages, the French artist constructed an unconventional not-quite-reality of unsettling beauty. This 1936 work, Portrait d’Ubu, is thought to be an armadillo foetus – though Maar herself never confirmed this. In Tate Modern’s exhibition, there are more than 200 works covering her years at the forefront of Europe’s revolutionary creative movements, as well as her subsequent mysterious retreat from the city’s art circles.