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Five art shows to see over the holiday: Turner Contemporary, Somerset House and more

16 December – 8 January 2017

Published 16 December 2016

From a human-animal hybrid figures to black and white photographs of modern Mali, the festive break is your last chance to catch some of the best shows of 2016.

  • Wifredo Lam

    Tate Modern, London, until 8 January 2017

    Wifredo Lam’s artistic career was deeply influenced by his cosmopolitan life. Born in Cuba at the beginning of the 20th century to a mother with Spanish and African heritage and a Cantonese Chinese father, the modernist painter went on to live in Europe before returning to the Caribbean island in 1941. He blended the artistic styles of his adopted countries with those of Africa, creating mythical hybrid figures – combinations of animals, plants and humans – in large-scale paintings. Works such as The Eternal Present (1944) and The Threshold (1950) established Lam’s unique style, which combined Surrealism with symbols from Afro-Cuban religions, and a strong socio-political engagement. This major exhibition re-establishes Lam’s place at the centre of global art history, and explores his personal and political journeys between East and West.

  • Wifredo Lam (1902-1982), Bélial, Emperor of the Flies

    Wifredo Lam (1902-1982), Bélial, Emperor of the Flies, 1948.

    Private collection © SDO Wifredo Lam.

  • Béatrice Casadesus: Pluies d'Or

    Dutko Gallery, London, until 14 January 2017

    As suggested by the title of her first UK solo exhibition – which translates as “Gold Rain” – the abstract painter Beatrice Casadesus is infatuated with the illuminating quality of gold. According to her, “Gold can make [other colours] sing and move in a rhythm that syncopates the canvas and gives it depths.” The paintings displayed here echo Turner’s late sunsets, a crucial source of inspiration for the Paris-based artist.

  • Béatrice Casadesus, Jaune Turner II, 2016

    Béatrice Casadesus, Jaune Turner II, 2016

    Photo by Sylvain Leurent

  • Ai Weiwei: Fondation

    Lisson Gallery, London, until 7 January 2017

    After his major retrospective at the Royal Academy in 2015, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei returns to London with two powerful installations. Fondation (2015) references the past and invites the audience to enter into debates on salient political and social issues within the gallery space. The installation – which is made up of a number of column bases typical of traditional Chinese halls – stands in as a contemporary version of the agora, the public square where ancient Greeks met to discuss relevant topics. 258 Fake (2011) is a twelve-screen installation in which over 7000 photographs taken with smartphones are shown on a loop. Bombarded with this fast succession of images, the audience is confronted with the mass of ephemeral visual information we receive every day though social media.

    Last chance: experience our 2015 exhibition in Ai Weiwei 360 until 12 January.

  • Ai Weiwei, Fondation

    Ai Weiwei, Fondation, 2015.

    Installation view, Bre?ve histoire de l’avenir, Louvre, 2015.

    Oak Wood and Stone. © Ai Weiwei; Courtesy Lisson Gallery Photo by Jack Hems.

  • John Akomfrah: Vertigo Sea

    Turner Contemporary, Margate, until 8 January 2017

    First screened at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015, Vertigo Sea is filmmaker John Akomfrah’s latest video installation. The 43-minutes-long film depicts the sublime natural beauty of oceans, while emphasising their role in shaping human history. A master in the art of mixing archival footage with his own original shots, Akomfrah intertwines past and present, politics and poetry. From breath-taking aerial views of whales traversing the seas, to distressing images of migrants trying to reach Europe, contrasting imaginaries of maritime scenarios are juxtaposed on this panoramic three-screen installation. Vertigo Sea reminds the viewer of the fragile ecology of the seas as well as their role in the stories of many diaspora communities.

  • John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea

    John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015.

    Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound. © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery.

  • Malick Sidibé: The Eye of Modern Mali

    Somerset House, London, until 15 January 2017

    Malick Sidibé’s photographs tell the story of a vibrant period in the history of modern Mali. When the country gained independence in 1960, Malick Sidibé shot iconic black and white photographs in the streets, beaches, and clubs of Bamako, Mali’s capital. As much in love with music and rhythm as he was with photography, Sidibé’s most recognizable images portray the youth of the city dancing in the city’s bars and nightclubs. To reflect this, a soundtrack curated by DJ and African music expert Rita Ray accompanies the exhibition.

  • Malick Sidibé, Dansez le Twist

    Malick Sidibé, Dansez le Twist, 1965.

    © Malick Sidibe Courtesy Galerie MAGNIN-A, Paris.