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Our pick of this week’s art events: 10 – 16 July

RA Recommends

Published 10 July 2015

From the best of contemporary and modern British painting to a cabinet of curiosities by Fiona Tan, we guide you through the week’s top art events.

  • Fiona Tan: DEPOT

    Baltic, Gateshead, 10 July – 1 November 2015
    Back in the 1950s, decades before Damien Hirst’s preserved shark, a whale in a lorry full of formaldehyde was touring across Europe. The fairground attraction was Jonah the Giant Whale, now the source of inspiration for Dutch artist Fiona Tan’s installation DEPOT at Baltic, Gateshead, nodding to Newcastle’s forgotten history as a major whaling port.

    Tan’s own version of the 71ft-long vehicle is a cabinet of curiosities, encouraging the viewer to share her fascination with all things subaquatic. But the show is more than a natural history collection; expect to see beautiful glass models of sea anemones, illustrations and archival photographs of beached whales and film footage of natural history museum depots, all of which call in to question the history of, and mankind’s troubled relationship with, marine biology.

  • Fiona Tan, DEPOT

    Fiona Tan, DEPOT, 2015.

    Courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery © Fiona Tan.

  • Chen Zhen

    Frith Street Gallery, London, 9 July – 14 August 2015
    Chinese-born conceptual artist Chen Zhen gained international fame during the 1990s not long after moving to Paris to widen his artistic horizons. Leaving behind his early practice in painting and picking up the limitless possibilities of mixed-media installation, his work has taken a meditative and philosophical approach that deals with the fragile line between life and death. In works such as Crystal Landscape of Inner Body (Serpent) (2000; below) Zhen presents what he calls an ‘inner landscape’ of human organs made of crystal and laid out on a clinical examination bed.

  • Chen Zhen, Crystal Landscape of Inner Body (Serpent)

    Chen Zhen, Crystal Landscape of Inner Body (Serpent), 2000.

    Crystal, iron, glass. 95 x 70 x 190 cm. Courtesy of Frith Street Gallery, London and Galleria Continua, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins, Photo: Attilio Maranzano.

  • Andreas Schmitten, Gereon Lepper and Mathias Lanfer, curated by Tony Cragg RA

    Blain|Southern, London, 10 July – 29 August 2015
    One of Britain’s leading sculptors, Tony Cragg RA has also received acclaim as a teacher – he is a Professor at the prestigious Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, where the likes of Joseph Beuys and Gerhard Richter studied. The Academician now also carries the mantle of curator, selecting contemporary German sculpture for a new show at London’s Blain|Southern. The exhibition introduces three Kunstakademie Düsseldorf alumni – Andreas Schmitten, Gereon Lepper and Mathias Lanfer – whose work combine industrial materials with cutting-edge technological processes.

  • Mathias Lanfer, Installation view

    Mathias Lanfer, Installation view, 2015.

    Courtesy the artist and BlainSouthern Photo: Peter Mallet.

  • Jenny Holzer: Softer Targets

    Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Somerset, 12 July – 1 November 2015
    Jenny Holzer forged a reputation in the 1980s for text works of terse truisms and one-liners. “Abuse of power comes as no surprise”, for example, was famously emblazoned on T-shirts, billboards and buildings, demonstrating the power of relaying thought through the written word in the public realm.

    Celebrating an illustrious career that spans over three decades, Holzer’s latest survey brings together significant past pieces with new hand-painted works in oil on linen such as Shifting to Softer Targets (2014-15; below) that expand her technological repertoire. While Holzer proves she can turn her hand to any medium – be it stone, bronze, paint or LED displays – what remains at the heart of her work is an ongoing relationship between art and politics.

  • Jenny Holzer, Shifting to Softer Targets

    Jenny Holzer, Shifting to Softer Targets, 2014-15.

    © 2014 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

  • Reality: Modern & Contemporary British Painting and The British Figure

    Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 10 July – 29 November 2015 and Flowers Gallery, London, 9 July – 29 August 2015
    Two new shows celebrate the breadth of figurative British painting. The first is at Walker Art Gallery, presenting over 50 works by major 20th-century artists such as Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and David Hockney RA alongside contemporary painters Ken Currie, Jock McFadyen RA and George Shaw, all of which are united in their honest depictions of the ‘real world’. A display at Flowers Gallery focuses on the human form, with artists showing diverse approaches to the theme, with more works by McFadyen and a rare figure painting by fellow Royal Academician Tom Phillips (below), whose piece A Humument (1966-2015) is currently on display in the final room of the Summer Exhibition.