Hooray! Museums and galleries are open again. Here’s what to see…

— by Alexia Economou

Barbara Hepworth at work on the plaster for Oval Form (Trezion)1963. Photo: The Hepworth Wakefield


The pandemic has turned into a ‘plandemic’ now we have to book everything online. Good news though, from today, many of Britain’s major museums and art galleries are re-opening to the public. For months we’ve been dreaming of the day when we’d be able to indulge in exhibition-going once more – and that day has finally come (if you can get your hands on tickets). Attendance requirements will have to follow government guidelines and yes, you’ll have to book, but the benefit is you are not fighting your way through crowds. Silver linings. To get you started on your gallery reunions, here are some of the must-see exhibitions we can’t wait to view:


Barbara Hepworth thinking big. Photo: The Hepworth Wakefield

Up North

Ringing in the 10th anniversary of Yorkshire’s The Hepworth Wakefield is Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life. This will be the grandest exhibition of Hepworth’s work since her death in 1975. Curators have called in public and private loans to show comprehensive works spanning from the 1920s onwards, rarely seen drawings and fabric designs – all in the context of Hepworth’s personal life and relationships (like friends Picasso, Arp and Brancusi). Tacita Dean and Veronica Ryan have created new commissions for the exhibition, alongside comparative works by Bridget Riley.

While near Wakefield, continue your sculpture education at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s Longside Gallery. Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945, is an Arts Council touring exhibition featuring 75 years of sculptural evolution by 50 female artists including: Cathy de Monchaux, Kim Lim and Cornelia Parker – plus the Arts Council’s newest acquisitions.


Photo: It’s Nice That


Fans of Channel 4’s Grayson’s Art Club will be thrilled to know the accompanying exhibition – postponed in 2020 – is back on at the Manchester Art Gallery. View the personal representations of lockdown art made by Perry and his wife, artists, viewers and celebs from the programme, and a further selection from some 10,000 public entries. This is going to be super popular, so book tickets quickly.

Imagine Cindy Sherman blended with a 21st century Mad Hatter – this is Rachel McLean at the Jupiter Artland (Edinburgh). Her solo show features four key works from the last decade which are a mix of fantasy with astute socio-political commentary. This is as bonkers and theatrical as art film and photography can get.

For film and animation buffs: get a rare look into Hollywood special effects legend Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh). View models and ground-breaking work from the man behind Jason and The Argonauts, One Million Years BC and Clash of the Titans. See how he changed movie-making in the mid-C20th and inspired Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas – this is a great one for kids, B-movie fans and Sci-fi geeks.


Adidas x Pharrell, Human Race sneakers. Photo: Design Museum


Down South

What better than an en-plein-sea-air, exhibition-hop? England’s Creative Coast (a 2018-2022 arts initiative) returns from the 2020 haitus with seven international artists this year. Their Instagram-worthy works – mostly sculptures, mostly outdoors – take in multiple locations including Michael Rakowitz at Turner Contemporary (Margate), Holly Henry at the De La Warr Pavilion (Bexhill-on-Sea) and Andreas Angelidakis at Hastings Contemporary. Most open May 29th. Even if the weather turns, you can shelter indoors with more great exhibitions like John Nash: The Landscape of Love and Solace at the Towner Eastbourne …or simply enjoy a day-out cuppa with a view.

The Design Museum’s Sneakers Unboxed – Studio to Street, sees the humble trainer’s rise to great cultural symbol. Starting with its Chuck Taylor All Stars origins, through to designer adaptations by labels like Balenciaga and Comme des Garçons, resale values of exclusive trainers are now an economy worth billions. Iconic designs (Air Jordans to Y3s), sustainability (Stella McCartney) and their bioactive future – currently being developed at MIT’s Design Lab – are fascinating to view.


Eileen Agar image via Christies

There are a lot of great shows opening in London and many feature women artists: Tracey Emin/ Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul explores the latter’s influence on the former at the Royal Academy of Arts. (Apparently, tickets are practically sold out for David Hockney’s vibrant digital paintings of spring in Normandy).

If surrealism is your escape, Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy at the Whitechapel Gallery is a wonderful retrospective of free-spiritedness in mid-century painting and collage. While you’re in East London, Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican is the first, major UK survey of the artist’s work for over half a century.

The Serpentine is extending the excellent Jennifer Packer: The Eye is not Satisfied with Seeing alongside a new photography retrospective by British- Ghanaian James Garnor: Accra London. Viewing these almost a year after the George Floyd protests, gives their representations all the more meaning.


Lynette Yiadom Boakye’s ‘ To Douse the Devil for a Ducat’ via Vogue


Tate Britain re-opens with Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly in League with the Night, the acclaimed painter’s first major exhibition. If, however, you just want to let loose your inner child, try Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms blockbuster show at Tate Modern. At the time of going to print, this sell-out, semi-retrospective is booked solid through October but a new batch of tickets goes on sale in September. Having seen it in Toronto, it is the exact post-lockdown, participatory feast-for-the-senses we have all been craving.


Alexia Economou is a design and culture journalist, and regular TNMA contributor @thedesignfeedTW


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