Autumn in London is always a cultural explosion. October kicks off with the annual art fairs Frieze and Frieze Masters, the brilliant 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, plus the BFI London Film Festival, followed in November by the EFG Jazz Festival.
This year is no exception, with blockbuster shows at the major art museums, including Philip Guston at the Tate Modern, Marina Abramovic at the Royal Academy, Frans Hals at the National Gallery and the sold out Chanel at the Victoria & Albert. Disappointed fashion fans can instead enjoy the extravagant Gucci Cosmos exhibition at 180 The Strand, an immersive look at the famous brand’s 102 year history.
The commercial art galleries always follow suit, with exciting shows and extended opening hours. Here are nine highlights this autumn, with most extending on past October.
1.El Anatsui at October Gallery, Bloomsbury until 13 January 2024
If you enjoyed seeing El Anatsui’s brilliant installation currently on show in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, don’t miss seeing a selection of smaller works at his longtime London gallery. El Anatsui’s TimeSpace features new works, including new bottle-top wall sculptures, together with several earlier works.
2.Daniel Richter at Thaddaeus Ropac gallery, Mayfair until 1 December
This colorful new group of paintings portray biomorphic forms in a series of twisting, metamorphic poses. Since 2015, Richter has broken down compositional distinctions between background, foreground and subject to create renditions of the body in metamorphosis. Richter reverses the painting process, doing the background as one of the final stages of the work. While previous series of paintings drew upon visual source material as diverse as pornography and a historic postcard of injured World War I soldiers, this new group of paintings echoes Richter’s observations of the world around him. As he describes, “it’s based on random sketches and notes, [an] old woman passing by, [a] child at the dentist, boys playing basketball, stuff like that.”
3.Massimiliano Pelletti at Bowman Sculpture, Mayfair until 10 November
Bowman Sculpture is presenting the first UK solo exhibition of contemporary Italian sculptor Massimiliano Pelletti. Eredità (Heritage) precedes an exhibition at the Galleria at the distinguished Palazzo Doria Pamphilj in Rome, where Pelletti’s work will be exhibited alongside Caravaggio, Titian and Raphael. Hand carved from exotic stones sourced from different parts of the world, the sculptures are inspired by antique models. Pelletti deliberately incorporates visible flaws, cracks, and fissures inherent in the material into his sculptures, inviting viewers to contemplate mankind’s relationship with the past and question the idealisation of past cultures.
4.Ken Nwadiogbu at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London Bridge, until 25 November
The final show at Kristin Hjellegjerde’s London Bridge Gallery, Fragments of Reality, is Nigerian artist Ken Nwadiogbu’s first London solo exhibition. A series of figures in a blazing color palette of red, orange and yellow emerge from or descend into textured, abstract backgrounds. These represent personal memories and reflect on the artist’s experiences of adjusting to life in London, of building a sense of community and longing for home. There’ll be a new London gallery for the ambitious Norwegian gallerist, opening on nearby Tanner Street next month. And with four galleries in the UK and Europe, she’s is set to open her first US gallery later this month, in West Palm Beach featuring a show by Sara Berman.
5.JW Anderson at Offer Waterman, Mayfair, until 28 October 2023
Based in a five-storey Georgian townhouse that was once William Morris’s home, Offer Waterman is open for a rare public exhibition. Many of the big fashion brands are collaborating with artists and you can see their works in the shop windows on chic Bond Street. By contrast, Offer Waterman gallery has collaborated with designer JW Anderson who shows his recent fashion designs alongside art works from artists including Frank Auerbach, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Lucian Freud, Barbara Hepworth, David Hockney, L. S. Lowry, Henry Moore and Walter Sickert.
6.José Parlá at Ben Brown Fine Arts, Mayfair, until 17 November
This exhibition of new abstract paintings by New York-based Cuban artist José Parlá were inspired by the artist’s near-death experience with Covid (2021). The eleven vivid, multilayered paintings are filled with energy and draw on recurring themes in his practice, including urban space, human markings, memory and energy.
7.United Visual Artists, Synchronicity at 180 The Strand, until 17 December
London-based art collective United Visual Artists’ impressive new show Synchronicity marks the group’s 20th anniversary. Taking over the subterranean spaces of 180 The Strand, the exhibitiom features eight site-specific, audio-visual works and sensory-heightening installations that explore our perception of space and time. An underlying theme of musicality and performance runs throughout the exhibition which includes new diverse collaborations with bioacoustician Bernie Krause (Polyphony), Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack (Present Shock II) and choreographer Dana Gingras (Ensemble). At the heart of the exhibition is a brand-new immersive installation that features a mesmerising soundscape inspired by field recordings from the Central African Republic, recorded by legendary bioacoustician Bernie Krause and ethnomusicologist Louis Sarno. UVA’s experimental practice uses the interplay of light, space, sound and custom-made “kinetic instruments” to create dynamic “choreographed environments” and immersive, atmospheric experiences that envelop the viewer and transfigure architectural space.
8.Shubha Taparia at Prahlad Bubbar, Little Venice and North London. Both galleries open by appointment 20-27 October
To celebrate London’s Indian and Islamic Art Week, Prahlad Bubbar presents a selection of masterworks from the Indian Subcontinent. A highlight is a rare 17th- century embroidery panel from Gujarat, made for the walls of a manor in Ashburnham Place, an English country house in Sussex. Examples of the same are at the V&A London and the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Other highlights include a rare illustrated page from the 16th-century ‘Third’ Akbarnama depicting the Mughal Emperor Akbar, and an exquisite jade dagger, also from the Mughal court. At the gallery’s contemporary art space Unit 7, in North London, are Shubha Taparia’s beautiful new works from her series ‘Illumination’, delicate but powerful sculptures combining industrial tarp and gold leaf.
9.Shirin Neshat at Goodman Gallery, Cork Street, until 8 November
Goodman Gallery presents the UK premiere for Iranian American artist Shirin Neshat’s most recent work, The Fury, a double-channel video installation and a series of black and white photographs. Shot in June 2022, The Fury portrays a sense of foreboding and dread sparked by the resurgence of fascism showing a female prisoner inside an Iranian prison. The Fury’s photographic subjects are women of all races, creeds, and ethnicities. Their bodies are abused, sometimes mutilated and bear physical signs of social alienation. The message is clear: the bedrock of power and authoritarianism is the subjugation and control of the female body.