Whether you’re on a London staycation this Summer or over on a visit for a few days, the city offers plenty of visual delights. You probably know all about the big blockbuster shows such as ‘Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser’ at the V&A, ‘Turner’s Modern World’ at Tate Britain or ‘Paula Rego’ at Tate Modern, so I wanted to bring your attention to some of the smaller exhibitions I have visited and enjoyed recently.
JR: Chronicles, Saatchi Gallery until 3 October
‘JR: Chronicles’ at the Saatchi Gallery is an impressive piece of story-telling: the largest solo exhibition to date of the internationally recognised French artist JR, a TED Prize winner, Oscar nominated filmmaker, and one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2018. Featuring some of his most iconic projects from the past fifteen years, the show traces JR’s career from his early work with graffiti artists to his large-scale architectural interventions in cities across the world and his digitally collaged murals of diverse communities. The two images above were part of an installation on the plight of migrants on the US-Mexico border in 2017.
In 2017, JR started a series of epic participatory murals which entailed photographing and filming hundreds of people, and then collaging their portraits together in narrative, highly realistic compositions dealing with challenging themes. Between May and June 2018, JR and his team photographed 1,128 New Yorkers, from all walks of life in their own neighbourhoods, with the intention of creating a mural that showed a unique cross-section of the city: New York portrayed through its energy, its feats, its issues, its people.
Admission to ‘JR: Chronicles’ at the Saatchi Gallery costs £6-£9 Wednesday-Friday and £12 at the weekend. Click here to book.
Peter Blake: Time Traveller, Waddington Custot until 9 September
Noel Coward: Art & Style, Guildhall Art Gallery until 23 December
Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy, Whitechapel Gallery, until 29 August
These two sculptures, ‘Angel of Anarchy’ on the left and ‘Angel of mercy’ on the right, are both modelled on the head of Agar’s long-term partner Joseph Bard. By all accounts, their relationship was ahead of its time: they married after many years of being together, always keeping separate residences, and Bard was very supportive of her work. Agar considered him her muse, thus turning the Surrealist tendency of making a beautiful woman into a muse on its head.
I loved Agar’s colourful post- war paintings, vibrant and full of joy, obviously the result of the artist having fun. This is best expressed in her own words: ‘Life’s meaning is lost without the spirit of play’. Agar painted most days until her death at the age of 91, and her joie de vivre was not diminished by age. Read a personal recollection of her later years by her great niece Olivia Fraser here.
Admission to Eileen Agar:Angel of Anarchy is £7.50-£9.50, and you can book tickets here.
If you enjoyed this article, you may want to subscribe to my newsletter, where I share snippets of inspiration and upcoming creative opportunities. I also publish my gallery visits and city wanderings via instagram stories and reels.