Arts feature

Art shows you simply mustn't miss in 2014

Matisse, Rembrandt, Italians, Germans, Vikings and the court of Ming are all in store at Britain's great museums this year

11 January 2014

9:00 AM

11 January 2014

9:00 AM

One of the great treats of the exhibiting year will undoubtedly be Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs (17 April to 7 September) at Tate Modern. The last phase of Matisse’s productive career was devoted to making extraordinarily vivid images from painted paper cut with scissors, as the physical effort of wielding a paintbrush became too much for him. Matisse’s greatest strengths were as draughtsman and colourist, and the cut-outs combine these skills in abundant measure, releasing a new sense of joyous celebration almost unmatched in the history of art. The largest ever exhibition of the cut-outs, the Tate’s show will feature 120 works, many seen together for the first time. Unmissable.

Of course the Tate, with its two London venues and branches in St Ives and Liverpool, has many other exhibitions and displays on offer in 2014, but I only have room to mention a few. I’m most looking forward to Tate Britain’s survey of the life and work of Kenneth Clark, art historian, public servant, broadcaster, writer, patron and collector (20 May to 10 August). He has been terribly out of fashion in recent years, but played a crucial role in the artistic life of the nation, and in many individual artists’ lives, especially such major 20th-century figures as Graham Sutherland and Victor Pasmore. I’ve just bought the boxed set of his great TV series Civilisation and can’t wait to see it again. Another trio of shows at Tate Britain to watch out for: Richard Deacon (5 February to 27 April), sculptor par excellence of the open organic form; Ruin Lust (4 March to 18 May) on the appetite for and use of ruins, from the 17th century to today; and the first major survey of British Folk Art (10 June to 7 September). At Tate Modern, less interesting things generally, though the Kasimir Malevich show (16 July to 26 October) could prove as uplifting as late Rembrandt.

The Royal Academy has just been awarded £12.7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop the joint site of Burlington House and Burlington Gardens (the old Museum of Mankind behind the RA’s main building) into what is being called ‘an arts campus’ of just over two acres. At present if you visit an RA-run exhibition in Burlington Gardens you can’t get through to the Academy’s other galleries in Burlington House, or vice versa, and visitors have to revert to street level and walk round the outside. Not surprisingly, many don’t bother. The new scheme, the Burlington Project, architectural brainchild of David Chipperfield, will finally unite the two buildings, a seemingly insuperable task until now. Building works don’t begin until 2015, and before that various exhibitions will take place in Burlington Gardens, including Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album (26 June to 25 August) and Allen Jones RA (13 November 2014 to 25 January 2015). Hopper, film actor, director, artist and all-round wild man, also shot a lot of photographs, particularly between 1961–7, and this show brings together more than 400 of them. Allen Jones (born 1937) is another hero of the Sixties, who has gone on to build a remarkable reputation internationally, while being unfairly neglected in his own country. Best known for his inventive and witty paintings and sculptures, commenting on popular culture and the sometimes tormented relationship between the sexes, it is high time that a proper survey of his career was attempted in the UK.

In Burlington House, the RA pursues its policy of ‘something old, something new and something borrowed’ with exhibitions of 16th-century chiaroscuro woodcuts, a retrospective of Anselm Kiefer and a focus show of Giovanni Battista Moroni (c.1520–1579). The woodcuts come from the Albertina Museum in Vienna and from the personal collection of Georg Baselitz RA (Sackler Galleries, 15 March to 8 June), Kiefer is given the main galleries for this long look at his career (27 September to 14 December), while Moroni, the contemporary of Titian considered by some to be the greatest portrait painter of his century, will be shown in the Sackler (25 October 2014 to 25 January 2015). Other RA shows include the imminent Sensing Spaces: Architecture Re-imagined (25 January to 6 April), featuring site-specific installations by seven architectural practices from around the world. Hot tip: Grafton Architects from Ireland.

The main exhibitions at the British Museum will be Vikings: Life and Legend (6 March to 22 June), and Ming: Courts and Contacts 1400–1450 (18 September 2014 to 5 January 2015). Although the Ming show will reveal China as a medieval superpower, an entrepot of world civilisation, Vikings, focused around the largest Viking longship ever discovered, will probably be more spectacular. Meanwhile, one of the BM’s excellent Print Room exhibitions is devoted to Germany, and complements intriguingly the RA’s woodcut show. Entitled Germany divided: Baselitz and his generation, it features more than 90 works on paper by the likes of Richter, Penck and Polke (6 February to 31 August).

The reader might be forgiven for thinking it was German season in the capital’s museums (something to do with the first world war, perhaps?), for at the National Gallery the spring exhibition is Strange Beauty: Masters of the German Renaissance (19 February to 11 May). This will examine changing attitudes to beauty in the works of Holbein, Dürer and Cranach, Altdorfer and Hans Baldung Grien. To lift the spirits a little perhaps, another show has been timed to overlap: Veronese — Magnificence in Renaissance Venice (19 March to 15 June). This should prove to be a sumptuous and splendid occasion, with 50 of the master’s finest works, including altarpieces, portraits, allegories and mythological subjects, in an exhibition of real glamour. The winter show is Rembrandt: The Final Years (15 October to 18 January 2015), which, if done with the NG’s erstwhile thoroughness, cannot fail to be sublime and deeply moving.

And there are good things to be seen at the smaller museums too. At Watts Gallery in Compton, Surrey, is John Ruskin: Photographer and Draughtsman (4 February to 1 June), the first exhibition to explore how Ruskin used photos as an aide-memoire to record things on his travels that he might later want to paint. Daguerreotypes will be shown side-by-side with drawings and watercolours made from them. The Courtauld Gallery is showing Romantic Landscapes from Britain and Germany (30 January to 27 April), and Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude (23 October 2014 to 18 January 2015). The most promising exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery is Art & Life: Ben Nicholson, Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood, Alfred Wallis and William Staite Murray (4 June to 21 September), which is shown first at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge (15 February to 11 May). You may think you know these artists, but the revelations are all in their selection and juxtaposition. Happy viewing…

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  • ploppi

    I tweeted the Royal Academy and asked if they are privately or publicly funded and they never did reply.
    If they are private then I don’t mind that they employ no talent Emin as professor of drawing.
    If they are publicly funded then it’s wrong.

  • justejudexultionis

    ‘Matisse, Rembrandt, Italians, Germans, Vikings and the court of Ming are all in store at Britain’s great museums this year’ —-
    And, of course, they are all in London, three quarters of the country will not be able to see them. Welcome to Blighty – the most centralised, and perhaps least democratic, of all western European countries…
    Is it any wonder the Scots are heading towards separation?