LONDON — The city is hosting a profusion of art exhibitions this fall — in spite of the pandemic, curbs on travel and the cancellation of the Frieze Art Fair. Covering periods from the Renaissance to the present day, they offer visitors a crash course in art history. Here is a sampling.
The National Gallery is opening its long-awaited show of the 17th-century painter Artemisia Gentileschi, the talented female contemporary of Caravaggio who is finally receiving recognition as an artist and a feminist. Her first major survey in Britain includes paintings and self-portraits, as well as recently discovered personal letters.
In parallel, the National Gallery has “Sin,” paintings from its own collection that illustrate the multiple and evolving meanings of the word. The survey starts with biblical subjects — “Adam and Eve” by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Velázquez’s “Immaculate Conception” — and ends with “Youth” (2009), a sculpture by Ron Mueck that shows a young man in jeans lifting his white T-shirt to reveal a bleeding wound on his torso.
Royal Academy of Arts
If Impressionism is more your thing, swing by the Royal Academy of Arts to see “Gauguin and the Impressionists,” a selection of 60 works by 19th-century French artists — Manet, Monet, Berthe Morisot, Degas and more — from the Ordrupgaard Collection, right outside Copenhagen. The collection was pulled together a century ago by a Danish insurance magnate who acquired works from prestigious Paris galleries during World War I. Advising him on his purchases was a French art critic who championed the Impressionists.
Around the corner from the Royal Academy, the Tornabuoni Art gallery (which specializes in modern Italian art) is putting on a curated show of 1960s and ’70s kinetic and Op Art, the kind that shifts and swerves as you look at it, and can sometimes make you dizzy. Kinetic art was the focus of the Museum of Modern Art’s landmark 1965 show “Responsive Eye.” Tornabuoni is exhibiting several of the artists in that show, including Josef Albers and Victor Vasarely, but also Enrico Castellani and Michelangelo Pistoletto.
At the contemporary end of things, there is also plenty to see — and the stars of the moment seem to come from the United States. Tate Modern is paying tribute to Bruce Nauman, who has been described as one of the most influential American artists of his generation, and whose career started five decades ago. The Tate show, his biggest in London in a couple of decades, will consist of more than 40 works: immersive installations but also sculpture, sound, film, video and neon.
Thomas Dane Gallery
Dana Schutz — whose 2016 painting of Emmett Till drew protests for its representation of a Black martyr — is exhibiting a selection of new works at the Thomas Dane Gallery. Through her bright and phantasmagorical paintings, Ms. Schutz seems to want to reinvent Surrealism, filling desolate landscapes with disembodied heads and limbs, stray eyeballs and eerie visions. The exhibition will also include six new bronze sculptures, cast from clay that the artist kneaded and pressed into shape.
At the Gagosian Gallery on Grosvenor Hill, the Los Angeles-based artist Mary Weatherford is having her first London solo show. The “Train Yards” series consists of large paintings completed between 2016 and 2019 that are abstract representations of urban sites, made with vinyl-based emulsion as well as neon tubes.
Across the river, White Cube’s large Bermondsey space will host a special exhibition for Frieze week. “Sweet Square of Dark Abyss” is an installation of new work by the Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates. It will be filled with “book paintings” and “spine paintings,” created with custom-bound volumes chronicling the history of America, on the spines of which Mr. Gates has printed his own words.