Art and design events in December 2020, from festive crafts to exhibition openings

11 Dec 2020

And just like that, it’s December. This month’s cultural diary is filled with exhibitions and events to get you feeling festive, from wreath-making workshops to a display of Christmas cards made by celebrated British artists. Plus, a new online bookshop that’s supporting independents and good causes, and a craft fair that makes Christmas shopping more than bearable.

The Future of the Museum: 28 Dialogues by András Szántó 
Interested in reading about the challenges and untapped potential of art museums? This year, as the art world adapted to life under lockdown, cultural strategist András Szántó interviewed 28 museum directors from 14 countries (virtually, of course) about just that. The conversations – which cover the ways in which these cultural institutions are moving away from traditional models and becoming more inclusive, experiential and techy – have been collated into a book. Interviewees include Max Hollein of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Meriem Berrada of MACAAL in Marrakesh, and Hans Ulrich Obrist of London’s Serpentine Galleries. 
The launch of, which debuted in the US earlier this year and last month arrived in the UK, has been described as “a revolutionary moment in the history of bookselling”. Imagined by writer and Literary Hub co-founder Andy Hunter, it’s a socially conscious online retail platform that invites readers to buy books while supporting independent booksellers. An added bonus this Christmas comes via Penguin Random House UK, who until 21 December will donate a book to food banks and other local causes when one is bought on Hand-picked titles in the offer include Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, Nigella Lawson’s Cook, Eat, Repeat, and Barack Obama’s hotly-anticipated memoir A Promised Land.

Nevertheless, JD Malat Gallery 
You might not have made it to the mountains this year, but this online exhibition of new work by Swiss artist Conrad Jon Godly will take your imagination to higher altitudes. Known for his hyperreal landscape paintings, which toggle between representation and abstraction, Godly makes meditative art that captures his relationship with nature. In some works, you’ll come across cloudless skies and snowy peaks. Elsewhere, a chalky-white ravine slices through rolling hills of green, the air thick with mist. The night paintings are heavy with impasto, moody studies in black in white. An ode to the outdoors might just be what we all need this year.

TOAST festive workshops 
Christmas is around the corner and, when it comes to homemade gifts, TOAST has you covered with its many virtual workshops. If you haven’t yet bought your wrapping paper, sign up for one of two classes with textile designer Cara Marie Piazza, who will teach you how to create naturally dyed furoshiki wrapping cloths. If you fancy making an edible contribution this year, chef and food stylist Olivia Cavalli Williamson is on hand to share the recipes for two types of traditional Tuscan biscuits. We’ll take the crunchy cantucci with a glass of Vin Santo, please.

Christmas Greetings by Modern British Artists, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester 
Did you know that the first-ever Christmas card was commissioned and sent by Henry Cole, the founding director of the V&A, in 1843? Neither did we. From 3 December until 7 January, Pallant House Gallery will present a festive display of artist-designed cards that explores the tradition of Christmas greetings. More than 100 original cards will be on show, from the 1950s to the present day, made by artists such as Ben Nicholson, Barnett Freedman and Enid Marx. Highlights include a linocut on paper by Emily Sutton, which shows a whiskery, wide-eyed cat peering over the edge of a table at a spongy Christmas pudding.

Festive Wreath-Making Workshops, Petersham Nurseries, London 
It’s hard to predict what Christmas might look like this year, but one thing we can ensure is that our front doors will be looking festive. For some guidance, sign up to one of Petersham Nurseries’ immersive wreath-making workshops, which take place in both the mornings and the afternoons on 7, 8, 14 and 15 December. The classes are held in spacious greenhouses and involve crafting wreaths from winter foliage and festive berries and seed heads. Book in advance and bring your wellies.

Ron Arad in conversation with Thomas Heatherwick and Ellie Stathaki, Newlands House 
Architecture and design fans would do well to sign up to this free online webinar on 9 December. The final instalment of a new talk series that has run alongside the Ron Arad 69 exhibition at Newlands House sees Ellie Stathaki, architecture editor at Wallpaper*, lead a conversation between the London-based designers and Royal Academicians Ron Arad and Thomas Heatherwick. The pair will be talking about how their work has evolved over time and what we can expect from them next. Register in advance. 

The Nutcracker, The Royal Opera House, London 
If your festive spirits are in need of a lift, look no further than The Royal Ballet’s beloved production of The Nutcracker. Students of The Royal Ballet School will dance alongside the full company in this restaging of Peter Wright’s double-act production. There will be a magical Christmas tree, dancing snowflakes and the Sugar Plum Fairy, all set in front of an enchanting backdrop by Julia Trevelyan Oman. Plus, book to attend one of four performances of The Royal Opera Christmas Concert, featuring extracts from classics such as Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Puccini’s La bohème, and Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. 

Aliza Nisenbaum, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool 
The New York-based painter Aliza Nisenbaum’s new exhibition at Tate Liverpool shines a light on NHS key workers. In August the artist chatted to frontline staff from Merseyside via Zoom; she then converted those conversations, together with photographs, into eleven individual portraits and two large-scale group portraits. Among those featured are a student nurse who comes from a family of nurses, and a respiratory doctor who became a dad during the first wave. Brightly coloured and full of character, Nisenbaum’s art gives a voice to some of the people who have been busy battling the pandemic.

The London Artisan, Old Truman Brewery, London 
Christmas shopping is more fun when you’re able to meet the makers of the gifts you’re giving – and on 19 and 20 December, you can. The fifth edition of The London Artisan will see the Old Truman Brewery play host to an array of independent textile designers, jewellers, ceramicists, illustrators and more. Don’t miss the gaudy sculptures by squares & things, made of polymer clay and hand-painted enamel aluminium wires, or the matte green and earthy-grey mugs and espresso cups from herclay. A way to source an original Christmas gift and support an independent creative business while you’re at it.