Cultural tips for November 2020

13 Dec 2020

Sadly all physical museum and gallery spaces are now closed and we recommend you check their respective websites at the start of next month.

Fictional folk at London’s Tate Britain, an international affair at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, and photographs aplenty at Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries. Our November Cultural Diary is packed with exhibitions that will delight and inspire. Read on, then take your pick.

The Covid Letters, The Foundling Museum, London
This campaign brings together more than 200 colourful creations made by kids across the UK. When the country went into lockdown, Boris Johnson sent out a letter intended for every household urging residents to stay at home. In response, designer Jonny Banger, who founded the cult clothing label Sports Banger in 2013, invited under-16s to customise that letter in order to express their feelings. Using pencils, pens, paint and collage, toddlers to teens responded with everything from simple scribbles and cartoons to anti-government graffiti and calls to support the NHS. On display in the museum’s exhibition gallery, and dotted throughout its historic collections, until 17 January.

Helen Muspratt, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford
It was in Oxford in the late-1930s that Helen Muspratt opened a studio and made a name for herself as a portrait photographer – and today the city’s Bodleian Libraries are honouring her with a retrospective. Marking the recent gift of more than 2,000 original prints and surviving negatives to the libraries’ collection, the exhibition explores Muspratt’s myriad styles and genres, from naturalistic portraiture and social documentary to wild experiments using techniques such as solarisation, a process that involves exposing negatives to white light in the darkroom.

London-based Christabel Blackburn is interested in a different kind of portraiture. In paint, she creates semi-abstract visions of the everyday, capturing solitary figures reminiscent of those of Edward Hopper strolling alone through a park or gazing at a blank canvas in a gallery. Her most recent series, which is being shown in an online exhibition organised by the affordable art platform Partnership Editions, explores our relationship with the streets and buildings of London and how we inhabit empty spaces. In paring right back these lonely souls and the surrounding architecture, she makes room for us to wonder – is the woman leaning up against that cool grey wall waiting for someone or simply taking it all in while she can?

Tracey Emin / Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul, Royal Academy of Arts, London
To get a look at some more lonely souls, head on over to the Royal Academy of Arts. Opening on 15 November is an exhibition that pairs the work of the British artist Tracey Emin with that of her ‘friend in art’, the Norwegian Expressionist Edvard Munch – two artists, with similar creative concerns, born 100 years apart. Long inspired by Munch’s exploration of the often-anguished human condition, Emin has chosen 19 of his oil paintings and watercolours to hang alongside 25 of her own works, which range from recent paintings to sculptures and neons. A highly personal joint show that sees two artists navigate shadowy experiences and emotions.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly in League with the Night, Tate Britain, London
If you’re able to make it to only one exhibition this month, let it be this: an extensive mid-career survey of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, which opens at Tate Britain on 18 November and includes roughly 80 works from the past two decades. The British artist and writer is celebrated for her swiftly painted portraits of fictional people, which she pieces together from found images and her imagination. The mostly black faces are both familiar and furtive, the whites of their eyes and teeth glinting against unrecognisable dark backdrops, their expressions hard to read. The poetic titles are equally enigmatic: take “A Passion Like No Other” (2012) and “To Improvise a Mountain”(2018). Yiadom-Boakye’s characters belong to our world and – tantalisingly out of reach – to a world of their own.

Degas to Picasso: International Modern Masters, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester
Pallant House Gallery may be best-known for its collection of modern British art, but it’s also home to a dazzling array of work made further afield. A new show opening on 25 November stretches from French impressionism to American abstract expressionism and shines a light on more than 40 of those international artists, with portraits by Édouard Manet, prints by Henri Matisse, abstractions by Paul Klee and more. A highlight is the recently restored “Modèle assise dans un fauteuil, se coiffant” (c.1903) by Édouard Vuillard. Plus, while you’re there, check out Richard Hamilton: Respective, which features a medley of drawings, paintings and prints by the father of British pop art.

Salmon: A Red Herring, Tate Britain, London
Last but not least, anyone interested in ethical eating should stop by the latest instalment in Tate Britain’s Art Now series, which aims to provide a platform for emerging artists. From 27 November until 28 February, the London-based duo Cooking Sections will explore the impact of salmon farms on the environment through a site-specific installation that comprises sculpture, sound and light. A continuation of Climavore, an ongoing body of work that considers how our diet can respond to the climate crisis, Salmon: A Red Herring focuses on the farming industry and the truth behind salmon pink.