Ten Must-See Art Exhibitions For 2017

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Peter Getting Out of Nick's Pool 1966
Peter Getting Out of Nick's Pool, 1966© David Hockney, courtesy of Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, photo credit: Richard Schmidt

From David Hockney through to Rei Kawakubo, we outline the art, fashion and photography shows you won't want to miss in the year ahead

2017 is set to present a cornucopia of brilliant exhibitions across the realms of art, photography, fashion and music – a cultural feast that will no doubt dazzle and delight. Here, we select ten of the best from a fantastic offering spanning London, New York, Antwerp and beyond. Be sure to have your diary handy.

1. Matisse in the Studio at the Royal Academy of Arts, London: August 5 - November 12, 2017
Legendary artist Henri Matisse collected objects from every corner of the earth, from Buddhist statuary to Polynesian textiles, and it’s no surprise to learn that these treasures had an immense impact on his practice. By exhibiting pieces from the vast collection alongside the art that they so profoundly inspired, the Royal Academy highlights the impact of this treasure trove, offering a welcome insight into the thought processes of this brilliantly seminal artist.

2. Anni Albers: Touching Vision at Guggenheim Bilbao: September 30, 2017 – January 14, 2018
German-American artist Anni Albers’ work was defined by her uninhibited and ceaseless quest for the new; she was constantly ahead of the curve when it came to textile art, toying with convention throughout her career, and even penning several seminal texts on the subject. The Guggenheim Bilbao’s expansive retrospective will cover Albers’ work from 1925 to the late 1970s, shedding light on her continued relevance today.

3. David Hockney at Tate Britain, London: February 9 – May 29, 2017 
London’s Tate Britain, Paris’ Centre Pompidou and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art have collaborated to bring about a mammoth travelling exhibition dedicated to David Hockney’s exceptional oeuvre, in what is surely one of the most hotly tipped exhibitions of 2017. To label the show ‘comprehensive’ seems an understatement: it will cover everything from Hockney’s Love paintings of the early 1960s through to the dazzling Yorkshire landscapes produced in the 2000s, and even some work produced since his return to California in 2013. Starting its world tour in London before moving on to France and the U.S., it’s undoubtedly a must-see. 

4. Margiela: The Hermès Years at MoMU Antwerp: March 31 – August 27, 2017
The fashion world waits with bated breath for the opening of Margiela: The Hermès Years at MoMU in Antwerp, an exhibition documenting the six years that Martin Margiela – the famously avant-garde Belgian designer – spent as artistic director of women’s ready-to-wear at Hermès. At the time, this pairing was seemingly at odds: a fashion house steeped in history and classic luxury, appointing a conceptually driven designer with a firm position in fashion’s vanguard. But the risk paid off, and the resulting designs favoured timelessness and comfort, concepts which remain at the core of Hermès. MoMU’s exhibition promises a unique perspective on these years of collaboration and the 12 acclaimed collections produced as a result, while also taking into account the impact on Margiela’s own eponymous label.

5. Queer British Art at Tate Britain, London: April 5 – October 1 2017
April of this year will see Tate Britain host a momentous exhibition - the first of its kind - entirely dedicated to queer British art. In a show scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, the art on display will date from 1861 to 1967, a period which saw monumental changes in the public and private perception of gender and sexuality. Examining the ways in which artists were able to express themselves in a time with significantly less freedom than we know today, the work will explore themes of desire in Pre-Raphaelite paintings, convention-defying women like Virginia Woolf, and the wider Bloomsbury Set in which she was an integral character. With an impressively extensive range of artists featured – David Hockney, Claude Cahun, Cecil Beaton, Francis Bacon and Duncan Grant, to name but a few – this exhibition promises to be infinitely intriguing.

6. Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains at V&A, London: May 13 – October 1, 2017
Pink Floyd fans rejoice! It has been 50 years since the release of the band’s first single, Arnold Layne. And what better reason could there be to hold an international retrospective looking at the prog-rock troupe's rise to fame? This spring, the V&A will celebrate Pink Floyd through the prism of 350 objects amassed in relation to the band’s history: from instruments and artefacts through to artworks. Expect a thorough and extensive look at their wild musical endeavours, in what is billed as an immersive audio-visual experience.

7. Modigliani at Tate Modern, London: November 22, 2017 – April 2, 2018
His career was cut short by meningitis at just 35 years old, but Amedeo Modigliani was a trailblazer who kept experimentation at the heart of his practice, thus carving out an extraordinary reputation despite his untimely death. The Italian artist worked in Paris and was a contemporary of Picasso, producing work which was spectacularly progressive for its time. Tate Modern’s exhibition will trace the artist’s life through his striking oeuvre, which spanned both painting and sculpture in equally daring measure, contextualising the work by placing it beside the paintings of Picasso and the sculpture of modernist pioneer Constantin Brancusi.

8. Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons at Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: May 4 – September 4, 2017
Few exhibitions are as hotly anticipated as the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum’s annual spring show. It would be wrong to expect anything less than unbridled greatness from this year’s exhibit, in which visionary Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons will be deservedly celebrated. The Costume Institute will look at the boundaries both set and rejected by Kawakubo’s conceptual designs, from her first show in Paris in 1981 until the present day; even going so far as to position the displays at eye level and without barriers, so as to encourage a proximity between the visitor and her iconic designs. 

9. Wolfgang Tillmans at Tate Modern, London: February 15 – June 11, 2017
Never one to resist the urge to challenge established boundaries, Wolfgang Tillmans is taking the year 2003 as the starting point for his upcoming exhibition at Tate Modern. The year was an important one; the invasion of Iraq sparked enormous change throughout the world, and its social and political repercussions echo throughout Tillmans’ work from this era. The exhibition will bring together video, slide projections and recorded music, alongside his famed photography. That’s not all, though – for ten days Tillmans will also take over the South Tank with an immersive installation.

10. Eduardo Paolozzi at Whitechapel Gallery, London: February 16 – May 14, 2017
As one of Britain’s most prolific and pioneering 20th century artists, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi paved the way for innovation throughout his career. So this February, London’s Whitechapel Gallery pays tribute to the sculptor, collage and print artist with an extensive retrospective. The exhibition will leave no stone unturned, spanning five decades from the 1950s through to the 1990s and comprising over 250 works, including the prints and collages that led to his nickname of ‘The Godfather of Pop Art’. Expect an impressive variety of practices – the Scottish artist was also widely known for his gargantuan bronze sculptures – and irreverence in abundance.