Brilliant Things To Do in December

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Sara Cwynar Tracy, Stepping Forward, Stepping Backward, 2017Courtesy of the artist and Foxy Production

There is a plethora of exhibitions, restaurants, films and parties to be enjoyed throughout December before 2017 draws to a close


Art Basel, Miami Beach: December 6 – 10, 2017
Art Basel returns this month to Miami Beach, and with it its ever-impressive roster of leading and up-and-coming modern and contemporary galleries from around the world. Across large indoor and dynamic outdoor exhibiting spaces, and in conjunction with cultural events at galleries and museums across the city, this fair is consistently enthralling – a cornucopia of engaging offerings and events that art aficionados and first-timers alike can take pleasure in.

Couture Fashion Jewellery: The Personal Archive of Shaun Leane at Sotheby’s, New York: December 4, 2017
Over the course of 20 years, jewellery designer Shaun Leane has amassed a considerable personal archive of pieces, over 45 of which will feature in a Sotheby’s auction on Monday. As a longtime friend and collaborator of Alexander McQueen, Leane crafted bespoke jewellery for the designer’s label and for Givenchy during McQueen’s tenure as chief designer. Over half of the jewellery featured in the auction was made for Alexander McQueen from the mid-90s until 2008, including pieces incorporating metallic corsetry and ornate creations that contort across the body. 

Marques’Almeida Christmas Market at SHOW Studio Illustration Gallery, Covent Garden: December 1 & 2, 2017
For two days only Marques’Almeida is hosting a festive pop-up market in Covent Garden. Not only are clothes from the brand available, but postcards by illustrator Helen Bullock are up for grabs and Keash Braids are on hand to deliver festive hairstyles. 

Clay Station: Assemble and Matthew Raw at Seven Sisters Underground Station: December 14, 2017
Turner Prize-winning design collective Assemble and artist Matthew Raw have joined forces to refurbish a long-empty space at the entrance of Seven Sisters tube station, in a project commissioned by Art on the Underground. With ceramics at its centre, Assemble and Raw have created Clay Station, installing a kiln in the space in which tiles for the station’s redecoration have been produced. The final piece will be unveiled mid-December, and will no doubt brighten up many a commuter’s journey once public.

Royal Academy Lates: Rrose Sélavy’s Dada Extravaganza at the Royal Academy: December 9, 2017
To coincide with its exhibition Dalí/Duchamp, the Royal Academy invites us to an evening of Surrealism in the form of a “decadent ball”. The Dada Extravaganza will take inspiration from the Bal Onirique, a 1930s ball thrown in Dalí’s honour upon his return to Europe – think decadent outfits (the dress code is 1930s Surrealist spectacular, so no holding back), live swing and jazz, mask-making workshops and a Surrealist erotic tea party, which in itself is a riff on Dalí’s legendary Rothschild Ball. Bound to be a bizarre and unforgettable night, the Dada Extravaganza is a decidedly unique way to commence the festive party season.  

The Best of Film

December is here, and so is the chance to catch some fantastic new films. Happy End, by Austrian auteur Michael Haneke, is a bleak, deeply affecting exploration of the refugee crisis, through the lens of a self-absorbed bourgeois family in Calais, featuring stellar turns from Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant and more. Then there’s the Jake Gyllenhaal-starring Stronger, a poignant, artfully told drama based on the real-life story of Jeff Bauman, who lost both his legs during the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013, marking the start of a long road towards mental and physical rehabilitation. Want to get your heart racing? Then be sure to catch Most Beautiful Island, the taut psychological thriller from writer-director Ana Asensio, investigating the plight of undocumented female immigrants looking for a fresh start in New York. Asensio herself plays Luciana, an illegal newcomer to the city whose day begins with a promising opportunity, but swiftly goes from bad to worse as she begins to suspect she’s been lured into a dangerous game.

Don’t miss the brilliant Menasche, from American director Joshua Z. Weinstein, performed in Yiddish and set among New York’s Hasidic Jewish community. It follows its titular character, a kind but ill-fated grocery store clerk, as he struggles to care for his young son Rieven in the wake of his wife’s death. But Menashe is unable to find a new partner and, forbidden by tradition from raising Rieven alone, must give the boy up for adoption. Laughter, tears and a hefty dose of humanity ensue as Menasche sets out, against the odds, to prove himself a worthy father and man of faith. For must-see documentaries meanwhile, there’s Love, Cecil, Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s clever and entertaining tribute to the inimitable British designer, photographer and Bright Young Thing, Cecil Beaton. Human Flow, a heartbreaking look at the burgeoning refugee crisis from artist and director Ai Weiwei, sheds unprecedentedly intimate light on millions of displaced people around the globe and their search for safety. Last but not least there’s Mountain, Jennifer Peedom’s sublime and awe-inspiring film about the world’s highest peaks and the adventurers who risk their lives to climb them.


American Black & White at Magnum Print Room, London: until February 23, 2018
Two photographic series – one, Elliott Erwitt’s Pittsburgh, made in the 1950s and the other, Matt Black’s The Geography of Poverty, in the last decade – come together for Magnum Print Room’s new exhibition, American Black & White. The exhibition paints a portrait of America through the arresting black and white work of these two Magnum photographers: Erwitt’s series, which was only recently re-discovered after decades in storage, documents the changing face of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as it underwent regeneration and development in 1950; while The Geography of Poverty sees Black travel across America photographing areas of particularly great poverty, with the aim of highlighting the country’s wealth divide.

Essex Road IV at Tintype, London: December 8, 2017 – January 13, 2018
Now in its fourth edition, Essex Road returns to London’s Tintype gallery this month. The exhibition sees eight contemporary artists present a moving image work made in response to Essex Road in Islington. Participating artists this time around include Richard Wentworth, Edwina Ashton and Judith Goddard, and the work produced will be displayed until mid-January, on view through the gallery’s street-facing window to anyone who walks by.

Charles Jeffrey: The Come Up at NOW Gallery at Greenwich Peninsula, London: until February 11, 2018
Following the success of its first two fashion commissions, from Phoebe English in 2015 and Molly Goddard last year, NOW Gallery presents an interactive exhibition from Charles Jeffrey. The show’s focus is LOVERBOY, Jeffrey’s brand and club night, illustrated through amplified, three-dimensional iterations of Jeffrey’s drawings. What’s more, exhibition-goers can add to one of the sculptural pieces, allowing the art to develop its own identity over the course of the show’s duration. 

Art and Space at Guggenheim Bilbao: December 5, 2017 – April 15, 2018
Art and Space will inhabit both the second floor and some outside areas of the Guggenheim Bilbao in its exploration of the myriad ways in which artworks exist in spaces. Exploring the unique nature of the Frank Gehry-designed building, the exhibition will feature pieces dating from the last 60 years and engage with notions of Spatialism, Modernism and science through artists such as Anthony Caro, Sol LeWitt and Iván Navarro.

Grayson Perry: The Life of Julie Cope at Firstsite, Essex: until February 18, 2018
British artist Grayson Perry has crafted a fictional world for his latest exhibition at Firstsite, Essex. The Life of Julie Cope is a selection of works inspired by the fictional eponymous character of Julie, comprising paintings and tapestries which were created for Perry’s 2015 work A House for Essex. The home is that of Julie too (Perry also wrote her biography, drawing on English folktales to communicate “the trials, tribulations, celebrations and mistakes of an average life”) and can be rented out by members of the public for short stays – a truly immersive experience.  

Ai Weiwei – Mirror at Fotomuseum, Antwerp: until February 18, 2018
For his first show in Belgium, Ai Weiwei is exhibiting a large portion of his photography from the last 30 years. The Chinese artist designed the exhibition, Mirror, as a continuation of his artistic response to abuse of power and human rights violations, much of which Weiwei posts regularly to social media. To see so much of the radical artist’s work in one exhibition is a rare treat – in a word, unmissable.  

Great Performances

Book yourself an early Christmas treat with one of the many enticing productions that December has to offer. There’s Julia Jarcho’s Grimly Handsome at the Royal Court, a darkly comic drama about urban marginalisation, set in an unnamed US city where “two strangers sell Christmas trees on the sidewalk; two cops work to solve a killing spree; and a young woman finds herself transforming in ways she could never have imagined”. Belleville, a stirring play about a romantic dream gone sour from rising playwright Amy Herzog, makes its UK debut at the Donmar Warehouse after wowing audiences stateside with its story of two newly married American expats living the highlife in Paris. For a sprinkling of more festive magic, don’t miss Matthew Bourne’s sumptuous production of Cinderella at Sadler’s Wells, which sees the celebrated choreographer interpret the classic fairytale into a heady war-time romance: she falls in love with an RAF pilot before they're torn apart by the horrors of the Blitz – all to the tune of Prokoviev’s original soundtrack. While, at the National Theatre, Disney’s Pinocchio is the subject of a much anticipated revival at the hands of John Tiffany, the director and co-writer of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Dennis Kelly, the writer of Matilda the Musical. Prepare to be freshly beguiled by the wooden puppet and his song-punctuated quest for true life.

The Best in Food and Drink

Jack Solomons Club: opening December 1, 2017
Jack Solomons made his name promoting boxing, operating from a gym on Great Windmill Street, Soho for much of the 20th century. Now, a speakeasy in the same London space is opening in Solomons’ name, emulating the opulence of the 1940s and 50s with classic cocktails, an extensive whisky list, delectable bar snacks, and dancing very much encouraged. Access the club via its hidden side-door – just listen out for the sound of the live band.

Duddell’s, London Bridge: open now
St Thomas Church in London Bridge is now home to Duddell’s, the newly opened London edition of the famed Hong Kong restaurant of the same name. The open kitchen serves Cantonese dim sum and dishes such as barbequed Iberico pork with honey glazed soy bean, while the Duddell’s bar specialises in oriental twists on cocktails. With a strong focus on art at the restaurant’s core, exhibitions will be on show throughout the year, making Duddell’s a one-stop destination for art and food lovers alike.

Pulitzer Amsterdam’s Le Labo cocktails: until January 2018
Having stocked Le Labo bath products in its rooms since last summer, Pulitzer Amsterdam is now teaming up with the much-loved fragrance house on a range of cocktails. Each of the three concoctions will highlight a note of Le Labo’s signature scent, Santal 33: cardamom, violet and leather. Ingredients include floral gin, rosemary syrup, aromatic leaf bitters and even edible leather.

Bubble Bros Christmas Spritz Bar at Columbia Road, London: December 11 – 16, 2017
Free flowing prosecco (from a tap, no less) is on offer from the Bubble Bros this month with their festive pop-up. Stationing their prosecco van on Columbia Road, the duo’s Spritz Bar gives guests the chance to make their own cocktail and then enjoy bottomless bubbles, alongside food from Pizza Pilgrims. Prosecco and pizza, what more could you want?