Brilliant Things To Do in May

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Cai Guo-Qiang, The Century with Mushroom Clouds: Project for the 20th Century (Looking toward Manhattan), 1996Photo: Hiro Ihara, Courtesy Cai Studio

Allow us to guide you through the spring activities you need to add to your calendar

Exhibitions and Events

Art and China After 1989: Theater of the World at the Guggenheim, Bilbao: May 11 – September 23, 2018
In Chinese art – and Western perceptions of the country’s evolving output – 1989 signalled a move towards more experimental styles and forms among contemporary creatives. The Guggenheim Bilbao’s forthcoming exhibition spotlights the unique period, from 1989 (the end of the Cold War) to 2008 (the year of the Beijing Olympics), in which Chinese artists created work that engaged with the societal and cultural events in a novel way. Paintings, sculptures, performance, video pieces and photography will feature in the show, and at its centre is a 1993 installation by Huang Yong Ping, Theater of the World, which addresses the country’s rapid globalisation in the 90s.

Une Collection de Photographies at Rodolphe Janssen, Brussels: May 17 – July 13, 2018
Held to mark the 25th anniversary of one of the Brussels gallery’s first exhibitions, Une Collection de Photographies will open at Rodolphe Janssen this month and bring together work from an impressive list of iconic photographers. The roster includes: Thomas Ruff, Nobuyoshi Araki, Larry Clark, Helmut Newton, Stephen Shore and Robert Mapplethorpe. Need we say more?

Frieze New York 2018, New York: May 2 – 6, 2018
The return of Frieze to Randall’s Island, New York brings together today’s leading galleries and artists to exhibit alongside a tempting programme of talks and events with curators from exciting galleries, artists, and industry experts. This year sees the inaugural Frieze Artist Award: the winner, Kapwani Kiwanga, will present a new, site-specific commission entitled Shady at the New York fair, an immersive installation rendered in metal and agricultural fabric – specifically shade cloth, a material used in farming in Africa – through which visitors can move thanks to “holes and passageways”. Plus, as ever, expect unparalleled people-watching over the weekend.

Idea of North at the BALTIC, Tyne and Wear: May 11 – September 30, 2018
BALTIC’s new exhibition explores, via a multimedia display that places focus on counter-cultural movements of recent history, perceptions and demonstrations of northern identity and imagination. Immense architectural projects (some previously unrealised) and examples of innovative design dating back to the 1970s will be on show to indicate the region’s idiosyncratic “sense of community, place and belonging”. Look for the section within the exhibit entitled Women by Women, a collection of photography that spotlights representations of Northern women when they are both behind the camera and its subject.

Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination at the MET, New York: May 10 – October 8, 2018
A stalwart in the fashion calendar, the Metropolitan Museum’s costume institute spring exhibition returns this month, this time addressing the relationship between fashion and religion, presenting a dialogue between the two spheres illustrated with religious artworks, garments and pieces from fashion collections of the last century. Entitled Heavenly Bodies, the exhibition will focus on Catholicism, and will thus include robes and accessories normally housed in the Sistine Chapel. Versace is a supporter of Heavenly Bodies, and clothes by the Italian fashion house will also feature in the show (and no doubt on the red carpet of the Met Gala held for its opening).

Life in Motion: Egon Schiele/Francesca Woodman at Tate Liverpool, Liverpool: May 24 – September 23, 2018
Though they created work at opposite ends of the 20th century (he in the first two decades and she in the 1970s), artist Egon Schiele and photographer Francesca Woodman share common themes and styles in their creations. An unprecedented intimacy, elements of surreality and searing sensuality are typical of both artists’ oeuvres, and a new exhibition at Tate Liverpool hones in on these traits in both Schiele’s and Woodman’s unforgettable pieces. Life in Motion presents a unique opportunity to view these seminal and much-lauded works in tandem, and to look at how the two artists impacted – and indeed continue to impact – their fields with daring subject matter and techniques.

Inside Arc at Fashion Space Gallery, London: May 11 – July 28, 2018
Is there anything quite as delight-inspiring or awe-inducing as an archive? Whether comprising historical oddities, rare art or legendary pieces from the world of fashion, such gatherings of ephemera are always captivating. It’s the latter category that The Arc’s expertise lies in, and a new exhibition at Fashion Space Gallery is set to bring its ever-expanding catalogue of fashion items to the fore this month. Created by designer Jennefer Osterhoudt and stylist Nick Royal, The Arc’s collection consists of pieces by the likes of John Galliano and Alexander McQueen, and has become a point of reference and inspiration for many of today’s working designers and stylists. Clothes, shoes, accessories, invitations and even garments worn by Madonna will be on show in this veritable treasure trove of an exhibition.

Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier at the Design Museum, London: May 10 – October 7, 2018
Following the untimely passing of Azzedine Alaïa in November of last year, one of the master couturier’s final projects is realised this month. Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier is an exhibition at London’s Design Museum, curated in part by the designer himself, and set to feature over 60 pieces selected from the entirety of his career. The focus will be placed on Alaïa’s idiosyncratic processes when it came to tailoring and couture, as well as the innovation he introduced to the fashion world through his garments. What’s more, The Couturier will highlight the strength of Alaïa’s creative relationships through several specially commissioned architectural pieces by the likes of Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec and Marc Newson, which will be on display among the clothes.

Photo London at Somerset House, London: May 17 – 20, 2018
The very best in the world of photography are set to gather for the fourth time at Somerset House for 2018’s edition of Photo London. This year’s highlights include: MASK, a “special photographic project” by design maven Es Devlin; a vast array of emerging talent in the Discovery section; the pioneering sun pictures of 19th-century photographer Henry Fox Talbot; and a showcase of contemporary Japanese and Korean photography.

Prototypes of Imagination at Gagosian, London: May 16 – July 27, 2018
With her signature kaleidoscopic colour palette and artworks of gargantuan scale, German artist Katharina Grosse is taking over Gagosian’s London gallery this month. Two cloth paintings, each draped across and flowing down over opposite walls, offer an immersive path through to canvas-based pieces that can slide among each other “like the windows and tabs of a browser”. Unexpected uses of space and manipulation of material define Grosse’s unforgettable works (and it goes without saying that Prototypes of Imagination will likely be Instagrammable to boot).

Home at the Vinyl Factory, London: May 18 – 27, 2018
Tasked with exploring the theme of ‘home’, what might some of the world’s best photographers conjure up? Head to London’s Vinyl Factory to see just that: Magnum photographers’ interpretations of the subject. From Alex Webb’s fog-laden beach to Elliott Erwitt’s irreverent self-portrait underneath a ‘smoking fish’, each image is a highly personal and compelling look at how the feeling of home, and the emotion attached to it, can be communicated through the medium of photography.

Eric N. Mack: Misa Hylton-Brim at Simon Lee Gallery, London: 13 April – 12 May, 2018
Exciting contemporary artist and 2018 Dazed 100-er Eric N. Mack’s first London solo show is a must-see. Mack bridges the gaps between mediums with his painted, mixed material, 3D pieces, and between subject matters when he combines references from art and fashion alike. Misa Hylton-Brim is a case in point: for the pieces, Mack has incorporated a range of textiles and printed ephemera to produce a nod to the 90s hip-hop stylist after whom the show is named, who created dazzling looks for the likes of Missy Elliot and Mary J. Blige. In the same vein as the work of Hylton-Brim, Mack’s show explores how materials and textiles can relate to and become a means of communicating identity.

London Craft Week: May 9 – 13, 2018
Spanning unknown craftspeople and long-celebrated masters, the 2018 edition of London Craft Week is almost here. Catch Floris’ 1920s-esque fragrance workshop on the Thursday; a drinks reception in celebration of Mulberry’s luxury expertise; the LOEWE Craft Prize exhibition at the Design Museum; and Sutton House exhibition Footnotes: Intimate Stories of Shoes, which is presented by the London College of Fashion and delves into the university’s footwear archive. Fashion, art and design are all celebrated within the realm of craft, making for a vast and unmissable array of events.

Foam Talent at Beaconsfield Gallery, Vauxhall: until May 22, 2018
Foam’s annual Talent Call is a unique opportunity for image-makers aged between 18 and 35 to showcase their work; this year the submissions numbered almost 1,800, and of those that entered 20 have been chosen to exhibit in the month-long travelling exhibition by Foam magazine’s editorial team. The variety of the exhibition’s featured photographers is particularly noteworthy, and the exciting techniques they employ are indicative of the direction that modern photography is moving in – these are 20 names to keep an eye on.

The Best of Film

May’s got lots of great films in store for us, from anticipated returns by acclaimed directors to the unveiling of fresh new talent. Lean on Pete falls into the former category. The third offering from 45 Years director Andrew Haigh, it is the story of a young teen named Charley (Charlie Plummer), who has secured himself a summer job at a local racetrack, caring for the film’s eponymous aging racehorse. What ensues is a searing study of family, friendship, loneliness and loss, set against the ever-enticing landscape of the American Midwest. Juno director Jason Reitman returns with Tully, a darkly comic, refreshingly honest exploration of motherhood that follows Marlo (Charlize Theron), a struggling new mother who has reluctantly accepted the help of a night nanny as a present from her brother. Godard fans, don’t miss Redoubtable, the vibrant new biopic from Michel Hazanavicius exploring the budding romance between the director (played by Louis Garrel) and 17-year-old actress Anne Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin).

Jeune Femme is the debut feature from talented French director Léonor Serraille. A must-see for anyone who loved Frances Ha, it’s the story of Paula (Laetitia Dosch), a wonderfully eccentric woman in her early 30s, who upon finding herself dumped and heartbroken must rebuild her life from scratch in the lonely environs of Paris. Celebrated theatre director Dominic Cooke makes his filmic debut with an adaptation of Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach, starring Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle. It is the story of two young newly-weds in 1960s England, whose honeymoon is spent in a painfully awkward build up to the consummation of their marriage. And when we say painful, we mean excruciating.

Argentine director Lucrecia Martel is back with Zama, a masterful critique of European colonialism, centred on Don Diego de Zama, a functionary of the Spanish Empire in South America, who awaits a letter from the king allowing him to transfer from the town in which he’s currently stagnating. For something completely different, be sure to catch Nora Twomy’s The Breadwinner, the stirring animated tale of a young girl’s courage under Taliban rule. Meanwhile this month’s unmissable documentaries come courtesy of This is Congo – Daniel McCabe’s visceral investigation into the lives of three people living through the most recent cycle of conflict in the Central African country – and Filmworker, the compelling story of Leon Vitali, an actor who ditched his promising career to become Stanley Kubrick’s right-hand man.

Great Performances

For those who missed Nina Raine’s blistering new play Consent during its sell-out run at the National Theatre, make sure to book your tickets for its West End transfer opening later this month. The highly timely story of a rape case peppered with opposing narratives, it appoints the audience judge and jury, placing justice herself in the dock.

At the Barbican, choreographer Julie Cunningham presents an innovative new production of Sarah Kane’s play, Crave, a poignant investigation of dark and potent themes including rape, addiction and instability. Featuring four actors and four dancers, it “connects meticulous movement to [Kane’s] poetic style of the writing”. Meanwhile at Sadler’s Wells, inimitable choreographer Akram Khan will give his final performance in a full-length piece. Opening May 29, brand new work XENOS transplants the myth of Prometheus into the context of World War One, presenting the shell-shocked dream of a colonial soldier. And if you missed your opportunity to see Wayne McGregor's searing Obsidian Tear the last time around, you'll be delighted to learn that the Royal Opera House has brought the stunning production back as part of a triple bill, along with works by McGregor's fellow Royal Ballet resident choreographers Frederick Ashton, who shows a powerful and moving Marguerite and Armand, and the carnivalesque Elite Syncopations by Kenneth McMillan. A night to remember indeed.

Finally for those in search of some meaningful comic relief, get yourself tickets to 3Women, the debut play from comedian Katy Brand, opening at Trafalgar Studios later this month. Led by an all-female cast, and set over the course of a single night in a hotel suite, this caustic drama examines “what it means to be a woman in the 21st century and the consequences of the generational gap on our attitudes, cultural expectations and family dynamic”.

The Best in Food and Drink

Lina Stores, Greek Street, London: opening May, 2018
Favourite Soho deli Lina Stores is extending its output with a pasta restaurant this month. The 75-year-old delicatessen’s new opening will favour the best Italian ingredients and techniques, incorporating regional specialities and family recipes into the fold too. Cheese, cured meats, cocktails and delectable desserts will accompany the exquisite pasta, bring a hint of Italy to the heart of London.

temper Covent Garden: opening May 14, 2018
Neil Rankin is bringing his wildly popular open wood and charcoal style of cooking to Covent Garden with a third temper, this time with an Italian slant: wood-fired pizzas topped with wagyu salami or soft-shell crab, ragu served with bread and gnocchi, and delectable pasta dishes, all washed down with plenty of vermouth.

Afternoon Tea
As the weather ostensibly warms up, a trend for new takes on the English classic afternoon tea is revealing itself in London. At Soho’s Butterscotch Tea Rooms, the latest from Bea Vo, enjoy a spread of red velvet cakes, brownies, mozzarella and tomato sandwiches and either Jing tea or delectable cocktails in the bakery’s charming dining area. Once you’ve seen the Rodin exhibition at the British Museum, head to the Rosewood London’s Mirror Room to experience its Rodin Afternoon Tea, where pastries and chocolates have been created with the iconic sculptor in mind – both in presentation (think The Kiss rendered in chocolate and sponge) and flavour. British produce and botanicals are at the centre of Lanes of London’s afternoon tea, with flavours of elderflower, hibiscus tea, apricot and nasturtium appearing on the menu.