The Best Things to Do Before the Year Is Out

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Mowalola, Silent MadnessCourtesy of NOW Gallery

Our December to do list is here, featuring Mowalola’s debut exhibition, a show recreating Jean-Luc Godard’s studio, and the best films to see, restaurants to visit and more

Silent Madness at NOW Gallery, London: December 6, 2019 – January 19, 2020
Current Fashion East designer Mowalola Ogunlesi is staging an immersive exhibition at NOW Gallery, Greenwich this month, titled Silent Madness. The British-Nigerian designer will take over the glass-fronted gallery space with stretches of fabric covering the walls, floors and ceiling and housing pieces from her collections alongside a series of two-minute films – created in collaboration with Jordan Hemingway, Yves Tumor, and Dazed art director Jamie Reid – shown on old television screens. To soundtrack the show, headphones and MP3 players will be provided to visitors who can scan through a playlist and choose music to listen to. NOW Gallery has previously hosted exhibitions by Richard Malone and Molly Goddard, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in the emerging designers’ worlds.

Mickalene Thomas: Better Nights at Bass Gallery, Miami: until September 27, 2020
At Miami’s Bass Gallery, American artist Mickalene Thomas’ new exhibition and installation takes inspiration from her mother’s social life in 1970s New Jersey. The set for Better Nights is modelled on an apartment, furnished with textiles by Thomas – who worked with Dior earlier this year on a reinterpretation of the French house’s iconic Bar jacket for Cruise 2020 – alongside a curation of work by emerging artists of colour. Thomas’ work on Better Nights stems from both her own childhood memories of gatherings hosted by her mother at home, local play productions in New Jersey, and a selection of Polaroids of her mother and friends taken in the 1970s. “I think Better Nights is a manifesto experience... It’s a space occupied to celebrate a community of people that have been marginalised – and this is their space,” says Thomas.

Le Studio D’Orphée by Jean-Luc Godard at Fondazione Prada, Milan: from December 4, 2019
Cinema fans will no doubt delight in the Fondazione Prada’s upcoming exhibition: for the show, legendary French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard has transplanted ephemera – including film equipment, furniture, books and artworks – from his studio in Switzerland to the Milan institution’s rooms. Inside the recreated studio space, ten Godard films will be available to view, including the director’s most recent feature, The Image Book, and nine short films, offering a look inside his world and working process. The space, covered in rugs and filled with fascinating details lifted from Godard’s studio (see: a cat-shaped mouse pad on his desk), is an immersive look at the prolific New Wave director’s practice, as editing and sound programmes he uses will also run on computer screens in the room.

The Gift Bazaar at Matches Fashion’s 5 Carlos Place, London: until December 26, 2019
Head to Matches Fashion’s Mayfair townhouse 5 Carlos Place to celebrate the festive season with a series of shopping extravaganzas and events this month. Alongside a dedicated online hub, the Gift Bazaar is open until Boxing Day, and celebrates the joy of seeking out festive presents (for loved ones, or indeed yourself) during December via a market place created to evoke those you might find in “far-flung destinations”. From monogramming sessions with luxurious Danish textile brand Tekla to a vending machine loaded with treats from L’Objet’s collaboration with Haas Brothers, the Gift Bazaar is injecting more fun into Christmas shopping. Plus, be sure to stop by Bistotheque’s residency in 5 Carlos Place’s attic cafe space. 

The Devil’s Fuge at Albiva, Covent Garden: December 12 – 24, 2019
London-based gallerist West Contemporary presents a pop-up art gallery and store in Covent Garden this month, where artworks and prints by the likes of Marc Quinn, Mick Rock, Charming Baker and The Connor Brothers will be exhibited and available to buy until Christmas Eve. The temporary gallery space – which is titled The Devil’s Fuge, another name for mistletoe – is itself housed in another pop-up store, that of luxury, all-natural and organic beauty brand Albiva in Covent Garden, making the Floral Street store a must-visit during festive shopping sprees.

Lorena Lohr: Tonight Lounge at Cob Gallery, London: December 5, 2019 – January 11, 2020
In her second solo exhibition at London’s Cob Gallery, Lorena Lohr presents a series of photographs created in Memphis and the mid-west of the United States. Lohr hones in on details that might otherwise go overlooked in the towns and cities she discovers on her travels around America – the photographs in Tonight Lounge are part of a decade-long ongoing series that the image-maker has made in the country. Particular focus might be placed on some fading signage or a drink abandoned on a table in a diner: Lohr’s photography hints at the characters that have created such scenes. As Tonight Lounge opens in London, Cob Gallery publishes a book of the same name looking back over Lohr’s captivating photography from the last ten years.

The Film London Jarman Award at Whitechapel Gallery, London: until December 8, 2019
As the winner of the Jarman Award was announced last week, London’s Whitechapel Gallery is screening works by the six filmmakers shortlisted for the award: Cécile B. Evans, Beatrice Gibson, Mikhail Karikis, Hetain Patel (this year’s winner), Imran Perretta, and Rehana Zaman. The award was started in 2008 in the spirit of its revolutionary, risk-taking namesake Derek Jarman, and celebrates filmmaker artists who create work in the same vein as he did.

The Hoodie at Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam: until April 12, 2020
The hoodie is a garment with a complex cultural legacy, which has in recent decades become ubiquitous – from within the world of fashion, where it’s seen on runways and in street style shots, to Silicon Valley. A new exhibition opening in Rotterdam explores the hoodie and its history via photographs, artworks, film and found objects, and uncovers how, in the UK especially, the hoodie has been politicised in recent decades. “The hoodie might be normalised to an extent but there are still issues of class, stereotyping and inequality,” curator Lou Stoppard recently told Another Man. “There are a lot of people who can wear a hoodie and move through the world unaware of these issues, and then there’s other people for whom the hoodie is an extension of the stereotypes and prejudices they already face. But these stereotypes aren’t just around the garment itself.”

VALIE EXPORT: The 1980 Biennale Works at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London: until January 25, 2020
The pioneering feminist artist VALIE EXPORT’s first solo exhibition in the UK is open now in London, and revisits the work presented by the Austrian artist at 1980’s Venice Biennale. VALIE EXPORT made a name for herself in the art world with a series of films and performances in the 1960s and 70s, and in 1980 presented an installation at the storied Italian art show, which has been recreated exactly for this new exhibition. The series Body Configurations is a central aspect of the show: the photographs were created in the late 1970s and early 80s, and see VALIE EXPORT using her body to interact with public spaces by lying down on the road to echo the line of the pavement or curving around the edges of buildings. Galerie Thaddeus Ropac’s new exhibition offers a chance to revisit a significant moment in the history of contemporary and feminist art.

Accents of Style at Armani/Silos, Milan: until February 2, 2020
In an exhibition curated by Giorgio Armani and staged at the designer’s art space in Milan, the history of accessories created by the house of Armani is going on show, revealing how the designer has developed his unique aesthetic identity via accessories, jewellery and shoes alongside clothing. Grouped into a variety of themes – animal prints, metropolis and neoclassical, two-tone and colour block, night-time and shimmers of light – the exhibition examines some of Armani’s most beautiful designs. Alongside pieces from the Armani archive, a back-catalogue of editorial shoots and advertising campaigns are also on show in the exhibition, making for an immersive look at the Armani universe.

The Best of Film

December has its fair share of festively-timed blockbusters, from the latest Star Wars film, The Rise of Skywalker, to Tom Hooper’s much-talked-about version of Cats (the trailer has to be seen to be believed). But there are plenty of other offerings to entice you out of the house this month: There’s stirring drama Honey Boy, directed by Alma Har’el and written by Shia LaBeouf, based on LaBeouf’s own turbulent childhood and his ongoing struggle to connect with his father. Edward Norton directs and stars in Motherless Brooklyn, the gripping story of an isolated private detective with Tourette’s syndrome who sets out to solve the murder of his mentor in 1950s New York. Two excellent Chinese dramas hit the big screen this month: So Long, My Son by Wang Xiaoshuai and Long Day's Journey into Night by Bi Gan. The former follows two families in a small seaside town over the course of 20 years as they “adjust to the vast social and economic changes taking place in China” – with deeply moving results. The latter is the poetic tale of a man’s homecoming to the city he grew up in and his search for a long lost love.

For thrill seekers there’s the high-tension Danish drama Sons of Denmark, set in an alternate version of Copenhagen in the near-future, where an ultra-nationalist party has gained dangerous traction in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack. Last but far from least there’s the much-awaited release of Greta Gerwig’s star-studded Little Women, offering a brilliant new take on Louisa May Alcott’s beloved tale of four sisters coming of age in the aftermath of America’s Civil War. Documentary fans, be sure to catch The Kingmaker by Lauren Greenfield (Generation Wealth) – a deep dive into the controversial political career of Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines, and her family’s unlikely return to power; and Aquarela, which sees filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky journey the globe to capture “the beauty and raw power of water”.

Food and Drink

APC Cafe, Paris: open until January 31, 2020
Cult Parisian brand APC has launched its own cafe in the centre of Paris, within the first arrondissment’s Galerie Joyce. At the APC Cafe, where quilts by the French brand hang on the wall and a series of specially designed pieces (including a Thermos) are available to buy, customers can enjoy Ethiopian blend coffee in the chic space.

Folie, London: open now
Designed to evoke “the dining culture of the Riviera”, Folie is a new opening on Golden Square. With plush, 1960s-esque interiors courtesy of Studio KO – think round velvet chairs to sink into, leather banquettes and low lighting – Folie makes for a transporting new haunt in central London, complete with a menu reminiscent of French and Italian seaside towns and a strong selection of delectable cocktails.

Festive Scratch Menu at Spring, London: December 23, 2019
Spring, the Skye Gyngell-helmed restaurant in Somerset House, has served its acclaimed ‘Scratch Menu’ for the past two years: a set selection of courses crafted from whatever otherwise wasted produce the kitchen has to hand, available for an hour each evening. On December 23 this year, the restaurant’s last service before closing for Christmas, Spring will serve a ‘Festive Scratch Menu’ all day, making use of the ingredients and produce that the kitchen has left over ahead of its week-long break. To celebrate this no-waste policy, Spring and Makerversity are collaborating on a pop-up store in the restaurant’s salon, where a series of products by sustainable brands like The Shellworks and The Atlas Works will be available to buy.

Great Performances

For those in search of a compelling Christmas show, book your tickets now for Charles Dickens’ holiday favourite, A Christmas Carol, newly returned to the Old Vic in a stage adaptation by Jack Thorne, starring Peep Show’s Paterson Joseph as Ebenezer Scrooge. Matthew Bourne’s take on The Red Shoes at Sadler’s Wells is a must for dance fans. Based on the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger film of the same name, and the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale that inspired it, this Olivier-winning production, centred on “obsession, possession and one girl’s dream to be the greatest dancer in the world”, will hypnotise and thrill in equal measure. Opera lovers, don’t miss Richard Eyre’s mesmeric production of Verdi’s La Traviata which opens at The Royal Opera House on December 17. Based on Alexandre Dumas’ novel fils, the fêted three-act opera explores the life and death of 19th-century Parisian courtesan Marie Duplessis. The Christmas countdown is not complete without sugar plum fairies, magic giant trees and many, many sparkling tutus: thus a trip to the London Coliseum, for the most classical rendition of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s  is a must (pre-booked interval drinks even more so).

“Friday night and someone’s having a party. It seems like a laugh, but not everyone’s having fun” reads the intriguing introductory text for A Kind of People, the important new play from British writer Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti. Arriving at The Royal Court this month, it asks “how it’s possible to get on when the odds are stacked against you” in contemporary Britain. At the Almeida, meanwhile, Lydia Wilson stars in a new production of John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, “an electrifying revenge tragedy about rage, resistance and a deadly lust for power” directed by Rebecca Frecknal. For dark laughs, catch Teenage Dick at the Donmar Warehouse, Mike Lew’s modern spin on Shakespeare’s Richard III – relocating the story to a high school, where Richard, a teen who suffers from hemiplegia (paralysis of one side of your body) seeks to become senior president.