Our hand-picked recommendations of what to see, do and feast upon this festive season
Foam Talent | Amsterdam at Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam: December 18, 2020 – March 10, 2021
Each year, Amsterdam’s prestigious photography gallery Foam embarks upon “an international search for exceptionally talented photographers”. The winners of the open call competition are offered the chance to showcase their work across various platforms, from Foam magazine to the travelling Foam Talent exhibition. This year, 19 image-makers have been selected, including the self-taught Thai artist Kamonlak Sukchai, a graduate in film production design with a flair for creating surreal and spectacularly arresting imagery. The exhibition arrives at Foam Amsterdam on December 18 and is also available to view online.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly in League With the Night at Tate Britain: December 2, 2020 to May 9, 2021
Tate Britain’s latest exhibition centres on the esteemed British artist and writer Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. The extensive show will bring together around 80 of her paintings, depicting fictitious figures conjured from her own imagination or inspired by found images, spanning 2003 to the present day. Yiadom-Boakye’s artworks and their protagonists are endlessly enigmatic and engaging, each paired with a poetic title which heightens the air of intrigue. As the exhibition notes describe, “Her figures seem to exist outside of a specific time or place ... Both familiar and mysterious, they invite viewers to project their own interpretations, and raise important questions of identity and representation.”
Kurt Markus: A Life in Photography at Staley-Wise Gallery, New York: Until January 16, 2021
In New York, Staley-Wise Gallery celebrates the long and illustrious career of American photographer Kurt Markus, known for the distinct monochrome style he has applied to everything from lyrical landscape imagery to portraiture and fashion photography. A master of encapsulating his subjects’ spirit on camera, the exhibition’s highlights include a series of striking portraits captured in Savannah, Georgia for Mirabella magazine in 1994, Markus’ captivating documentation of lithe boxing stars in Cuba and New York, and a number of beautiful nude studies paying homage to the work of Edward Weston.
Alex Prager: Farewell, Work Holiday Parties at LACMA, Los Angeles: Until January 3, 2021
Love them or hate them, office Christmas parties are an annual rite of passage – a last hurrah among colleagues before the festive break begins. This year, of course, most of us will have to forfeit this particular tradition, but a new sculptural installation by American artist Alex Prager at LACMA (and available for all to view online) has arrived just in time to fill the void. With the help of a 3D-printing facility and a Hollywood-based effects company, Prager has created a number of hauntingly realistic life-sized figurines, which she has placed in highly relatable office-party situations throughout the museum’s entrance hall. The wonderfully realistic set-up is enhanced by pitch-perfect costumes, make-up, props, and sound, resulting in “a strange yet celebratory scene that can be experienced in the round.”
How to Human at Galerie Tanja Wagner, Berlin: Until February 13, 2021
Since its opening in 2010, Berlin’s Galerie Tanja Wagner has devoted itself to “broadening visibility of art that challenges dated narratives, structures and hierarchies and offers a new vision and sensibility toward ourselves and society.” Now, in celebration of its tenth anniversary, a group show from artists represented by the gallery – including Kipwani Kawanga, Šejla Kamerić, Grit Richter and Lina Scheynius – takes on the theme “how to human”, exploring art’s role as a tool for reflection, connection and making sense of the world around us. Medicine for the soul.
Ruth van Beek: The Nursery at The Ravestijn Gallery, Amsterdam: Until January 16, 2021
Collage fans are sure to love the latest series of work from Dutch artist Ruth van Beek, on show at the Ravestijn Gallery in Amsterdam. Van Beek creates whimsical montages from images found in specialist books and magazines of the 50s, 60s and 70s, which she snips, folds and combines, inserting her own painted cut-out shapes into the equation to craft evocative new forms. This exhibition sees the artist pursue her interest in dolls, reconfiguring archive imagery of dolls and doll-making to create her own “nursery” of play objects, ”stuck somewhere between reality and fantasy.”
Infinite Identities: Photography in the Age of Sharing at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam: Until February 28, 2021
In a new exhibition at Huis Marseille, eight contemporary artists and photographers reveal the ways in which Instagram feeds into and furthers their practice. Through “tangible, autonomous museum installations”, the likes of Farah Al Qasimi, Coco Capitán and Martine Gutierrez demonstrate how Instagram has “added an extra dimension to their exploration of a range of subjects, including gender and identity”. While photographers including Thomas Lohr, Santi Palacios and Myriam Boulos dissect how Instagram Stories has allowed their followers to share in their experiences, and how this, in turn, has affected their artistic output.
Miami Art Week, Miami and online: December 2-6, 2020
The IRL version of Art Basel Miami Beach has of course been cancelled this year, but a special online viewing room has been set up so that art lovers, collectors and industry insiders alike can still get their fill. Participating galleries will be showing a special digital curation of their works, including Stephen Friedman Gallery, which is simultaneously presenting its Miami offering in its London space (viewable by appointment). Meanwhile, a plethora of art events will still take place in Miami this month. PRIZM Art Fair will present ”47 artists and 14 galleries representing countries across the African continent, the Caribbean and Americas, with a film series and panel discussions exploring the intersections of contemporary art and global African film tradition”; while Maison Margiela are hosting a special outdoor presentation of Nude Descending a Staircase No. 3 by artist Marco Brambilla on the facade of its future flagship store in the Miami Design District (on view from December 3-5, from 7-10pm each night).
Contemporary Excavations at Frith Street Gallery: December 3, 2020 – January 29, 2021
At London’s Frith Street Gallery, Contemporary Excavations explores “the mining of classical, modernist as well as Indigenous art histories and how these knowledge systems are appropriated, synthesised, and made new“ in the work of artists Gauri Gill, James Nelson, Daniel Silver and Rajesh Vangad. Particularly attention-grabbing is the collaboration between photographer Gill, and Adivasi artist Vangad, who specialises in the ancient art of Warli drawing. Stemming from conversations during which Vangard shared with Gill the history, legends, and folklore of his hometown of Ganjad, their ongoing project Fields of Sight sees Vangard decorate Gill's images of the area with corresponding Warli forms – with hypnotic results.
Collective Reflections: Contemporary African and Diasporic Expressions of a New Vanguard at Gallery 1957, Accra: December 16, 2020 – January 17, 2021
“Responding to a year of individual and collective critical evaluations of universal humanity, particularly with regards to race, the artists on show – each from disparate backgrounds – reflect on representations of Blackness,“ explains Accra’s Gallery 1957 of its latest exhibition, curated by Danny Dunson and featuring nine international artists working across a variety of media. Highlights include the compelling work of Patrick Eugène, who transposes photographs taken on the streets of Atlanta, Georgia into paintings that “evoke the abstractionism of ancient Africa and the vibrant colour palettes of Haiti”, and the spellbinding paintings of Nigerian artist Luke Agada, who draws influence from contemporary icons Yinka Shonibare and Kerry James Marshall, and surrealist pioneers Salvador Dalí and René Magritte.
Unreal City: December 8 – January 5, 2021
This month marks the launch of Unreal City, the UK capital’s first group augmented reality exhibition. It comprises 36 virtual sculptures – by artists including Alicja Kwade, Olafur Eliasson, and Cao Fei – which are located at various sites along the Thames, and only become viewable through the lens of your smartphone. Download the Acute Art app now to take part in the fun.
Cindy Sherman at Sprüth Magers, Berlin: Until 13 February 2021
Chameleonic artist Cindy Sherman continues her decades-long investigation into identity as a social construct in a new ten-part photo series, currently on display at Sprüth Magers, Berlin. In each work, Sherman adorns herself in eye-catching, gender-neutral menswear to embody a lively array of androgynous characters. Each figure strikes a theatrical pose against a vibrant, digitally manipulated background, composed from photographs the artist took while travelling in Bavaria, Shanghai and England. At every turn, Sherman highlights and challenges what the gallery terms “our innate desire to assign genders to those we encounter“, to playful yet powerful effect.
Pascal Sender at Saatchi Yates: Until 20 December 2021
This autumn Saatchi Yates, a new commercial gallery founded by Phoebe Saatchi Yates and Arthur Yates, opened in the centre of Mayfair. The Cork Street space made its debut with an exhibition of the Swiss-born, London-based artist Pascal Sender, whose wildly imaginative paintings can be viewed in IRL and, in an innovative twist, AR (augmented reality).
There are lots of new film releases to keep everyone entertained throughout December. The latest rendition of Dickens’ festive fable A Christmas Carol – directed by Jacqui and David Morris, and starring Daniel Kaluuya, Carey Mulligan and Leslie Caron – should satisfy those looking for a dose of haunted holiday drama. In another ghostly offering, Edward Hall takes on Noël Coward’s beloved comedy Blithe Spirit about a spiritualist medium (played by the inimitable Judi Dench) who accidentally conjures the spirit of her client’s dead wife, much to the dismay of his new spouse. For those pining after a Christmas ballet, meanwhile, the breathtakingly brilliant Bolshoi Ballet will release a new filmed performance of The Nutcracker.
Don’t miss Farewell Amor, writer-director Ekwa Msangi’s critically acclaimed tale of an Angolan immigrant, who reunites with his wife and daughter in New York after spending 17 years apart. Then there’s Mary McGuckian’s stirring feature A Girl From Mogadishu, inspired by the true story of Irish activist Ifrah Ahmed, who launched a campaign to end female genital mutilation after fleeing from war-torn Somalia. The Woman Who Ran, from South Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo is another must-watch – a delightfully Eric Rohmer-esque drama that follows a young married woman who ventures to see three old female acquaintances over the course of a rare period spent apart from her husband.
Lastly, for those looking for a good documentary, Bill and Turner Ross’s Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets is a stirringly original film documenting the final night of a Las Vegas dive bar before it closes. And Talking Heads fans, be sure to catch the Spike Lee-directed American Utopia, which sees the ever-mesmerising David Byrne perform songs from the hit Broadway musical of the same name, accompanied by a group of international musicians.
Food and Drink
This December will, for most of us, be a more DIY affair than usual, but that’s no excuse not to support food and drink purveyors, while enjoying (or gifting) a festive treat or two. Many restaurants and food stores are offering extra special Christmas boxes and hampers this year. Chris Leach of Soho restaurant Manteca, which specialises in nose-to-tail cooking, has dreamed up three types of festive box to ensure your holiday larder is stocked with delicious things (think: chicken liver parfait and date jam, goose, cranberry and pistachio sausage, and tortellini in brodo). Richard Corrigan of Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill, meanwhile, has created his most extravagant Christmas hamper yet, brimming with goodies ranging from treacle soda bread and seaweed butter to native oysters, Exmoor caviar with homemade blinis and dressed crab.
A passionate sourcer of artisan Italian ingredients, Vallebona is offering buyers the chance to customise Christmas boxes for themselves and their loved ones this year. Whether you're a cheese, salumi and antipasti fanatic or craving panettone, pudding wine and chocolate galore, they’ve got you covered. Elsewhere, two Michelin Star restaurant Moor Hall has produced a luxury Christmas hamper that is guaranteed to delight, packed full as it is of house-cured charcuterie, smoked salmon, seasonal cheeses, Christmas pudding, mince pies and much more. Plus £15 from every sale will be donated to a local school to help support families in need over the Christmas holidays. Finally, for those in the market for expertly mixed cocktails at home, cocktail specialists Lyaness at Sea Containers London are making five of their delectably innovative concoctions, including the Rock Pool Sazerac and the Beetle Boulevardier, available for home delivery nationwide throughout December. Bottoms up!