Brilliant Things to Do (or Dream of Doing) This January

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Irving Penn Bee (A) , New York, 1995© The Irving Penn Foundation

2021 is here, and while lockdown is still in place for many, we've compiled a list of excellent things to eat, watch, and at the very least look forward to doing this month


Irving Penn: Photographism at Pace, New York: January 8 – February 13, 2021
“What I yearn for as a photographer is someone who will connect the work of photographers to that of sculptors and painters of the past,” stated the inimitable American image-maker Irving Penn. Now, a new exhibition at Pace, New York seeks to answer this call, showcasing a broad range of imagery from across Penn’s seven-decade career, in non-chronological order, to emphasise the different mediums and art movements that inspired his innovative pictorial style.

Reprieve x Vortic at Victoria Miro (online):  Until January 31, 2021
For those stuck in lockdown, be sure to catch Reprieve x Vortic, an online and extended reality exhibition by Victoria Miro gallery, helping to raise funds for UK charity Reprieve and its global human rights initiatives. The group show includes work by Hernan Bas, Doron Langberg and Grayson Perry, as well as “an important, though rarely seen series” by British artist Paula Rego, tackling “a host of themes of abuse and exploitation, including female genital mutilation and rape”. Other highlights include new work by Zimbabwe-born, South Africa-raised artist Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, whose nude paintings raise powerful questions about “the Black body and its representation, as well as meditating on themes of sexuality, gender and spirituality”.

Richard Hamilton: Towards a Definitive Statement at Cristea Roberts Gallery, London: January 2021 (TBC)
A forthcoming exhibition at London’s Cristea Roberts Gallery will explore the topics of protest, portraiture, interior scenes and landscapes in the work of British Pop Art pioneer Richard Hamilton. “Hamilton was an artist who drew directly upon the social changes he was witnessing,” explains the show’s accompanying text, ”whether reflecting on the rise of popular, consumer culture or on the mediation of political events.” This is evident in the many seminal collages and prints set to feature in the display – from Hamilton’s 1965 work My Marilyn, 1965, whereby he appropriated a series of publicity stills of Marilyn Monroe, printed by a British magazine in the wake of her death, to his famed 1956 collage Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? – the very artwork that spawned the term Pop Art (thanks to its inclusion of the word ”pop”).

Torbjørn Rødland: More Than Tongue Can Tell at Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich: January 15 – February 20, 2021
In Zurich, Galerie Eva Presenhuber will present its third solo exhibition with the Norwegian artist Torbjørn Rødland, featuring, among other things, a paint brush-wielding toddler and an artfully sunlit pregnant belly. Rødland’s mysterious, immaculately crafted imagery is endlessly suggestive and strange, drawing on everything from art history and classical mythology to a contemporary “Hollyweird” aesthetic à la David Lynch. As the gallery explains, “Emotions, puzzles, and story fragments are just as important to him as dealing with the inherent characteristics of photography as an art form [and] More Than Tongue Can Tell brings this approach to a head through a loose narrative, into which the viewer is immersed as if into their own subconscious.”

Richard Prince: All Books and Some Prints at Center de la Photographie Genève, Geneva: January 26 – February 28, 2021
Richard Prince fans in Switzerland will get the chance to peruse every publication the artist, appropriator and obsessive collector has created and edited over the course of his 50-year career in a new display at Geneva’s Centre of Photography. These include Cowboy, the recent monograph on the artist’s enduring fascination with the mythic American West, through his infamous 1989 book Inside World, featuring photographs of American macho iconography.

Rebecca Brodskis: Arrêt Sur Image at at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London: January 2021 (TBC)
For a dose of much-needed escapism, be sure to catch Paris-based artist Rebecca Brodskis’ new exhibition Arrêt Sur Image when it opens at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery in London. Inspired by cinema (she grew up in a family of filmmakers) and the aesthetics of the 20s and 30s, Brodskis’ paintings boast a surreal, otherworldly quality, depicting stylised, spectre-like figures against bright, colour block backdrops. Each work brims with narrative potential – a quality Brodskis attributes to her love of film: “I like the idea that when you stop on a frame of the film, suddenly, that frame takes on the importance.“

Larry Fink – Retrospective at Galerie Bene Taschen, Cologne: January 27 (TBC) – April 3, 2021
In Cologne, a retrospective of the brilliant American photographer Larry Fink is guaranteed to delight. Fink’s work – spanning over six decades – boasts a ceaseless preoccupation with people, and he has devoted his life to documenting the many different social groups he’s encountered along the way – from The Beat Generation to boxing communities, from a working-class Pennsylvanian family to the frequenters of high society parties. In each case, he captures his subjects with unparallelled artistry, evoking the work of the old Baroque masters through his breathtaking command of light. 

Mari Katayama: Home Again at Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris: January, 2021 (TBC)
The Japanese artist Mari Katayama combines sculpture, sewing, performance and photography to singular, and spellbinding, effect. Katayama was born with a rare condition which meant she had to have both her legs amputated at the age of nine, and much of her work is a powerful exploration of body and identity, as well as a chance to create the fantasy worlds she was unable to experience as a child. A forthcoming show at the MEP in Paris will present a range of Katayama’s bold photographs, spanning 2009 through her latest 2019 series In the Water, inspired by the recent birth of her daughter.

Emmanuel Taku: Temple of Blackness – It Takes Two at Noldor, Accra: Until January 17, 2021
Last month marked the launch of Ghana’s first independent artist residency programme, the Noldor Artist Residency in Accra. The annual four-week initiative was founded by the contemporary African art specialist Joseph Awuah-Darko and offers ”one emerging African artist, [who is] technically trained but has limited access to artistic resources, [the chance] to expand on their practice.” The first resident is the rising Ghanaian artist Emmanuel Taku, whose intricate works in newspaper, textile and acrylic paint “draw on figurative surrealism to reclaim a Black narrative and identity.“ Ten new paintings created by Taku during his residency are currently on show at Noldor’s warehouse studio space located in the Ghanian capital’s seaside La district.

JR: Chronicles at Saatchi Gallery, London: January 28 (TBC) – April 11, 2021
Aficionados of the French artist JR will be thrilled by the arrival of JR: Chronicles at London's Saatchi Gallery – set tentatively to open later this month - which debuted at the Brooklyn Museum last year and marks the largest exhibition of JR’s work to date. Spotlighting many of the Agnès Varda-approved artist’s best-known projects of the last 15 years, the show ”traces JR’s career from his early documentation of graffiti artists as a teenager in Paris to his large-scale architectural interventions in cities worldwide and recent digitally collaged murals that create collective portraits of diverse communities.”

Valentino: Re-Signify, Part One at the Power Station of Art, Shanghai: open now until January 17, 2021
Described as “neither a fashion presentation, nor an exhibition”, Pierpaolo Piccioli’s explorative Shanghai show examines the codes of Valentino through designs from the house’s history, pieces of Valentino couture and works by several trailblazing artists, including Jacopo Benassi, Cao Fei, Jonas Mekas, Stanley Mouse, Robby Müller, Quayola, Anna Ridler, Rachel Rose, Sølve Sundsbø, Natália Trejbalová, and Weirdcore. Valentino hopes the show will be “an experience, an interactive path, conceived with the idea to trigger doubts and curiosity, with the aim to not provide answers.” 


There are some great new film offerings to fill our evenings with this month. First up, Ham On Rye, the surreal debut feature from Tyler Taormina, which follows a group of teenagers in an unnamed American town throughout the course of a single, fateful day. Critics are raving about Dear Comrades! by Russian auteur Andrei Konchalovsky, an irony-seeped investigation into the 1962 workers strike in the small, industrial town of Novocherkassk – and the massacre that ensued. Then there’s Imperial Blue, the first feature from British director Daniel Moss, described as a psychedelic fantasy thriller and centred on a drug smuggler who ventures to Uganda with plans to export large quantities of a sacred herb.

Quo Vadis, Aida?, by Bosnian filmmaker Jasmila Žbanić, tells the urgent tale of a UN translator living in the small town of Srebrenica during the notorious Bosnian Serb army invasion, and her frenzied attempts to save her family. For those in search of must-see documentaries, meanwhile, don’t miss MLK/FBI – Samuel D. Pollard’s vital unearthing of J. Edgar Hoover’s relentless campaign of surveillance and harassment against Martin Luther King, Jr – and 76 Days, Hao Wu and Weixi Chen’s stirring film about ”the patients and frontline health workers battling the Covid-19 pandemic in Wuhan, China.”

Food and Drink

Most of us are very much house-bound this month, so what better time to support local businesses in their quest to provide us with delicious things? May we recommend the supremely tasty, and aesthetically pleasing creations of master baker Lily Vanilli, whose online store is offering nationwide delivery (highlights include salted caramel brownies and bake it yourself cookie dough).  For vegans, or those participating in Veganuary, Cake or Death provides a similarly scrumptious array of brownies in a variety of flavours, packaged in a handy letterbox-sized box, while Pied à Terre, one of the longest standing Michelin-starred restaurants in London, has just launched an at-home vegan feast. 

Pizza lovers, get your hands on an authentic 12” pizza by London favourite Homeslice, prepared using the highest-quality ingredients and delivered nationwide, ready to be baked at home. Londoners, check out DabbaDrop – the capital's first plastic and emissions free takeaway subscription service, who are whipping up deliciously wholesome vegan curries and delivering them via push bike in stainless-steel tiffin containers. Lastly, for those in need of a tipple (or two), Peckham Cellars' eclectic selection of wines and excellent (and predominantly locally brewed) beers, plus variety of cocktails, are available to customers nationwide now. Chin, chin.