Brilliant Things To Do This April

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Bassman, A Report to Skeptics-Press Image - 3000px
Lillian Bassman, "A Report to Skeptics", Suzy Parker, April 1952, Harper's Bazaar© Estate of Lillian Bassman

As things slowly start to open up again, we present our hand-picked list of wonderful ways to occupy your days, from new exhibitions and captivating cinema to outdoor feasting opportunities

Exhibitions

Modern Look: Photography and the American Magazine at the Jewish Museum, New York: April 3 – July 11, 2021
A new exhibition at New York’s Jewish Museum will explore “how photography, graphic design, and popular magazines converged to transform American visual culture” between the years of 1930 and 1960, following the influx of European émigrés to the US during and after the Second World War. Spanning the work of such influential designers and photographers as Richard Avedon, Lillian Bassman and Margaret Bourke-White through Gordon Parks, Irving Penn and Paul Rand, the display will feature some 150 works that exemplify the “innovation, inclusiveness and pragmatism” of the era’s singular magazine aesthetic. 

Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser at the V&A, London: Until December 31, 2021
Take a tumble down the rabbit hole, courtesy of the V&A’s latest exhibition: a suitably theatrical celebration of all things Alice in Wonderland. Discover the origins and iterations of Lewis Carroll’s beloved books, before being taken on an immersive journey through the various adaptations and reinventions they’ve spawned over the past century and a half. Expect to see designs by Vivienne Westwood, paintings by Salvador Dalí and photo shoots by Tim Walker, as well as eye-popping ballet costumes, psychedelic posters and much, much more.

A Viewing Room by The Korean Cultural Centre UK, Online: April 6 – May 31, 2021
This month sees the launch of an online artist film programme from the UK’s Korean Cultural Centre. It features video works by eight emerging contemporary Korean artists and collectives, including Jeongyoon Ahn, Minhwi Lee and Yun Choi, and the Rice Brewing Sisters Club. Responding to the pandemic and the new reality we’ve had to adapt to, the films centre around themes of “psychological well being, social solidarity, care systems, reconfiguring embodiment in relation to our environment, and the transition from offline to online”, and are sure to make for timely, thought-provoking viewing.

Art Dubai 2021: Until April 3, 2021
Art Dubai launched its 14th edition earlier this week in a new location under the imposing Gate Building at Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). The fair has brought together “50 galleries from 31 countries, showcasing a diverse selection of artworks with a strong focus on artists and practices from the Middle East and the Global South”, its press release informs. Highlights include a new Film Programme, presented at screening stations along DIFC’s Gate Avenue, and an outdoor sculpture park including works by Emirati artists Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim and Hussain Sharif, and Mozambican artist Gonçalo Mabunda.

Bruce LaBruce: Death at CULTUREEDIT, LA: Until April 30, 2021
Last year saw the release of Bruce LaBruce’s photo book Death, published by Baron Books and featuring a blood-splattered array of works by the transgressive American artist, made over the past 20 years. “[It’s] about the relationship of photography to death and how death is portrayed in Western culture,” LaBruce told Slava Mogutin in a feature for AnOther. “As my work often deals in stark and extreme images of violence, gore, splatter and death in all its manifestations, I ... thought it was a perfect fit for me.” Now, thanks to a new exhibition at CULTUREEDIT, LA readers can view the book’s artworks in person – from grisly film stills through arresting photography performances. While fans elsewhere can peruse it online.

Sun Ra, The Substitute Words: Poetry, 1957-72 at Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago: Until April 24, 2021
The late, great composer and Afrofuturist pioneer Sun Ra is best known for his radical jazz and stage performances, but he was also a prolific poet and writer who was endlessly preoccupied by the power of words. In what is the first of its kind, a new exhibition at Corbett v Dempsey in Chicago looks specifically at Ra’s poetry, both “on its own terms and in the context of his innovative DIY methods ... [examining] the centrality of poetry to [his] work and the ingenious ways he sought to filter the poems out into the world.”

Claes & Coosje: A Duet at Pace Gallery, New York: Until May 9, 2021
Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen are one of the art world’s most renowned husband-and-wife duos, most widely recognised for their playful public sculptures that reimagine everyday objects on a super-size scale. Now, a new exhibit at Pace Gallery, New York takes a closer look at their fruitful collaboration, charting their relationship and artistic evolution over the years and driving home “the indispensable role that van Bruggen [who died in 2009] played in their collective practice.” Curated in close collaboration with the artists’ daughter, Maartje Oldenburg, the show also marks the unveiling of Dropped Bouquet, the final, fanciful work the pair made together.

Claudia Skoda: Dressed to Thrill at the Staatliche Museen, Berlin: April 1 – July 18, 2021
Berliners, be sure to catch the Staatliche Museen’s riotous celebration of esoteric knitwear designer Claudia Skoda’s life and work, spanning her seminal machine-knit designs and performance-art-meets-fashion-show presentations (all scant bird costumes and helium balloon tails). The show is Skoda’s first ever solo exhibition and uses garments, photographs, films and music to paint a vivid picture of the designer’s impact on Berlin’s underground scene during the 70s and 80s.

Allez La France! at Saatchi Yates, London: April 12 – May 26 2021
Saatchi Yates’ current display sees the coming together of four contemporary artists – Jin Angdoo, Mathieu Julien, Hams Klemens and Kevin Pinsember – to “consider the legacy of the painting tradition in France”. The collective met, and began working together, between Marseille and Paris, where they would paint on shared walls, creating large-scale artworks that “resonate more with abstract expressionism than street art”. Their aim was to make work for the public to enjoy outside of an institutionalised art setting, for as long as it remained untouched. This show is the first time the artists have displayed their elegiac paintings collectively in a gallery space, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Silk at Museo Salvatore Ferragamo: Until April 18, 2022
At the Salvatore Ferragamo museum in Florence, the storied Italian accessories brand takes visitors on a sumptuous voyage spanning the history of silk and its central role in Ferragamo’s legacy. The display chronicles the fabric’s ancient origins in Persia and China, its exportation to the medieval “west” along the Silk Road, and its luxurious sartorial connotations, before shedding light on the various techniques employed by Maison Salvatore Ferragamo in the creation of its iconic printed silk scarves.

Homecoming: The Aesthetic of the Cool at Gallery II, Accra: Until May 9, 2021
In Accra, a new show by Gallery 1957 spotlights the work of ascendant Ghanian painters Amoako Boafo, Kwesi Botchway and Otis Quaicoe, each of whom has created their own vision of “what it means to be Black, African, and a contemporary artist in the 21st century”. The artists, while stylistically distinct from one another, share an interest “in using elements of classic canonical portraiture ... to promote a sense of inner narrative“. The exhibition homes in on this shared sense of “refined repose”, investigating its connection to what the scholar Robert Faris Thompson calls “the aesthetic of the cool” (a far-reaching aesthetic stemming from West African culture).

Wisdom and Nature at Christie’s, Online: April 6 – 27, 2021
A forthcoming online exhibition and fundraising auction, Wisdom and Nature, will offer art aficionados the chance to purchase a beautiful artwork and support a great cause while they’re at it. The event will be hosted by Christie’s in aid of Le Ciel Foundation, a UK-based charity “dedicated to protecting indigenous knowledge and acting as a trusted conduit between ancestral wisdom and western society“. Donated by 49 artists from around the globe, each of the featured works is inspired by the “raw natural beauty of the planet and the traditions of its communities“.

Lygia Pape: Tupinambá at Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles: April 24 – August 1, 2021
In LA, a forthcoming show will offer insight into Lygia Pape’s visceral Tupinambá series, consisting of furry red balls imbued with various body parts. The late Brazilian contemporary art pioneer “devised a wholly original language during her career to investigate the physical and experiential life of the body, and with this series achieves an unprecedented union of the geometric and the figurative within the wider context of her oeuvre,“ explains the exhibition blurb. The works, we are told, signify Pape’s preoccupation with indigenous Brazilian peoples and cultural customs – in this instance anthropophagy, a variant of cannilbalism practiced by the Tupinambá.

Film

While we’re hoping to spend a lot more time outdoors this month, there are plenty of enticing new film offerings to liven up the chillier nights. Christian Petzold’s German-French drama Undine sees a captivating Paula Beer play a historian specialising in the urban development of Berlin, whose world turns dark and upside-down when the man she loves leaves her. Zana by Kosovo-born filmmaker Antoneta Kastrati is the beautifully told tale of a bereaved mother who, desperate to become pregnant again, enlists the help of a witch doctor and a televangelist healer. Then there’s queer coming-of-age thriller Sequin In A Blue Room by Samuel Van Grinsven, which follows a teenage boy in his quest to find a man he met at an anonymous sex party. A “tangled web of sex, connections, lies, and desires“ enues.

Don’t miss True Mothers by the acclaimed Japanese director Naomi Kawase. A powerful story of love and adoption, it centres on an adoptive mother and the young woman whose child she adopted, who reemerges six years later in the hopes of reconnecting with her son. I Blame Society, directed by and starring Gillian Horvat, is a brilliantly satirical mockumentary that sees a struggling filmmaker turn to murder in the name of art with the hope of galvanising her creative credentials. Lawrence Michael Levine’s Black Bear is a similarly meta affair, following a director (Aubrey Plaza) suffering from artist’s block who seeks solace at a rural retreat but instead finds her inner demons awakened.

April’s must-see documentaries, meanwhile, include: Lisa Rovner’s Sisters with Transistors, narrated by Laurie Anderson, which shines fascinating light on electronic music’s vital but lesser-known female pioneers; House Of Cardin by P David Ebersole and Todd Hughes, which offers insight into the remarkable life and career of the inimitable fashion designer Pierre Cardin; and Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation, which examines “the work, lives, and personal journeys“ of the seminal American writers Truman Capote and Tennesee Williams.

Food and Drink

Now for this month’s culinary delights. First up, Ravinder Bhogal and Nadeem Lalani, the duo behind award-winning restaurant Jikoni and its sister brand Comfort & Joy, will conclude their series of lockdown talks, Civilised Sundays, on April 11 with a special conversation with author and broadcaster Yasmin Khan. The talk coincides with the launch of Khan’s latest book, Ripe Figs: Recipes and Stories from the Eastern Mediterranean, and guests have the option of buying a specially curated Comfort & Joy box to enjoy while they watch.

Happily, this month marks a further easing of lockdown restrictions, allowing for picnics and al fresco dining galore. Impress your friends this Easter with a delicious DIY hot cross bun kit from Borough Market’s Flor Bakery, providing everything you need to whip up 12 seasonal treats. Or, for those more partial to a steamed bun, check out BAO London’s wonderfully tongue-in-cheek “Easter chick“ baos, filled with molten chocolate and salted egg, delivered ready for home-steaming. 

For those looking to picnic in style, may we recommend the Colette picnic hampers, presented in chic wicker baskets and “brimming with an assortment of handpicked treats and fine French fancies“. Sizes and themes vary, from afternoon tea to deli delicacies. If you’re looking for Italian fare, meanwhile, Hackney restaurant Ombra is also offering hampers, filled with its famous house focaccia, mortadella, olives, burrata, ’Nduja sausage rolls, pasta salad, beers and Amaretti biscuits. Alternatively, if you want to up your barbecue game and support the British fishing industry in the process, Islington and Padstow fishmongers Prawn on the Lawn are here to help with their opulent array of seafood delights, and expert knowledge of how best to cook and marinade them. Supplement your outdoor banquets with Low Intervention’s natural wine subscription, a monthly delivery of tasty offerings from an exciting new wave of winemakers.

There are also plenty of opportunities to indulge in terrace dining this April. Allegra, East Village has a glorious rooftop terrace, surrounded by wildflowers, where guests can sample a range of sharing dishes and small plates by the chef Patrick Powel. Wild by Tart in Eccleston Yards in Pimlico offers a “relaxed all-day dining menu, focusing on big flavours and seasonal, sustainably-sourced ingredients“ (think: Tokyo turnip tempura with anchovy butter and lamb rump with confit fennel). Last but not least, stately hotel Heckfield Place, set in the stunning Hampshire countryside, is launching a pop-up al fresco restaurant on its Italian terrace, with acclaimed chef Skye Gyngell. Gyngell will be creating a tantalising menu using biodynamic produce, freshly picked where possible from the hotel’s gardens and farm. Replete with a canopy and fire pits, and serving lunch, tea and a five-course dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings, the experience is set to delight come rain or shine and is open from April 14 until May 9. Bring on spring feasting!