Brilliant Things to Do This October

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Guy Bourdin, Advertising Campaign for Charles Jourdan, Autumn 1979© The Guy Bourdin Estate 2021 / Courtesy of Louise Alexander Gallery

From performance art and powerful productions to afternoon teas and anticipated film releases, here’s our list of this month’s most unmissable events


Guy Bourdin: The Absurd and The Sublime at Chanel Nexus Hall, Tokyo: Until October 24, 2021
In Tokyo, an exhibition at Chanel Nexus Hall spotlights the work of master fashion photographer Guy Bourdin. An exciting exploration of the French image-maker’s extraordinary career, the show spans never-before-seen black-and-white images demonstrating Bourdin’s early photographic experiments through his iconic editorial shoots and ads, which are surreal and sumptuous in equal measure.

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair at Somerset House, London: October 14-17, 2021
This month marks two major art fairs in London, Frieze London (stay tuned for our forthcoming round-up), and 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, which returns to Somerset House on October 14. The fair’s ninth edition is its largest yet, featuring works from 48 major galleries from 23 countries around the globe. Not to be missed is DADA Gallery’s showcase of the work of rising Nigerian-British artists Tobi Alexandra Falade and Bunmi Agusto, both of whom tackle themes of “Nigerian heritage, immigration and identity” through otherworldly portraiture.

P.LACE.S – Looking through Antwerp Lace at MoMu, Antwerp: Until 2 January 2022
Fashion aficionados will be thrilled by the latest exhibition at MoMu in Antwerp: a gorgeous celebration of lace, exploring the Belgian city’s storied, yet often-overlooked role in the fabric’s production between the 16th and 18th century. Expect to see plenty of historic lace samples, paintings and archival documents, presented in dialogue with various contemporary fashion creations by the likes of Iris van Herpen, Prada, Azzedine Alaïa and Chanel, all of which “refer to lace in form or concept”.

Helen Levitt: In The Street at The Photographers' Gallery, London: October 15 – February 13, 2022
American street photographer Helen Levitt spent 50 years documenting local communities in her native New York, her remarkable work capturing the poetry and theatrics inherent in everyday life. This October, a new retrospective at The Photographers’ Gallery in London offers visitors the chance to appreciate the full scope and depth of her varied output, which ranges from vibrant colour photographs and artist books to radical avant-garde films.

Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love at the de Young Museum, San Francisco: October 23, 2021 – April 24, 2022
In San Francisco, the de Young Museum will revive the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s exuberant 2014 retrospective of acclaimed American fashion designer Patrick Kelly. Kelly’s playful yet sophisticated designs pushed racial and cultural boundaries, the press release informs, drawing on his childhood in the United States, his African-American heritage, the queer club scenes in New York and Paris, and various muses from across fashion, art and Black history for the purpose. The display will feature some 80 looks, as well as footage from Kelly’s groundbreaking shows, to situate the designer “in the broader context of art and fashion history”.

Close-Up at Fondation Beyeler, Basel: Until January 2, 2022
Fondation Beyeler’s latest exhibition brings together the work of nine visionary women artists, from the late 1800s through the present day, all “united in their emphasis on the depiction of the human figure” – namely the portrait and the self-portrait. From Frida Kahlo and Alice Neel to Marlene Dumas and Cindy Sherman, Close-Up zooms in on these distinctive artists’ singular gazes, looking at the ways in which “their personal vision of their surroundings ... finds expression in the portraits of themselves and others”.

Daido Moriyama – A Journey in Ink at Hamiltons Gallery, London: Until October 30, 2021
Londoners, be sure to catch Hamiltons Gallery’s excellent display of rare silkscreen prints by the inimitable Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama. Inspired by the early silkscreens of Andy Warhol, which Moriyama first encountered in 1971, these large-scale works are made using deep black ink, rendering the street scenes they depict “gritty and mysterious”, and utterly compelling. 

We Are History at Somerset House, London: October 16 – February 6, 2022
Also at Somerset House, a new group exhibition will soon arrive to offer a fresh perspective on humanity's impact on the planet, in the words of its press release, “by tracing the complex interrelations between today’s climate crisis and legacies of colonialism”. Curated by Ekow Eshun, the show will feature photography, prints, textile, installation and video works by artists including Alberta Whittle, Carolina Caycedo, Otobong Nkanga and Shiraz Bayjoo, all of which serve to “[capture] nature as a place of both beauty and fragility”.

The Space Between Us by Nirit Takele at Addis Fine Art, London: October 7-30, 2021
This month sees the brilliant Addis Ababa and London-based gallery Addis Fine Art London settle into a new, larger London home. Its first exhibition is a solo show of eye-catching figurative works by ascendent Ethiopian-Israeli painter Nirit Takele, which offer “a deeply personal insight into the everyday reality of the Beta Israel community”, ranging from the unique beauty of its culture to the various issues it currently faces.

The Sun Machine Is Coming Down at the ICC, Berlin: October 7-17, 2021
To mark its 70th anniversary, renowned cultural programme the Berliner Festspiele is taking over the formerly disused International Congress Centre Berlin with an incredible line-up of performances, circus arts, music, films, and installation over the course of ten days. Don’t forgo the chance to see works by Ed Atkins, Ayaka Nakama, Arthur Jafa, Tino Sehgal, Joulia Strauss and many more in an exceptional architectural setting. 

Different Bodies at The Fitzrovia Gallery, London: October 5-10, 2021
At London’s Fitzrovia Gallery, a new exhibition by British artist Joshua Press brings traditional ideas of painting into a contemporary context. Ranging from gestural figurative interiors to an expressive self-portrait inspired by Pompeian frescoes, the works on display reveal Press’s compelling process of figurative invention and reinvention through both painting and drawing.

Making It: Women and Abstract Sculpture at Waddington Custot, London: October 1 – November 13, 2021 
Sculpture lovers, rejoice: a new exhibition at Waddington Custot is shedding light on a group of visionary women scultors who rose to prominence in the late 1960s and early 70s, including Olga de Amaral, Lynda Benglis, Beverly Pepper and Mildred Thompson. Each of these artists took an unexpected approach to their chosen media (like fusing gold leaf with linen, folding metal or hand-knotting rope), the press release explains, and in doing so “challenged modernist conventions and expanded conceptions of the appropriate media and methods for sculpture” – with awe-inspiring results.


October boasts amazing new film releases in abundance. There’s the Polish-German dramedy, Never Gonna Snow Again by Małgorzata Szumowska and Michał Englert: a satirical story about a Ukrainian masseur who “uses his magic touch to change the lives of his wealthy but sad Polish clients”. Irish historical drama, Arracht, by writer and director Tomás Ó Súilleabháin is gripping thriller set during the Great Famine, following a despairing fisherman who forms an unlikely friendship with a helpless young girl. Meanwhile, The Invisible Life Of Euridice Gusmao by Karim Aïnouz – winner of the Cannes Un Certain Regard prize in 2019 – will finally arrive in UK cinemas. Described as a “tropical melodrama”, it hones in on two sisters living in midcentury Rio de Janeiro, who are kept apart by a “terrible lie”.

Two of the month’s most anticipated offerings are, of course, The French Dispatch from Wes Anderson and Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, both starring the unstoppable Timothée Chalamet. The former “brings to life a collection of stories from the final issue of an American magazine published in a fictional 20th-century French city”, while the latter is the screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic about a gifted young man named Paul Atreide who must voyage “to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people”. While for something more meandering, there’s Azor by rising Swiss director Andreas Fontana: the tale of a Swiss banker who vanishes in 1980s Argentina, leaving behind a trail of unpleasant rumours.

This month’s must-see documentaries, meanwhile, include Quant by Sadie Frost, the first official documentary to honour the life and work of trailblazing fashion designer Mary Quant; Pier Kids by Elegance Bratton, which traces the lives of three young queer and transgender New Yorkers who frequent the Christopher Street Pier in Manhattan; and I am Belmaya by Sue Carpenter and Belmaya Nepali, which sees the latter woman, a repetedly silenced Nepalaese filmmaker, reclaim her voice through her medium.


Live events are back in full swing, and this month is brimming with exceptional productions and performances of every kind. At Islington's Almeida theatre, AnOther’s former cover star Saoirse Ronan makes her anticipated UK stage debut as Lady Macbeth, alongside James McArdle, in Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, directed by Yaël Farber. Expect an “elemental production about a world in transformation, the shadows in all of us, and one couple’s spine-chilling quest for power”.

Be sure to catch Tom Stoppard’s deeply personal new play Leopoldstadt, directed by Patrick Marber, which is now in its final month at Wyndham’s Theatre. Billed as “a passionate drama of love, family and endurance”, it follows a Jewish family from Vienna over the course of 50 years. At The Royal Court, meanwhile, Aleshea Harris’s award-winning play Is God Is, directed by Ola Ince, is a tale of two women seeking revenge, which fuses “the ancient, the modern, the tragic, the Spaghetti Western, hip-hop and Afropunk” to searing effect.

New York’s performance art biennial Performa returns this month with its ninth edition, offering up a rousing programme of new live commissions by artists including Kevin Beasley, Ericka Beckman, Sara Cwynar, Danielle Dean, Tschabalala Self and Shikeith. Each work will centre on New York City, exploring “the changes the city has gone through [and imagining] powerful futures for its population”. Dance fans will delight in Matthew Bourne’s The Midnight Bell – New Adventures, a brand new production from the lauded British choreographer, premiering at Sadler's Wells on October 4. Set in a tavern in “darkest Soho”, it is the story of a lonely-hearts club “who have gathered to play out their lovelorn affairs of the heart”. 

On October 13, Stone Island Presents London will bring together six London-based acts – namely Jockstrap, Nala Sinephro, Obongjayar, Pa Salieu, Silvia Kastel and Two Shell – for what’s set to be a very special celebration of avant-garde sound at the Roundhouse, curated by C2C Festival. Opera lovers, be sure to book your tickets for the latest production of Satyagraha at ENO, Philip Glass’s mesmerising meditation on Mahatma Gandhi's early years in South Africa.

Food & Drink

There are dozens of enticing new culinary experiences to enjoy this autumn. First up: the new afternoon tea experience from cake-maker extraordinaire Lily Vanilli at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, drawing on the decadence of the Regency era and including mini sticky toffee puddings, pink lemonade tarts topped by gilded chocolate cherubs on top, and cakes galore. At The Hoxton, Southwark, a forthcoming three-month chef series will invite some of London’s most talented chefs (including Whyte Rushen, Mystic Borek and Ixta Belfrage) to whip up a special, one-off menu to accompany a series of never-pasteurised beers by Camden Town Brewery. Rushen is up first with a selection of dishes inspired by yeast, including a sweet beer glazed Kung pao chicken tartlet.

Exciting new arrivals on the restaurant scene include Haugen, a new Alpine-inspired café, restaurant and rooftop bar in Stratford, which will offer such delicious après-ski fare as the Mountain Fondue with sourdough, new potatoes and pickles. In Mayfair, renowned chef Rohit Ghai has opened Manthan, a new Indian restaurant on Maddox Street, showcasing an tantalising selection of dishes that reflect his culinary adventures in kitchens across the globe. Expect “traditional flavours with a contemporary twist [and] a firm focus on vegetarian dishes”.

Meanwhile, in Soho, Gabriel Pryce and Missy Flynn will open Rita’s, the anticipated follow-up to the beloved East London pop-up restaurant of the same name, launched ten years ago. As with all of the duo’s projects, the menu at Rita’s will be “heavily inspired by nostalgic, personal experiences”, the press release explains. In particular, “their travels across the Americas and the food, nuance, and culture found there” (think: Jalapeño popper gildas, hot bean devilled eggs, and salt cod taquitos).

In Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden, Layo and Zoe Paskin, will open the “little sister” to their acclaimed eatery The Barbary. Dubbed The Barbary Next Door, the laid-back neighbourhood restaurant and wine bar will offer a menu influenced by “the fragrant spices and smoky flavours of Moorish Spain and North African cooking”, alongside a wine list focussing on Spanish, French and Moroccan offerings. Last but not least, Wun’s Tea Room and Bar on Greek Street has just launched a delectable new brunch menu, taking its cues from the dishes of Hong Kong’s Cha Chaan Teng or “tea canteen”.  Look forward to devilled mackerel eggs, founder Z’s whimsical takes on fried milk, a Cantonese specialty, and Hong Kong-style French Toast, and “Sichuan Jungle Marys” to dispel any lingering hangovers. Cheers!