From rousing feminist art shows to the best spots for festive feasting, here’s everything you need to bookmark for a truly memorable December
Helmut Newton: Brands at the Helmut Newton Foundation, Berlin: December 3, 2022 – May 14, 2023
The late, great fashion photographer Helmut Newton famously stuck to the same artistic approach whether producing his own work, fashion editorials, or commercial imagery for brands. In all instances, his style was as distinctive as it was groundbreaking: sensual, cinematic and unashamedly provocative. In Brands, a new show at the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin, viewers will have the chance to acquaint themselves with Newton’s work in advertising. Over 200 photographs evidence the image-maker’s collaborations with brands including Jimmy Choo, Yves Saint Laurent, Lavazza and Absolut Vodka, the resulting campaigns each as captivating as the next.
In Los Angeles, meanwhile, Afro-Atlantic Histories will trace “the transatlantic slave trade and its legacies in the African diaspora”. The touring exhibition, which originated at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand in Brazil, features “artworks produced in Africa, Europe, and the Americas in the last four centuries”. Presented together, these offer a powerful, globe-spanning reexamination of “histories and stories of enslavement, resilience, and the struggle for liberation”.
Queerness in Photography at C/O Berlin, Berlin: Until January 18, 2023
Don’t miss the chance to see Queerness in Photography, three complementary exhibitions at C/O Berlin that serve to challenge the notion of socially constructed genders. The first display is comprised of amateur snapshots from the collection of French filmmaker Sébastien Lifshitz, revealing a secret history of cross-dressing in 19th-century France. Next are images from found-photography collection Casa Susanna, documenting life and larks at “a safe space for cross-dressers and trans women” in Hunter, New York in the 1950s and 60s. Lastly, Orlando Curated by Tilda Swinton is just that – a look back at the seminal film adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s novel (in which a young Swinton plays the gender-nonconforming lead), conceived for the museum by the actor herself.
At Richard Saltoun gallery in London, an opportunity to encounter the early work of two of the UK’s most radical artists: Helen Chadwick and Penny Singer, who in the 1970s “broke all taboos and conventions with their bold, visceral works that explored female subjectivity, especially in relation to sexual desire”. Highlights are set to include In the Kitchen (1977), Chadwick’s renowned series of photographs satirising and rejecting the domestic expectations placed upon women, and prints from Slinger’s seminal photobook 50% The Visible Woman, featuring surrealist-style collages depicting her own nude body to champion female liberation and empowerment.
Theaster Gates: Young Lords and Their Traces at New Museum, New York: Until February 5, 2023
If you’re in New York over the festive season, be sure to catch Young Lords and Their Traces at the New Museum. It is the first museum survey exhibition dedicated to the inimitable Theaster Gates, the artist and educator whose work in the areas of sculpture, social practice, collaborative performance, and archiving has rendered him “one of the most compelling artists active today,” the museum explains. Through a series of works in these different media, the show serves as an ode to the “radical thinkers” who Gates believes have shaped his home city of Chicago and the United States as a whole. Expect to be surprised and inspired in equal measure.
Paul Kooiker: Fashion at Foam, Amsterdam: December 9, 2022 – February 12, 2023
Dutch fashion photographer Paul Kooiker makes mesmerising work that, in the words of Foam museum, “breaks free from the dominant beauty paradigms in a seemingly effortless way”. This is perfectly encapsulated in his new show at the Amsterdam photography space, titled simply Fashion and showcasing a selection of images (all taken on an iPhone) that demonstrate Kooiker’s remarkable ability to “create an unmanageable kind of beauty that is not superficial, but almost Freudian in the way it plays on dark desires, fetishisms and subconscious dreams”.
Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life at Tate St Ives, Cornwall: Until May 1, 2023
Fans of Barbara Hepworth, it’s time to plan a trip to Cornwall to see the newly opened exhibition about the legendary British sculptor’s life and work at Tate St Ives. Featuring sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints and designs that span almost five decades, the show explores Hepworth’s myriad influences, from music, dance, science, politics and religion, as well as her formative personal experiences, to shed light on the evolution of a trailblazing modern artist who shifted the parameters of sculpture.
The latest in a series of commissions platforming the work of some of the most exciting names in art, design and fashion, NOW gallery in London is currently hosting a new installation by British fashion designer Matty Bovan. A master of knitting and crocheting, Bovan has hand-crafted monumental ribbon sculpture resembling a deconstructed sweater for the occasion. He has also made an accompanying film, detailing the creation of the works, presented alongside a similarly transportative sound and smellscape. Don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in Bovan’s brilliantly idiosyncratic world – and to get your hands on merch made specially for the occasion.
Le Grand Numéro de Chanel at the Grand Palais Éphémère, Paris: December 15, 2022 – January 9, 2023
This December, Chanel has determined to gift fragrance aficionados with “a festive and olfactory whirlwind” at Paris’s Grand Palais Éphémère, where a short but sweet-scented exhibition will reveal the history of the French fashion house’s beloved perfumes. Le Grand Numéro de Chanel promises to be an evocative, visually delighting display, celebrating the inherent theatricality and emotionality of perfumery as an art form, while revealing the secrets behind such evocative elixirs as Chanel N°5, Coco Mademoiselle and Bleu de Chanel.
Ebun Sodipo: I Found Venus and She Was Transsexual at Goldsmiths CCA, London: Until February 12, 2023
At Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art in London, ascendant artist Ebun Sodipo is holding her first institutional solo exhibition made up of new sculptures and collages that “explore and reinterpret Black trans historical presence”. These are inspired by the writer and theorist Saidiya Hartman’s methodology of critical fabulation and see Sodipo summon up historical subvertors of notions of race and gender (such as Mary Jones and Ellen Craft) through objects and images to poignant and pertinent effect.
Wu Tsang: Of Whales at Gropius Bau, Berlin: Until January 29, 2023
In the atrium of Berlin’s Gropius Bau museum, artist and filmmaker Wu Tsang plunges visitors into “surreal ocean environments that are dynamically regenerated in real time by a virtual reality game engine”, in what is the spellbinding culmination of Tsang’s in-depth research around Herman Melville’s 1851 novel Moby Dick. Part of the ongoing exhibition YOYI! Care, Repair, Heal, for which 25 artists contemplate concepts of care, repair and healing, Of Whales uses entirely immersive visuals and a 16-channel score to “invite viewers to consider their kinship with aquatic species and states of natural flux”.
American multidisciplinary artist Martha Rosler describes her art as “a communicative act, a form of an utterance, a way to open a conversation” – and she has undeniably done just that throughout her politically and socially charged career. Now, at Mitchell-Innes & Nash gallery in New York, you can witness the enduring power of Rosler’s work for yourself, including her acclaimed early series of collages Body Beautiful, or Beauty Knows No Pain, which offers “often-derisive critiques of the pressures and fantasies brought to bear on women and girls”. In a dedicated screening space, meanwhile, you can discover a still-urgent selection of Rosler’s rousing films and videos from the 1970s onwards.
Performances & Events
December brings with it a host of excellent events and performances to uplift and entertain. At the Garrick theatre, Emma Corrin takes on the role of Orlando in Michael Grandage’s new stage adaptation of Woolf’s captivating novel, inspired by her lover, the artist and novelist Vita Sackville-West. From December 12, Paul Mescal will take centre stage as Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams’ sweltering drama A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Rebecca Frecknall and co-starring Anjana Vasan and Lydia Wilson.
On December 2, don’t miss Sokhan Begoo / Speak Up, a night of readings from Iranian playwrights at the Royal Court Theatre, amplifying the voices of contemporary Iran (all money raised from the event will support the artists involved). While from December 1 – January 15, choreographer Matthew Bourne’s supernatural take on Sleeping Beauty returns to Sadler’s Wells a decade after its premiere there enchanted audiences and critics alike.
Lovers of ABBA and/or mind-blowing tech, be sure to catch ABBA Voyage, an extraordinary show choreographed by Wayne McGregor that sees the Swedish popstars return to stage in avatar form to perform their greatest hits as the 1970s versions of themselves. A visual and sonic spectacle like no other, in the specially made ABBA Arena in London's Pudding Mill Lane, the show can now be booked up until November 2023.
At ENO, fans of the Christmastime classic It’s a Wonderful Life will be charmed by a new operatic adaptation of the beloved Frank Capra film, by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer, arriving at the opera house on December 3. Elsewhere, another unabashedly Christmassy event comes courtesy of Petersham Nurseries, who are currently offering a series of wreath making and tablescaping workshops to help ensure that your handmade holiday decor is both chic and on point.
There are plenty of good excuses to while away a winter night in the cinema this month. Noah Baumbach is back with his latest offering, a screen adaptation of Don DeLillo’s apocalyptic black comedy White Noise about “a contemporary American family’s attempts to deal with the mundane conflicts of everyday life”. The Dardenne brothers also make their return with Tori & Lokita, an urgent story of two young immigrants from Benin (played by Pablo Schils and Joely Mbundu), whose friendship is put to the test as they battle to forge a new life in Belgium. For those in the market for a stylish, 70s-inspired gothic horror, there’s Dawn Breaks Behind The Eyes from Austrian-Sri-Lankan director Kevin Kopacka. In it, a husband and wife decide to spend the night in the latter’s newly inherited castle, where they soon lose their grasp on both time and reality.
If anime’s answer to Stand By Me sounds like your cup of tea, Atsuko Ishizuka’s mesmerising and melancholic movie Goodbye, Don Glees!, about the misadventures of three misfit teens on a life-changing summer holiday in Iceland, won’t fail to enthral. Meanwhile, we’re counting down the days to the release of the new Whitney Houston biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody, directed by Kasi Lemmons and starring a breathtaking Naomi Ackie as the legendary pop icon. Then there’s Corsage from Austrian filmmaker Marie Kreutzer, tracing a year in the life of Empress Elisabeth of Austria (hauntingly portrayed by Vicky Krieps), as the once-celebrated royal beauty turns 40 and is suddenly deemed old.
If you’re looking for excellent documentaries, we strongly recommend Bianca Stigter’s Three Minutes: A Lengthening, centred around a 1938 home movie, shot on 16mm film, that now serves as the only surviving pre-Holocaust footage of the inhabitants of Nasielsk, a small Jewish town in Poland. For his latest offering Lynch/Oz, Alexandre O Philippe invites a selection of journalists and filmmakers, including Karyn Kusama, John Waters, and Amy Nicholson, to muse on the influence of the 1933 classic The Wizard Of Oz on the cinema of David Lynch – resulting in a fixating watch. Last but not least, The Felling by Eve Wood follows the people of Sheffield as a peaceful protest to stop the felling of their city’s street trees spirals out of control, resuling in a modern-day David and Goliath tale that proves the power of ordinary people.
If you’re on the lookout for new spots to indulge in festive feasting, we’ve got you covered. In Stoke Newington, there’s a new vegan cafe in town, the WAVE Stokey, from the team behind Hackney’s We Are Vegan Everything. Offering truly scrumptious vegan alternatives to everything from “smoked salmon” bagels to the tastiest hot chocolate made with peanut butter oat milk, the WAVE Stokey will also be whipping up a series of seasonal delights this December (including a gravy marinated roast “chicken” sandwich with all the trimmings).
In Mayfair, new Japanese restaurant Taku, headed up by Michelin-starred chef Takuya Watanabe, has just opened its doors. Located on Albemarle Street, Taku focuses on the spirit of omakase – respectfully leaving decision-making down to the chef. And knowing Watanabe’s reputation as a master edomae-style sushi-maker, the daily-changing menu, made with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, will no doubt delight. As will the restaurant’s selection of fine and rare wines, champagnes and specialty sakes.
If you’ve already discovered the joys of cosy Soho cocktail bar and recording studio The Thin White Duke, you’ll be happy to hear that they’ve just joined forces with the delicious Dominican tapas restaurant, Boca Chica. Now, their enticing cocktail menu is supplemented by a selection of “small bites bursting with Caribbean flavours”, from Picapollo (fried chicken seasoned with a secret mix served with tostones) to fresh ceviche with iced mango, passion fruit, avocado.
For those in search of a mouth-watering Mexican breakfast, Los Mochis, the Baja-Nihon restaurant in the heart of Notting Hill, has just launched its new breakfast menu including tacos (with truffle!), chilaquiles, pancakes and huevos, plus Bloody Mezcalitas, Micheladas and Tequila Sunrises to ameliorate any lingering morning-after blues.
Another treat for west Londoners comes courtesy of Maria G’s Fulham, a new iteration of Robin Gill and chef Aaron Potter’s acclaimed Italian restaurant in Kensington, this time overlooking the Thames. The eatery offers diners a new, sustainable seafood-focussed menu celebrating the fresh fishy dishes of the Amalfi coast, but using British produce. Expect razor clams dressed in gremolata, citrus-cured chalk stream trout, mussels al forno, steaming shared pasta dishes, and much more.
Finally, for some Christmas excess, head to 9 Conduit Street where beloved restaurant and arts bar Sketch has conjured up a Georgian Christmas, with four dramatic floral installations by artists JamJar Flowers, Figa & Co and Ricky Paul to pay homage to its site’s 18th-century origins. Opt for afternoon tea in the opulently decorated gastro brasserie or a festive cocktail – three different drinks, concocted just for the occasion, are being served across the different rooms in all their regal, fairytale splendour. Happy holidays!