Brilliant Things to Do This July

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Peter Knapp Maillots de bain, 1971
Peter Knapp, Models in swimwear for Elle, 1971© Peter Knapp

From inspiring group exhibitions to invigorating new eateries, here’s our guide to July’s most exciting cultural and culinary offerings


Fashion in Motion at Palais Galliera, Paris: Until March 15, 2024

In Paris, a new exhibition at Palais Galliera examines the history of sportswear in fashion from the 18th century to the present day. Taking into account everything from the emergence of specialist attire for specific activities (think: side saddle habits through sweatpants) to the adaptation of womenswear for physical activity at the end of the 19th century and the socio-political connotations this held, the timely show precedes the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics. Some 200 works will be on display, including key pieces by Chanel, Hermès, Sonia Rykiel and Yohji Yamamoto, demonstrating the synergy between sportswear and high fashion.

Maria Prymachenko at Saatchi Gallery, London: July 13 – August 31, 2023

The late Ukrainian folk artist Maria Prymachenko is the focus of a forthcoming exhibition at Saatchi Gallery – a valuable opportunity to see her joyful artworks in person, following the destruction of a dedicated museum of her work by Russian forces in her native region of Polissya. The self-taught painter drew heavily on nature in the creation of her bold, colourful scenes, which feature everything from vibrant floral arrangements to domestic vignettes. “During times of war, Prymachenko’s art [has been] a source of strength for Ukrainians,” says the gallery. “It reminds them of their own power, their incredible past, and what the future could hold.”

Saints and Sinners at Guts Gallery, London: Until July 7, 2023

Londoners, don’t miss the chance to see Guts Gallery’s latest show, now in its last week: a group exhibition from a number of LGBTQ+ identifying artists including Catherine Opie, Shadi Al-Atallah, Ivie Bartlett, Peter Hujar and Rafał Zajko. Spanning photography through painting and sculpture, the show “explores what it means to be LGBTQ+ in an age where we increasingly see the physical closure of safe spaces”. The artworks on display are purposefully disruptive, forcing viewers out of their comfort zones to highlight the historic and present-day societal injustices that queer people have been, and remain, subject to.

Black Venus at Somerset House, London: July 20 – September 24, 2023

At Somerset House, a forthcoming show curated by Aindrea Emelife will celebrate and examine the many facets of Black femininity. Comprising photographs by 18 contemporary women and non-binary artists, the exhibition will “mine the complex narratives of Black womanhood through the lens of three archival depictions of Black women: the Hottentot Venus, the Sable Venus, and the Jezebel, dating between 1793 to 1930”. The works on show will contextualise historical depictions of Black women and the ways in which the Black body has been caricatured, collectively posing “a radical affront to a centuries-long dynamic of objectification, showcasing all that Black womanhood can be and has always been”.

Bathers at Saatchi Yates, London: Until August 10, 2023

If youre in need of some swift escapism this summer, we recommend heading to Saatchi Yates current show, which draws on the storied tradition of bathers in painting. The gallery commissioned six artists from its programme to conjure up their own take on the bathing theme for the purpose, the resulting works now hanging alongside paintings of languid loungers by David Hockney, JMW Turner, Pablo Picasso, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and more. 

Andrew Pierre Hart: The Listening Sweet – 3 – Lagos at Tiwani Contemporary, Lagos: Until August 5, 2023

Tiwani Contemporary in Lagos is currently hosting a new exhibition by the London-based artist Andrew Pierre Hart, whose practice revolves around the symbiotic relationship between sound and painting. A new series of vibrant paintings of musicians hang against hand-painted graphic murals, while a whimsical installation of wooden sculptural instruments, like those wielded by Hart’s painted protagonists, adorn the gallery’s floor space. The show represents “the artist’s perception of the intensity of Lagos and the music it is best known for, in particular that of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti” – to evocative and immersive effect.

Material Power: Palestinian Embroidery at Kettles Yard, Cambridge: July 8 – October 29, 2023

Embroidery is the most prominent cultural material in modern-day Palestine, as well as one of the countrys most admired ancient practices. Now, a new show at Kettles Yard in Cambridge will take a deep dive into the craft, showcasing more than 40 dresses and embroidered objects, on loan from various collections in Palestine and Jordan, to illustrate the “ways in which embroidery, primarily undertaken by women, has evolved through a century of turbulent history for the Palestinian people”.

Lee Miller and Roland Penrose: Love Letters Bound in Gold Handcuffs at Farleys House and Gallery, Sussex: July 6 – October 29, 2023

Fans of the surrealist photographer, Vogue model and WWII correspondent Lee Miller, be sure to catch the latest exhibition at Farleys House and Gallery, the Sussex home she shared with her husband Roland Penrose. The show centres around images of the couple and their friends, taken during Miller and Penroses courting period (1937-39), during which time they penned numerous love letters to one another. It also includes rarely-seen photographs that Miller took during her time spent in Egypt (1934-39), spanning camels and desert-scapes through ancient ruins, all captured in her thrillingly experimental style.

Worldmaking at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York: July 13 – August 25, 2023

In New York City, Mitchell-Innes & Nashs summer show is turning the spotlight on Ghana or, more specifically, ten of the countrys most exciting emerging artists, whose work traverses painting, sculpture, photography, video and installation. Co-curated by Ghanaian artist Gideon Appah and curator and gallery director Ylinka Barotto, Worldmaking explores Ghana’s environment “in light of Western consumption, architectural influences that derive from years-long domination, colonial impact on ecosystems and economies, and the use of traditions as conduits to preserving the past and understanding the present”.

Steinberg Meets the Eameses at the Eames Institute, Online: Ongoing

For anyone office- or house-bound this month and in search of some diversion, check out the Eames Institutes latest online exhibit, dedicated to the collaboration that occurred between design icons Charles and Ray Eames and the Romanian-American artist and illustrator Saul Steinberg upon a happy meeting in 1950. Timed to coincide with the launch of the newly recreated Eames Fiberglass Armchair with Steinberg Cat by Vitra and Herman Miller, the online presentation (which is supplemented by a printed catalogue, too) platforms the Eames designs that Steinberg decorated in his inimitable doodle-like style, with results that can’t fail to raise a smile.

Beyond the Little Black Dress at National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh: Until October 29, 2023

The National Museum of Scotland’s just-opened exhibit takes visitors on a century-spanning journey across the history of the little black dress, from the original LBD, conceived by Coco Chanel in 1926, up to today. The display comprises over 60 garments by storied houses like Chanel, Dior and Jean Muir, as well as contemporary designers such as Gareth Pugh, Simone Rocha and Joe Casely-Hayford, inviting us to contemplate the ways in which the black dress has been used to “reflect broader political and cultural shifts, challenges social norms around race, gender and sexuality, and [indicate] evolving ideals of beauty and identity” over time.

Next Level: Sara Cwynar S/S 23 at Foam, Amsterdam: Until September 24, 2023

“Sara Cwynar is like an anthropologist of our contemporary economy of endless choice. She researches which products, colours and images we use to shape our lives and identities, and how they change over time.” So explains Foam Amsterdam, which is currently host to a captivating new exhibition of the Canadian artists work, titled S/S 23 – a nod to the endlessly updating fashion cycle. Spanning a “contemporary floral arrangement” made up of plastic everyday objects in Barbie pink and bright green through a behind-the-scenes studio shot of the eternally iconic Pamela Anderson (Pamela as Pamela), the works prompt us to identify and contemplate the ideals and ideologies of our current era.

Events & Performances

If youre looking for excellent events and performances to attend this month, look no further. First up, theres the return of the Aesop Queer Library (until July 2), offering visitors to the brands Soho store the chance to take home a complimentary title from a selection of books platforming the queer experience. On top of that, Aesop has enlisted Black-owned creative agency A Vibe Called Tech to showcase two historical queer texts featured in the library (A Place for Us by Isabel Miller, 1969 and Escape to an Autumn Pavement by Andew Salkey, 1960), with excerpts now available to read online.

Dance aficionados, dont miss your chance to catch the Flamenco Festival, returning to Sadlers Well from July 5-15. Highlights include Alma by revered choreographer Sara Baras, a flurried fusion of flamenco and bolero, replete with a vividly costumed ensemble cast, and La Leona from the pioneering experimental dancer Olga Pericet.

In the West End until October 7, Mark Rylance has returned to the stage as one of medicine’s greatest innovators: the maverick Hungarian doctor Ignaz Semmelweis. A collaboration between playwright Stephen Brown and Rylance, Dr Semmelweis follows the medical practitioner as he makes a discovery that could save countless pregnant womens lives, but not before he can convince his colleagues of the validity of his methods and motives.

Six years after the devastating fire that claimed 72 lives, a new verbatim play at the National Theatre, titled Grenfell: in the Words of Survivors gives a powerful voice to a number of the tragedy’s survivors and bereaved, via interviews conducted by writer Gillian Slovo. Showing from July 13 to August 26, the resulting work “reveals the impact of the multiple failures that led to a national disaster, asking: how do we stop this ever happening again?”

At the Royal Court from July 20 to August 26, Word-Play by Rabiah Hussain is a new play centred around a blabbering prime minister and the Downing Street Press Office attempting to enact damage control. The result? A shrewd consideration of “how language seeps into public consciousness and reverberates with far-reaching consequences that will last for generations”.

Finally, fans of the Cuban-British ballet dancer and director Carlos Acosta will delight in the news of his return to the main stage of the Royal Opera House for a special programme in honour of his 50th birthday. Performing a range of different works between July 26-30, Carlos at 50 will see Acosta joined by friends and guest artists, including the Royal Ballet’s principal dancer Marianela Nuñez, in what will no doubt prove an unmissable celebration of his legacy to date.


Next up, the best of Julys new film releases. If youre fond of French director Quentin Dupieuxs eccentric brand of filmmaking, his latest offering wont disappoint. A comedic, psychedelic spin on the superhero movie, Smoking Causes Coughing sees a group of vigilantes embark on a week-long retreat in an attempt to rekindle their camaraderie. Medusa by Brazilian director Anita Rocha Da Silveira also features vigilantes – this time in the form of an evangelical girl gang who don masks and avenge “sinners” by night in a searing reimagining of the Medusa myth. While for a full-on horror fix, don’t miss the truly terrifying Talk to Me by Danny and Michael Philippou, in which a group of teens discover how to conjure spirits using an embalmed hand. Suffice to say, all hell ensues.

Greta Gerwig makes an anticipated return to directing with Barbie, the all-pink, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling-starring blockbuster in which a Barbie in existential crisis is let loose into the real world. Christopher Nolan is back, too, with Oppenheimer, the much-buzzed-about biopic starring Cillian Murphy as the American scientist who co-developed the atomic bomb. British-Moroccan director Fyzal Boulifa’s latest feature The Damned Don’t Cry is a stirring drama following a poverty-stricken mother and her adolescent son as they attempt to outrun the formers scandal-ridden past.

For Julys must-see documentaries, meanwhile, theres Edward Lovelaces Name Me Lawand, which paints an affecting portrait of a young, deaf Kurdish refugee as he relocates to a new home in Yorkshire. Anton Corbijns Squaring The Circle tells the story of Hipgnosis, Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey “Po” Powell’s legendary design studio, responsible for some of the most notable album covers of all time, including Dark Side of the Moon. While Mark Cousins returns with My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock, a gripping re-examination of the life and work of the lauded yet controversial British filmmaker, told through his own words.

Food & Drink

This month is brimming with exciting new culinary offerings. On Old Compton Street in Soho, brothers Alex and Oliver Santoro have just opened the doors on Wonderland, a new pop-culture inspired restaurant, drawing on their time in the movie industry. From Alice in Wonderland to Pulp Fiction and The Matrix, both the food (a menu centred on burgers and fried chicken, with vegan and meat-based counterparts) and the vivid decor nod to an array of cinematic cult classics. If you've always wanted to order a Royale with cheese, now’s your chance.

At 180 Corner on the Strand, from July 19-21, Vanika Choudhary of Noon, Mumbai will embark upon her first UK residency, “her house ferments, garums and amino sauces in tow”, introducing guests to her unique take on modern Indian fine dining. There, she will incorporate British produce into a one-off tasting menu that celebrates India’s indigenous ingredients and traditional cooking methods. Expect to sample such dishes as Kashmiri red chilli hot sauce with pumpkin kasundi and fermented garlic, and tiger prawns, with chana dal miso and malvani masala.

Fans of the 1980s will be thrilled by St James Hotel and Club’s new Thursday evening extravaganza. Throwback Thursdays will transport guests back in time with an array of aperitivi inspired by the charming culinary culture of the decade. From posh spam fritters to sage and onion sausage rolls, from mini shepherd’s pies, toad in the holes and vol au vents to homemade fish fingers and prawn cocktails, multi-Michelin-starred chef William Drabble’s nostalgic menu – made with the freshest, finest ingredients – is guaranteed to please.

At Taku, Mayfair on July 19 and 20, the Taku team will join forces with lauded farm-to-fork eatery Osip to deliver a 22-course set menu that combines the traditions of Japanese omakase with the contemporary flavours and home-grown British ingredients championed by the Osip team. The collaborative seasonal dishes from the Michelin-starred establishments are set to include chilled tomato tea with fig leaf oil; cream of courgette with gooseberry, fennel pollen and spider crab; tempura courgette flower with spider crab emulsion and calendula, and much much more.

East Londoners in search of the ideal summer spot, be sure to visit Maenes new terrace set atop a four-storey Victorian warehouse with glorious views over Spitalfields. There you can enjoy cocktails, a sumptuous selection of wines and a tasty choice of seasonal small plates. We particularly recommend the Cornish mussels with smoked cider and butter sauce, the Gnocco Fritto with London stracciatella, and the Nutbourne tomato tart with smoked tomato chutney.

In Chelsea, meanwhile, the team behind Notting Hill hotspot Laylow will lift the curtain on Lórian, a new restaurant, bakery and delicatessen, on July 4. An “invigorating, ever-changing menu” will champion the produce provided by the restaurant’s carefully selected suppliers, including Shrub Provisions, The Ethical Butcher and The Sea The Sea. And all ingredients will be showcased in their simplest form, “whether it be a helping of grilled homegrown greens with lemon and seeds; new potatoes, pumpkin seed romesco; salt baked beetroot, horseradish and parsley, or seasonal salads”. Here’s to summer feasting!