Spring Has Sprung: Brilliant Things To Do in March

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Mouth (for L’Oréal), New York, 1986, by Irving Penn. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation© The Irving Penn Foundation

From International Womens’ Day celebrations to exceptional new performances, here are the most excellent events, exhibitions, films and food offerings to look out for this month


Irving Penn at the de Young museum, San Francisco: March 16 – July 21, 2024

Step into the endlessly imaginative world of Irving Penn at the de Young Museum in San Francisco later this month, courtesy of a new retrospective comprising photographs from across the US image-maker’s almost 70-year career. Expect to see everything from Penn’s early documentary photography, through to his famed celebrity portraits and groundbreaking fashion stories, as well as various still lifes and lesser-known images from San Francisco’s Summer of Love.

Soufiane Ababri at The Barbican, London: March 13 – June 30, 2024

Moroccan artist Soufiane Ababri is taking over The Curve space at the Barbican with a specially commissioned, site-specific work dubbed Their Mouths Were Full of Bumblebees But It Was Me Who Was Pollinated. The hand-painted installation has been envisaged as a powerful act of queer reclamation, playing on the fact that the gallery’s shape resembles the Arabic letter Zayin (ز). This is the first letter of the word “zamel”, a derogatory term for gay men, the gallery explains, the buzzing sound of which is frequently used “to harass members of the queer community”.

Tropical Modernism: Architecture and Independence at The V&A Museum, London: March 2 – September 22, 2024

At the V&A meanwhile, a new exhibition takes a deep dive into the history and evolution of tropical modernism – an architectural style that arose in West Africa during British colonialism, drawing on the modernist ideals of function over ornament, reimagined for a hot, humid climate. Despite its origins, however, the style was later adopted as “a symbol of modernity and progressiveness, distinct from colonial culture”, in newly independent countries including Ghana and India. There, a “new generation of national architects, more sensitive to local context, gave birth to distinctive alternative Modernisms”, which the exhibition platforms and celebrates.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants at Saatchi Gallery, London: March 8 – May 12, 2024

Arriving just in time for International Women’s Day, the Saatchi Gallery’s latest exhibit seeks to champion the work of contemporary Dutch women artists, offering a new spin on the term “Dutch Masters”, which almost exclusively refers to long-dead men. The show will spotlight the work of ten artists – including Louise te Poele (the exhibit’s curator), Iriée Zamblé, and Anne von Freyburg – whose undeniably masterful practices range from painting and sculpture to textile art and photography. 

Chantal Akerman: Travelling at Bozar, Brussels: March 14 – July 21, 2024

In Brussels, a new retrospective will shine a light on the life and work of the late, great Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman, who used film, television, text and installation to conjure up poignant explorations of the human experience. Tracing the director’s “atypical career trajectory” through the lens of the places she traversed to and shot in, the survey will use never-before-seen images and archival materials to take visitors from Brussels to the Mexican desert and back again, while unearthing the nuances of Akerman’s unique practice.

Thao Nguyen Phan: Reincarnations of Shadows at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen: March 13 – August 11, 2024

Vietnamese artist Thao Nguyen Phan is known for her striking multidisciplinary artworks which deftly merge folklore from her homeland’s tumultuous past with contemporary concerns about overconsumption and environmental degradation. Her first Scandinavian solo show, at Copenhagen’s Kunsthal Charlottenborg, will see her expand upon these themes, evoking “ghostly presences, lush landscapes and unofficial narratives” through film installations, lacquer paintings, light sculptures, watercolours and architectural interventions.

Le Monde Comme Il Va at The Pinault Collection, Paris: March 20 – September 2, 2024

At the Bourse de Commerce in Paris, a new group show titled Le monde comme il va (“The World As It Goes”) will highlight artworks from the Pinault Collection, made between the 1980s and the present day, that embody the notion of the artist as both a witness of and commentator upon the time in which they live. The turmoil of recent years is encapsulated in works by artists including Maurizio Cattelan, Cindy Sherman, Sun Yuan, Anne Imhof, Wolfgang Tillmans and Marlene Dumas – some offering up poetic reflection, others satirical critique, some empathetic in nature, others calling for change.

The Biba Story: 1964-1975 at The Fashion and Textile Museum, London: March 22 – September 8, 2024

In the summer of 1963, British fashion illustrator Barbara Hulanicki founded Biba, a mail-order company offering affordable, avant-garde fashion to a new generation of sartorially discerning young women. A year later, she launched the first Biba boutique, replete with lavish decor and atmospheric lighting, revolutionising the shopping experience in the process. Now, a new exhibition at London’s Fashion and Textiles Museum will plunge visitors into the Biba universe, through original garments, campaigns, photographs, films and more, demonstrating Hulanicki’s era-defining approach to fashion and branding. 

IMAGINE! 100 Years of International Surrealism at Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels: Until July 24, 2024

At The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, a new touring exhibition contemplates the emergence and global impact of Surrealism over the past century. Featuring the work of Giorgio De Chirico, Jackson Pollock, Salvador Dalí, Frida Kahlo and Man Ray, among many others, the show examines the movement’s dominant themes – the dream, the labyrinth, metamorphosis, the unknown and the subconscious – and its wide-reaching legacy.

Francesca Woodman and Julia Margaret Cameron: Portraits to Dream In at the National Portrait Gallery, London

Although working a century apart, British photographer Julia Margaret Cameron and American image-maker Francesca Woodman had a surprising amount in common. As per the text for an upcoming show at London’s National Portrait Gallery, set to elucidate this point through a curation of more than 160 rare vintage prints, “both women explored portraiture beyond its ability to record appearance – using their own creativity and imagination to suggest notions of beauty, symbolism, transformation and storytelling”. 

Jean-Michel Basquiat: Made on Market Street at Gagosian Beverly Hills, Los Angeles: March 7–June 1, 2024

Jean-Michel Basquiat is synonymous with New York, the city where he blossomed from an anonymous graffiti artist into one of the era’s most celebrated visionaries. But the artist also spent a short but prolific stint in Los Angeles after an encounter with gallerist Larry Gagosian, who gave him his first West Coast solo show and invited him to stay in his residence on Market Street in Venice. There, between November 1982 and May 1984, Basquiat produced around a hundred paintings, numerous works on paper and six silkscreen editions – some 30 of which will soon go on display in Gagosian's LA space, demonstrating the symbiotic relationship between Basquiat and the city.

Joan Jonas: Good Night Good Morning at MoMA, New York: March 17 – July 6, 2024

During her more than five-decade career American artist Joan Jonas has “bridged and redefined boundaries between performance, video, drawing, sculpture, and installation” through her pioneering multidisciplinary practice. This month, MoMA will open the most comprehensive US retrospective of the artist’s work to date, spanning her earliest videos and performances as part of New York’s vibrant art scene in the 1960s and 70s through her powerful recent installations addressing “climate change and kinship between species”.

Events & Performances

There are lots of exciting live productions and events to leave the house for this month. First up, there’s Secret 7”, a special auction raising money for War Child. Seven musicians are asked to record seven tracks for the purpose, which are pressed onto 100 7” vinyls respectively. A series of artists are then invited to design a limited edition album sleeve for the 700 records, which will go on display at NOW Gallery from March before being auctioned online. The creatives involved are only revealed after the sale.

Theatre fans, be sure to catch Blue at the Seven Dials Playhouse from March 5-20. Winner of the  Fringe First Award, the play tells the story of a Los Angeles detective investigating the shooting of a Black motorist during a traffic stop by an officer she has personal connections with. At the National Theatre until May 11, Michael Sheen stars in Nye, Tim Price’s latest play about the life of Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan, the influential British politician who led the battle to create the NHS. 

Yaël Farber directs Killing Eve’s Danny Sapani in a much-acclaimed version of King Lear, Shakespeare’s “poignant, morally ambiguous, and subversive epic,” showing at the Almeida until March 30. The English National Opera’s Olivier Award-winning staging of Leoš Janáček’s Jenůfa – a richly scored opera exploring “the stigma of pregnancy out of wedlock against the backdrop of a small community” –  makes its comeback from March 13-27. While at Sadler’s Wells on March 12 and 13, you can catch the latest iterations of Wayne McGregor’s captivating work Autobiography, a performance sequenced according to the specially created algorithm based on McGregor’s own DNA data.


March’s best new film releases, meanwhile, include Driving Mom from Icelandic director Hilmar Oddsson, the darkly comic story of a feckless son who takes his mother’s corpse on a final journey to fulfil her last wishes. Romanian filmmaker Radu Jude’s brilliant work-culture satire Don’t Expect Too Much From the End of the World sees a harried and underpaid production assistant tasked with filming a workplace safety video for a multinational company. Suffice to say that nothing goes quite to plan. In Monster, the gripping new offering from Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, a mother demands answers from the teacher she believes is bullying her son – with unsettling results.

In US auteur Ethan Coen’s queer comedy caper Drive-Away Dolls, two friends find their road trip derailed by an unbidden encounter with a gang of inept mobsters. American filmmaker Ava DuVernay returns with poignant biographical drama Origin: the story of Isabel Wilkerson, the first Black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism. While The Sweet East, the directorial debut from US cinematographer Sean Price Williams, follows a high school senior from South Carolina as she embarks on a gonzo Alice-in-Wonderland-style odyssey through “the cities and woods of the Eastern seaboard”.

This month’s most compelling documentaries include Theatre Of Violence, from Danish directors Lukasz Konopa and Emil Langballe, detailing the case of Dominic Ongwen, a former child soldier now on trial at the International Criminal Court. Scottish filmmaker Kevin Macdonald traces the turbulent career of feted fashion designer John Galliano in High & Low: John Galliano, a candid study featuring interviews with Anna Wintour, Kate Moss, Penelope Cruz, Charlize Theron and more. Finally, there’s Kaouther Ben Hania’s Oscar-nominated film Four Daughters, the moving tale of a Tunisian mother whose two eldest daughters were radicalised by Islamic extremists.

Food & Drink

Foodies, look no further for fantastic feasting opportunities. For those celebrating Mother’s Day, there’s the new afternoon tea offering at Socca, the French bistro in Mayfair, promising all kinds of fine teas, pastries, sandwiches, rillettes, and other delicacies that pay homage to the coastal towns of the French Riviera.

Soho’s Firebird is celebrating International Women’s Month with the return of its Firebird & Friends series, inviting “London’s most exciting female chefs, restaurateurs and sommeliers” to create tantalising dining experiences throughout the month. These include an evening of Mexican-Ecuadorian asado grilling with Adriana Cavita and Ana Ortiz, plus natural Mexican wine pairings from Mariana Fonseca, on March 8 and ancient Scandinavian cooking with Theres Andersson, with modern Nordic drinks pairing from Ania Smelskaya, on March 25.

Seafood hotspot The Sea, The Sea in Chelsea has just launched a new brunch menu, filled with delicious dishes that “reflect the seasonality of British waters with the freshest catch of the day”. Think octopus skewer with onion miso, lobster roll and a chūtoro tuna waffle.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, Knightsbridge’s iconic Italian eatery Sale e Pepe has just unveiled a glorious refurbishment, drawing inspiration from classic Italian design. The menu boasts original favourites like vitello milanese and linguine all’Aragosta, as well as new additions like salt-baked whole seabass, tagliatelle caviar, and an abundance of crudi, conceived with sharing in mind.

Borough Market has gained a new French-inspired restaurant. Camille, from the founders of Ducksoup Clare Lattin and Tom Hill, delivering “rustic and regional French dishes using seasonal produce, sourced from Borough Market where possible”. Expect to sample such delicious-sounding plates as smoked eel devilled eggs, crab toast with three-cornered garlic and bisque, and langoustine cassoulet stew.

Last but not least, Edinburgh gains an exciting new restaurant this month, courtesy of celebrated Scottish chef Tomás Gormley. Cardinal will see Gormley “present his elevated take on modern Scottish dining”, with a 13-course tasting menu for dinner, and a more concise offering for lunch. The constantly updated menu will highlight “the bounty of Scotland’s natural larder”, placing emphasis on fermenting and pickling, as well as ingredients cooked on a bespoke wood-fire barbecue. Happy dining!