Brilliant Things To Do in December

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Your cultural compass for the month ahead

Maddox Gallery: Opens December 4, 2015
What better way to launch the festive period than with a new gallery space in London’s sparkly Mayfair? Opening to the public on December 4, Maddox Gallery’s inaugural exhibition includes work by Bradley Theodore, Tyler Shields and Tony Kelly, presenting between them an intense and joyous snapshot of contemporary culture.

“Each one of these photos was inspired by the person in it,” Shields says of the selection of works included in the show. “With Bunny, I remember I was watching her smoke a cigarette on my balcony, and out of nowhere I told her, ‘I’m going to have a mask made to fit your face.’ Two weeks later I had it and we took this photograph. That’s how it works most of the time – you have to try things. Not everything will work, but if you never try it, you will never know!”

Francesca Woodman: On Being an Angel: December 18 – March 9, 2016 
Amsterdam-based institution Foam will present an overview of photographer and artist Francesca Woodman’s later work this winter – an extensive and moving body of photographs exploring gender, representation, sexuality and corporality. The collection presents an intense array of dark and unsettling subjects; Woodman is pictured often explicitly naked, or attempting to hide her body, for example, wrapped in various materials, or squeezed into impossible crevices. The exhibition includes over 102 photographs, large-format diazotype prints and six short videos, presenting a cohesive and powerful collection of her memorable work.

Recto Verso at Fondazione Prada: December 3 – Feb 14, 2016
We all know which way around a painting is supposed to hang, but a new exhibition from Fondazione Prada has brought together a collection of works that foreground the hidden 'back' of the canvas as the main attraction. These works – including those from Lucio Fontana, Roy Lichtenstein and Sarah Charlesworth – explore the intersection between flat painting and three-dimensional sculpture, reconfiguring our way of looking at images as physical objects.

The Best of Food and Drink
Situated on the ever-expanding Kingsland Road in Dalston, Jidori is a new Japanese restaurant with a yakitori offering, and an expertly refined aesthetic. Named after a special breed of free-range chicken which is renowned in Japan for both its robust flavour and its impeccable freshness, this ethos is central to the spirited and fun establishment, whose own free-range Goosnargh chickens are delivered direct from Swainson House Farm in Lancashire. The cocktails, too, promise both a visual and palatable delight: try the Yuzu Daiquiri for a spirited take on the classic, or a She So Into You for a cheeky surprise.

If you’ve not yet tired of the festive joys the season has to offer, London restaurant Bibendum has a particularly wholesome one for you; on December 16th, the venue will host a’capella choir Hackney Voices for a Christmas carol concert in its gorgeous Art Deco halls. Enjoy a mince pie and a glass of something mulled in the Oyster Bar, or stay for head chef Peter Robinson’s carefully devised Christmas menu – complete with eggnog ice cream – and leave full in the spirit of the month.

Patternity Pop Up Pattern Shop: December 5-6, 2015
In need of some gift-giving ideas? Pattern research consultancy Patternity will open its creative studio for a two-day festive pop-up shop in East London this December, peddling wares from patterned hosiery to vibrant screenprints. Pieces from the studio’s recent collaborations will also be available to purchase, from desert boots in geometric prints by Clarks Originals, to dazzling cushion covers for the Imperial Museum inspired by first World War ships’ camo patterns – both perfect gifts for any pattern-obsessed aesthete.

Alice in Wonderland: Until April 17, 2016
A new exhibition exploring the legacy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is on show at the British Library, rediscovering the enduring power of Lewis Carroll’s original story, which continues to inspire and entertain 150 years after it was published. With the original handwritten manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Underground on display, and a curatorial emphasis on spectacular handdrawn illustrations by Mervyn Peake, Ralph Steadman, Arthur Rackham and Salvador Dalí, the exhibition seeks to celebrate every re-imagined, re-interpreted and re-illustrated version of the classic story, and it's a joy to behold.

The Best of Film
There's a diverse array of cinematic offerings coming your way this December. For those seeking dazzling special effects and intergalactic thrills, there is of course the anticipated arrival of the latest Star Wars installment, The Force Awakens, which sees Hans Solo (Harrison Ford) and his allies facing a new threat in the form of Adam Driver's villain Kylo Ren. If space-based drama isn't for you, then perhaps Ron Howard's gripping, ocean-bound film In the Heart of the Sea will capture your attention. Starring Another Man's A/W15 cover star Cillian Murphy, it tells the true story of a ship's crew left battling for survival after their vessel is attacked by an enormous whale (their harrowing tale would later inspire novelist Herman Melville to pen Moby Dick).

Our documentary of choice this month is Lisa Immordino-Vreeland's Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, a colourful and enlightening portrait of the idiosyncratic art patron. Finally there's slow yet powerful drama The Lesson, which sees Margita Gosheva as a provincial Bulgarian school teacher pushed to the edge by a series of small but impactful events.


Petalon's Wreath Lectures, December 8 and 10, 2015
If you’re based in, or like to send flowers to friends in London, you’ve likely already heard of Petalon – the family-run floristry service started by Florence Hill and her husband James, which creates divine bouquets to order in its warehouse in Hackney, and delivers them via bike. Lesser known is the fact that the small business – now five strong – celebrates the festive period with a number of wreath-making workshops, brilliantly named The Wreath Lectures. The classes pair festive floristry with nibbles and mulled beverages, presenting an affordable opportunity to learn a new skill just in time for the Advent period, while meeting new people and trying out some seasonal food. What better way to spend an evening?

Jacqueline de Ribes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Until February 21, 2016
She is a woman so adroitly and innately stylish, that her hand with a pair of scissors and a couture gown would earn her the Legion d’Honneur, not to mention the title of ‘the last queen of Paris’ from none other than Valentino himself. It’s fair to say then, that a chance to explore the Countess Jacqueline de Ribes’ wardrobe is not to be sniffed at. The Art of Style has taken more than four years of planning to organise, and delves into a meticulously kept archive of haute couture dating back to 1962, as well as de Ribes' own elaborate DIY creations for fancy dress balls.

Istanbul: Passion, Joy, Fury: 11 December, 2015 – May 1, 2016
Beginning with 2013's protests at Gezi Park and the resulting debate around media censorship and democratic rights, a new exhibition entitled Istanbul: Passion, Joy, Fury, at Fondazione Maxxi in Rome will focus on the way contemporary Turkey has had to adapt to meet cultural demands, modern change and dynamic. The exhibition is split into five major themes and issues within the political landscape: urban transformations; political conflicts and resistance; innovative models of production; geopolitical urgencies and hope. What better way to acquaint yourself with the dynamic merging of ancient and contemporary, and eastern and western politics in one beautiful city? 

So It Goes at the Hang Up Gallery: Until December 6, 2015
The Connor Brothers may not be the twins escaped from a sinister Christian cult that they claimed, initially, to be, but the Hackney-based artists – Mike Snelle and James Golding – are doing something even more worthy of your time. So It Goes will feature their irreverent hand-painted Pulp Fiction covers and limited edition prints this December, all the proceeds from which will be used to fund the building of shelters for refugees in ‘the Jungle’ of Calais – a project the duo embarked on with the help of Pussy Riot which is documented in an installation within the show.

Great Performances
Fresh from its sell-out run at The Royal Court, don't miss the chance to see Martin McDonagh's much-acclaimed Hangmen in its West End transfer to Wyndham's Theatre. The first of the famed Irish writer's plays to be set in England, it tells the grim and captivating story of Harry, "the second-best hangman" in the country, on the day that capital punishment is abolished in Britain. Meanwhile for ballet aficionados, Matthew Bourne's magnificently gothic take on Sleeping Beauty returns to Sadler's Wells just in time for Christmas.

Works to Know by Heart: An Imagined Museum at Tate Liverpool: Until February 14, 2016
Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 describes a future where books are outlawed, burnt by ‘firemen’, with the only possible way to enjoy them being performances from memory. Taking this as inspiration, Tate Liverpool’s latest exhibition brings together 60 major post-war works from the collections of the Tate, Centre Pompidou and Frankfurt’s Museum fur Moderne Kunst, and proposes this: that they are going to disappear, forever. When the exhibition closes the Warhols, Matisses and Duchamps will be replaced by a living museum of volunteers re-enacting the works displayed.

Exotica: A Dystopian Dreamland: 3-4 December, 2015
Feeling stuffy? Make a trip down to Arch 402 Gallery in London this December for a multimedia exhibition that examines climate change in its rawest form, examining tropical sublimity and its decay as a result of human consumption and development. In a bid to combine music and visual art for one evening only, visitors will be immersed into a party-like atmosphere. The works of many up-and coming artistic London talent will be on display, playfully exploring what escapist and immersive ideals are in the 21st century. Curated by artists Varia Mhitarian and Imogen Parry, the evening looks set to be a fun-filled exploration of both exotica and decadence.