Brilliant Things To Do in August

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The tail-end of the summer is awash with inspired events and exciting openings, as our cultural hotlist attests

The Best of Film
During a summer where you’re just as likely to be drenched by a sudden thunder storm as you are to find yourself in the midst of a sweltering heatwave, it’s important to have a good stash of wet weather films up your sleeve. For fans of off-kilter offerings, you can’t beat Wiener Dog, the latest movie from ever-controversial American director Todd Solondz who employs the services of a doe-eyed sausage dog to link four separate stories. Deliciously dark humour and brilliant performances, from a cast including Greta Gerwig, Zosia Mamet, Julie Delpy and Danny DeVito, ensue. Then there’s French drama Valley of Love, which sees Gérard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert as an estranged couple who find themselves reunited in California’s Death Valley, after receiving a letter from their dead son. Finally, Julieta, Pedro Almodóvar’s much anticipated new film, presents an adaptation of three interlinked stories by Alice Monroe, centered around the titular character and three major losses she suffers during her lifetime.

For those looking to sink their teeth into a great documentary, there’s Steve Hoover’s gripping new film Almost Holy, executively produced by Terrence Malik and focused on Gennadiy Mohknenko, a Ukrainian pastor who counteracts the country’s severe problem of homelessness among children by abducting street kids. Meanwhile two greats in the realms of cinema and music are being celebrated this month with the release of Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words, a filmic portrait of the iconic actress that weaves together never-before-seen private footage, notes, letters, diaries and interviews with Bergman’s children, and Gary Numan: Android In La La Land, which follows the Numan family as they relocate to Los Angeles, painting a vivid picture of the idiosyncratic musical personality over three decades after he shot to fame.

Monet. Beyond Impressionism at Ordrupgaard Museum, Copenhagen: August 24 - December 4, 2016
There are just a handful of artists whose work resonates on a scale of such magnitude that it perpetually spans age, race, religion, sex and geographical proximity – Claude Monet, father of Impressionism, being one of them. Whether it's his lush depiction of floating water-lilies or his free-spirited approach to cityscapes, harbouring a personal connection with one (or more) of his experimental masterpieces is virtually commonplace, which is why the chance to revisit his lively oeuvre in person in Monet. Beyond Impressionism, on display at Denmark's Ordrupgaard Museum this month, promises to be nothing short of spectacular. 

Summer Camp, Town Hall Hotel: Until August 21, 2016
All good hotels present a world of possible mischief, each closed door concealing a secret flurry of activity, but few offer up opportunities to learn new crafts, from candle-making to ceramics and modern calligraphy. This is where London’s Town Hall Hotel comes in. Summer Camp is a programme of culinary and creative workshops, hosted by the hotel in collaboration with At The Table, through which participators have the opportunity to learn a host of new skills in evening and weekend classes. Some of the city’s foremost craftspeople are involved, meaning you can take part in a ceramics workshop with Haggerston-based potters Turning Earth, learn fabric-printing with Ren London, or create your own custom bouquet of blooms with the wonderful East London florist Grace and Thorn. The programme runs through to the end of September, by which time you may well have upped sticks from your desk to start a whole new career.

Out of Obscurity at Flowers Gallery, London: Until September 3, 2016
If day-to-day life is leaving you feeling dreary, there’s no better remedy to be had than the east London branch of Flowers Gallery’s new exhibition, the first in a two-part offering giving a broad view of abstraction in contemporary photography. Entitled Out of Obscurity, the show “presents a speculative journey in response to the series of cloud studies produced in the 1920s by Alfred Stieglitz, titled Equivalents,” the gallery explains. “From the disorienting perspectives of aerial photography to physical manipulation of photography’s material properties, the exhibition draws together visions of the sky produced by a range of international artists.” 

The Best in Food and Drink
Trust the folks at Holiday Magazine to conceive of a restaurant that’s as chic and as modern as could possibly be. Situated in Paris’ luxe 16th arrondissement, the Holiday Café comprises a space created by Franck Durand and architect Franklin Azzi, and a Daniel de la Falaise-designed menu which is, in the café’s own words, “clean and short, requiring no transformation of base ingredients… Simple dishes of the highest quality”. The ultimate Parisian treat.

Meanwhile in London, sushi and Hawaiian cuisine collide to spectacular effect at Ahi Poké, a newly opened establishment in Fitzrovia which blends LA’s poké craze with a 'Hawaiian beach shack' aesthetic. The sustainably sourced menu draws on traditional poké tastes and methods to create nutritious raw dishes comprising the freshest marinated fish, sticky rice and intensely flavoursome sauces – think sesame shoyu and sweet ponzu – in a serene and nautically influenced environment

Close by, on Windmill Street, founders Shing Tat, Wai Ting Chung and Erchen Chang have recently opened a brand new second branch of their spectacularly popular Taiwanese eatery BAO, where the steamed buns are always pillowy soft, cocktails fresh and satisfyingly unusual and the decor simple and uncluttered. The menu has been extended to mark the occasion, with a fried fish BAO added to the list of delicious signature small dishes, along with the addition of a chocolate Horlicks ice cream stick to the dessert menu in true summer style. Rest assured that visitors will soon be queuing around the block, as has become customary for the Lexington Street branch, and that dinner has never been more worth the wait.

Elsewhere in raw seafood specialties, National Oyster Day on August 5 might not be top of your cultural calendar, but Mayfair’s Michelin-starred Benares restaurant is hoping to change that. Chef patron Atul Kochhar has put together a South Indian-inspired dish to demonstrated just how versatile the humble shellfish can be – Spiced Oyster Fritters with a Tamarind Rasam – being an enticing example. 

Ceviche’s 2012 opening sparked a wave of excitement that has seen Martin Morales launch a slew of other locations in London, so it makes sense that the arrival of its most recent incarnation in Casita Andina is similarly hyped. Influenced and inspired by traditional Andean ‘Picanterias', the restaurant will serve Peruvian food at its finest in a carefully conceived and brilliantly executed environment, complete with artwork made by rural Peruvian creators. What’s more, every single dish is gluten free.

Finally, from Peru to North Africa, “mezze from the east, music from the west” makes for an apt tagline for Berber & Q Shawarma Bar the newly opened restaurant from Josh Katz and Mattia Bianchi serving up charcoal-grilled shawarma in London's Exmouth Market. Delicious seasonal food, craft beer and Middle Eastern-inspired cocktails make for an infallible equation.

The Festival Edit
August is for festivals, and crowning the calendar is perhaps the most mysterious of all in Burning Man. Taking place from August 28 until September 5 in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, the week-long celebration both creates and encompasses a temporary metropolis dedicated to art and community. The festival’s famous ban on photography only serves to heighten our fascination... This is an event that promises to leave you forever changed.

A little less far-flung but no less exciting, Green Man Festival takes place in Wales’ beautiful Brecon Beacons over the weekend of August 18. This year’s line-up is stellar – Belle and Sebastian, James Blake and Laura Marling will headline – while comedy, literature and film play as important as role as the music acts themselves.

In the five years since its foundation, Wilderness Festival has developed a reputation for cultivating an out-of-this-world experience no more than a few hours from London, its stunning rural landscape serving to elevate its line-up of chefs, bands, debates and theatrical performances. This year it runs from August 4 until 7, promising a weekend of revelry. The lake beckons.

Edward Allington: The Hidden Sculptures, at Megan Piper: Until August 5, 2016
There’s a childlike wonderment that accompanies the idea of secret sculptures concealed within books – one, happily, that artist Edward Allington shares. For some 30 years, the artist and sculptor has been collecting antique ledgers with a view to transforming them into sculptures; the pages are covered with his ink and emulsion drawings, and hollowed out recesses inside them conceal small sculptures – tiny pockets of Joseph Cornell-like enjoyment within the hallowed halls of a library. This summer a new exhibition at London’s Megan Piper gallery, entitled The Hidden Sculptures, places an extraordinary collection of these works on display, linking the practices of drawing and sculpture with a neat participatory installation.

2 Years of Looking, at New Art Projects, London: Until August 28, 2016
New York-based Erik Hanson is the conceptual artist tasked with curating the summer show at London project space New Art Projects, and he has done so with aplomb. The collection of works on display serves as a delicious insight into his own personal experiences, documenting the people he has met and built relationships with over the course of his career thus far, including the likes of Vaginal Davis, Lucky DeBellevue and Bill Albertini.

The Quick Guide to Parenting, by Laura Quick
Parenting presents a slew of daily challenges, from getting out of the house to staying clean and presentable for more than a half-hour stretch, and where some lose their mind trying to get some grips with it, fashion illustrator Laura Quick decided to pick up pen and pencil instead. The result is The Quick Guide to Parenting, a charming and hilarious tome documenting the difficult tasks at hand – a welcome gift for parents new and old.

Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters, at LACMA, Los Angeles: Until November 27, 2016
Known for his inquisitive fascination with monsters, fantasy and the occult, filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s creative processes go on display at LACMA from August 1. The exhibit follows thematically: death, horror, the occult, of course, del Toro’s quintessential monster are followed by explorations into redemption and innocence. The exhibit allows a sneak peek into the prolific director’s creative development, presenting an array of drawings, paintings and concept art.

CHART Art Fair, Copenhagen: August 26 - 28, 2016
CHART ART FAIR returns to The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts’ Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen for its 4th edition this August, presenting a selection of artwork from the Nordic region’s most exciting galleries in an unconventional curated exhibition format in which everything appears in unison. Along with an opening concert, the fair’s social programme comprises talks, special projects, and an architecture competition, and this year there is even a new section to admire in CHART DESIGN, a showcase of six galleries presenting the best in contemporary and classic Nordic design. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better excuse to visit Copenhagen.

Great Performances
Don’t miss the chance to see Terence Rattigan’s shattering masterpiece The Deep Blue Sea at The National Theatre, which sees Helen McCrory as the troubled and passionate Hester Collyer: widely heralded as one of the greatest female roles in modern theatre. A stunning contemporary opera, titled Thunderstorm and riffing on themes of family, society and corruption in Old Shanghai, comes courtesy of the Shanghai Opera Company this month with a string of performances at London’s ENO. While celebrated choreographer Nilda Guerra injects Sadler’s Wells with all the spirit and colour of Cuba with his latest dance extravaganza, Vamos Cuba!

Edmund Clark: War of Terror, Imperial War Museum, London: Until August 28, 2017
British photographer Edmund Clark brings his thought-provoking exploration of incarceration and control in the War on Terror to a new show at London's Imperial War Museum, comprising images, films and documents that shed light on "hidden experiences of state control in the ‘Global War on Terror’". It is the artist's first major solo exhibit in the UK and looks specifically at "the measures taken by states to protect their citizens from the threat of international terrorism and their far-reaching effects," spanning issues of security, secrecy, legality and ethics surrounding such precautions. Heavy but vital viewing.