Brilliant Things To Do in January

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Untitled 2016 C Ren Hang courtesy Stieglitz19
Untitled 2016© Ren Hang, Courtesy of Stieglitz

Start the new year as you mean to go on, with our curated guide to the best things to see and do in the month ahead

Ren Hang at Foam, Amsterdam: January 27 – March 12, 2017
“Provocative, but also poetic” is the delightfully succinct description that Foam gives to the work of Ren Hang. Hang’s photographs are being exhibited at the Amsterdam museum this January, in a show filled with the Chinese photographer’s characteristically odd and beautiful nudes. Some of his models contort their figures to impressive standards, creating sculptural shapes that either disguise or highlight the explicit nature of the images. Above all, though, Hang’s work is utterly mesmeric; be prepared for an enchanting experience like no other.

The Collection of Hermann and Margrit Rupf at Guggenheim Bilbao: until April 23, 2017
Hermann and Margrit Rupf were a Swiss art-collecting couple, and one of the first to privately invest in 20th century abstract and contemporary art. Their collection was nothing short of astounding, and has been rediscovered by the Guggenheim Bilbao to form a 70-piece strong exhibition, marking the first time the collection has travelled to Spain. What singles out the trailblazing couple’s approach to collecting art is the fact that they resolutely followed their own taste, which was faultless. Proof lies in the roster of artists featured in the exhibition: Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, Paul Klee, and Wassily Kandinsky amongst others, many of whom were also close friends of the Rupfs.

Beyond Boundaries: Art by Email at Yorkshire Sculpture Park: January 7 – March 5, 2017
In an ingenious and aptly modern solution to the problem of accessing art from (both geographically and politically) difficult-to-reach countries, Yorkshire Sculpture Park has teamed up with ArtRole to showcase the work of 16 artists, from Middle Eastern and North African countries. Collaborators were invited to submit work via email with the dual aim of exposing the actualities of modern life in these politically turbulent countries, and showcasing the strength and universality of creativity. The range is far-reaching and resilient, despite the potential limitations of sending art via email; you can expect photography, film, performance and even a sculpture, 3D-printed using instructions from an email. A profound reminder that the world of creative arts should know no bounds.

The Best of Film
What better place to nurse your January blues than in the cosy, transcendent setting of the cinema? Scorsese fans are in for a treat with the arrival of the celebrated filmmaker’s latest movie Silence – the emotive tale of two Jesuit missionaries in the 17th century, who venture to a Christianity-opposing Japan in search of their missing mentor – as well as the BFI’s dedicated season to the great man himself. Musical cynics prepare to be converted: La La Land, from Whiplash director Damien Chazelle, will melt even the coldest of hearts. Starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, it channels all the romance of Hollywood’s Golden Age into a modern day love story between a passionate jazz musician and an aspiring actress, both searching for success in the City of Angels. Then there’s Manchester by the Sea, the devastating, immaculately realised drama from Kenneth Lonergan that follows a Boston-based janitor (an extraordinary Casey Affleck) as a family tragedy forces him to return to the icy coastal town he grew up in.

Four excellent, very different biopics also grace the silver screen this month – all of which make for essential viewing. Pablo Larrain’s Jackie explores the aftermath of JFK’s brutal assassination through the eyes of America’s fated First Lady, played with searing candidness by Natalie Portman. Gareth Davis’ Lion tells the true story of Saroo Brierley (Dev Patel), who as a child was separated from his birth mother in Calcutta and adopted by a loving Australian couple. 25 years after the event, he sets out to find his long lost family with heart-wrenching results. Christine is the nuanced ‘why-dunnit’ tale of Christine Chubbuck (a spellbinding Rebecca Hall), the American newscaster who killed herself live on air in the 1970s; while Endless Poetry, from feted Chilean auteur Alejandro Jodorowsky, is a fantastical, autobiographical account of the director’s creative coming of age in 40s and 50s Santiago. This month’s must-see documentary is Cameraperson, a powerful memoir from veteran cinematographer Kirsten Johnson who collages together decades-worth of filmed documentary footage to recount her own remarkable experiences, posing challenging ethical questions along the way.

Bouchardon: Royal Artist of the Enlightenment at J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles: January 10 – April 2, 2017
Working during a period famed for its whimsical Rococo tendencies, many of which he rejected in favour of a classical approach to his practice, Bouchardon was regarded as an innovator in 18th-century France. Organised in collaboration with the Louvre, Bouchardon: Royal Artist of the Enlightenment promises a comprehensive journey through the career of France’s forward-thinking sculptor and draughtsman and an appreciation of the sheer magnitude of his skill.

Skate at Somerset House with Fortnum & Mason: until January 13, 2017
It might be a brand new year, but Somerset House’s Skate with Fortnum & Mason events are continuing into January to ease the transition for us. It hosts the last of its Club Night sessions on the rink this month, making for an entirely unique dancefloor. Find yourself transported to Croatia when the crew from underground electronics festival Dimensions takes over on January 6, or enjoy the notoriously varied and big-hitting of The Nextmen’s Brad Baloo on the final night.

The Best in Food and Drink
Food may indeed be the last thing on your mind after the mammoth feasting usually brought about by the festive period, but January’s culinary offerings are too exciting to overlook. Firstly there’s Plot, a new restaurant opening in Tooting on January 11, which will celebrate the best of British in every way. The cosy dining room of only 15 covers will be open all day, serving pastries for breakfast and a concise supper menu that will be cooked from an open kitchen, all topped off with English sparkling wines and craft beers. Another quintessentially British tradition, but this time with an Asian twist, comes from Bronte, which will start serving afternoon teas this month. Finger sandwiches, cakes and scones will be served in glass trinket boxes to mimic the cabinets of curiosities that are found throughout the restaurant on the Strand.

At Wild Honey in Mayfair, sake expert Natsuki Kikuya will be matching the best sake to one of the restaurant’s renowned and delectable game dinners on January 30. Bubbledogs in Fitzrovia has a guest hot dog gracing its menu in January from The Fat Duck – so it will likely be the most intricately delicious hot dog you’ll ever have. Named the Crown Chippy Dog, it will feature minted mushy pea ketchup, pickled quail’s egg and ‘chip shop smell’ (of course), and £1 from every one sold will go to Action Against Hunger. More guest cooking is presented by Berber & Q Shawarma Bar on Exmouth Market, in what it is calling Pita Pandemonium: four top London chefs will create unique pitas that will feature on the menu for one week, drawing on expertly varied Middle Eastern influences, served alongside European and Middle Eastern wines and cocktails.

Adventures in Moominland at Southbank Centre: until April 23, 2017
The Southbank Centre presents an immersive and interactive treat for us for the first few months of 2017, with the first UK exhibition dedicated to The Moomins – the impossibly adorable creatures that are central to Finnish writer Tove Jansson’s series of books detailing the lives of Moomintrolls in Moominvalley. It goes without saying that the Southbank Centre’s exhibition, part of its Nordic Matters programme, will be extensive and enlightening, featuring scene recreations and original drawings from Jansson’s archive. The political and social context of the tales also comes into play in the exhibition, in order to show how deftly Jansson acknowledged and navigated the turbulent times in which she worked, while always ensuring that she created happy reading for all.

European Sport Challenged by Nazism: from the Berlin to the London Olympics (1936-1948) at Resistance and Deportation History Centre, Lyon: Until January 29, 2017
Lyon’s Resistance and Deportation History Centre takes its turn to stage the moving exhibition organised by the Shoah Memorial Museum in Paris, which looks at the rise of Nazi Germany and its policies of exclusion and discrimination in the context of international sport. Bringing together film, photography and previously unseen archive pieces, the exhibition looks at the impact that sport had on both the persecutors, the persecuted and the attitudes of the international sporting world during the unpredictable and unsettling period of history. The exhibit will also focus on the lives of famed athletes of the era, such as Tola Vologe, before honing in on the role that sport played in the city of Lyon during the Second World War.

London Art Fair at the Business Design Centre: January 18 – 22, 2017
The London Art Fair returns once again for 2017, with a plethora of enticing events, projects and exhibitions across five days in the city. The art on offer ranges from the early 20th century to the present day, and from established galleries to up-and-coming names. Of particular note are the smaller curated sections of the Fair, which take younger galleries and contemporary artists as their subjects. Photo50’s chosen installment, Gravitas, explores the concept of youth and maturity through a series of poignant photographs of adolescents curated by Christiane Monarchi. What’s more, the Fair’s museum partner this year is the Lightbox Gallery in Woking, which is entering its tenth anniversary year, and will present works from the renowned Ingram Collection in what will surely be a fascinating look at Modern British Art from the last century.

Terrains of the Body: Photography from the National Museum of Women in the Arts at Whitechapel Gallery, London: January 18 – April 16, 2017
London’s Whitechapel Gallery starts 2017 in good stead by celebrating contemporary female artists and their work in an exhibition drawn from the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, USA. 17 artists, including the likes of Nan Goldin, Anna Gaskell and Nikki S. Lee, feature in the exhibit, with work straddling the platforms of photography and video. The exhibition focuses on the significance of the female body and its impact on art as a vehicle for storytelling on both the singular and collective scale.

Great Performances
There is no shortage of compelling productions to brighten up your January, starting with Art at The Old Vic. Matthew Warchus’s famed 1996 version of Yasmina Reza’s comedy ran in the West End for eight years and now graces the Waterloo theatre for a limited run to celebrate its 20th anniversary. It tells the story of three 40-somethings, Marc, Yvan and Serge, the latter of whom has controversially invested in an all-white painting for €100,000. Not merely a musing on the nature of contemporary art, it is a poignant exploration of friendship and the trials of middle age. Meanwhile VAULT Festival returns to the Waterloo tunnels on January 25 for “six undiluted weeks of entertainment”, spanning theatre, comedy, music, film, food and more. A veritable hub of fresh talent, some of the festival’s highlights this year include a joyfully immersive production of The Great Gatsby and Fran & Leni, a theatrical ode to punk and the freedom it enabled its female pioneers. Lastly, there’s the London International Mime Festival at Sadler’s Wells, “celebrating the best in visual, physical and circus-theatre”. Don’t miss the chance to see Whispers, a hypnotising performance inspired by a Vermeer painting from award-winning, Belgian dance-theatre company Mossoux Bonté.

Virginia Overton: Winter Garden at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York: until February 5, 2017
Virginia Overton has turned the idea of a rooftop sculpture garden on its head – literally. The Nashville native has taken the metal containers used to house aquatic life of her summer Sculpture Garden on the Whitney Museum’s roof, emptied and overturned them, so as to entirely redefine their function. In so doing, Overton has transformed the area into a Winter Garden, a sonic space that uses the upside-down containers to amplify the natural sounds that occur on the New York rooftop. The installation is Overton’s response to the ongoing contrast of manmade and natural that is so prevalent in New York, and is set to be an insight into the modernity that can be sourced through the repurposing of urban materials.