Our Pick: The Must-See Shows of 2024

by Christina Donoghue on 4 January 2024

Diaries at the ready! Here are your must-see art shows for 2024.

Diaries at the ready! Here are your must-see art shows for 2024.

In 2023, the Royal Academy finally made its debut female retrospective as none other than the mother of performance art Marina Abramović took to the stage, but what did other institutions have to offer? While the Design Museum turned to politics as they put the work of Ai Wei Wei under the microscope with Making Sense, Tate Britain spotlighted the work of YBA royalty Sarah Lucas in their brilliantly riotous show Happy Gas.

As these year-defining shows draw to a close, 2024's art horizon grows brighter with each new announcement, but what are the exhibitions worth marking in the calendar? From Tate Britain's blockbuster exhibition paying tribute to the painter who inspired much of John Galliano's Dior - John Singer Sargent - to exhibitions looking at the intrinsic link between textiles, politics and power, as demonstrated with Barbican's upcoming show Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art, here are all our top picks for upcoming (and closing) exhibitions in 2024.

Didn't quite have the time you'd thought to catch up with the latest exhibitions towards the end of 2023? There's still time. Get yourself down to these shows before they're gone for good.

'AI: Who Is Looking After Me' at the Science Gallery, Kings College

AI: Who's Looking After Me? At the Science Gallery, Kings College - until 20 January

Rewind to 1980. 2024 is 44 years away - so distant that you just know when the year comes, we would have all been turned into robots and will be residing on Mars; a ridiculous idea that isn't in the slightest our current reality, however, AI is more commonplace than it has ever been. We use it to draw, write, read and research. Exploring the rapidly advancing relationship between man and machine, the Science Gallery at London's Kings College has curated an exhibition encompassing 'a space in which we can pause, reflect and leave with our hearts a little less heavy with worry regarding the future and a little more full of care'. Asking questions such as 'Who holds the power?', and 'Can we rely on these technologies for our wellbeing and happiness?', the exhibition's purpose isn't to cast dread and fear into the common sceptic but instead, the opposite.

Julianknxx, Production still of Chorus in Rememory of Flight, 2023 © Studioknxx

Julianknxx: Chrous in Rememory of Flight at The Curve, Barbican - until 11 February

As of last year, self-described poet and activist Julianknxx added a new credential to his burgeoning career: creative genius. His status as this generation's cinematic poet was cemented with his Barbican exhibition Chorus in Rememory of Flight. Not hanging on any particular narrative, the show doesn't set out to teach or preach; it's about finding beauty in communities that are often overlooked, beauty in their words, voices and most importantly, their existence. 'If you do not unlearn your racism, you may miss out on the love of your life' - simple, effective and an unapologetic offering of the truth.

'The Fabric of Democracy' exhibition: La fête de la Fédération textile 1790. Credit: © Musee de la Toile de Jouy

The Fabric of Democracy: Propaganda Textiles from the French Revolution to Brexit at Fashion and Textile Museum - until 3 March

The term Propaganda is often reserved exclusively for describing anything akin to graphics and poster art with embroidery left out of the conversation altogether. Setting the record straight, the Fashion and Textile Museum's current exhibition The Fabric of Democracy: Propaganda Textiles from the French Revolution to Brexit, questions this by presenting a thoughtful curation of textiles imbued with not only a political meaning but an outstandingly influential one - all while spanning a time period of 250 years.

Mark Rothko, Louis Vuitton Foundation

Mark Rothko at Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris until 2 April

Bringing together 115 pieces from global institutions and private collections, this Mark Rothko retrospective covers almost the entirety of the artist's career. Spiritual, hypnotic and undeniably transcendent, we can't think of a better way to kickstart your 2024. Maybe not a clean slate but at least you're guaranteed to submit to a heavenly haze à la Mr Rothko.

Material Power: Palestinian Embroidery installation at the Whitworth, The University of Manchester (2023). Photo: Michael Pollard

Material Power: Palestinian Embroidery at Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester - until 7 April

Since the most recent Gaza-Israel conflict started by Hamas on 7 November (which has since resulted in a staggering two million native Palestinians displaced) many people have risen in solidarity, whether through protests, talks, fundraisers or pop-up art shows representing different Palestinian makers. However, one exhibition came before the rest, and it's the one we're the most interested in: Material Power, Palestinian Embroidery which masterfully unfolds an intimate, human history of Palestine through clothing. If you want to know more about this incredible show, which was curated by the V&A's Rachel Dedman, then you can read our glowing review here. If you're just itching to see and marvel at the incredible textiles on display then buy a ticket to Manchester today.

That's the 2023 art hangover done but what about the exhibitions yet to begin? Although there are many shows marked in the industry's international calendar, we picked the best of the bunch so you don't have to.

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Our Leader), 1987/2020. Courtesy the artist and Sprüth Magers

Barbara Kruger: THINKING OF YOU. I MEAN ME. I MEAN YOU at Serpentine Galleries, 1 February – 17 March

Marking the artist's first institutional solo show in London for over 20 years, Barbara Kruger's THINKING OF YOU. I MEAN ME. I MEAN YOU. will include a selection of installations, moving image works, and multiple soundscapes to trap her fan base and anyone who attends in her agonisingly intoxicating text-based world. We don't have much information but take our word for it when we say self-professed Krugerites unite; this is an exhibition not to be forgotten.

American Juju, For the Tapestry of Truth by Teresa Margolles featured in 'Unravel' at Barbican

Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art at Barbican, 13 February - 26 May

Whilst we don't quite have the answer as to why embroidery and textiles are having a significant comeback (there are three blockbuster shows alone included in this guide), we would be lying if we said we aren't thrilled. As the art world edges closer to acknowledging the political trappings of weaving, Barbican has also joined in on the conversation with their upcoming major group exhibition which is set to unveil 50 international, intergenerational artists and their use of textiles to communicate vital ideas about power, resistance and survival. From intimate hand-crafted pieces to monumental sculptural installations, these works offer narratives of violence, imperialism and exclusion alongside stories of resilience, love and hope. If it's half as good as the Whitworth's Material Power, we will be thoroughly impressed.

Yoko Ono with Glass Hammer 1967 from HALF-A-WIND SHOW, Lisson Gallery, London, 1967. Photograph: Clay Perry © Yoko Ono

YOKO ONO: Music of the Mind at Tate Modern, 15 February - 1 September

Yoko Ono's creative career stretches far beyond her creative output; one that's danced with as many mediums as John Lennon did albums. Confirming her status as more than just as mother, musician and muse but a worldwide leading figure in conceptual and performance art, experimental film and music, YOKO ONO: Music of the Mind spans more than seven decades including her years in London from 1966 to 1971, where she met John Lennon. As well her her early performances, works on paper, objects, and music, attendees will also discover a selection of Ono's activist projects such as PEACE is POWER and Wish Tree, where visitors can contribute personal wishes for peace.

Zineb Sedira, 'Dreams Have No Titles' at the Venice Biennale, 2022

Zineb Sedira: Dreams Have No Titles at Whitechapel Gallery, 15 February - 12 May

Originally conceived for the French Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022, Dreams Have No Titles is an immersive installation comprising film, sculpture, photography and performance that blurs the boundaries between fiction and reality. Addressing theoretical consequences of believing in the American Dream, Sedira's work is undeniably heavily rooted in political activism and feminism. Or at least that's what the critics say, whom Sedira wholly disagrees with. 'I am not a feminist' she told SHOWstudio in 2022 - an interview conducted in response to Dreams Have No Titles at Frieze. All we'll say is don't take everything the artist says at face value, the same should be said of her work, which will no doubt amaze altogether.

Portrait of Lady Helen Vincent, Viscountess D'Abernon (1904) by John Singer Sargent

Sargent and Fashion at Tate Britain, 22 February - 7 July

The painter John Singer Sargent used fashion as a near-desolating tool to whip, craft, manipulate and perfect some of the most stunning portraiture of the 19th century. Identity and personality stood at the centre of his work, similarly to lauded designer of the same name, John Galliano, who famously noted Sargent as the main inspiration for much of his work while serving as creative director at Dior from 1996 until 2011. Looking at Sargent not as a painter but as a master stylist of his day, the exhibition reflects on the artist's intense focus in crafting the image of the sitters he painted through clothes.

'NAOMI' at V&A

NAOMI at Victoria and Albert Museum, from 22 June

This summer, Naomi Campbell is set to share her life in clothes as the V&A will gather over 100 looks worn by Campbell throughout her 40-year career, including pieces from her own extensive wardrobe. Designs by Alexander McQueen, Azzedine Alaïa, Chanel, John Galliano and many more will feature in the exhibition next to images captured by the likes of photographers Steven Meisel and Tim Walker. Extending beyond her role in fashion, NAOMI will also touch on her activism and cultural leadership, featuring prominent figures such as Nelson Mandela, of whom Campbell was his 'honorary granddaughter'. Mandella's cultural effect on Campbell was almost surmountable and the proof is in the pudding. 'He was bigger than the sun, that’s how I describe him. Granddad was very charismatic and easygoing', Campbell has said in reference to Mandella.



Your Go-To Exhibitions Guide For Spring 2023

21 March 2023
Fashion Week may be behind us for now but fret not, writer Christina Donoghue has compiled all the art and culture events to keep you ticking until the S/S 24 collections.

Tate Britain's 'Women In Revolt!' Isn't Tone Deaf, But It Is Hard of Hearing

07 November 2023
For as long as sexism prevails, women will always be in revolt. It's a shame Britain's leading art institution, Tate Britain, is stuck in a 70s time warp of second-wave feminism that includes black and gay women as an afterthought.

Weaving Identity: The Exhibition Exploring Palestinian Embroidery

01 December 2023
This month, Manchester's Whitworth Art Gallery will fall home to a new travelling exhibition 'Material Power: Palestinian Embroidery', unfolding an intimate, human history of Palestine through clothing.
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