Summer exhibitions in London – inspiration from our favourite tastemakers

Summertime in London. Sure there’s disappointing weather – June has looked a lot like April – and stifling hot conditions on the city transport system. But there’s also outdoor swimming in Art Deco lidos and some of the best parties and openings in the world. It’s the season of the annual Serpentine Pavilion for instance, with this year’s a multi-coloured design by Spanish architect practice SelgasCano. It’s also, traditionally, a time when London’s major exhibitions are unveiled.

At the risk of inflicting a big dose of FOMO on you, we asked our favourite tastemakers to share the shows that are on their to-do lists this season. Get ready to mark your diaries as three of our favourite ladies from the world of interiors – stylist and lecturer of textile design at Central Saint Martins Katie Sellers, trendforecaster Sarah Shepherd from London agency TrendPulse and editor of House, by House & Garden Alaina Vieru – share their must-see ideas.

Katie Sellers: Photorealism sculpture and child-friendly brutalism

Duane Hanson at Serpentine Sackler Gallery

A series of lifelike sculptures of working-class Americans portrayed by the late sculptor Duane Hanson (1925-1996) are brought together in the glorious Serpentine Sackler building blending photorealism with elements of the Pop Art movement.

“I’m curious to see just how life-like the sculptures really are. I imagine it to be a voyeuristic experience, glimpsing a mundane snapshot of each of the subject’s daily life. A still life of sorts which involves hyper reality, scale and three dimensional skills, which I suppose interest me from a Stylists’ perspective, the idea of attempting to create that perfect vignette,” says Katie.

Duane Hanson is on until 13 September 2015. Full details for the exhibition here.

The Brutalist Playground at RIBA

A sculpture-cum-architectural-installation, this piece is a collaboration between architecture practice Assemble (the people behind the much photographed Yardhouse artist studios project) and artist Simon Terrill. It’s a perfect exhibition for families with young kids especially – plenty of exploring and interacting without the dreaded ‘do not touch’ element. Full details here.

Katie says: “I do love a bit of Brutalism (the Barbican never fails to amaze me) so this looks a perfect place to take the kids. I spend enough of my time in playgrounds so this interactive experience will amuse them without them realising they’re at a gallery, and allow me to indulge in the architectural installation. Bingo!”

Find Katie Sellers blogging and on Instagram.

Sarah Shepherd: colour, print and inspirational women

Sonia Delaunay and Agnes Martin at Tate Modern

The first UK retrospective of Russian-born artist Sonia Delaunay (1885–1979) is an explosion of colour and pattern. Dealaunay was a key figure of the Paris avant-garde movement and worked across the genres of fine art, fashion and textiles – her extensive portfolio of work also includes geometric tapestries and carpets.

“My must-see exhibitions in London are all women artists I’ve just noted! I’ve already been to see Sonia Delauney at the Tate, which was sooooo wonderful and exciting it almost made me cry. Just an inspiration for colour, pattern, textiles and entrepreneurship. In the next couple of weeks I’m also planning to go back to the Tate Modern for Agnes Martin. Her paintings are all precise lines and grids rendered in beautiful pale colours, so very inspiring for colour and I’m curious to see more of her work up close,” says Sarah. The EY Exhibition: Sonia Delaunay is on until 15 August. Agnes Martin runs until 11 October.

FRIDA by Ishiuchi Miyako at Michael Hoppen Gallery

A photographic exhibition that records some 300 belongings of celebrated Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Open until 12 July 2015 – more details at Michael Hoppen Gallery.

“This sounds beautiful and poignant according to the gallery’s own description,” says Sarah: ‘Frida by Ishiuchi Miyako is a photographic record of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s wardrobe and belongings. Following Kahlo’s death in 1954 her husband Diego Rivera began placing her personal effects into the bathroom of their Mexico City house, The Blue House, which later became the Museo Frida Kahlo. Rivera gave instructions that this room should remain sealed until fifteen years after his death and it in fact remained unopened until 2004 when the museum decided to organise and catalogue the contents. Ishiuchi Miyako was invited to photograph these artefacts, over 300 unseen relics of Kahlo’s life. Captured in natural light with a 35mm Nikon, Ishiuchi Miyako’s portrayal of these objects can seem deceptively simple. Reviewed together however these relics become a composite “portrait”, an insight into a woman who used fashion to channel her physical difficulties into a courageous statement of identity, strength and beauty.’

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Alaina Vieru: Cornell’s oddeties and major sculpture from a great british artist

Joseph Cornell, Wanderlust at Royal Academy

American Surrealist artist and filmmaker Joseph Cornell created shadow boxes from a basement in New York filled with Victorian oddities and everyday items that he picked up from junk shops and antiquarian bookstores – his collages are on display at the Royal Academy from 4 July until 27 September.

“I am desperate to know more about this self-taught artist,” says Alaina. “Joseph Cornell created miniature boxes and assemblages of incredible beauty from everyday objects. From a decorative perspective, there will be so much to glean, but it’s that transformation from dull to distinctive that is so intriguing – as well as Cornell himself. The man barely left New York, but found inspiration from around the world – how did he do it?”

Barbara Hepworth, Sculpture for a Modern World, Tate Britain

The first major Barbara Hepworth exhibition in London for almost 50 years, this retrospective features the artist’s most significant sculptures alongside rarely seen works. It also includes Tate Britain’s first ever garden installation, The Summer Garden, which is inspired by a Barbara Hepworth textile design. On until 25 October 2015.

“Blame Poldark, but I’ve had a real love affair with Cornwall recently, which has included re-watching Hitchcock’s Rebecca. Delving into this Hepworth retrospective is next on my list – especially as the Tate Britain is perhaps my favourite London museum. The mechanics of inspiration fascinate me, so I will be poring over the textiles, photographs and collages on display with particular relish – not to mention taking in the works of Hepworth’s contemporaries, which will also be on display,” says Alaina.

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