Must-see contemporary art shows

  • 23 June 2015

From optical illusions to body-altering sensations, we take a look at the contemporary art offering this season.

1. Carsten Höller: Decision, Hayward Gallery

50% off with National Art Pass

Step into Höller's world to experience upside-down vision, mind-altering sensations and a flight above the London skyline. The former scientist's exhibition-cum-human-experiment is shaped by the decisions its visitors make, from which tunnel they take to enter the gallery to which slide they select to exit. Not suitable for those with nyctophobia (to 6 September).

2. Bridget Riley: The Curve Paintings 1961-2014, De La Warr Pavilion

Free to all

This dizzying display at the De La Warr Pavilion charts Riley's curve-focused Op Art over more than 50 years, from her early works in black and white to her recent explosions of colour. Appearing to flash, vibrate, swell and warp before your eyes, her meticulously constructed designs have been said to induce a variety of sensations – from seasickness to skydiving (to 6 September).

3. Marc Quinn: The Toxic Sublime, White Cube Bermondsey

Free to all

Quinn presents his newest body of work: a series of three-dimensional seascapes that explore the degradation of the ocean. Created through a process of sanding, spray-painting, moulding, pummelling and impressing onto London street drains, the end result appears as if destroyed by a natural disaster. His Frozen Waves sculptures are also on display, capturing conch shells at the moment before they dissolve into sand (15 July to 13 September).

4. Artist Rooms: Damien Hirst, Pier Arts Centre

Free to all

The YBA best known for pickling animal corpses in formaldehyde is the subject of this show in Orkney. Hirst’s work is shown alongside the centre's collection of paintings by his close friend and mentor Margaret Mellis, who played a key role in the development of his career. Mellis was one of the last survivors of the modernist artists who gathered in St Ives in the 1940s and Hirst has publicly lamented that her work has been unduly neglected (to 12 September).

5. The M+ Sigg Collection: Chinese art from the 1970s to now, The Whitworth

Free to all

The only UK showing of 80 works from the collection of the fierce advocate of Chinese contemporary art Uli Sigg. Encompassing the artwork of Ai Weiwei, Cao Fei, Weng Fen and Zhang Huan, among others, it is recognised as one of the most comprehensive of its kind in existence. For Sigg, this is no financial investment, it is the result of personal passion. As he has said, 'I want to document history through the works I have collected' (1 July to 20 September).

6. Bill Viola: Earth Martyr, Air Martyr, Fire Martyr and Water Martyr, Auckland Castle

50% off with National Art Pass

When Viola's video installation was unveiled at St Paul’s Cathedral last year, the art critic Jonathan Jones heralded him as 'visionary’ and the work as ‘a powerful modern altarpiece'. The artist has recreated this seminal work – which shows four individuals each being assaulted by earth, air, fire or water – for Auckland Castle. Each martyr begins in stillness but, left to the mercy of the elements, they gradually pass from death into the light (to 26 October).

Tags: What to seeExhibitions