Five exhibitions to see this February

  • 2 February 2018

From 2,000-year-old statues to contemporary art from Venice Biennale, this month’s pick of must-see exhibitions will take you on a whirlwind tour through time.

Dora Carrington, Spanish Landscape with Mountains c.1924 © Tate

Dora Carrington, Spanish Landscape with Mountains c.1924

February is a bumper month for exhibitions, with many major shows opening across the UK. There’s plenty more to see besides – see our full listings here – but for the sake of busy diaries we’ve whittled things down to five absolute must-sees, all free or 50% off with a National Art Pass (and the Diaspora Pavilion is free to all). See you again in March...

Vanessa Bell, Interior with a Table, 1921

Virginia Woolf: An exhibition inspired by her writings

The great modernist writer Virginia Woolf has long been associated with the visual arts thanks to her central role in the much mythologised Bloomsbury Group – a collective of artists, thinkers and makers who collaborated, studied and lived together during the first half of the 20th century. This exhibition takes the bold approach of actually using her texts as a means through which to view work by more than 80 artists, from 1850 to the present. Supported by an Art Fund Jonathan Ruffer curatorial grant, it brings together work by artists including Louise Bourgeois, Claude Cahun and Woolf’s sister Vanessa Bell, and invites us to view them from feminist perspectives.

Richard Hamilton, Hers is a Lush Situation, 1958

POP! Art in a Changing Britain

From Peter Blake’s work with the Beatles to Eduardo Paolozzi’s vibrant screenprints, this show examines how artists responded to the rapid social change of 1950s/60s Britain. Drawing on Pallant House Gallery’s extensive collection of British Pop Art, it considers how the movement emerged as a means to address the rise of mass media, the cult of celebrity, and questions around identity and politics. Taking their cue from advertising, comics, science fiction and contemporary music, artists including Richard Hamilton and Patrick Caulfield embraced non-traditional materials and techniques, and challenged the boundaries between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art.

Armoured infantryman

China's First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors

A chance find in 1974 led to the unearthing of the ‘terracotta warriors’ – an army of lifesize statues guarding the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Showcasing objects from one of the world’s greatest archaeological discoveries, this exhibition sheds light on almost 1,000 years of Chinese history and reveals the emperor’s efforts to pursue immortality and prepare for the afterlife. Artefacts never before seen in the UK take us from the conflicts and chaos of the Warring States period to the achievements and legacy of the Qin and Han dynasties.

Larry Achiampong, Sunday's Best, 2016, 4K video, 16 minutes

Diaspora Pavilion

A challenge to the prevalence of ‘national’ pavilions at the Venice Biennale, the Diaspora Pavilion at the 2017 festival showcased the work of 19 artists responding to the concept of 'diaspora' and its continued relevance today. Audiences in the UK now have the chance to see work by seven of the participating artists at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, in a restaging of some of the pieces from Venice plus new works presented alongside. The artists on show in this Art Fund-supported exhibition are Larry Achiampong, Kimathi Donkor, Michael Forbes, susan pui san lok, Paul Maheke, Erika Tan and Abbas Zahed.

The Advantages of Being A Woman Artist by Guerrilla Girls

T-Shirt: Cult, Culture, Subversion

A plain white t-shirt may not look like much – but as a blank canvas for personal expression and political agitation, it has proven a powerful tool for communication in the modern age. Charting the evolution of this seemingly humble garment through the 20th century, this exhibition brings together examples of the t-shirt as a symbol of rock’n’roll rebellion, a medium for protest and a luxury fashion item. Highlights include a private collection of Vivienne Westwood t-shirts from the designer’s early days helping to shape the visuals of 70s punk to her most recent designs advocating action against climate change.

Tags: ExhibitionsWhat to see