The COVID-19 pandemic has made it extremely difficult to consume culture in 2020. With museums, cinemas, clubs and live music venues shutting and reopening in an infinite cycle throughout multiple lockdowns, it's difficult to know when we will next be able to step foot in a gallery. Despite a wealth of online cultural resources, the experience of scrolling through pixelated artworks or watching newly released films via a laptop screen is not an adequate substitute for witnessing art in a room with total strangers.
But fear not - 2021 is set to be the year of the vaccine, which (fingers crossed) means that galleries and cinemas will be opening again soon. Read on for our exhibition and film recommendations for 2021.
Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser at the V&A (opening 27 March 2021)
The V&A is back with another blockbuster exhibition exploring the origins, adaptations and reinventions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the beloved illustrated novel by Lewis Carroll published in 1865. Highlights include Tim Walker's Alice-in-Wonderland-inspired photos of a giant Duckie Thot for the 2018 Pirelli Calendar, Dorothea Tanning's surrealist Eine Kleine Nachtmusik painting (1943) in which an eerie loss of gravity has occurred and a crafty runway look from Viktor&Rolf's Autumn/Winter 16 haute couture collection.
See more details here.
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Rooms at Tate Modern (29 March 2021 - 27 March 2022)
Yayoi Kusama's infinity rooms - her glittering, ecstatic mirrored art installations - catapulted the Japanese artist to global superstardom late in life, decades after she staged her avant-garde 'happenings' in 1960s New York City. Thanks to the Instagrammable quality of these rooms, Kusama exhibitions around the world have become notorious for scant tickets, long waits and queues snaking around the block. The Tate have given us another chance to witness Kusama's magic firsthand in case you missed it the first time, with two of the artist's otherworldly infinity rooms on display as of March 2021. Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled with the Brilliance of Life, one of Kusama’s largest installations to date is shown alongside Chandelier of Grief, a spectacular room with endless baroque-style rotating crystal chandeliers. An accompanying small selection of photographs provides the historical context behind Kusama's legendary mirrored rooms.
See more details here.
Bags: Inside Out at the V&A (on now until 12 September 2021)
Another fashion gem of an exhibition from the V&A, Bags: Inside Out, explores the style, functionality, design and craftsmanship of the most enduring accessory: the bag. From Winston Churchill's despatch box to Margaret Thatcher's handbag, the exhibition explores political dressing, celebrity endorsement and the 'It bag' phenomenon of the late 90s. Around 300 objects are on display, spanning from the 16th century to the present day. Highlights include the Fendi ‘Baguette’ bag worn by Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, the gold Louis Vuitton Monogram Mirror ‘Speedy’ bag by Marc Jacobs (popularised by Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian), the 'Lady Dior' handbag named after Princess Diana and the ‘International Woman’ suitcase customised by Tracey Emin for Longchamp.
See more details here.
Tracey Emin / Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul at The Royal Academy of Arts (on now until 28 February 2021)
'I’ve been in love with this man since I was eighteen,' says Tracey Emin of Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch. Despite having been born a century apart the two artists have much in common thematically speaking: both embrace painful experiences in order to create art, exploring instances of grief, loneliness and longing. The Royal Academy have put the pair in dialogue together in a new exhibition, The Loneliness of the Soul. 25 of Emin's paintings, neon signs and sculptures sit alongside 18 oils and watercolours by Munch. Since London has moved back into Tier 3, the exhibition's doors are closed for now, but the BBC have created Emin/Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed, a documentary charting the affinities between the two artists, which you can watch in the meantime here.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly In League With The Night at Tate Britain (on now until 9 May 2021)
‘I write about the things I can’t paint and paint the things I can’t write about,' explains British artist and writer Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. A new retrospective of her work, Fly In League With The Night at Tate Britain, features around 80 haunting portraits of fictitious characters dreamed up from the artist's own imagination. A list of Yiadom-Boakye's favourite books feature in the catalogue, with eclectic works by James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Ted Hughes and Shakespeare all included.
See more details here.
Francis Bacon: Man and Beast at The Royal Academy (30 January - 18 April 2021)
The latest in a slew of Francis Bacon retrospectives focuses on the Irish-born artist's fascination with animals, honing in on his tendency to coalesce human and beast together in a supernatural blur of oil paint. Spanning his 50-year career, the exhibition includes some of Bacon's earliest work, his last ever painting and a triptych of raucous bullfight paintings. Bacon was mesmerised by animal movement throughout his life, observing animals in the wild during trips to South Africa, filling his studio with wildlife books and constantly referring to Eadweard Muybridge’s 19th century photographs of humans and animals in motion. Bacon's fascination with animals can be understood as feeding into the artist's obsession with death. 'Ham, pigs, tongues, sides, of beef seen in the butcher’s window, all that death, I find it very beautiful,' said Bacon in a 1992 interview with The Art Newspaper. Animal carcasses appear often in his work; cow limbs protrude on either side of a man like freakish angel wings in Figure With Meat (1954), a cut carcass of pink meat hangs head down in dematerialised space in Carcass of Meat and Bird of Prey (1980) and a skinned cow protrudes like a cruciform tree behind a shadowy figure in the infamous Painting (1946). For those confused by Bacon's animal obsession, it has its roots in family: his father was a racehorse trainer.
See more details here.
The French Dispatch, directed by Wes Anderson (coming soon)
Wes Anderson's tenth feature film is inspired by The New Yorker. Set in the fictional French city of Ennui-sur-Blasé during the 20th century, The French Dispatch has been described by IndieWire as 'a love letter to journalists set at an outpost of an American newspaper.' The fictional magazine is described in the movie trailer as 'a factual weekly report on the subjects of world politics, the arts high and low, and diverse stories of human interest.' As with all of the American auteur's films, the cast is stellar. Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Elisabeth Moss, Edward Norton, Owen Wilson, Timothée Chalamet, Saoirse Ronan and Léa Seydoux all star. After its release date was pushed back multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The French Dispatch is currently planned for a 2021 release.
Zola, directed by Janicza Bravo (coming soon)
In 2015, a relatively unknown Twitter user named A'Ziah King posted the first segment of a 148-tweet story. 'Y’all wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out? It’s kind of long but full of suspense.' A'Ziah's story unfolds thus: after meeting another sex worker named Jessica, the pair take an impromptu trip to Florida to dance at strip clubs where things quickly turn dark, with incidents of sex trafficking, kidnapping and attempted suicide all featuring in the bizarre narrative. After the tweet saga went viral, the film world took interest. James Franco was set to direct an adaptation, but the film was shelved in 2018 following sexual misconduct allegations against the actor. Zola reached actualisation in the hands of acclaimed writer/director Janicza Bravo, with a cast featuring Riley Keough, Taylour Paige and Nicholas Braun (aka Cousin Greg from Succession) and an original score by Mica Levi. Can't wait for the release? Listen back to a hilarious conversation between Janicza Bravo (Zola director) & Joi McMillon (Zola editor) about their collaborative process on the movie, courtesy of A24.
Euphoria Part 2: Jules, created by Sam Levinson (coming out January 24 2021)
After the filming of Season 2 of Euphoria was cancelled due to COVID-19-induced restrictions, Sam Levinson wondered how he could continue the emotional evolution of the American teen drama's beloved characters. The answer was to create two self-contained episodes from two different characters' perspectives: that of Rue (Zendaya) and Jules (Hunter Schafer), close friends and occasional lovers. The first special episode, which came out on 5 December 2020, centred on Rue in the throes of a relapse and a depressive spiral, talking to her NA sponsor Ali (Colman Domingo) in a diner on Christmas day. The winding conversation they have about love, addiction and depression is some of the most moving dialogue I've ever seen on television. The second special episode focusing on Jules' side of the story will premiere on January 24 2021 on HBO Max.