Follow Mint Lounge

Latest Issue

Home > News> Talking Point > State of the nation art

State of the nation art

  • For art aficionados headed for an English summer, Lounge recommends six capital ideas
  • From Martin Parr’s 'Brexitness' to Van Gogh’s exchanges with British novelists and artists, this is state-of-the-nation art

The ‘Only Human: Photographs By Martin Parr’ exhibition during the press preview at the National Portrait Gallery in London in March

Listen to this article

To say that Britain is currently having an existential crisis, politically, is perhaps putting it lightly. Since the 2016 referendum result, the word “Brexit” has been on everyone’s lips. It is, at once, spectral and simply the state-of-things now. Using this political canvas as a prompt, Lounge picks six art and photography exhibitions currently on view across London’s museums and galleries. All of these, in one way or another, interrogate British identity, influence, and landscapes at this turning point. From Martin Parr’s “Brexitness” to Van Gogh’s exchanges with British novelists and artists, this is state-of-the-nation art.

A lithograph of Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’
A lithograph of Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’

Only Human: Martin Parr

Martin Parr, one of Britain’s best-known photographers, describes the spine of his new show as “Brexitness”. While the images span 20 years, this project on national identity and human activity in Britain, and Britain’s place in the world, holds new-found meaning and metaphor on the brink of Brexit. Alongside the post-referendum result, the BBC commissioned Parr to travel across Britain and capture “British identity”. The exhibition sees Parr focus his lens on the present political landscape—in photographs “blinded by flash and decked in saturated colour”, as The Guardian reviews—and also spotlights his previous archival work, including self and celebrity portraits. National Portrait Gallery, until 27 May

Van Gogh and Britain

The Dutch painter’s London years frame the focus of this major exhibition. Featuring more than 50 works, it is the largest collection of his paintings to come together in the UK in a decade or so. His most famous pieces have been brought in from around the world, while closer to home, Sunflowers has been borrowed from London’s National Gallery. The influence of British novelists Charles Dickens and George Eliot on his life and career, as well as those he in turn inspired (such as Francis Bacon and the Camden Town painters) forms the curatorial focus—and is something critics and visitors question: Jonathan Jones writes, “We are supposed to swallow the idea that the true genesis of Van Gogh’s art lies in a youthful sojourn in Victorian England.” This nostalgia aside, expect a starry night. Tate Britain, until August 11.

Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor poses next to his work, ‘Untitled’, 2018
Anish Kapoor poses next to his work, ‘Untitled’, 2018

Recently in the news for his artwork, A Brexit, A Broxit, We All Fall Down, commissioned by and created for The Guardian, the British sculptor’s work is being shown as the inaugural exhibition at Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery. Expect a series of sculptures, including some previously unseen by British audiences, that, the exhibition website promises, “will engage the viewer and their surroundings in a constantly fluctuating form”, thanks to the freshly refurbished gallery space. Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery, until 18 August

Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition

If Steven Spielberg’s one-sentence endorsement—“Don’t miss this wonderful exhibition”—isn’t enough, we’ll tell you more. Step inside Stanley Kubrick’s genre-defining (and genre-defying) worlds and relive the inimitable contributions to reel made by one of the greatest film-makers and storytellers of the 20th century. This includes iconic moments from The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, to name but a few. Featuring an overwhelming 700 objects—including film props, costumes, and correspondence—the show also spotlights Kubrick’s special relationship with London as the much-loved landscape for his films. Design Museum, until 15 September

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams

Travelling from 1947 to the present, this retrospective rejoices in the 70-plus year existence of the Parisian fashion house—and its founder’s story and legacy—and is a reimagined rendition of a show staged by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 2017. Fans of high fashion will find a-plenty to take visual pleasure in—satins, bodices, frocks—but also traces of scrapbooked family history, an insight into the couturiers of the 20th century, and Dior’s ties with Britain. As the BBC reported, “it is an unashamed celebration of Christian Dior’s joie de vivre”. Victoria and Albert Museum, until 1 September

Edvard Munch: Love and Angst

Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Still Life, Vase With Daises And Poppies’
Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Still Life, Vase With Daises And Poppies’

Describing this collaborative exhibition with the Munch Museum in Oslo—showing the largest collection of Edvard Munch’s prints in the UK in almost half a century—as unmissable is an understatement. “A radical father of Expressionism”, “Norway’s answer to Vincent van Gogh”—these are only some of the epithets given to this modern artist. On display is The Scream, almost a synecdoche for Munch now, alongside other masterpieces from his time spent in and influenced by pre-war Oslo, Berlin, and Paris—ranging in mood from the anxious to the apocalyptic. British Museum, until 21 July

Next Story