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Martin Parr in one of the rooms of his exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery

Museum and Gallery Top Picks of the Week

18 March 2019 Billie Manning

The place to come for all the best current exhibitions in London...

Spotlight On: Only Human: Martin Parr at the National Portrait Gallery
What can I expect to see? A carefully selected series of portraits from one of the UK's most prolific photographers celebrating exactly what it is to be human - especially to be a British human in the 21st century
What's the big deal? There's a reason Parr is so prolific and so celebrated: his portraits are unfailingly bright, vivid and extremely aesthetically pleasing, while also seeming to manage to distil the utter essence of a person, identity or experience into one photograph. And this is a fantastic exhibition in which to stage his works. Each of the themed rooms, from celebrity to Dance  are decorated appropriately. Each of the rooms is painted a different colour (a room depicting attendees at tennis Grand Slams is, of course, green) and, in my favourite curatorial decision, the Dance room has an absolutely giant disco ball hung from the ceiling. The “oneness” photographs, commissioned by the BBC to show the unity of communities around the UK are some of the first you see. They are particularly satisfying photographs, with their often matching humans arranged in neat patterns. They are also some of the most moving, a reminder that we can come together even now. And unusally for the National Portrait Gallery, they have included the films - sort of moving portraits - from this project, used for the BBC interludes between programmes. You'll recognise most, if not all, of them. Another highlight is the full-scale, working café installation where you can buy and sit down to eat “yummy jelly beans”, bakewells, mini cheddars and more quintessentially English grub while surrounded by Parr's photos on the theme of food. The exhibition finishes with portraits of the ruling classes of British society. This is the most thought-provoking room in the whole exhibition: of all the groups depicted, this is the only one people still try to deny exists. But here they are, undeniable in their privilege and control of British society. There is also a selection of fantastic themed merchandise in the gift shop, but ironically, almost all of it is prohibitively expensive.
How long have I got? Until 27 May (if Brexit does indeed get delayed for 2 months, it will just about still be there)
 

Whitechapel Galleries: Is This Tomorrow?

The Best of the Rest:
Betty Tompkins: Fuck Paintings, Etc. at J Hammond Projects
What can I expect to see? 
Betty Tompkins' "Fuck Paintings", some covered in text naming the messages women receive every day about their bodies - once censored as 'obscene' - are now shown in all their explicitness
How long have I got? Until 30 March

Mandela at 26 Leake Street Gallery
What can I expect to see? A journey through the life of the world’s most famous freedom fighter through a series of immersive ‘zones’
How long have I got? Until 8 April
 
Andy Warhol: Polaroid Pictures at Bastian London
What can I expect to see? Some never-before-seen pieces are included among Bastian London’s inaugural exhibition of Warhol’s Polaroid portraits and self-portraits
How long have I got? Until 13 April

Hanna Moon & Joyce Ng: English as a Second Language at Somerset House
What can I expect to see? From two of fashion’s most exciting photographers, this exhibition celebrates the vitality of international perspectives
How long have I got? Until 28 April
 
Don McCullin at Tate Britain
What can I expect to see? Impactful exhibition on McCullin’s 60 years of landscapes and war photography
How long have I got? Until 6 May

Is This Tomorrow? at Whitechapel Gallery
What can I expect to see? Visions of the future from a bevy of artists, taking inspiration from landmark 1956 exhibition This Is Tomorrow
How long have I got? 12 May
 
Dorothea Tanning at the Tate
What can I expect to see? 
A full retrospective of Tanning's work: moving from her smaller, more concrete surrealism to more abstract large paintings and cloth sculptures of her later work, as well as a whole-room installation and a short film
How long have I got? Until 9 June

Last chance!
Tracey Emin: A Fortnight of Tears at White Cube
What can I expect to see? A large part of the show consists of more than 50 blown-up phone camera self-portraits, taken during periods in which Emin has suffered from debilitating insomnia. As Emin is using the entirety of White Cube’s exhibition space, this isn’t the only series of work you will be seeing from Emin in this show. The exhibition also includes sculptures, paintings, drawings, and films.
How long have I got? Until 7 April
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