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The Eight Exhibitions You Can’t Afford To Miss

From Mr David Hockney to Mr Wolfgang Tillmans, here are the best reasons to visit an art gallery this spring

  • Woldgate Woods, 6 & 9 November 2006” by Mr David Hockney. Photograph by Mr Richard Schmidt. Courtesy Tate, London 2017. © Mr David Hockney

Art becomes more vital in times of uncertainty. It gives us something to reflect on, talk about and, for a few brief moments, escape or engage with the world, depending on our want. Lucky for us all, then, 2017 is such a bumper year for culture. We need, it’s fair to say, all the help we can get. From New York to Amsterdam, by way of London and Arles, there are numerous blockbuster shows opening this spring. From retrospectives of the greatest artists of the past to large-scale exhibitions by contemporary giants, these are the shows you won’t want to miss. Get booking now.

Alice Neel: Painter of Modern Life

  • “Andy Warhol”, 1970, by Ms Alice Neel. Collection of Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Photograph courtesy Fondation Vincent Van Gogh, Arles. © The Estate of Ms Alice Neel

  • “Jackie Curtis And Ritta Redd”, 1970, by Ms Alice Neel. 
Collection of The Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio. Photograph courtesy Fondation Vincent Van Gogh, Arles. © The Estate of Ms Alice Neel

American artist Ms Alice Neel (1900–1984) was above all a portrait painter or, as she put it, a “collector of souls”. She painted the people around her, whether that was children, lovers, other artists or, indeed, the characters she met as she came to know Mr Andy Warhol. Her work is vivid and animated and stands out for the psychological insight she pulls out of her subjects. Her intimate and haunting study of Mr Warhol himself, above, stripped to the waist, shows him as a man isolated and not a little bit damaged by fame – a great demonstration of her skill. She was largely unappreciated during her lifetime due to her unconventional depictions of sexually charged women and the LGBT community, so kudos to Fondation Vincent Van Gogh for putting the painter, and her realist brush, back firmly in the spotlight.

Runs 4 March to 17 September
Fondation Vincent Van Gogh, Arles

William Eggleston – Los Alamos

  • “Memphis”, 1965–1968, by Mr William Eggleston. Photograph courtesy Mr David Zwirner, New York/London. © Eggleston Artistic Trust

The godfather of modern colour photography, Mr William Eggleston takes us on a nostalgic journey through the US between 1966 and 1974. The images on show were taken on various road trips and demonstrate Mr Eggleston’s talent for transforming the mundane into the sublime (he was doing this long before Mr Martin Parr went to Brighton Pier). His snapshots of diner condiments bathed in golden light, bright billboards and cars haunting car parks are a simple reminder that everything, the past included, is worth a second look. If you are looking for inspiration – or merely ideas for your next trip – there is no better place to spend an afternoon.

Runs 17 March to 7 June 
Foam, Amsterdam

David Hockney

  • “Portrait Of An Artist (Pool With Two Figures)”, 1972, by Mr David Hockney. Photograph by Ms Jenni Carter/Art Gallery Of New South Wales. Courtesy Tate, London 2017. © Mr David Hockney

It is hard not to think of Mr David Hockney as the national treasure he has long been. But this, his most comprehensive retrospective, held in celebration of his 80th birthday, reminds us that he was once a radical and something of an outsider. Since landing like an atom bomb on the art scene in the 1950s, his paintings of shimmering LA swimming pools, rolling Yorkshire dales (where he grew up), and more, have captured the imaginations of generations of people and shaped the way we see the world (it’s hard not to think of a Hockney when the words LA and pool come up). Covering six decades and with more than 250 works on show – including his latest digital iPad experiments, collages and even his work with fax machines – Tate Britain’s latest exhibition has already made a (bigger) splash.

Runs 9 February to 29 May
Tate Britain, London

Raymond Pettibon: A Pen Of All Work

  • “No Title (Let Me Say)”, 2012, by Mr Raymond Pettibon. Private collection, Los Angeles. Photograph Regen Projects, Los Angeles. Courtesy The New Museum, New York. © Mr Raymond Pettibon

Mr Raymond Pettibon has been chronicling the history and culture of the US for more than 30 years. His dark, satirical illustrations are full of comic-book characters, hippies and beefy baseball players (not to mention ever so slightly more controversial figures such as Jesus and Messrs J Edgar Hoover and Osama Bin Laden), and he has the voice of the polemicist – witty, sharp and seldom pulling any punches. His genius lies in his ability to capture social conflicts of the present, and chart the country’s shifting values as the decades pass. The largest presentation of his work to date, this exhibition covers the years from the 1970s to the present across more than 700 drawings. Have we ever needed his voice more?

Runs 2 February to 9 April
New Museum, New York

Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017

  • “Juan Pablo & Karl, Chingaza”, 2012, by Mr Wolfgang Tillmans. Photograph courtesy Tate, London 2017. © Mr Wolfgang Tillmans

Mr Wolfgang Tillmans has the ability to turn ordinary things into extraordinary things through the lens of his camera. At first glance, his photographs of luminous foliage, oceans and magnified crab carcasses look almost throwaway, but Mr Tillmans is one of the most engaging and politically conscious artists of our time. His work asks questions about how we perceive and deal with the world in times of political turbulence, and the Balkanisation of mass media. Beginning with the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and chronicling events to the present day, Wolfgang Tillmans 2017 is a must-see exhibition – and it might, you never know, help us make sense of the world as it is today.

Runs 15 February to 11 June
Tate Modern, London

Chagall: Colour And Music

  • “The Blue Circus”, 1950–1952, by Mr Marc Chagall. Nice, Musée National Marc Chagall, on deposit from the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris. Photograph courtesy The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. © SODRAC & ADAGP 2017, Chagall ®

  • “Self-Portrait With Seven Fingers”, 1912–1913, by Mr Marc Chagall. Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, on loan from the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. Photograph courtesy The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. © SODRAC & ADAGP 2017, Chagall ®

Montreal’s Museum Of Fine Arts shines a light on music’s profound influence on the art of Russian-French artist Mr Marc Chagall (1887–1985) this spring. Despite poverty, two world wars, ethnic persecution (he was the son of a Jewish herring merchant who lived on the Russian border in what is now Belarus), his fantastical paintings of flying fiddlers, fiery cityscapes, lovers and village parties captured the joys and many horrors of the 20th century. Featuring more than 300 pieces, which span the artist’s years in Russia, Paris and his exile in New York, the exhibition includes paintings, sculptures and tapestries, as well as Mr Chagall’s costume designs and decor for the operas and ballets Aleko (1942), The Firebird (1945), Daphnis And Chloe (1958–59) and The Magic Flute (1967). More than 50 costumes and masks lent by the Paris Opera, the New York City Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera evoke the ambience of each production, and show – for the first time – how Mr Chagall’s work was imbued with musicality throughout his career.

Runs 28 January to 11 June
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts


  • “280 Coup”, 2012, by Ms Justine Kurland. Photograph by Mitchell-Innes & Nash. Courtesy Fondation Cartier. © Ms Justine Kurland

The Fondation Cartier museum reopens this spring with an exhibition that explores the relationship between photography and the world of cars. Offering a global perspective, Autophoto brings together 400 artworks from 80 different artists from the 20th century, and includes works by Messrs Lee Friedlander and Jacques-Henri Lartigue. From the geometric design of roads to snapshot reflections in rear-view mirrors, the collection brings to light the different ways the car has not only influenced the way in which we explore the world, but also the way we document our journeys.

Runs 19 April to 24 September
Fondation Cartier, Paris

America After The Fall: Painting In The 1930s

  • “Gas”, 1940, by Mr Edward Hopper. Photograph by The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence. Courtesy Royal Academy of Arts, London

A good deal of 1930s US art tells the story of a nation in turmoil. In the wake of the Wall Street Crash and with the rising threat of fascism abroad, artists of the time sought to forge a new national art and identity for themselves, a process charted here in bright technicolour. From melancholy portraits to romantic landscapes and dreary cityscapes, the Royal Academy brings together 45 iconic works by artists ranging from Messrs Jackson Pollock and Edward Hopper and Ms Georgia O’Keeffe to Messrs Thomas Hart-Benton and Philip Guston, which help unravel the different ways in which artists interpreted this transformative period in US history, whether that meant realism, populism, abstraction or a recourse to traditional styles.

Runs 25 February to 4 June
Royal Academy Of Arts, London