Time off over Christmas? I hope so. The time between Christmas and New Year is the ideal chance to get out and about and see a few of the many exhibitions that London’s art galleries have to offer. We’ll start with…

Alex Hartley’s “The World is Still Big” at the Victoria Miro Gallery
22 November 2011 – 21 January 2012

Alex Hartley Clearing, 2011. Constructed mixed media on C-type photograph 90 x 72 x 7 cm 35 3/8 x 28 3/8 x 2 3/4 in
Source: http://www.victoria-miro.com/exhibitions/_426/

This is an exhibition of Hartley’s large-scale photos with scale-models of architectural structures painstakingly build into the surfaces of the prints. Somewhere between a steam punk inventor, an early 20th Century mustachioed explorer, and a tree-house dwelling earth child, Hartley creates images dystopian architectural pieces – scale models of super-villan hideaways in remode desert landscapes. True to the explorer archetype, Hartely has gone on intrepid expeditions into the high arctic, and the gallery show includes objects and artefacts from his expeditions.

Ai Weiwei: Dropping the Urn (Ceramic Works, 5000 BC – AD 2010) at the VA
15 October 2011 – 18 March 2012

Coca-Cola vase, Ai Weiwei, 1997, Neolithic vase (5000-3000 BC) and paint. Courtesy of André Stockamp & Christopher Tsai collection, Ancram, New York

Ai WeiWei is a conceptual artist who I can really get excited about. He creates pieces that are truly thought-provoking, and does so with a light touch. His works are often almost visual jokes, but in a way which is subtle and doesn’t shout its message. “Dropping the Urn” includes the use of Neolithic and Han Dynasty Ceramics transformed and reinterpreted. For example, the Coca-Cola urn above has been repainted, and the exhibition features an original Han Dynasty figurine contained in a Johnnie Walkey whiskey bottle.

Hokusai’s Great Wave at the British Museum
3 November 2011 –
8 January 2012
Room 3
Open late Fridays

Hokusai’s Great Wave is one of the most recognisable, reproduced and popular images in the whole of international art history. It’s even been reinterpreted as a mural on a house in Camberwell, South London. This exhibition presents a unique opportunity to learn about the history and context behind this iconic piece.

Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), Under the Wave off Kanagawa (detail). Colour woodblock print. Japan, Edo period, c. 1831. Acquired with the assistance of The Art Fund.
Source: http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/hokusais_great_wave.aspx

Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Natural History Museum
See the best wildlife photos on the planet.
21 Oct 2011 – 11 Mar 2012

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition attracts amateur and professional entrants of all ages from around the world. The best entrants are chosen for exhibition, and this is a show that will astound and amaze, and give you a fresh perspective on animals and the natural world. Photographers go to extraordinary lengths to get these images – for “Pester Power”, pictured below, Mateusz Piesiak wrapped his camera in a plastic sack, lay down on his front and dragged himself across the wet sand to get these detailed shots of oystercatchers feeding on Long Island, New York.

Mateusz Piesiak
Pester power
Source: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/temporary-exhibitions/wpy/photo.do?photo=2794&category=57&group=4

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination at the British Library
11th November – 13th March 2012

The library might not be the first place you think of when you want to see an art exhibition, but the British Library’s latest exhibition is well worth drawing attention to. It’s a chance to see the Library’s collection of illuminated manuscripts – illustration from the medieval period, many of which are in amazing condition and are executed in stunning colour. According to the Library, the manuscripts are

our most vivid source for understanding royal identity, moral and religious beliefs, learning, faith artistic trends and the international politics of the period.

The Shrewsbury Book
Rouen, 1444–45
British Library, Royal 15 E. vi, ff. 2v
Source: http://www.bl.uk/whatson/exhibitions/royalman/about/index.html

From me and everyone at Art2Arts, have a fabulous festive season and a colourful New Year!