In the second of her regular arts columns, Irene Caswell takes a look at the new July art exhibitions in London, as well as one coming to a close.

Summer exhibitions are well underway with a diverse offering of displays designed to amaze, delight and entertain. Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser is not the only show in town. Creativity is alive and well, so take advantage of the abundance of opportunities to experience rare objects, learn more about different cultures, and even listen to the sounds in the city, for a new perspective on what makes London so unique.

Sophie Taeuber-Arp at Tate Modern

Composition of Circles and Overlapping Angles 1930 The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, Department of Imaging and Visual Resources. © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Composition of Circles and Overlapping Angles 1930, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Riklis Collection of McCrory Corp. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

The first retrospective of one of the foremost abstract artists and designers of the 1920s and 30s opens this month at the Tate Modern. Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s multidisciplinary work and contribution to modern art and design is diverse and sometimes controversial. Her creative output encompassed carved sculptures and edited magazines, jewellery, embroideries and paintings, as well as puppets and intriguing Dada objects. She combined traditional crafts with the language of modernist abstraction. Taeuber-Arp’s colourful and striking work is both of its time and timeless, for instance, her beaded Geometric Forms necklace (c. 1918). On display will be principal works from major collections in Europe and the US, the majority of which have never been seen in the UK. Tickets from adult £16. (15 July – 17 October 2021).

Bellotto: The Königstein Views Reunited at The National Gallery

The Fortress of Königstein from the North-West, about 1756-8
The Fortress of Königstein from the North-West, about 1756-8

Five paintings by Bernardo Bellotto (1722-1780) of the ancient site of the Saxon fortress of Königstein, including the recently acquired view from the north, will be on display for the first time in more than 250 years.

Bellotto was nephew to his more famous uncle and master, Giovanni Antonio Canal Canaletto, but is today well known for his distinctive European landscapes. In the Königstein views the forbidding walls of the impressive stronghold, located in the picturesque Elbe valley, are depicted sharply silhouetted against a romantic pale evening sky. At over two metres wide the works are imbued with drama, and intricate detail which commands close observation. While the fortress exterior presents sharp angles, further scrutiny reveals tiny soldiers on the ramparts and, in the ‘domestic’ interior courtyard, women hanging out the washing.

While a fortress might not be everyone’s cup of tea as subject matter the scope and complexity of the Königstein Views are breathtaking. Bellotto: The Königstein Views Reunited runs from 22 July to 31 October 2021. Free admission.

Epic Iran at the V&A
Bottle and bowl in poetry in Persian, 1180-1220 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Bottle and bowl in poetry in Persian, 1180-1220 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Inspired by the current exhibition the V&A Academy Online Friday Forum: Contemporary Art from Iran will be focusing on the country’s contemporary art and culture, a force for exploration and critique in response to the social and political conditions. Talks will include an exploration of the legacies of oil, the potential of the digital sphere, and urban space as a stage for creativity featuring artists based across Iran and in the diaspora, including curator Morad Montazami and artist Azadeh Akhlaghi in conversation with V&A curators. (16 July, 10am to 5pm). Friday Forum tickets adult £35, student £17.50. Epic Iran runs until 12 September. Tickets adult £18.

Listening to the City podcast at the Serpentine Galleries

This month the Serpentine Galleries launch a programme of sound commissions, workshops, and listening sessions that aim to explore how we collectively honour, celebrate and remember significant sites of organising, movement and resistance in London. It engages with a set of sonic landscapes from selected London neighbourhoods, including paces of gathering and belonging and particular relevance to migrant communities across the city.

If how we listen determines what we actually hear and, at a time when shared spaces have become rare and personal listening devices have become everyday tools, we are being increasingly encouraged to slow down. The programme aims to encourage us to unplug and participate in active listening working in collaboration with artists Ain Bailey, Jay Bernard and young people’s organisations in South London, amongst others. Free. July – September 2021. Subscribe and listen at Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Last chance to see
Tracey Emin at the Royal Academy of Arts Photo: © David Parry/ Royal Academy of Arts
Tracey Emin at the Royal Academy of Arts, Photo: © David Parry/ Royal Academy of Arts

Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul at the Royal Academy. Over 25 of Emin’s works including paintings, some on display for the first time, neons and sculpture chosen by Emin to sit alongside a carefully considered selection of 18 oils and watercolours drawn from Munch’s rich collection and archives in Oslo, Norway. A highly personal show and a fascinating insight into how Munch has influenced her work and the sheer breadth of Emin’s diverse skills as an artist. Ends 1st August. Tickets adult £17.


Main image: The Fortress of Königstein from the North-West Bernardo Bellotto 1756-8 © Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington.