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Three to see: London

From the Oscar Wilde portrait sold-off after he was convicted of gross indecency to Sophie Calle’s dead cat

by Gareth Harris, Hannah McGivern, José da Silva  |  7 April 2017
Three to see: London
Detail of David Hockney's Life Painting for a Diploma (1962) (© Yageo Foundation)
The Queer British Art 1861-1967 show opened this week at Tate Britain (until 1 October), marking the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales. The exhibition includes key works such as David Hockney’s Life Painting for a Diploma (1962); Duncan Grant’s vast mural Bathing (1911), made for the dining room at Borough Polytechnic in London; and Hannah Gluckstein’s self-portrait, Gluck (1942). One of the highlights of the exhibition is a portrait of the writer Oscar Wilde, which had to be sold off after Wilde was convicted of gross indecency in 1895. The work has returned from the US for the first time in nearly a century. Robert Harper Pennington, the US artist who painted the full-length portrait (1881), gave it to Wilde and his wife Constance as a wedding present in 1884. 

The Romanian artist Geta Bratescu is now 91 but continues to work every day in the studio at her apartment in Bucharest. Next month she will represent her country at the Venice Biennale. Get a sneak preview at her first solo show in London, The Studio: A Tireless, Ongoing Space (until 18 June) at Camden Arts Centre, which includes works spanning five decades of creativity, ranging from textiles and collages to photographic self-portraits and playful anthropomorphic sculptures. More than just a site of production and a refuge from Romania’s former Communist regime, the studio has become a recurring subject in Bratescu’s experimental and still too-little-known practice.  

Now in its 20th year, the annual Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize at The Photographers’ Gallery (until 11 June) often pushes the boundaries of what photography is or can be. Works by three of this year’s four nominees—Dana Lixenberg's powerful documentary photographs of the residents of South Central Los Angeles over a period of two decades; Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs’s 16mm film and slide installation of the people, animals and objects they encountered on their Eurasian trip from Switzerland to Mongolia; and Awoiska van der Molen’s dark landscapes—do not radically depart from traditional photography. But the fourth nominee, Sophie Calle, does through her simple use of text. Most would consider Calle a conceptual artist before photographer, even if photography has consistently featured in her work. The artist’s use of framed wall texts alongside photographs, including of her dead cat, recently deceased parents and even a stuffed giraffe, produce a simple but deeply personal and moving installation. The £30,000 prize will be awarded at the gallery on 18 May.

• Click here for a complete list of previously recommended London shows

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