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Three to see: London

From Duchamp’s dust at the Whitechapel Gallery to Grayson Perry’s “most popular show ever!” at the Serpentine

by José da Silva, Javier Pes  |  9 June 2017
Three to see: London
Walker Evans's Erosion, Mississippi (1936) is on show in A Handful of Dust at The Whitechapel Gallery (Library of Congress press photograph; Collection David Campany)
Will The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!live up to its billing? The show of recent works by Grayson Perry at the Serpentine Gallery, which opened this week (until 10 September), “began, unusually for him, with the title of the show”, says the exhibition’s curator, Rebecca Lewin. “There are so many potential political ramifications of being popular or unpopular, particularly as [Perry] was thinking about the title around the time of the referendum [on the UK’s membership of the European Union]”, Lewin says. The vote last June provides the theme for two of his largest vases, Matching Pair (2017), completed only last month and made in collaboration with members of the public. Another long-running thread in Perry’s work is the role contemporary art plays in wider society. “Whatever he is doing as an artist or as a writer, or even someone who presents [TV] programmes, I think it is always done with an attempt to bridge a perceived gap between contemporary art and audiences that don’t have a familiarity with it,” Lewin says.

Who knew that a photograph of dust gathered on a large piece of glass could inspire so much? But this particular image, which was the starting point for The Whitechapel Gallery’s A Handful of Dust (until 3 September) exhibition, was taken by Man Ray of dust that had accumulated on Marcel Duchamp’s second (after the urinal) most famous work, The Large Glass (1915–23). The exhibition follows the image’s journey from its first publication in the Surrealist journal, Littérature in 1922 where it was captioned as a “view from an aeroplane”, to later iterations, including the edition on show printed in 1968 that was signed by both Man Ray and Duchamp and given a new title, Élevage de poussière (dust breeding). The photograph sets the theme, and is joined by works by artists and photographers such as Mona Kuhn, Gerhard Richter, Sophie Ristelhueber, Jeff Wall and Walker Evans, that all deal with the motif of the exhibition: dust. 

Where else can you see paintings and prints hanging frame to frame and sculpture too by leading artists and amateurs, most of which are for sale? The Royal Academy of Arts’s annual Summer Exhibition, which opens to members tomorrow and to the general public on Tuesday (13 June-20 August), brings together around 1,100 works by Royal Academicians and invited guest artists installed along with works by “Sunday” painters and sculptors, in the best sense of the word. This year’s highlights include Isaac Julien’s five-screen video referencing Luchino Visconti’s Sicilian saga The Leopard; Western Union: Small Boats, a mural sized abstract by Sean Scully; and a room full of drawings—technical, 3D and painterly—by leading architects. Projects range from Jean Nouvel’s Louvre Abu Dhabi to a drawing of an elegant lakeside pumping station by Leonard Manasseh, RA, who died aged 100 in March.  

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