Who knows what 2018 will bring? Life in Britain has been nothing if not unpredictable over the last few years, with the news and politics throwing up much in the way of surprises. But one thing is certain; next year brings treats aplenty, at least in terms of arts, culture and entertainment.
The V&A will be cruising into the New Year with an exhibition dedicated to the golden age of ocean travel opening in February. Starting with Brunel’s 1859 steamship, taking in famous maritime disasters including the sinking of the Lusitania and Titanic, and culminating with the launch of the QE2 in 1969, the exhibition will bring to life the glamour and awe of this mode of travel, covering design, sculpture, engineering and architecture and plenty more.
Other spoils at the V&A include a display exploring the connection between fashion and nature over the last half millennium, another looking at how technology will shape the world of tomorrow – a question that is likely to be on everyone’s lips in 2018 as things like AI move from theory to reality – and finally, in June, a close-up on the wardrobe of the renowned Mexican surrealist Frida Kahlo, set against self-portraits of her in those very outfits.
At the British Library, spring will also take a nautical turn, with an exhibition on Captain Cook’s voyages to unexplored lands, featuring the journal he kept as he crossed the Antarctic Circle, and painting from artists who came along for the ride to Polynesia. Later in the year, there will also be an exhibition marking 70 years since the Empire Windrush arrived in Britain from the Caribbean, looking at post-war immigration in the context of British politics and society at the time and as a piece of Caribbean history as well.
The Tate Modern will be mounting a major retrospective of Pablo Picasso’s work, concentrating on one particularly prolific year in the artist’s life – 1932, a period dubbed his ‘year of wonders’. Tate Britain will also be focusing on the 20th century with a show bringing together the work of London-based painters including Lucien Freud, Francis Bacon, Leon Kossoff and Paula Rego, and exploring how they rendered human life onto canvas.
From June, Tate Britain will also recall one of the darkest parts of the last century, with a display looking at how artists responded to the horrors of the First World War after the armistice was signed, nearly 100 years ago. It’s just one of several cultural highlights next year set to consider how that conflict shaped our world.
At the Photographer’s Gallery, the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2018 opens in February, while at Somerset House, the London Design Biennale 2018 will return in September for the second time, celebrating the contributions of designers in more than 40 countries around the theme of ‘Emotional States’.
A stone’s throw away at the National Portrait Gallery, June will bring an exhibition considering the influence of Michael Jackson, nine years after his untimely death and in the year that he would have turned 60. The show will look not at his broader cultural sway, but at how the king of pop inspired some of the leading names in contemporary art, from Andy Warhol to 40 other lesser known names. The year ahead will also bring a look at four of the major figures in the early years of photography, including Lewis Carroll, Julia Margaret Cameron, Oscar Rejlander, exploring how they experimented with the new medium as if they were modern day Photoshop users, and worked together to connect it with the artistic traditions of the past.
Meanwhile, over at the National Gallery, there will be an exhibition showcasing the work of Claude Monet – not his waterlilies, but his renditions of buildings including cathedrals, bridges and other landmarks of the Victorian-era city. There will also be a smaller showcase of paintings, pastels and drawings by Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, the famous chronicler of ballet life, opening in September, and a larger retrospective of the work of the 19th century American impressionist Thomas Cole, who captured a land on the precipice of change and brought to life the natural wonders of the New World.
2018 marks the reopening of the refurbished Hayward Gallery, shortly to reach the grand old age of 50. The flagship offering for its new incarnation is an exhibition of the work of Andreas Gursky, the celebrated German photographer whose work has spanned the 1980s to the modern day, although visitors will also get the chance to see the gallery’s impressive roof lights as they were originally envisaged.
Another gallery that spent much of the last year or so shuttered will stage a series of exhibitions in its new Kensington home. The Design Museum will kick off the year with an exploration of the use of graphic messages in contemporary campaigning, from the hashtag to the meme to the more traditional slogan. In May, it will shift focus from politics to fashion, with a celebration of the ground-breaking work of designer Azzedine Alaïa, who died just last month.
From cruise ships to couture and from Monet to Michael Jackson, there’s plenty to look forward to in 2018.