What can we expect from the coming year? Progress towards world domination by the Kardashian family? A surge in the popularity of the non-ironic beard, spurred on by the facial hair of the Labour leader? Further delays on the Piccadilly Line? Maybe all of that, maybe none of it, but one thing is for sure; in 2016 London will be holding on to its reputation as a cultural capital. With a celebration of underwear, a renaissance of the Renaissance and a look at the aesthetic qualities of public transport, there’s something for every taste.
For history buffs, the next 12 months will bring the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, and 200 years since Charlotte Bronte was born. To mark the former, the Globe Theatre will be putting an immersive spin on the Bard, showing short films of each of his plays on screens along the banks of the Thames. The British Library will also be in on the act with ‘Shakespeare in Ten Acts’, showcasing ten defining performances of Shakespeare’s work alongside a single surviving handwritten script.
Marking 350 years since the capital went up in flames, the Museum of London will this summer stage an exhibition bringing together artefacts from the time to tell the story of how the inferno began, the toll it took, and how the city was subsequently rebuilt. Among the items on display will be a piece of embroidery frozen in time; its owner packed it up as they fled the flames and it was never completed. Meanwhile, and still looking backwards, but this time only a few decades, the museum will also have a role celebrating 40 years of punk culture, although details remain under wraps.
In other anniversary-hooked exhibitions, I’m spectacularly excited about ‘Vogue 100: A Century of Style’, the National Portrait Gallery’s show marking the centenary of the fashion magazine. Opening in February, it will feature a selection of original photographs taken for the magazine by such luminaries as Mario Testino, Cecil Beaton and Patrick Demarchelier. And if that sounds too frivolous, they’ve also got an exhibition of Russia’s most famous faces opening the following month.
On the design front, May will bring the ‘Designology’ exhibition at the London Transport Museum, which promises to explore “how design is encountered in our everyday journeys and how this has evolved over the last century”, informed by historic maps and travel posters and a pop-up Design Studio offering a closer look at contemporary innovation. Later in 2016 we will also see the Design Museum move from its home in London Bridge to glitzy new headquarters in Kensington.
At the Science Museum, the focus will be on Leonard da Vinci, with the exhibition ‘The Mechanics of Genius’ billed as a chance to see his drawings and technological visions brought to life. Opening in February, it will focus on how he took his cues from the natural world and include installations and interactive displays. And if that doesn’t take your fancy, they’ll be rounding off the year by opening a gallery dedicated to the ways mathematics shapes the modern world, featuring objects from the last 400 years, including a 1929 experimental aircraft.
The V&A will also be putting a modern spin on the Old Masters with the ‘Botticelli Reimagined’ show, which will look at how the artist most famous for painting ‘The Birth of Venus’ inspired others in his field. Opening in March, it will bring together 150 artworks from a number of countries.
For those who enjoy the melding of high and low culture, the V&A will also be getting undressed this year, with a show dedicated to undies. Open to the public from mid-April and – appropriately – sponsored by Agent Provocateur, ‘Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear’ will look at how designers have revolutionised lingerie and what men and women have worn beneath their clothes over the years. If it’s anything like their explorations of wedding dresses and shoes, it will surely be a popular one.
Other highlights of the coming year include a retrospective of French artist Eugene Delacroix’s paintings at the National Gallery from February, and a look at British conceptual art between 1964 and 1979 at Tate Britain starting in April, featuring the work of 21 pioneering artists of the period. And at the Barbican there will be a look at how foreign photographers have captured British life, curated by renowned photographer Martin Parr.
Moving out of central London, at the Jewish Museum in Camden there will be an exhibition called ‘Moses, Mods and Mr Fish’, exploring the emergence of the male wardrobe at the turn of the last century and up until the 1960s, and considering the impact of Jewish retail entrepreneurs including Montague Burton and Moses Moss. At the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the hope is that the popularity of Scandi Noir on our screens will encourage visitors to an exhibition of Nikolai Astrup’s evocative, light-filled paintings of the Norwegian landscape. ‘Painting Norway’ opens at the gallery in February; alternatively, June brings a retrospective of the work of British artist Winifred Knights.
From pants to painting and from Vogue to da Vinci, there’s a lot to look forward to – and it’s only the tip of the iceberg.