Ai Weiwei, Woodstock
Blenheim Palace, the 18th-century landmark of aristocratic might, has a megawatt star to christen its new Art Foundation: the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. But will its lavish rooms make an incongruous setting for Ai’s spectacular statements of political dissent? Though forbidden to leave China since his detainment in 2011, this is an artist who thrives on making waves from the heart of the establishment. In fact, it makes a particularly apt venue to see his comment on cultural colonialism, a circle of giant bronze animal heads inspired by those created for a Qing dynasty emperor’s palace in the 1700s and later looted by British troops.
Blenheim Palace, Wed to 14 Dec
Lygia Clark, Leeds
This exhibition manages to give an inkling as to the inventive spirit that made the Brazilian artist such a major influence on late 20th-century sculpture. The display centres on one of her small-scale abstract works from the 60s, which Clark titled Bichos (Portuguese for creatures) in which metal plates are slotted together to form an abstract origami. They signalled Clark’s shift from “the wall to the hand” as they were intended to be recomposed by each viewer or creative participant. An enlarged Bicho is also on show in the Hertfordshire countryside at Perry Green until 26 October, but Clark’s work is more freeform proposition than monumental abstraction.
Henry Moore Institute, to 4 Jan
Tom Hackett, Scunthorpe
For a certain kind of contemporary art, the whole raison d’etre is to get up to as much mischief as possible. It’s the sort of pranksterism that Tom Hackett has mastered and made a career out of. With its disarming sentimentality, his latest piece of tomfoolery, Shaggy Dog Stories, lures us into a world gone awry. Thirteen wheelbarrows are set within the gallery courtyard, each containing nothing more sensible than a yellow silicone dog that the artist has previously pushed around the streets. The distinctly inanimate objects operate as what Hackett calls “dog as social nexus”, enticing small talk from other (real) dog walkers that is to be collated in the exhibition’s tabloid newspaper. It’s all carried out with a deadpan gravity that confirms Hackett as a worthy daydreamer of poignant absurdities.
20-21 Visual Arts Centre, Sat to 28 Mar
Anselm Kiefer, London
Anselm Kiefer is a divisive artist. Do his mournful, mystical paintings made with ash, landscapes crafted from clay that threaten to tear down the very gallery walls, and works holding Germany to account by conjuring the demons of national socialism, make him the 20th century’s greatest memorialist? Or is he the last word in portentous overkill? This show traces his evolution, beginning with his famed graduate show of photographic self-portraits in military garb. There are the 1980s paintings depicting landmarks created by Hitler’s architect Albert Speer, along with his recent lead books, their pages literally heavy with symbolism.
Royal Academy, W1, Sat to 14 Dec
Asia Triennial, Manchester
With the catch-all title Conflict And Compassion, the Asia Triennial occupies a host of Manchester exhibition spaces, ranging from the Imperial War Museum through to the National Football Museum. The broad-ranging ambitions of the project are bound to take in contradictory perspectives, as is evident in a central show of Chinese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong art almost provocatively titled Harmonious Society. Less recognised and more irreverent developments include Hardeep Pandhal’s installation at the Castlefield, A Joyous Thing With Maggots At The Centre, which includes a pullover adorned with images of Sikh martyrdom.
Various venues, Sat to 23 Nov
The Turner Prize 2014, London
This year’s Turner prize nominees make unshowy work that resists being summed up in media-friendly one-liners; even art-world pros are unlikely to know of all the artists in the lineup. Video-maker James Richards is an emerging name in a new generation of Brits probing the impact of digital culture, although in the UK Duncan Campbell, also nominated, is more established. His gripping documentary films crafted from archive footage explore how history is recorded and have focused on such riveting subjects as the firebrand Irish activist Bernadette Devlin. Tris Vonna-Michell, meanwhile, is better known internationally for photographs and ephemera brought to life by rapid-fire performances where he recites slippery stories mixing personal anecdote and historical detail. The unknown quantity this year is Ciara Phillips, nominated for the print workshop-as-exhibition she created with women’s groups at The Showroom, the north London art space that is renowned for politicised, community-minded projects.
Tate Britain, SW1, Tue to 4 Jan
Modern Toss, London
Modern Toss has spread from a cult comic and the Guide’s weekly strip to TV screens, greetings cards and, now, the walls of an east London art gallery. Yes, cartoonists Mick Bunnage and Jon Link have their own exhibition marking 10 years of Toss. It charts the development of their scabrous, satirical wit, where characters send up contemporary ills in a hail of expletives, from current-affairs commentators (the Drive-By Abuser) to the rage and loathing beneath polite veneers (Mr Tourette or Barney, the white collar worker-cum-Hulk monster). The show includes original drawings, a portrait booth if you fancy being personally captured in their scribbled style, and their Periodic Table of Swearing, an interactive piece that you can work “like a demented organist piping out swear words”. For those who can’t make the show, there’s also a commemorative hardback tome, A Decade In the Shithouse.
Forge & Co, E1, Thu to 19 Oct
Alan Michael, Glasgow
Filtering pop subject matter through a photorealist technique, Alan Michael comes up with paintings that nevertheless look undeniably up-to-the-minute. Michael is an inventive art history and mass-media thief, and most of his work could be presented as if bracketed within inverted commas. Images could be lifted from advertisers’ catalogues or propaganda posters, yet are abutted as if they belong together. The artist has stated that these recent works are dreams that are not coded for interpretation; like dreams, however, they can be irrationally unsettling.
Tramway, to 26 Oct
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