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Escaping London: 5 Exhibitions To See Elsewhere In The UK

London may well be the art capital, but if you’re planning to escape the city this summer and explore other areas of the UK, there’s plenty of other cultural opportunities to enjoy. From a Don McCullin photography exhibition in Liverpool to an exploration of 1990s art in Birmingham, here are the must-visit shows to weave your plans around.

A Very Special Place: Ikon in the 1990s at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham

If you haven’t checked out Ikon Gallery in Birmingham yet, this summer is a perfect time. Situated in the centre of the city in a neo-gothic school building, the gallery is an educational charity and works towards encouraging public engagement with modern art in fresh ways, with free entry to all exhibitions. At the moment, they’re showing ‘A Very Special Place: Ikon in the 1990s,’ which is the fourth in a series of surveys of Ikon’s artistic program and is essentially a review of art in the 1990s. It involves work by 40 artists who featured in exhibitions at their previous venue in John Bright Street during 1990-1997 and is just the dose of nostalgia we’ve been yearning for.

Haegue Yang: Strange Attractors at the Tate St Ives, Cornwall

St Ives, a small Cornish town on the southwest coast of England, perhaps seems an unlikely site for a major art gallery. However, its artistic connections date back to Victorian times when numerous artists came to St Ives to paint, attracted by its special quality of light. The Tate here is now home to a host of must-see revolving modern exhibitions and a visit is the easiest way to balance a weekend by the sea with a dose of culture.

The ‘Haegue Yang: Strange Attractors’ exhibition brings together new and existing works traversing installation, sculpture, drawing, collage, and painting. Haegue Yang is renowned for creating immersive environments from a diverse range of materials. Her sculptures and installations often use industrially made objects, interwoven with labour-intensive and craft-based processes. These processes reflect pagan cultures and their deep connection with seasonal rituals in relation to natural phenomena. The context of St Ives, and the Cornish landscape, and its ancient archaeological heritage are also important points of inspiration.

The Tourists: Ellen Harvey & JMW Turner at the Turner Contemporary, Margate

If you’re taking a day trip to the coastline town of Margate, why not stop off at the Turner Contemporary? Ten years after appearing in the gallery’s opening exhibition Revealed, artist Ellen Harvey returns opening the anniversary programme with her first UK solo show ‘The Tourists’, an exhibition paired with works by JMW Turner. The collection explores themes of tourism and ecology, our relationship to images, architecture and place, destruction and loss. Working in painting, sculpture, and digital media, this exhibition brings together a group of Harvey’s large-scale installations, comprised of meticulously rendered paintings and engravings. From the Temple of Bel in Syria to Brandy Bucks restaurant in Margate, Harvey has crowdsourced places from all over the world to keep things fresh and interesting. Embarking on this work before the Covid-crisis, it has developed an unexpected resonance and feels important for now.

Challenging Convention at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne

The Laing Art Gallery is a must-visit when planning a weekend in Newcastle. Home to an internationally important collection of art, focusing on British oil paintings, watercolours, ceramics, silver, and glassware, it also holds regularly changing exhibitions of historic, modern, and contemporary art, as well as artist and curator talks and family events. The latest exhibition ‘Challenging Convention’ brings together the work of four women artists – Vanessa Bell (1879-1961), Laura Knight (1877-1970), Gwen John (1876-1939), and Dod Procter (1890-1972) – through their lives and work in a climate of modernism, transformation, and increasing emancipation. Each of them was embedded within a web of fellow artists and intellectuals; and made a significant impact on the profile of women artists within traditional institutions and in the public eye.

Don McCullin at the Tate Liverpool

With more than 600,000 visitors a year, the Tate Liverpool has cemented its position as a venue for major European exhibitions of modern art, and it never fails to disappoint. Previously displayed at the Tate Britain in London, Don McCullin’s photography exhibition returns to Liverpool and has been extended to September, so there’s no excuse for missing it this time around. From the 1960s, Don McCullin forged a career as one of the world’s leading photographers of conflict, spending his life covering war, famine, and displacement around the world. His unforgettable and sometimes harrowing images are accompanied by brutally honest commentaries of the atrocities he witnessed. This is an exhibition to both educate and move you.

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