We all need a dose of culture in our lives, after a year spent mostly at home. With the vaccine roll-out now begun, we’re feeling hopeful about the year ahead. Read on for our guide of craft exhibitions and cultural events across the UK in 2021. Event dates are a moveable feast right now, so we'll continue to update them as the weeks and months progress.
Crafting a Difference
London’s SoShiro gallery starts the year with a show celebrating the diversity of the crafts industry. Bringing together over 150 objects from makers spanning the globe, Crafting a Difference offers a beacon of hope and togetherness, after a year of being forced apart. Curator Brian Kennedy has selected works from five London galleries. The second part of the show, commencing in late February, will feature works that are part of the virtual Collect art fair.
19 January –2 March; SoShiro, 23 Welbeck Street, London W1G 8DZ; soshiro.co
Elliot Walker: Plenty
For his exhibition at Messums London, artist Elliot Walker presents a body of glasswork that does away with the medium’s dainty reputation and replaces it with a feast of pieces that express ‘excess and gluttony’. Plenty marks Walker’s first solo show, and is presented as part of Messums’ emerging talent programme, for which the gallery seeks out artists that fuse together traditional techniques with contemporary concepts.
26 January – 13 February; Messums London, 28 Cork Street, London W1S 3NG; messumslondon.com
Iran’s contribution to art history is monumental and yet remains relatively unknown. The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Epic Iran exhibition is looking to change that, with a show that explores 5,000 years of Iranian art, design and culture. Over 300 objects from ancient, Islamic and contemporary Iran will be placed across ten sections, set within an immersive exhibition design that will transport visitors to an Iranian city.
13 February – 30 August; V&A, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL; vam.ac.uk
Ten pioneering potters – all women who are (or were) based in the UK – are the focus for this exhibition at Oxford Ceramics Gallery. Together, their work spans the 1950s to present day, encompassing a virtuosic range of styles and techniques centred on the vessel form. They range from Lucie Rie’s mid-century, wheel-thrown wares, to Magdalene Odundo’s hand-built earthenware vessels.
14 February – 27 March; Oxford Ceramics Gallery, 29 Walton Street, Oxford OX2 6AA; oxfordceramics.com
The next edition of Collect art fair will take place online, on artsy.net, with global collectors and buyers being able to purchase from exhibiting galleries over the course of a month. In addition, a programme of free digital and virtual events, talks and tours from gallerists, artists, and leading figures across art, fashion and culture will take place on the Crafts Council’s own channels.
From 26 February; craftscouncil.org.uk
Does craft need to be functional; can it be funny; does it have to be beautiful and should it tackle the big topics of the day? The Crafts Council asked leading craft makers this question. Each one has created a ‘visual answer’ by picking objects from the Crafts Council Collection. The result is Maker’s Eye, an exhibition that will feature 150 objects including a pink knitted ‘pussy hat’ worn at the 2017 Women’s March; one of the first chairs made using recycled plastics by Jane Atfield; and an industrial toilet mould by Stoke-on-Trent manufacturers Armitage Shanks.
17 March – 26 June; Crafts Council, 44a Pentonville Road, London N1 9BY; craftscouncil.org.uk
Liverpool Biennial 2021 will look to non-western ways of thinking and notions of the body, seeing it as a ‘fluid organism that is continuously shaped by and shaping its environment’. Liverpool’s maritime history also inspires the biennial’s latest edition, and artists will respond accordingly in a range of mediums through a series of exhibitions taking place in participating galleries across the city.
20 March – 6 June; various locations, Liverpool; biennial.com
London Craft Week
London Craft Week returns to the city in May, bringing with it a celebration of British and international creativity. Across various venues, the festival showcases works by over 250 artists, galleries and brands – using a selection process ‘based not on price or fame, but underlying substance’.
10-16 May; various locations, London; londoncraftweek.com
Erika Verzutti at Nottingham Contemporary
Nottingham Contemporary presents the first solo show in a UK institution of Erika Verzutti. The Brazilian artist, whose sensual works are made from a combination of bronze, cement and papier-mâché, will present pieces from the past 15 years alongside a body of new work and a site-specific commission.
15 May – 31 October; Nottingham Contemporary, Weekday Cross, Nottingham, NG1 2GB; nottinghamcontemporary.org
On Happiness: Joy
Taking place as part of the Wellcome Collection’s On Happiness season, Joy will feature a series of newly commissioned artworks and historical objects that attend to the feelings of happiness, euphoria and positivity. You’ll see pieces from a range of contemporary artists, including the likes of Amalia Pica, David Shrigley, Jasleen Kaur and Harold Offeh, who will each delve into the ways we collectively, but also personally, look for moments of joy.
28 May – 11 October; Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE; wellcomecollection.org
Rescheduled for 2021, the 9th Glasgow International biennial takes place across the majority of June, under the umbrella theme of ‘Attention’. Highlights include the installations Give us a meow and Palimpsest of voices, by artists Urara Tsuchiya and Leontios Toumpouris respectively. For her exhibition, Tsuchiya has created the interior of an imaginary hotel room installed within a real Glasgow hotel, complete with site-specific ceramic and textile works that replace the standard hotel fittings and amenities. Toumpouris, meanwhile, has been working with the pupils, families and staff of Oakgrove Primary School to explore language and communication beyond words or background – resulting in a mural of bisque-fired ceramic pieces and 3D animations of an invented language.
11 June – 27 June; various locations, Glasgow; glasgowinternational.org
Jameel Prize 6
Jameel Prize 6 focuses for the first time on contemporary design, and designers who are inspired by Islamic traditions. The shortlisted pieces will be put on show at the V&A in the summer of 2021 before touring internationally.
Summer 2021; V&A, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL; artjameel.org
Annie Morris at Yorkshire Sculpture Park
YSP’s Weston Gallery will present the first UK solo show of Annie Morris’ tapestry works and sculpture. For the exhibition, Morris has created a series of pigment sculptures alongside ‘thread paintings’, both referencing the history of art as well as the artist’s personal experience of grief.
Summer 2021; Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, Wakefield WF4 4L; ysp.org.uk
British Ceramics Biennial
Taking place in Stoke, the British Ceramics Biennial pulls together a series of exhibitions, installations and events exploring the contemporary ceramic practice. Established and emerging artists will take part in the programme, which is set to be announced in the new year.
11 September – 17 October; various locations, Stoke; britishceramicsbiennial.com
Peckham Design Trail
Taking place during London Design Festival, the Peckham Design Trail sheds light on the creative offerings of southeast London, with exhibitions opening across local shops, galleries and workshops. Peckham’s vibrant design scene is home to many of the capital’s most exciting, upcoming names in contemporary craft, and the design trail has given a spotlight to the likes of Jan Hendzel and Blenheim Forge since it began in 2017.
17-20 September; various locations, Peckham; londondesignfestival.com
British Textile Biennial
Set against a backdrop of the infrastructure of the cotton industry in Pennine Lancashire, the British Textile Biennial returns in autumn of 2021, focusing on the global nature of textiles and the relationships they create. A highlight of the biennial is set to be a major new commission by Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid, who will respond to the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection in Burnley while exploring the histories of industrialisation, female labour, migration and globalisation. The full programme will be announced in spring.
1-31 October; various locations, Pennine Lancashire; britishtextilebiennial.co.uk
Sheila Hicks at The Hepworth Wakefield
Over the course of her career, American artist Sheila Hicks has become known for her large-scale installations that pack a punch of colour and texture, but also her delicate woven drawings that – although much smaller in scale – are no less impactful. In November, The Hepworth will provide an insight into how her experiences while travelling, such as her studies in vernacular textile traditions and collaborations with local artists, have informed and inspired her work. Pieces spanning her career will be on show inside the David Chipperfield-designed gallery, alongside a major new commission.
27 November 2021 – May 2022; The Hepworth Wakefield, Gallery Walk, Wakefield WF1 5AW; hepworthwakefield.org
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