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The best art in London - October 2014

From Old Masters to Young British Artists and everything in between, there’s plenty to see in London this October. See below our pick of the ten exhibitions you won’t want to miss. Like what you see? Click here to join the Curated London mailing list and receive our monthly roundup of the best art in town.

The Royal Academy turns the spotlight on ‘colossus of contemporary art’ Anselm Kiefer - expect painting, sculpture and monumental installation


A magnificent and deeply moving collection of photographs for Shelter: Nick Hedges’ Make Life Worth Living is at the Science Museum


The Dutch master’s later paintings are dark, mysterious and marred with controversy; learn more in Rembrandt: The Late Works at National Gallery


Pace Gallery presents a major retrospective of the late, great Italian contemporary artist Mario Merz, with work inspired by the natural world


The big cheese of contemporary art awards, see work by the four Turner Prize nominees at Tate Britain - with print, mixed media and lots of video


The Courtauld Gallery presents Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude, a rare opportunity to see fantastic work by the artist who died tragically young


Painting, sculpture and more besides - but no sweaty beds this time - YBA Tracey Emin's first London show in five years is at White Cube Bermondsey

Not just wallpaper - National Portrait Gallery presents a major survey of the great Victorian artist’s life and work: William Morris - Anarchy & Beauty

Vorsprung durch Technik? Discover 600 years of German history, art and technology in Germany: Memories of a Nation, at the British Museum


Politicians, artists and entrepreneurs are among the 100 Leading Ladies to have their portrait taken by Nancy Honey, at Somerset House

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Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age at the Barbican ★★★★

A terrific display of architectural photography, with the emphasis on the photography rather than the architecture. £12, until 11 January 2015.

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Open For Business at the Science Museum ★★★

Rob Kidd, Editor

Nine international photographers visited 100 manufacturing businesses to document British industry in the 21st century. Although it’s not true to say ‘we don’t make anything anymore’, it’s all got rather more hi-tech than it used to be. Those lusting after our dark, satanic mills are likely to be disappointed. 

Some of the work is frankly rather dull, although there are several images that make this worth seeing if you’re in the area. Bruce Gilden’s portraits of staff at the Tate & Lyle factory make you question their human rights record, while Peter Marlow’s shots of heavy industry from the Midlands will make even the softest southerner proud of our nation’s industrial heritage. 

Open For Business is at the Science Museum until 2 November 2014. Admission is free. 

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Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story at the Natural History Museum ★★★★

Rob Kidd, Editor

Who’d have thought there used to be hippos and lions roaming the banks of the Thames? 125,000 years ago, this would have been a common sight. This is just one of dozens of revelations visitors to the NHM’s blockbuster exhibition can uncover this summer.

The curators have done a brilliant job of making the information accessible and engaging. What could otherwise have been a great deal of flint has been brought to life with videos, maps, artists’ reconstructions and more. 

The real highlight comes in the final room, in the form of two life-sized (and incredibly life-like) models. One is Homo Sapiens, modern man’s great-grandfather, and the other is a Neanderthal, sort of like our great-uncle. They are presented nude (so we can ‘better understand their physique’, according to the text - no wonder the ice age did for them). Together with several hands-on artefacts, they bring to life a period of history normally incomprehensible to most of us. 

Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story is at the Natural History Museum until 28 September. Admission is £9 (£4.50 concessions). 

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Sensational Butterflies at the Natural History Museum ★★★★

Rob KiddEditor

The novelty of nature’s tiny symmetrical works of art never seems to wear off. This beautiful exhibition on the lawn outside the museum has been running all summer and its popularity shows no signs of abating. There’s science for those who want it, with thoughtful displays and interpretation for junior lepidopterists. The real appeal, though, is seeing these amazing creatures. They seem to have an uncanny sense of when they’re about to have their photo taken, so the only way to see them in their full glory is in the flesh.

Sensational Butterflies is at the Natural History Museum until 14 September. Admission is £5.50.

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Art on the Underground gets its feet wet

Already bringing a little colour to the grey commute of London’s subterranean commuters, the Art on the Underground programme is expanding - to the river. In a bid to double the number of people travelling by boat, TfL has begun commissioning work to brighten up London’s piers and jetties. The first commission, a pair of paintings from British artist Clare Woods, goes on display in poster form from this month.

Commenting on the new work, Clare said: “The view of the city and the river banks, the muted feel to the sound and the general chaos of London are all elements of travelling on the river. I was very much influenced and interested by the huge tidal range, in some places eight meters, and what this drop in tide exposes. It is a whole other part of London that’s unseen by most people. I wanted to paint where these human structures meet the river but from the river’s point of view.”  

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To find out more about travel on the river, check out the TfL website.

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