From a deep-dive into the fashion in John Singer Sargent’s portraits to an exhibition devoted entirely to Naomi Campbell, here are the shows to look forward to this year

ART & PHOTOGRAPHY: The exhibitions in this round-up are mainly London-centric, with a couple of exceptions. But all are must-sees for 2024, from celebrations of a century of surrealism to brand-new sculpture parks. There’s a major showcase of Naomi Campbell’s 40-year career, a photo book that documents the horrors of South African apartheid and John Singer Sargent reframed as a fashion maven.

Robert Montgomery at Mons en Lumiere, Mons: January 25 – 28 and February 1 – 4, 2024
Commissioned by the BAM, Mons, Scottish artist Robert Montgomery will be showing five large-scale light poems and a fire poem at Mons en Lumiere, the first ever light festival in the historic Belgian city, which will celebrate 100 years since the birth of surrealism. He will also be unveiling his first major permanent installation in the city’s Place Leopold. Montgomery has been hugely influenced by surrealist poetry, admitting that it “changed the course of my work” and led him to use text in his art. His works reference and pay tribute to three Belgian surrealist poets – Paul Nougé, Paul Colinet and Fernand Dumont but also honour the architecture of Mons. “I want my works to weave into the architecture of this very special place as almost a ghost voice, the ghost voice of poetry,” he says.

Naomi at V&A South Kensington, London: From June 22, 2024
As one of the original supermodels, with a 40-year career in fashion behind her, London-born Naomi Campbell is a stellar choice for a comprehensive showcase at V&A. Some 100 designs worn by Campbell over the past four decades by the likes of Alexander McQueen, Chanel and Vivienne Westwood will dominate, but pieces from her personal wardrobe are just as exciting and key to telling her story. There will also be some iconic imagery of Campbell taken by legendary photographers including Tim Walker. While her sartorial clout is clear and only reinforced in Naomi, the show also reveals Campbell’s activism, which is wide-ranging and includes an ongoing dedication to diversity and representation within the fashion industry.

The Word Projector by Will Thompson at Union Pacific, West Central Street, London: 12 January – February 17, 2024
”Will Thompson’s previous work formed an investigation into the contemporary advertising industry’s promotion of idleness as aspiration, rather than insult,” says Grace Schofield, director of Union Pacific. “The Word Projector expands on these ideas of representation, in particular the intersection of industry and aesthetic, as well as notions of the uncanny as embedded in the everyday.” Some of the paintings in this show are notable for their unconventional frames: which only add to the intrigue of his subject matter – portraits that are darkly glamourous, peculiar and beautifully executed.

When Forms Come Alive at Hayward Gallery, London: February 7 – May 6, 2024
With works by some 21 artists, including Phyllida Barlow and Franz West, made across six decades, this is set to be a pretty resplendent exploration of contemporary sculpture with a particular focus on movement and growth. The result is work that suggests physical sensation from flowing liquid energies to sagging, shiny collapse. In some pieces, objects appear to have multiplied while in others they flourish and fade. At every turn, there is gesture, motion and dynamism – often surreal structures inspired by real-world experience. A standout is Tara Donovan’s Untitled (Mylar) a vast collection of connected spheres, otherworldly and somewhat humbling in its scope.

Sargent and Fashion at Tate Britain, London: February 22 – July 7, 2024
Dedicated to John Singer Sargent’s sartorial chops, specifically how his celebrated portraits employed fashion to convey status, identity and narrative, this exhibition is guaranteed to have broad appeal. Showing just shy of 60 paintings by Sargent (and some garments that feature in them), this show reframes the painter as stylist (and sometimes confidante) to his subjects. It is certainly true that he often had a hand in the outfits his sitters would wear, and, crucially, how they were worn and fitted. A major draw is Portrait of Madame X, one of Sargent’s most famous pieces (he said himself, “I suppose it is the best thing I have done”) it features American socialite Madame Gautreau – wasp-waisted and face turned in perfect profile. Her dress straps are delicate, but what’s notable is that Sargent originally depicted one of them having fallen seductively off her shoulder.

Dreams Have No Titles by Zineb Sedira at Whitechapel Gallery, London: February 15 – May 12, 2024
An immersive installation that is, at its heart, a touching biography that charts the artist’s interest in activist filmmaking, postcolonialism, friendship, dance and joy. Dreams Have No Titles was originally made for the French Pavilion at 2022’s Venice Biennale and is essentially a series of ‘rooms’ and ‘film sets’ including the lounge of Sedira’s Brixton home. The film of the same name will also be screened in a full-scale cinema, with red velvet seats to boot. While Dreams Have No Titles is shot through with sadness, it’s also a stirring reminder that connection is always possible.

Soulscapes at Dulwich Picture Gallery, London: February 14 – June 2, 2024
An exploration of the intersection of nature, identity and race, Soulscapes asks that we think more broadly about landscape art – way beyond the European tradition. Inspired during the pandemic and by the killing of George Floyd, curator Lisa Anderson has included photography, textiles and painting by the likes of Isaac Julian, Phoebe Boswell and Alberta Whittle as well as emerging artists from the African diaspora. The result is a show of vibrant jewel-like treasures that speak to memory, identity and, mostly, joy.

Music of the Mind by Yoko Ono at Tate Modern, London: February 15 – September 1, 2024
It’s refreshing, necessary and long overdue to see Yoko Ono on her own terms and not simply – and unfairly – as an appendage or accessory to famous men. Her seven-decade career has seen her use all sorts of radical concepts in her art, which includes works on paper, music and performance. In Music of the Mind, look out for some of her most famous works, including 1964’s Cut Piece, a performance during which audiences were invited to cut off her bits of her clothing. There is also the opportunity for audience participation, with the public invited to personally contribute to Wish Tree, writing their own messages of peace and tying them onto the branches.

Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art at Barbican, London: February 13 – May 26, 2024
This major group exhibition with works by some 50 artists from all over the world is an exploration of and commentary on the link between power and textiles. Fabric and thread are such quotidian things, and yet here, they contain narratives about violence and authoritarian politics as well as resistance and resilience. There are hand-sewn garments alongside vast installations. Look out for Tracey Emin’s heart-breaking and enraged NO CHANCE (What a Year) and Solange Pessoa’s Hammock, a sagging, pendulous mustard-coloured beauty that is also profoundly comic.

Sculpture in the Park at Compton Verney, England: March 21 – May 2, 2024
This year sees the launch of the sculpture park at Compton Verney, an 18th-century Robert Adam-designed jewel in the heart of Warwickshire countryside. Works by Louise Bourgeois, Sarah Lucas and six more world-renowned artists will be scattered throughout the glorious Capability Brown-landscaped gardens and parkland in a surprising meeting of classical and modern. The concept of utopia is set to be examined, and challenged by visitors while individual pieces raise questions about gender, class, identity and the sense of belonging.

Now You See Us: Women Artists in Britain at Tate Britain, London: May 16 – October 14, 2024
Banned from formal training, excluded from participating in exhibitions and recognised only as amateurs, these are just some of the barriers women artists throughout history faced on their paths to artistic and professional freedom. Much of this story is told here thanks to 150 works by pioneering female artists from the Tudor period to the early 1900s including the likes of Laura Knight and Mary Beale. All of them helped to change the course of how women artists progressed, how they were perceived and what it means to be a woman in the art world. There are plenty of paintings depicting history, battle, nudity and sexuality – all topics once considered risqué when made by women. The fact of their existence is evidence of the bravery and boldness of the women from the past who paved the way for the women of today to thrive.

Vanessa Bell: A Pioneer of Modern Art at the Courtauld Gallery, London: May 25 – October 6, 2024
One of the Bloomsbury Group’s most prominent names, Vanessa Bell was a key figure in the birth of Modernism. The Courtauld’s significant collection of Bell’s work from the early 20th century, including one of her best-known, best-loved pieces, A Conversation is shown and celebrated here with audiences able to immerse themselves in her masterful use of colour. As well as paintings, some of Bell’s textiles will also be displayed. These furnishing fabrics – block prints on linen – tended towards vibrant abstraction but with painterly nods.

Ernest Cole: House of Bondage at The Photographer’s Gallery, London: June 21 – September 22, 2024
When photographer Ernest Cole fled South Africa for New York in 1966, he smuggled his negatives out with him. In 1967, he published what is now considered to be one of the most significant photobooks of the 20th century, thanks to its thorough documentation of the violence of South African apartheid. House of Bondage is laid bare in this raw, deeply emotive showcase which will make audiences confront one of the most shameful passages in humanity’s history.

Forbidden Territories: 100 Years of Surreal Landscapes at Hepworth Wakefield, England: November 21, 2024 – April 27, 2025
A century exactly since André Breton published the ‘Surrealist Manifesto’ and an entirely new artistic movement was born, the Hepworth Wakefield will celebrate with Forbidden Territories. The exhibition will explore surrealism as a political tool, as a means of expressing dreams or fantasy and as a way of rejecting convention, expectation and societal norms. Renowned early surrealists including Salvador Dalí and Man Ray will be represented as will contemporary artists inspired by and continuing the Surrealist tradition such as Portia Zvavahera. The show also marks the donation to Hepworth Wakefield of pieces by Mary Wykeham (1909- 1996), whose contribution to surrealism has been woefully overlooked.

Barbie: The Exhibition at The Design Museum, London: July 5, 2024 – February 23, 2025
Last year might have been big for everyone’s favourite blonde thanks to Greta Gerwig’s silver screen blockbuster, but 2024 marks 65 years since the launch of the Barbie brand. In celebration, The Design Museum is set to stage a show that looks at Barbie from a design perspective. It takes a deep dive into her clothes, homes and cars, with plenty of help from Mattel, which has loaned rare items from its archives. Expect nostalgia, joy and plenty of pink.