The spring cultural highlights not to miss
Alongside blue skies and blooms, this spring promises a feast of culture and entertainment. From must-see exhibitions to dazzling immersive experiences, our edit of the highlights in April and May showcases the very best of the season.
Step back in time at Hampton Court Palace, where a busy line-up of events marks the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s legendary encounter with rival royal François I of France. The flagship exhibition, Gold and Glory: Henry VIII and the French King, opens on April 10 to showcase a trove of 16th-century treasures offering a glimpse of the monarchy in Tudor times.
Meanwhile, the first 15-goal tournament of the season turns up the tempo at Guards Polo Club with the annual Queen Mother’s Centenary Trophy delivering a run of white-knuckle polo matches between May 1 to 17. Join the well-attended guestlist to enjoy champagne and canapés while cheering the action from the sidelines.
The city’s cultural calendar focuses on photography this spring, with In Focus: Platinum Photographs at the Getty Center taking centre frame. Platinum prints are defined by their muted palette and matt finish, and this exquisite collection from a small but highly skilled community of photographers is on show until May 31. Meanwhile, compelling captures from Vera Lutter’s two-year residency at Los Angeles County Museum of Art are presented to the public until August 9 in Museum in the Camera. Using a camera obscura, Lutter’s images of LACMA’s architecture, galleries and collections are given an enchanting, vintage feel.
For an equally special immersive experience, meanders around Descanso Gardens are accompanied by a sound installation by composer Pete Wyer. Inspired by the towering California oaks that grow here, The Sky Beneath Our Feet is a choral and instrumental composition played through 72 speakers dotted throughout the lush Camellia Forest. The auditory attraction opens on April 6 and runs until May 31.
From forests to glaciers, environmental issues are placed front and centre in Arctic: Culture and Climate, which opens at The British Museum on May 28 (until August 23). With artefacts including 28-millennia-old mammoth ivory jewellery and dramatic footage of melting landscapes, this thought-provoking exhibition explores the resilience of the indigenous Arctic communities. Ultimately, visitors are urged to consider how climate change is placing unprecedented pressure on this remote outpost.
The natural world is also documented in stunning detail at Renaissance Watercolours: from Dürer to Van Dyck. From May 16, the V&A hosts 200 rarely seen masterpieces as part of this in-depth celebration of the European art form. Admire delicate depictions of flora and fauna as well as life-like portrait miniatures and illuminated manuscripts.
Over in the West End, Conor McPherson’s highly anticipated adaptation of Uncle Vanya, Chekhov’s ground-breaking play about familial strife and hidden passion, storms onto the stage at the Harold Pinter Theatre. With BAFTA and Olivier Award-winning actor Toby Jones in the titular role, it’s an ingenious contemporary production of the treasured classic.
As a major figure of the German Renaissance, painter and printmaker Albrecht Altdorfer’s body of work deserves attention, yet he has often been overlooked in favour of other masters from his generation. Opening on April 23, this exhibition at the Louvre – the first of its kind in France – places him firmly in the spotlight and features major pieces that were commissioned by Emperor Maximilian. Located in the museum’s Pavillon Sully, the surrounds are as handsome as the paintings and prints on show.
From 15th and 16th-century decorative styles to fashion photography in the 1920s and 1930s, the Musée du Luxembourg offers a visually arresting exploration of Man Ray’s commissions for designers such as Chanel and magazine titles including Vogue, Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar. Opening on April 9, Man Ray et la Mode offers a fascinating insight into life at the American artist’s Montparnasse studio along with plenty of stylish inspiration until July 26.
In Giorgio Armani’s sophisticated Armani/Silos art space, the unpublished work of Peter Lindbergh makes for an eye-catching photography exhibition. Perhaps best-known for his January 1990 Vogue cover shoot, which helped launch the careers of supermodels Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista, Heimat: A Sense of Belonging celebrates the legacy of the great image-maker and traces his work back to the industrial town of Duisburg, Germany where he grew up. Expect striking monochromatic Brutalist buildings and powerful portraits of familiar faces.
When the remains of Emperor Nero’s palatial residence, the grand Domus Aurea, were discovered in the 15th century, its beautiful frescoes and painted subterranean corridors, called grottos or grotesques, quickly became a source of inspiration to painters across the country – including Raphael. To mark the 500th anniversary of the acclaimed artist’s death, The Invention of the Grotesque invites visitors to enter the atmospheric Domus Aurea for a multimedia exhibition that illuminates the palace’s incredible decorations.
From May 20, MAXXI plays host to Giovanni Gastel: People I Like, which features 200 portraits of personalities that the photographer believes “have passed on something to me, taught me, touched my soul”. From politicians such as Barack Obama and Marco Pannella, to fashion visionaries like Ferruccio Ferragamo, the show is a captivating who’s who of the 21st century.
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