When Pablo Picasso unveiled Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in his Paris studio in 1907, the painting was greeted by bafflement, anger and even laughter from friends and critics. The writer Félix Fénéon advised the 25-year-old artist to take up caricature. If the comparison rankled at the time, Picasso later conceded the point, declaring: “All good portraits are in some degree caricatures.” Caricature is a thread that runs through Picasso Portraits (until 5 February 2017) at the National Portrait Gallery, which spans the eight decades of Picasso’s working life. The works range from a tentative 1896 self-portrait (aged 14 or 15) to a skull-like sketch from 1972 (aged 90), nine months before his death.
David Anfam, the world’s expert on the subject, has thoughtfully chosen and arranged 150 paintings, with some works in other media for Abstract Expressionism (until 2 January 2017) at the Royal Academy of Arts. He has allotted, very appropriately, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still entire galleries to themselves, interspersed with thematic groupings, sculpture and works on paper. The hang satisfies the need for the undivided meditative and ocular attention that these paintings call for if they are to be experienced fully. A slow and prolonged visit is recommended. As with any classical work, no matter how familiar the Abstract Expressionism may seem, the works repay repeated close viewing.
Philippe Parreno has taken over the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall with his Hyundai Commission (until 2 April 2017), a multi-sensory experience full of drama. The show builds on many of the elements from his recent exhibition at Gladstone Gallery in New York but on a vast scale, with balloons modelled on fish from the Thames, and an orchestration of flashing lights and sounds recorded from microphones outside the Tate. There are also walls that come down from the ceiling to make an impromptu cinema, showing images of bacteria with a voiceover by the British ventriloquist Nina Conti.