Tate Modern, 10th May to 10th September
In 1956, Alberto Giacometti, the Swiss-French artist, produced a series of plaster heads for the Venice Biennale. As part of this first full UK retrospective for 20 years, these legendary heads are being exhibited together for the first time since then. The show will reaffirm Giacometti’s status as one of the 20th century’s most significant artists, tracking his experiments in abstraction, surrealism and decorative art before he turned his focus to the human figure. The trauma of war transformed his portraits of family and friends into universal images of human isolation and despair.
Canaletto and the Art of Venice
The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, 19th May to 12th November
The most influential artists’ patron in 18th-century Venice was the British merchant and Consul, Joseph Smith. From his palazzo on the Grand Canal he both dealt and bought, commissioning a string of masterpieces from Canaletto, as well as atmospheric evocations of the city by Rosalba Carriera, Francesco Zuccarelli and Pietro Longhi. In 1762, the young George III purchased virtually the entire collection. This exhibition will offer a ravishing display of old Venice.
Shirley Baker: Women, Children and loitering men
Manchester Art Gallery, 19th May to 28th August
For 15 years, from the early 1960s, Salford-born photographer Shirley Baker photographed the demolition of Manchester’s slums. A rare female street-photographer, Baker captured not just the overcrowding, grime and squalor, but also the desolation of empty spaces where homes had once been and the resilient cheerfulness of children playing among the ruins (see above). These are photographs full of wit and wonder.