How to Fill the Holiday Break: The Culture Guide

Hunting down the best annual performances of The Nutcracker has become a bit of a holiday tradition at #goophq—one that inevitably leads to an unearthing of the other cultural events on the calendar this time of year. Most performance venues take a break between Christmas and the New Year, so this is actually a great time to be looking, as you’re just in time to catch both the end of this year’s long-running shows and the beginning of next year’s new offerings. Below, our favorite picks—a full range that includes everything from family-friendly ballets and concerts to R-rated art exhibitions.

Bloomberg Contemporaries at the ICA

Institute of Contemporary Arts, 12 Carlton House Terrace, Westminster | +020.7930.3647

The ICA has historically been an institution open to discovering and exhibiting young talent: Damien Hirst, Tacita Dean, and many others got their first break here. This year's Bloomberg Contemporaries is bursting with new talent in all media. Among the standouts: Director Aaron Brockner, whose documentary Uncle Howard takes us on a fantastic voyage back to '70s and '80s New York, when his uncle, filmmaker Howard Brockner, was filming the scene. A lot of the footage in this film was unearthed in none other than William S. Burroughs's apartment. Through January 22nd. Photo: Janina Lange, Shooting Clouds, 2014. HD Video, 5 min. 12 sec

Sleeping Beauty at Hackney Empire

Hackney Empire, 291 Mare St., Hackney | +44.20.8985.2424

The Christmas "panto" is one of those timeworn perennial English Christmas traditions that can't be beat. The Hackney Empire has somewhat topped the selection of pantomimes across the city with a hilarious and modern take on Sleeping Beauty, full of gags that both kids and adults will enjoy (on different levels). The gorgeous Victorian gem of a theater is worth the trip on its own.

The Red Shoes at Sadler’s Wells

Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Southwark | +44.20.7401.9919

When Matthew Bourne choreographs a new ballet, the rule is to run and buy tickets, which is why December is already fully booked at the Sadler's Wells. Thankfully, there are still tickets in January. This new rendition of the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairytale boasts sets by the legendary Lez Brotherston and music by Bernard Hermann, the man behind the music for many a Hitchcock film. As in all Bourne's productions, it will be dark, stunning, and deeply moving. Through January 29th.

Concerts at The Handel/Hendrix House

25 Brook St., Mayfair | +44.20.7495.1685

As the name implies, both George Hendric Handel and Jimi Hendrix once lived at this humble address in Mayfair, which means this venue can't be beat for appreciating music. The house museum has an acoustically perfect (albeit small) room especially for hosting some of the world's greatest players in intimate concerts. Check the calendar for upcoming classical concerts, this is a true gem right in the middle of Central London. The Amadé Christmas looks to be a great way to get into the holiday spirit. Ongoing.

The Design Museum

224-238 Kensington High St., Kensington | +44.20.3862.5900

The new home for the Design Museum is London's splashiest, most bombastic opening in a long time. Sponsored by the ultimate Patron of English Design, Terence Conran, and designed by none other than John Pawson, the new Design Museum in South Kensington further establishes the UK as one of the leaders in what's new. The opening exhibition, Fear & Love, could not be more relevant to the current state of affairs in the world at large.

The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from The Sir Elton John Collection

The Tate Modern, Bankside | +44.20.7887.8888

Aside from making an indelible mark on music history, Sir Elton John is a major, compulsive, collector of Modernist photography. His collection includes the work of modernist masters such as André Kertész, Dorothea Lange, Brassai and more, making for a spectacular survey show—it's a greatest hits album, if you will. Make a day of it at the Tate Modern and head to the Robert Rauschenberg exhibition, which also just opened. Through May 7th. Photo: Man Ray, Glass Tears (Les Larmes), 1932. The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection © Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016.

David Hockney at the Tate Britain

The Tate Britain, Millbank | +44.20.7887.8888

The blockbuster show of 2017 will undoubtedly be the Hockney retrospective at the Tate Britain, gathering his most famous works over the last 60 years. Hockney's work is enduringly fascinating and contemporary, and, as an artist, he continues to reinvent himself year after year: For one, he was one of the first artists to embrace the iPad as a medium—in his '70s, no less. Fans will be delighted to see many of his greatest works here, plus a suite of never-before-seen new pieces. February 9th to May 29th.

William Kentridge’s Thick Time at Whitechapel Gallery

77-82 Whitechapel High St., Whitechapel | +44.20.7522.7888

Drawing, painting, costume and set design, filmmaking, and more are just a few of South African artist William Kentridge's many talents. In this exhibition of new works, he combines them all in a dynamic set of seven films and installations he's created along with a list of longtime collaborators. As ever, his work is immersive, heart-warming, and totally brilliant. Through January 15th. Photo: The Refusal of Time with collaboration of Philip Miller, Catherine Meyburgh and Peter Galison, Film Still. 2012. Courtesy William Kentridge, Marian Goodman Gallery, Goodman Gallery and Lia Rumma Gallery.

Richard Hambleton at Woodbury House Contemporary

10/11 Archer St. Studios, Soho | +44.0203.750.2222

This is a show for the serious art collector—by appointment only—as this artist is about to explode onto the market. Richard Hambleton is the New York street artist who predates and has now outlived his friends Basquiat and Haring, yet he's been more or less forgotten (until now); in fact, Basquiat used to tag Hambleton's "shadow silhouettes" to piggyback on his fame. His work is dark, gritty, powerful, and his story is moving: An AIDS victim and a heroin addict, he is no longer making art, though he did manage to attend his comeback show a couple of years ago in Paris. A documentary is to come and in the meantime, the Woodbury House is the place to see and buy his art, whether it's a Hambleton original or a Dark Circle X Richard Hambleton coat. Through January.

The Infinite Mix at The Store

The Store, 180 The Strand, Whitechapel | +44.55.9329.7228

Hidden in this iconic Brutalist building is a hub of creativity curated by the current doyenne of cool, shop owner Alex Eagle. Many fashion companies are set to move in here (including the British Fashion Council), though Eagle is still free to host and create just about anything she desires; currently, it's The Infinite Mix, a powerful show of video installations put on by the Hayward Gallery. It's one of the best shows going this season, with video installations by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Martin Creed, and Ugo Rondinone. Kahlil Joseph's m.A.A.d City based around Kendrick Lamar's track is unforgettable—as is his cut of the song. Photo: © DACS, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Esther Schipper, Berlin.

The Little Matchgirl at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Shakespeare's Globe, Bankside | +44.20.7902.1400

Shakespeare's Globe Theater made one of the smartest decisions in its glorified history by appointing Emma Rice as director, and it perhaps made one of its biggest blunders by letting her go. The Little Matchgirl will be one of Rice's last productions in her short, very successful, stint as director at The Globe, and it's one not to be missed. As in many of her productions, there will be artful puppetry, original music, and, of course, fine performances. A Hans Christian Andersen classic for kids and adults alike, at the Sam Wanamaker, which—get this—is candle-lit. Rice fans, worry not: her production company, the globe-trotting Kneehigh Theatre, is going strong. Through January 22nd.

Saint Joan at the Donmar Warehouse

Donmar Warehouse, 41 Earlham St., Covent Garden

George Bernard Shaw's controversial Joan of Arc lives again through actress Gemma Arterton's strong performance. In Bernard Shaw's version of the great heroine's journey and trial, there are no 'good guys' and 'bad guys'. Instead, Joan and her prosecutors are mere symptoms of their time, reacting as they must. The story of Joan of Arc feels more relevant than ever.

Winter Film Club

133 Rye Ln., Peckham

The team at Winter Film Club has curated the most perfect, nostalgia-ridden holiday film binge for the month of December with everything from Cool Runnings, to Edward Scsissorhands, to Home Alone. Head down to Peckham for the screening and get there early for drinks at the bar and first dibs on the best food vendors.