Bath’s slavery past, an exiled Iraqi and Britain’s first celebs – the week in art

Early photographs are put in the frame, Günther Förg revels in colour, Alberta Whittle probes Bath, and sculptor Barbara Chase-Riboud gets an extended run – all in your weekly dispatch

Exhibition of the week

A New Power: Photography and Britain 1800-1850
The very first British photographs and their social and political impacts are exposed to scrutiny.
Bodleian Library, Oxford, 1 February to 7 May

Also showing

Günther Förg
Late works by this German painter, who died in 2013, revel in the textures, colours and musical spacings of free brush marks.
Hauser and Wirth, London, 1 February to 29 April

Alberta Whittle
Bath’s history as a city that flourished in the age of slavery comes under a critical but redemptive eye.
Holburne Museum, Bath, until 8 May

Mohammed Sami

Mohammed Sami, One Thousand and One Nights, 2022. Mixed media on linen, 286 x 557 cm
Mohammed Sami, One Thousand and One Nights, 2022. Mixed media on linen, 286 x 557 cm. Photograph: Courtesy of the artist, Modern Art London and Luhring Augustine New York

Paintings that are shadowed by Iraq’s history and the experience of exile.
Camden Art Centre until 28 May

Barbara Chase-Riboud
Extended run for this veteran sculptor and poet based in Paris.
Serpentine North, London, until 10 April

Image of the week

Jenkin van Zyl, Surrender at Edel Assanti gallery, London
Jenkin van Zyl, Surrender at Edel Assanti gallery, London. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

Jenkin van Zyl makes films filled with gore, monsters and bizarre fetishes and looks like Mr Tumnus at a techno club. Could this prosthetics-wearing, jockstrap-clad raver be the UK’s most exciting new artist? Read the full story here.

What we learned

French artist Christophe Guinet has been turning trainers into sculptures

Unseen photos by Paul McCartney taken at the height of Beatlemania are going on show

Glasgow School of Art’s historic Mackintosh building, burned down in 2018, will not reopen until 2030

John Akomfrah will represent the UK at the 2024 Venice Biennale

A 1982 political artwork of Jenny Holzer’s remains all too topical

Spanish masterpieces are on loan to the UK – via New York – for an unmissable show

A Herculaneum fresco is among the looted relics returned to Italy from the US

The Royal Academy of Arts is to host an auction of donated works to help save the National Academy of Arts of Ukraine

The quilters from a tiny Alabama hamlet have had an enduring influence

Masterpiece of the week

Leonardo da Vinci, The abdomen and left leg of a nude man standing in profile Red chalk, on orange-red prepared paper, c. 1506-1510

The abdomen and leg of a nude man by Leonardo da Vinci, circa 1506-1510
Some notes by Leonardo da Vinci can be interpreted as meaning he was repelled by sex and the human reproductive system. He seems pretty interested in it here, however. The pose is in fact chosen to stress the size of the genitals. The sausage of a penis flops over a capacious testicle. It is a clinical scientific study, but also a phallic portrait in an age when the male organ was often shown off – or exaggerated – by a codpiece, and the French writer Rabelais celebrated the outsized equipment of his giant heroes Gargantua and Pantagruel. Above all this is a ravishing drawing, that uses red chalk on paper whose orange tint seems to welcome and caress Leonardo’s fiery marks. It’s as great, and rude, as a drawing can be.
British Museum, London

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