Ever since it first opened in 1968 the Hayward Gallery has been a ‘love it or hate it’ place, its unrepentantly Brutalist architecture, a product of the GLC’s then hugely progressive architectural office, often too muchfor many and making for an unquestionably difficult space in which to show and see art - generally always muchbetter for the super-contemporary rather than the historical. The Arts Council, its tenant and programmer up to 1986, tried to do boththere, withmixed results, theirs and, latterly, the Southbank Centre’s occasional attempts at revamping, never really getting to grips withthe central problems, its sense of enclosure – only one window out onto that fantastic Thames-side panorama – and hopeless top lighting, and its genuinely gloomy and often difficult, down-at-heel, not to say off-putting, approaches and surroundings. The general regeneration of the whole South Bank arts complex has done wonders for the latter over the last two decades and now a wonderfully imaginative and sympathetic two year major revamp – principally a reconstruction of the original natural top lighting system that never worked – but a lot else besides, making for a wonderfully apt celebration of a crucial London art venue. Starter show, the great photographer Andreas Gursky’s first museum retrospective in this country: a place which has changed the artistic attitudes and ideas of so many generations and provided so many tremendous revelations over the years, is back in business. Ten very different painters and sculptors ranging from Sickert and Bomberg via Auerbachand Hockney to Jonathan Leaman, Chris Stevens and Ray Richardson showing under the banner ‘The Poetry of the Real’: what on earth does that word mean in this particular context, at this moment of astonishingly rapid cultural change? Doubts start cropping up all over the place as to whether the natural elasticity of the word could be made to stretchquite this far without becoming meaningless but, I have to say, both the show that Sainsbury Centre director Paul Greenhalgh has curated for Beaux Arts London and the catalogue essay he wrote to go with it, end up making a distinctly eloquent case for an artistic vision of a reality, one that is grounded in the intense mystery that lies within the world we find immediately about us. A different mystery for each artist perhaps but, in each case here, one that is articulated with a force and originality that is able to reachout and connect imaginatively at a broader human level – Richardson’s laconic, tender studies of working men for example, or Leaman’s unmistakably meticulous ‘here and now’ renderings of scenes which, at first sight, seem rooted in the imaginative historical past. These are matters of some significance artistically – how intriguing that it is a commercial gallery doing it. A must see. Supporting young artists at the outset of their careers has been a big passion ever since I became involved in the pioneering Bonhams’ graduate art shows of the early 1990s, when I had the huge privilege – almost luxury – of whisking around the country visiting degree shows each May and June. So getting involved, albeit in only a watching and selection brief, in the Mall Galleries’ splendid initiative ‘FBA Futures’ has been something of a ‘no brainer,’ as the cliché goes. Most of the dashing about for this has been done by Mall Galleries’ enthusiastic young team of organisers and, with invaluable (and increased) sponsorship support from Minerva which, this year, allowed them to spread their net over a muchwider geographical range than ever before – it is vital that London doesn’t come to R OUND-UP 6 GALLERIES JANUARY 2018 W elcome back Reality check Future look