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London’s major art galleries are reopening for a summer of culture

After three months of enforced closure, the city’s cultural institutions are starting to welcome visitors again

The art galleries to see in London this summer

It’s been over three months since London’s art galleries were forced to close their doors in the face of coronavirus. But now that the city is finally emerging from lockdown, these much-loved institutions are welcoming visitors back with a roster of big-name shows, immersive installations and retrospectives.

But while they may be reopening, all the galleries will be adhering to government guidelines with a strict series of measures in place to ensure the health and safety of visitors and staff. In order to manage social distancing, booking timed tickets in advance is essential – whether for free or paid-for exhibitions. One-way visitor routes are also the new norm; so too hand sanitising stations. In some places, wearing face protection is mandatory, in others it’s welcome.

And while all live events have been cancelled, gallery cafés and shops are cautiously opening their doors, too, having been adapted accordingly. The cultural landscape may be a different one, but here’s where you can get your art fix once more…

We will continue to update this list as more of London’s galleries reopen, to make sure you’re up to date with all the latest ways to enjoy the best of London’s culture.

Hayward Gallery
The art galleries to see in London this summer
Among the Trees at Hayward Gallery. Photo by Linda Nylind. 29/2/2020.
The art galleries to see in London this summer
Among the Trees at Hayward Gallery. Photo by Linda Nylind. 29/2/2020.
The art galleries to see in London this summer
Among the Trees at Hayward Gallery. Photo by Linda Nylind. 29/2/2020.

The Hayward Gallery – part of the Southbank Centre – reopens to the public on 1 August after more than 20 weeks of closure. Visitors will be able to catch Among The Trees, a thought-provoking look at our relationship with trees from the 1960s onwards, a decade that saw the emergence of the modern environmental movement. This will be followed by Everyday Heroes in September, an art and poetry exhibition celebrating key workers and ordinary people who’ve played a pivotal role during the pandemic.

Like its cultural counterparts across the capital, a number of health and safety measures will be in place at the gallery including timed entry slots, a one-way system and hand sanitiser stations. All visitors must book online before visiting, with NHS workers going free.

The Need to Know:
The gallery will be reopening from Saturday 1 August, 11am-6pm; Wednesday to Saturday and 10am-6pm on Sunday. 

southbankcentre.co.uk 
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX

Design Museum

The art galleries to see in London this summer
Andreas Gursky, Union Rave (1995)
The art galleries to see in London this summer
Got To Keep On (2019), installation by The Chemical Brothers and Smith & Lyall
The art galleries to see in London this summer
DM Electronic Exhibition Installs

The Design Museum throws open its doors on 31 July with Electronic: From Kraftwerk to The Chemical Brothers, an all-singing, all-dancing foray into the electronic and rave culture. The show will take visitors to warehouses and dancefloors across the world as they discover how design, technology and innovation have powered this musical genre. Expect multi-sensory installations (a highlight being The Chemical Brothers’ live show by creative studio Smith & Lyall), a curated soundtrack by French DJ Laurent Garnier and a 3D Kraftwerk experience.

The show is particularly pertinent during these Covid times. “It is painful that a pandemic has forced the complete closure of London’s rich and varied music scene for the unforeseen future,” explains curator Gemma Curtin. “With the need for music appreciated as never before, we are delighted to host an exhibition exploring this genre. London will not stop dancing.”

New ‘Safe and Sound’ health and safety measures in the museum include reduced capacity, mandatory face coverings, social distancing, enhanced cleaning and more.

The Need to Know:
The museum will be reopening from Friday 31 July, 10am-9pm; Monday to Sunday.

designmuseum.org
224-238 Kensington High Street, W8 6AG

Victoria & Albert Museum

The art galleries to see in London this summer
Alice at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, Illustration for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by John Tenniel, 1865 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The art galleries to see in London this summer
Zenaida Yanowsky as the Red Queen in The Royal Ballet production of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Credit: Royal Opera House
The art galleries to see in London this summer
Photograph of the 'real' Alice Liddell, by Julia Margaret Cameron, 'Pomona', albumen print, 1872 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This South Ken institution will be reopening in phases. From 6 August, visitors will be able to stroll around all the ground floor spaces, including the much-loved Fashion Gallery, the iconic Medieval & Renaissance Gallery and the Cast Courts. The first and second floor collections are set to reopen on 27 August, as will the acclaimed Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk exhibition, which closed just two weeks into its run.

Also on the museum’s agenda over the next nine months are blockbuster show Bags: Inside Out, which looks at the craftsmanship of the ultimate accessory; Epic Iran, exploring 5,000 years of art and culture from ancient, Islamic and contemporary Iran; and Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser, a celebration of one of the most iconic tales of all time. As ever, stringent steps have been taken to ensure visitors can enjoy the museum within a socially-distanced environment.

The Need to Know:
The museum will be reopening from Thursday 6 August, 11am-3pm; Thursday to Sunday. From Thursday 27 August the opening hours will be extended to 11am-7pm.

vam.ac.uk
Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL

Somerset House

The art galleries to see in London this summer
The art galleries to see in London this summer
Mindful Mushroom by Seana Gavin
The art galleries to see in London this summer
Fungi by Amanda Cobbett. © Andrew Montgomery

Somerset House is once again welcoming visitors to its latest exhibition Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi, which delves into the fascinating fungi kingdom through the work of artists, designers and musicians. Also reopened is the museum’s magnificent, neo-classical courtyard, with outdoor seating offering a respite from the hustle and bustle of the Strand (the fountains will open at a later date).

Covid-secure safety measures are in place, with all interactive touch points removed, one-way systems and hand sanitisation units – and tickets must be pre-booked. For those unable to visit, the museum’s online cultural programme I Should Be Doing Something Else Right Now will continue over the summer with new commissions, live streams and revisits to the vast archive.

The Need to Know:
The gallery wil be reopening from Thursday 16 July, 12pm-6pm; Tuesday to Sunday, with the courtyard open daily from 10am-7pm.

somersethouse.org.uk
Strand, WC2R 1LA

Royal Academy of Arts

London’s major art galleries are reopening for a summer of culture
Pablo Picasso, Women at Their Toilette, Paris, winter 1937–38
London’s major art galleries are reopening for a summer of culture
Pablo Picasso, 'Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe' after Manet I (1962)
London’s major art galleries are reopening for a summer of culture
Pablo Picasso, Seated Woman (Dora), 1938

The RA’s Summer Exhibition has been a fixture on the world’s art calendar for over 250 years and, rest assured, it’s still going ahead – but in October instead. Just one of the many changes the Royal Academy has implemented prior to its reopening on 16 July (9 July for RA Friends). Aside from the usual checklist of social distancing, one-way systems and multiple sanitisation systems, it will be compulsory for all staff and visitors to wear a face covering.

Those who visit will be able to catch Picasso and Paper until 2 August, a major exhibition offering a new insight into the artist’s creative spirit and working methods via the medium of paper. Though major shows on Angelica Kauffman and Cezanne have had to be cancelled, the revised 2020 programme includes Gauguin and the Impressionists and Tracey Emin/ Edvard Munch: Loneliness of the Soul.

The Need to Know:
The gallery will be reopening from Thursday 16 July, 11am-4pm Thursday to Sunday.

royalacademy.org.uk
Royal Academy, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD

The Barbican

London’s major art galleries are reopening for a summer of culture
Sunil Gupta, Untitled 22 from the series Christopher Street, 1976
London’s major art galleries are reopening for a summer of culture
Untitled, c.1985
London’s major art galleries are reopening for a summer of culture
Peter Hujar, David Brintzenhofe Applying Makeup (II), 1982

One of the world’s leading arts centres, the Barbican will welcome visitors back to its Art Gallery and Conservatory on 13 July (followed by The Curve, a 90-metre winding gallery space, on 11 August), operating at a reduced capacity, with timed entry slots and advance booking essential.

The reopening programme includes Masculinities: Liberation through Photography, a striking exhibition examining depictions of masculinity from behind the lens, which has been extended until 23 August. A new installation – A Countervailing Theory by Toyin Ojih – can be seen at The Curve and, for the first time ever, the Conservatory – home to an exotic array of tropical plants, trees and fish – will be open to the public during the week.

The Need to Know:
The gallery will be reopening from Monday 13 July, 11am-7pm; Monday to Friday and 10am-7pm; Saturday to Sunday.

barbican.org.uk
Barbican Centre, Silk Street, Clerkenwell, EC2Y 8DS

The National Gallery

London’s major art galleries are reopening for a summer of culture
Titian, Danaë, about 1551–3
London’s major art galleries are reopening for a summer of culture
Venus and Adonis, 1554
London’s major art galleries are reopening for a summer of culture
The Rape of Europa, 1560–2

The National Gallery on Trafalgar Square is one of the capital’s most iconic cultural institutions and, on 8 July, it will be the first major national art museum to reopen following the Covid-19 shutdown. “We want to be a part of the nation’s recovery story and by opening the doors and letting the public back in, we want to make an important contribution to the process,” Dr Gabriele Finaldi, the Gallery’s Director, said.

Expect a few differences when you visit. As part of its new safety measures, the gallery has introduced three one-way art routes to guide visitors around the collections. The universally acclaimed Titian: Love, Desire, Death exhibition, that had to close after just three days, has been extended until 17 January 2021 – and a number of recently-acquired and -restored works will be on display, as well as the newly-refurbed Julia and Hans Rausing Room, which houses an astonishing collection of 17th-century Italian paintings.

The Need to Know:
The gallery will be reopening from Wednesday 8 July, 11am-4pm every day except Friday, when it will be open 11am-9pm.

nationalgallery.org.uk
The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross, WC2N 5DN

Whitechapel Gallery

London’s major art galleries are reopening for a summer of culture
Christina Quarles, Sun Bleached, 2018
London’s major art galleries are reopening for a summer of culture
Michael Armitage, #mydressmychoice, 2015
London’s major art galleries are reopening for a summer of culture
Sanya Kantarovsky, Feeder, 2016

Whitechapel Gallery will open to the public on 14 July, with its original Spring exhibition programme rolled out over the summer months instead. “Arts and culture play a vital role in our emotional wellbeing and sense of community. Experiencing great art can be healing and we hope the gallery can offer some solace and a much needed space for reflection and inspiration,” Iwona Blazwick, the Gallery’s Director, explained.

First off: a second chance to catch Radical Figures: Painting in the New Millennium until 30 August – a fascinating look at the new wave of figurativism. Also worth catching is Portuguese artist Carlos Bunga’s commission Something Necessary and Useful, as well as a multimedia display from la Caixa Collection of Contemporary Art.

The Need to Know:
The gallery will be reopening from Tuesday 14 July, 11am-6pm; Tuesday to Sunday and 11am-9pm on Thursday.

whitechapelgallery.org
Whitechapel Gallery, 77 – 82 Whitechapel High Street, Shadwell, E1 7QX

Serpentine Galleries

London’s major art galleries are reopening for a summer of culture
Cao Fei, Same Old, Brand New, 2015. Co-commissioned by Art Basel and the International Commerce Centre in Hong Kong
London’s major art galleries are reopening for a summer of culture
Cao Fei, Same Old, Brand New, 2015. Co-commissioned by Art Basel and the International Commerce Centre in Hong Kong
London’s major art galleries are reopening for a summer of culture
Zheng Yuan: Dream Delivery (2018)

The Serpentine’s phased reopening begins on 4 August with Cao Fei’s immersive, site specific installation Blueprints resuming at Serpentine Gallery – the first large-scale institutional solo show in the UK from the Beijing-based artist and filmmaker. Meanwhile, over at Serpentine Sackler Gallery, Studio Formafantasma’s design investigation into the timber industry, Cambio, will roll out until the end of the year. Tickets will be available from mid-July – and face coverings and social distancing will be mandatory.

While the gallery has been closed, its Radio Ballads project – a series of artists’ residencies in Barking and Dagenham – and online campaigns for Back to Earth, which addresses the climate emergency, have gathered momentum and will remain ongoing throughout the year.

The Need to Know:
The gallery will be reopening from Tuesday 4 August, 10am-6pm Tuesday to Sunday.

serpentinegalleries.org
Serpentine Galleries, Kensington Gardens, Kensington, W2 3XA
Serpentine Sackler Gallery, West Carriage Drive, Kensington, W2 2AR

The Wallace Collection

London’s major art galleries are reopening for a summer of culture
London’s major art galleries are reopening for a summer of culture

In June, the Wallace Collection marked its 120th anniversary – sadly, under lockdown. Indeed, since 1900 the museum – which houses an impressive collection of fine and decorative arts from Old Masters to Oriental armour – has only closed three times, during both World Wars and in light of coronavirus. No doubt the celebrations will resume when the museum throws open its doors on 15 July, with strict new measures in place to ensure effective social distancing.

The critically-acclaimed exhibition Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company, which was in its final weeks in March, reopens on 29 July for an additional six weeks. As well as this, there will be an online collection trail to showcase objects on the new one-way visitor route.

The Need to Know:
The gallery will be reopening from Wednesday 15 July, 11am-3pm every day.

wallacecollection.org
The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, Manchester Square, Mayfair, W1U 3BN

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