While the capital’s bigger public museums can’t reopen until 17 May, under current lockdown rules, commercial galleries can welcome visitors, meaning art enthusiasts can get their cultural fill starting now. Boasting impressive exhibitions with both established and exciting new talent, London’s galleries have a wealth of shows to explore. From provocative new works to fascinating retrospectives, galleries dotted around the city have curated a tempting selection of exhibitions to mark their reopening — just be sure to check if you need to book a timeslot beforehand. Here, we’ve rounded up the unmissable shows to check out over the coming weeks.
The contemporary art gallery has been a go-to for exciting new art since it first opened its doors in Mayfair in 1995. Now, the gallery is reopening its doors with a trio of promising new exhibitions. Brazilian artist Luiz Zerbini presents his second exhibition at the gallery with geometric, brightly coloured paintings that take inspiration from the Amazon and Mata Atlântica rainforests. There’s also a group show, titled Threadbare, with a selection of textile pieces from artists including Jonathan Baldock and Huguette Caland, exploring various contemporary questions concerning sexuality, race, identity and more. Stephen Friedman has also teamed up with The London House of Modernity to host an exhibition celebrating the best of contemporary Nordic design with a group show at 14 Cavendish Square.
Exhibitions on show until 15 May; 14 Cavendish Square show on until 28 May
Both of the gallery’s London sites are reopening with big names this month. At the Grosvenor Hill location, the gallery is hosting an exhibition of new pieces by Rachel Whiteread. Titled Internal Objects, the show features two constructions — the first time Whiteread has built something original rather than model it on a pre-existing object — in her characteristic all-white, offering a suggestion of haunting, or ghostliness. Over in the Britannia Street spot, the gallery kicks off its yearlong takeover by Damien Hirst with an exhibition of his rarely seen works created between 1993 and 2021. Acting as both curator and artist, Hirst has personally selected the pieces in Fact Paintings and Fact Sculptures, picking those that tackle questions of fact and truth.
Rachel Whiteread exhibition on show until June 6
The London outpost of the acclaimed modern art gallery returns with two new solo exhibitions. In the Upper Room is a presentation of pieces painted by Belgian artist Luc Tuymans during the pandemic. Unable to access his studio and, like the rest of us, living under strict lockdown orders, the artist created works that revisited and referenced previous pieces, as well as looser, more experimental studies that explored different techniques and compositions. The gallery is also hosting the first solo London exhibition for the late Antiguan artist Frank Walter. Featuring artworks painted over six decades, the extensive presentation showcases the wide range of Walter’s work and style, from vividly coloured, Romantic landscapes to formally inventive portraits.
Frank Walter on show until 22 May
Located in a wing to the side of the Royal Academy, this striking gallery is reopening its doors with a survey show of Robert Mangold’s work, marking the artist’s first solo show in the UK in 12 years. Spanning the three decades between 1981 and 2008, the exhibition showcases the artist’s lifelong interest in finding balances of shape, line, and color, with the focus on his mid-career period allowing visitors a chance to see his harnessing of the themes and techniques that came to define his work. Using various shaped canvases and juxtaposing lines, the American artist challenged and unpacked the conventional discourse on painting to brilliant and lasting effect.
Exhibition on show until 22 May
Over in St James’s, White Cube Mason’s Yard reopens with a new exhibition of works by Gilbert & George. Bringing together 26 pictures from a new series they have been working on for more than two years, the exhibition represents the latest stage of the duo’s journey, venturing into a ‘post-everything’ phase of high contrasts, brutal realism and uneasy dreams. At the Bermondsey gallery, there are two artist shows. In one area are works by Jessica Rankin, created during the aftermath of the 2016 election. Departing from her usual large-scale embroideries and collages, this exhibition showcases Rankin’s new experiments with large-scale mixed media paintings that examine how marginalised people were able to maintain their sense of self in the midst of political and social upheaval. Elsewhere, the gallery presents a major exhibition of works by Korean artist Park Seo-Bo. The pieces trace Seo-Bo’s changing practices following his return to Korea in the Sixties after the Korean War, blending geometric, Pop Art-inspired techniques with more traditional, authentically Korean aesthetics.
White Cube Mason’s Yard exhibition on until 8 May; White Cube Bermondsey exhibitions on until 1 May
The Hoxton gallery welcomes visitors back with an exhibition of new works by acclaimed British artist Idris Khan. Created as two distinct installations, The Seasons Turn offers a reflection on different aspects of the past year. One room consists of a selection of 28 watercolour and oil collaged works on paper, each of which incorporates fragments of the score of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. The other space is enveloped with blue paintings, with rich bands of colour that are layered with the artist’s responses to the past twelve months.
Exhibition on show until 15 May
The modern gallery is hosting two exhibitions exploring topics around race, history and belonging. At the Bell Street location, the gallery is holding a group exhibition featuring UK-based established and emerging Black artists. Titled An Infinity of Traces, the show includes reflective pieces in a range of mediums, from sculpture to moving image, from artists including Ayo Akingbade, Ufuoma Essi and Liz Gre. Curated by writer, broadcaster and former Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts London Ekow Eshun, the pieces meditate on both the Black Lives Matter movement and the more deep-rooted history of hostility towards people of colour in the UK. At the Lisson Street spot, there’s an exhibition of works by artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah. Comprised of a new video installation alongside a series of new photo-text works, the works responds to the events of 2020, particularly the Black Lives Matter protests and conversations around imperialist monuments.
Exhibitions on show until 5 June
The Fitzrovia gallery on Berners Street is reopening with The Gee’s Bend Quiltmakers, the first exhibition in Europe showcasing the works of three generations of women artists from Gee’s Bend. Officially known as Boykin, Gee’s Bend is a remote Black community situated on a U-turn in the Alabama River that, in part a result of its geographic isolation, has fostered a strong women’s art community that is particularly focused on quilting. This new exhibition highlights the significance of the tradition, and how the craftsmanship practice has been passed down and adapted by generations. A 1930s quilt by Annie E. Pettway is shown next to one made by her granddaughter Rita Mae Pettway, and familial lines continue throughout the exhibition, bringing a moving personal touch to these pieces that make art out of a traditional craft.
Exhibition on show until 25 April
The Cork Street gallery first opened its doors in October, meaning it only had a few months to welcome visitors before lockdown struck. Now, the space is back with a group show highlighting the work of four French artists. Titled Allez La France! — an ode to the fans’ chants for the French national football team — the show features works by Jin Angdoo, Mathieu Julien, Hams Klemens, and Kevin Pinsembert, all of which offer a reflection on the legacy of the painting tradition in France. The artists themselves form a collective, but this is the first time their works, which include large-scale abstract expressionist paintings, are being shown together.
Exhibition on 26 May
From 17 May, the photography gallery will reopen its exhibition halls with two shows that were cut short by the lockdown. One is the first major UK exhibition of the award-winning Russian photographer, Evgenia Arbugaeva, with works that mark the culmination of a long-term project focused on the Russian Arctic. Begun in 2013, Arbugaeva’s works are made of four ‘chapters’ that present visual stories of life in the remote land in the extreme north, charting both the fragility and the resilience of its inhabitants’ lives. The gallery also boasts another first major retrospective for India-born, UK-based photographer, Sunil Gupta. Bringing together works from across his career, the exhibition traces Gupta’s varying transcontinental interests, from New York street photography to highly staged scenes. Until then, The Photographers Gallery is welcoming visitors to explore its bookshop and media wall, which is currently showing a participatory deepfake artificial intelligence project by Tamiko Thiel and titled Lend Me Your Face!
Exhibition on show 17 – 31 May