20 Unmissable Art Exhibitions To See In London
London’s galleries and museums have pulled out all the stops with a packed programme of exhibitions and art shows over the next few months. From retrospectives of the artistic greats to never-before-seen collections of contemporary works, some exhibitions only have a few weeks left, while others open imminently. Either way, all are recommended. Here’s our guide to the must-see exhibitions and art shows in London.
Reframed: The Woman In The Window
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Until 4 September
It’s one of the most familiar motifs in art. And now an exhibition celebrates ‘the woman in the window’, bringing together over 40 artworks spanning from the 10th century BCE through to contemporary works by Wolfgang Tillmans and Rachel Whiteread, via Mediaeval, Renaissance and Dutch Golden Age pieces. All help to identify how the ‘woman at the window’ has changed across different places, cultures and eras, as well as looking at the relationships between artists and their models and muses. The show’s final section addresses the notions of desire and display, with works by Marina Abromović and Cindy Sherman.
Weird Sensation Feels Good: The World Of Asmr
Until 16 October
There has never been an exhibition that has addressed ASMR, aka Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response – until now. Described as a tingle-inducing sensation that begins in the head and scalp and travels down the spine, inducing euphoria or deep calm, ASMR has become an online phenomenon with millions downloading videos to trigger the feeling. Here, digital artworks, paintings and videos tell the story of the culture, community and creativity of ASMR, while an interactive studio-space encourages the audience to create their own.
When Flowers Dream
Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, Kew Gardens
21 May - 5 March 2023
Tanya Schultz – aka Pip & Pop – brings her work to Kew Gardens in what is a London debut for the Australian artist. When Flowers Dream explores the themes of consumption and abundance via a series of candy-coloured artworks comprising sugar, modelling clay and sweets. In addition, a brand-new technicolour installation – which takes the shape of a vibrant landscape – explores the idea of a food utopia for the future. “As the impact of climate change weighs heavily on our future, I hope to create a new artwork that is optimistic and allows us to imagine a better world,” the artist explains. “It will be a visual feast of colour and sweetness, enticing and appealing, yet with serious ideas beneath it.”
Back To Earth
22 June - 18 September
Back to Earth is Serpentine’s long-term interdisciplinary programme addressing the climate crisis. It brings together artists, architects, poets, filmmakers, scientists, thinkers and designers all of whom have been invited to respond to the environmental crisis. A key part of the programme is the Back to Earth exhibition, which runs from June to September and takes place at Serpentine North, with additional works displayed in the restaurant The Magazine and other locations. A host of creatives have contributed to the thought-provoking show, from Brian Eno to design studio Formafantasma. Running in conjunction, Back to Earth LIVE is a series of talks, performances and debates, plus don’t miss Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg’s Pollinator Pathmaker at North Flower Walk in Kensington Gardens, which will be ongoing for the next two years.
Feminine Power: The Divine To The Demonic
The British Museum
Until 25 September
An exploration of the role female spiritual beings – goddesses, demons, witches, spirits and saints – have played in shaping our understanding of the world. From Pele, the Hawaiin goddess of volcanoes, to Buddhist bodhisattva of compassion and the Hindu goddess Kali, the exhibition looks at divine and demonic female figures over the past 5,000 years. Sculptures, sacred objects and ancient artworks – alongside insight from Leyla Hussein, Mary Beard, Elizabeth Day, Rabia Siddique and Deborah Frances-White – highlight the many faces of feminine power and how they have helped to shape our understanding of femininity and gender identity today.
In The Black Fantastic
29 June - 18 September
Curated by Ekow Eshun, this is the UK’s first major exhibition dedicated to the work of Black artists who use fantastical elements – from folklore and myth to science fiction and spiritual traditions – to address racial injustice. New works and special commissions include installations by Nick Cave and Hew Locke, mixed media from Linas Iris Viktor and Wangechi Mutu, and paintings by Chris Ofili. All serve to bring the audience into a new environment, somewhere between the real world and a multitude of imagined ones. Running in conjunction with the exhibition, Summer: In the Black Fantastic will be a multi-art programme incorporating outdoor art installations, music, literature, poetry and performance as well as a wealth of free-to-attend events. A highlight is set to be In the Black Fantastic Weekender (15-to 17 July): three days of events celebrating the breadth of Black art and culture.
Wild & Cultivated: Fashioning The Rose
Until 19 June
The rose has forever captured hearts and minds. This exhibition, a creative collaboration between Amy de la Haye and set designer Simon Costin, shines a light on its role in fashion, from the Victorian era to the modern day. Expect a profusion of wild and cultivated, natural and artificial blooms across contemporary designs by the likes of Alexander McQueen, Commes des Garçons and Vivienne Westwood. There’s also photography by Tim Walker and Nick Knight and gems from the museum’s archives, all of which explore the symbolism and enduring legacy of this most multi-sensorial of flowers.
Picasso Ingres: Face To Face
The National Gallery
3 June - 9 October
In a first for the art world, Picasso’s Woman with a Book (1932) will be displayed next to the painting that inspired it – Madame Moitessier (1844-1856) by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Picasso became enthralled with the work after seeing it in Paris in 1921, and repeatedly paid homage to Ingres over the next decade. Not least with Woman with a Book – in which the sitter (Picasso’s then mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter) mimics Madame Moitessier’s distinct pose. A unique opportunity to see these two masterpieces side by side.
19 May - 16 October
Contemporary artist Cornelia Parker has long been admired for her sculptures and large-scale installation art for which she reconfigures domestic objects to address the zeitgeist. This show brings together films, drawings, prints and photographs, as well as her most iconic suspended works – including Thirty Pieces of Silver (1988-9) and Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991) – some of which spill out into Tate’s permanent collection, as a means of dialogue with the historical works they reference.
Kyosai: The Israel Goldman Collection
Royal Academy of Arts
Until 19 June
Kawanabe Kyosai (1831-1889) is one of Japan’s most important painters, his revolutionary style continuing to influence artists today – from manga to tattoo art. Visitors can admire an unprecedented collection of Kyosai’s paintings, woodcut prints and illustrated books, which show his breadth of expression from the terrifying to the endearing, as well as a series of his works created at shogakai – calligraphy and painting parties that took place during the Edo and Meiji periods.
Untitled Flowers By Tal R
26 May - 30 July
A collection of new flower paintings by Copenhagen-based artist Tal R have been brought together for this bright, cheery show at Victoria Miro. Each work depicts blooms handpicked in the Danish countryside where he lives and presented in a vase on a table. The canvases are deceptively simple – look closer and their tilted perspective creates complex worlds of enchantment and ambiguity. Also on display is a large-scale installation of drawings and a number of figurative bronze sculptures by the artist.
Surrealism Beyond Borders
Until 29 August
This exhibition looks at Surrealism beyond 1920s Paris, presenting the radical movement as one that transcends time and place, placing it as a state of mind rather than a style. To do this, over 150 works from artists spanning more than five decades have been collated from countries as diverse as Buenos Aires and Cairo to Mexico City and Seoul. Painting and photography, sculpture and film, all show why the movement took root at different times, in different places, and how it was used by artists around the world in their struggle for political, social and personal freedom.
Edvard Munch. Masterpieces From Bergen
The Courtauld Gallery
27 May - 4 September
The city of Bergen is home to some of the most seminal works by Edvard Munch in the world, thanks to 20th century Norwegian industrialist and collector Rasmus Meyer. In what is a first, 18 paintings from this treasured collection will be hung temporarily at the Courtauld, including Munch’s early “realist” works of the 1880s and his remarkable canvases of the 1890s, notably his Frieze of Life series. The Gallery’s own Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces, also on display, provide rich context for what promises to be an extraordinary insight into the artist.
The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Raphael
The National Gallery
Until 31 July
He may only have lived for 37 years, but, as the National Gallery states, Raphael’s work was prolific, his legacy immortal. He wasn’t simply a painter – he was an architect, archaeologist and poet. This is a blockbuster of a show, the first to celebrate the Italian Renaissance artist’s complete career and how he shaped the course of Western culture. Marvel at his most celebrated paintings and drawings, as well as sculpture, tapestry and prints, all brought together under one roof.
Sir John Soane’s Museum
Until 5 June
Throughout his life, architect Sir John Soane amassed the most comprehensive collection of architectural drawings in the world, including works by Sir Christopher Wren, Giovanni Battista Piranesi and William Kent. Usually kept under lock and key because of their fragility, now selected highlights are on display for the very first time. Marvel at illuminated manuscripts, Italian Renaissance drawings and volumes of exquisite Indian and Persian miniatures, all of which demonstrate Soanes’ unparalleled expertise.
Althea Mcnish: Colour Is Mine
William Morris Gallery
Until 26 June
Textile designer Althea McNish claimed to see everything “through a tropical eye”, her furnishing and fashion fabrics injecting vibrancy into the post-War drabness from the 1950s onwards. She was renowned for her riotous colour palette and technical mastery that allowed her to evermore complex prints. The first designer of Caribbean descent to achieve international recognition, this is an exploration not just of McNish’s extraordinary career but the lasting impact she had on mid-century design and her enduring influence today.
Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation Of French Decorative Arts
The Wallace Collection
Until 16 October
This exhibition draws parallels between the 18th century creatives of the French Rococo style of decorative arts talents and the 20th century Walt Disney Animation Studios artists – highlighting their shared wish to “breathe life, character and charm into the inanimate.” And so, you have drawings from such Disney greats as Cinderella (1950) and Beauty and the Beast (1991) alongside exquisite period furniture, porcelain and paintings in what is being billed as “the magic of Disney, as you have never seen it before.”
16 June - 25 September
Somerset House focuses on repair, care and healing, with a fascinating exhibition that looks at “creative reuse” in its many guises. From historical artefacts that have been upcycled and repurposed to contemporary artists who have repair at the heart of their oeuvre, this show invites the visitor to “appreciate the worn and aged, uncovering the history and emotional value of the items we hold on to, rather than discard.” Alongside works by artists and designers, a highlight must be ‘The Beasley Brothers Repair Shop’, a pop-up that’s been modelled on traditional East End repair shops that will host workshops and demonstrations.
150 Years Of The Royal School Of Needlework: Crown To Catwalk
The Fashion and Textile Museum
Until 4 September
The Royal School of Needlework was founded in 1872 to preserve the art of hand embroidery and, secondly, to support women’s independence through work. This retrospective explores the school’s 150-year history, showcasing textiles from its 5,000-piece archive, alongside loans from across the UK, with collaborations, commissions and contemporary works all weaving a tale of one of the UK’s oldest and most revered applied arts organisations.