What better way to start the new year than with a visit to London’s world-class museums and galleries? This January and February sees a packed programme of exhibitions across the capital, from a Donatello blockbuster at the V&A and a deep dive into Spanish and Hispanic art at the Royal Academy to a unique perspective on David Hockney at the futuristic Lightroom in King’s Cross. Here’s our edit of the must-see new new London art exhibitions 2023.
Alice Neel: Hot Off The Griddle
Barbican Art Gallery
16 February - 21 May
“One of the reasons I painted was to catch life as it goes by, right hot off the griddle… the vitality is taken out of real living,” the American artist Alice Neel (1900-1984) once said. This retrospective is a wonderful display of Neel’s vibrant portraits and archival material. Based mainly in New York, she persisted with her figurative, expressionistic style when it was unfashionable to do so, her subjects not what were expected at the time – pregnant women, labour leaders, Black and Puerto Rican children, Greenwich Village eccentrics, civil rights activists and Queer performers. This exhibition not only highlights the depth and breadth of a radical, creative artist during a six-decade career, but also sets her work in a shifting cultural context.
David Hockney: Bigger & Closer
(not smaller & further away)
25 January - 23 April
He’s the artist forever pushing boundaries, fascinated by the intersection of new media and art. So, it seems only right that David Hockney’s Bigger & Closer (not smaller & further away) should be the inaugural exhibition at Lightroom, a brand-new creative space in King’s Cross. Hockney uses the venue and its cutting-edge digital technology to invite the audience into his creative world, taking them on a personal journey through his oeuvre. Expect his iconic paintings, but also rarely seen work and newly created pieces, all presented in a totally unique, unexpected way. In the accompanying soundtrack, the artist says: “The world is very very beautiful if you look at it, but most people don’t look very much. They scan the ground in front of them so they can walk, they don’t really look at things incredibly well, with an intensity. I do.”
Kate Corbett-Winder: Colour Field
Long & Ryle
22 February - 5 April
Artist Kate Corbett-Winder will show around 35 new works in Colour Field at Westminster gallery Long & Ryle. An accomplished painter as well as creative gardener, whose daughter Willow Crossley is a much sought-after florist and author, Corbett-Winder has drawn on the changing rhythms and colours of the landscape over the seasons as inspiration for her latest oeuvre, depicting the contours and horizons of hills and trees and the gridlike pattern of fields. Her canvases take a more abstract, bolder approach than previous work, presenting an almost geometric depiction of nature using collage, oil bars and drawing over the top of paintings in graphite.
10 February - 29 May
Not only is this the first exhibition of works by Peter Doig since his return to London, it’s also the first by a contemporary artist since The Courtauld reopened. A renowned and revered figurative painter, this is a chance to see Doig’s latest paintings, many of which he started during his peripatetic career and finished in his new studio in the capital. Visitors will also be able to consider Doig’s contemporary works in light of other works in The Courtauld’s collection that have so inspired the artist in the past – Cézanne, Gauguin, Manet, Van Gogh among them. A display of recent prints and drawings further cements Doig as one of the most exciting creatives of our generation.
Beyond the Streets
17 February - 9 May
Beyond The Streets arrives in February, with the entire Saatchi Gallery given over to the art of creative rebellion, paying homage to monumental moments from the worlds of graffiti, street art, hip hop and punk rock. Curated by graffiti historian Roger Gastman, original artwork, photography, immersive installations and archival fashion from more than 150 of the world’s most iconic artists and rule-breakers (Beastie Boys, Lady Pink, Malcolm McLaren, Guerrilla Girls among them) will show how cultural narratives have, over the years, shifted the public’s perception of underground art and culture. The most comprehensive art and graffiti exhibition to open in the UK, this is one not to miss.
Tomio Seike: Eighty
24 January - 22 March
2023 marks Tomio Seike’s 80th birthday and to celebrate this momentous occasion and his long-term relationship with the gallery, Hamiltons is mounting an exhibition of his most iconic images of the past decades. The Tokyo-born photographer is known for his black-and-white images that are hand-printed in Japan, primarily of sensuous nudes and still lifes, and his series include portraits of the artist Zoe Leonard, ‘Waterscapes’ and ‘Paris’. He only uses natural light, managing to capture the quiet moments in life – alongside these serene images, smaller format works are also on display which further highlight the intimacy of the scenes he captures, forcing the visitor to get up close to absorb each and every detail.
Spain And The Hispanic World
21 January - 10 April
A fascinating deep-dive into the story of Spanish and Hispanic art and culture, from antiquity to the 20th century. This is the first time that the collection from the esteemed Hispanic Society Museum & Library in New York has been displayed in the UK – and it promises to be quite a show. From masterpieces by the greats – Goya, Velázquez, Zurbarán and El Greco – to paintings, sculptures, silk textiles, ceramics, precious jewellery and silverware, maps (including the famous World Map of 1526 by Giovanni Vespucci), drawings and lacquerware from Latin America, all offer visitors the chance to understand the cultural and religious influences that shaped Spanish culture.
Donatello: Sculpting the Renaissance
Victoria & Albert Museum
11 February - 11 June
As ever, the V&A promises a blockbuster. This exhibition – the first of its kind to be staged in the UK – explores the exceptional talents of one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance, Donatello (about 1386-1466). It offers the viewer both a new perspective on the artist and his creativity within the cultural and artistic context of 15th century Italy and his influence on future generations of artists and the history of art. This once-in-a-lifetime exhibition has been developed with Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi and the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence, and the Staatliche Museen in Berlin, each of which has drawn from its own collections, so expect to see works that have never before been on display in this country. Book now.
Rafael Pérez Evans
23 February - 16 April
‘Dust Bathers’ is a large-scale, site-specific installation created by Spanish artist Rafael Pérez Evans. The work pays homage to minority communities protesting for survival and their respective sites of unrest – in this case, agricultural workers protesting on the streets, and the dancefloors of Queer nightlife. The installation invites the viewer to dust bathe for cleansing and healing (much as animals do to maintain healthy skin or mark territory). After entering the space via industrial-sized PVC curtains, they will be invited to load earthy materials onto a conveyor belt which will them be blown by an industrial blower to create an ephemeral dust cloud, temporarily bathing the gallery and its inhabitants who can roll, shake, dance and dust bathe at leisure.
3 February - 25 March
Grayson Perry is as admired for his textiles as he is for his ceramics and this new exhibition at Victoria Miro London brings together a selection of tapestries completed over the past eight years. Each piece takes an art form traditionally associated with grand houses – think classical myths, historical and religious scenes, epic battles – but with a contemporary twist, interwoven with modern-day politics, consumerism, history and art history. For example, Large Expensive Abstract Painting (2019) combines nuances of 20th century abstraction with a map of London, containing words that chime with the social focus, tastes and codes of their corresponding locations; earlier works include two tapestries made for House for Essex, designed by Perry in collaboration with FAT Architecture in 2015.
Linder - Hannah Wilke
2 February - 11 March
This new exhibition presents a two-person dialogue exhibition that will pair Hannah Wilke with Linder Sterling, commonly known as Linder. The American late artist Wilke (who sadly passed away aged 52) was best known for her performances, photographs and sculptures exploring issues of feminism, sexuality and femininity – many of which incorporated vulva imagery and her own nude body. Linder is a British artist, formerly front-woman of Manchester-based post-punk group Ludus, who has built up a huge following for her photography, radical feminist photomontage and confrontational performance art. This show examines each artist’s idiosyncratic approach “in order to combat the corruption of female agency”, particularly focusing on female sexuality as seen through the male gaze.
Action, Gesture, Paint: Women Artists and Global Abstraction 1940-70
9 February - 7 May
150 paintings from 81 international female artists (more than half of the works never seen before in public in the UK) have been carefully curated for this major exhibition. The show looks beyond the predominantly white, male painters who have hitherto been associated with Abstract Expressionism, instead focusing on the often-overlooked women working with gestural abstraction across the world. And so you have pieces by more well-known names – Lee Krasner and Helen Frankenthaler among them – to the lesser known Mozambican-Italian artist Bertina Lopes and South Korean artist Wook-kyung Choi.
Günther Förg: Tupfenbilder
Hauser & Wirth
1 February - 29 April
Hauser & Wirth will be displaying Günther Förg’s Spot Paintings in this exhibition in their London gallery, a series created by the prolific German artist between 2005 and 2010 before the artist suffered a stroke in 2010 and stopped painting. Partially influenced by photographs Förg saw of Francis Bacon’s studio (which was covered in splotches of colour from when the artist wiped his brushes on the walls and door to remove excess paint), the brushstroke is the main protagonist in these canvases – sometimes spontaneous, other times controlled, always bright and dynamic – representing Förg’s return to expressive painting.
Sadie Coles HQ
18 January - 25 February
For this, the first solo presentation outside of the US for Catherine Murphy, the American observational artist presents five paintings and two works on paper, made between 2015 and 2021. Each is a perfect example of Murphy’s unique ability to particularise the ordinary, transfiguring domestic items – clothing, ceramics, tablecloths, carpets and wallpapers – with meticulous precision, amplifying the functional and nondescript to near abstraction. “‘I dream of, as well as construct, an image that I want to do. The story has always been central to my wanting to make a painting. Even when it was more invisible, more a part of the mundane, it was important to me,” she has said.
White Cube Bermondsey
8 February - 26 March
One of the most renowned German artists of the post-War period, Imi Knoebel’s work over the past five decades has incorporated drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, projections and installation. This new exhibition, Once Upon a Time, showcases three new painting series, the paintings made of thickly brushed acrylic paint on shaped brass, copper and aluminium panels, as well as a never-before-seen installation. As the show’s title suggests, expect an element of storytelling as Knoebel looks back at his extraordinary career, which began when he studied under the tutelage of artist and activist Joseph Beuys at the Dusseldorf Art Academy.
London Mithraeum Bloomberg Space
9 February - July
Oliver Beer presents his new exhibition Albion Waves. Drawing inspiration from the 14,000 Roman artefacts discovered on the Bloomberg site during archaeological excavations, this eye-catching immersive installation sees a constellation of 28 historic British vessels suspended from the ceiling. The pieces date from the past 2,000 years and each one contains a motion sensor activated microphone; as visitors move around the vessels will “sing” their note, creating a gentle orchestral song. Also on display are a number of Beer’s Resonance Paintings, created using the sounds of the vessels to move pigment into geometric patterns which are then fixed onto the canvas.
Michael Werner Gallery
9 February - 15 April
The Mayfair gallery presents the first ever comprehensive exhibition of works by Eugène Leroy (1910-2000). Visitors can view over 30 paintings by the French artist, from his not-often-seen seascapes to his well-known impasto. All give a wonderful overview of Leroy’s oeuvre, which celebrates the seasons, the passage of time and movement of light, drawing inspiration from such artists as Poussin, Rembrandt, Cézanne, Van der Goes, Giorgione, Rubens, Giotto and Bacon.
Humanity: The Outside In
Until 27 January
Arts charity Outside In – which provides a platform for artists who face significant barriers to the art world due to health, disability, social circumstance or isolation – presents Humanity at Sotheby’s London. This is the sixth National Open exhibition organised by the charitable organisation, which this year saw a record 500 submissions, all interpreting the theme of humanity. 80 pieces were chosen for display, over half of them by artists who have never previously exhibited with Outside In or may not have ever exhibited at all. The shortlisted work will be judged by artist Bob and Roberta Smith (previous judges have included Grayson Perry and Cathie Pilkington) with the winning artist having their own solo show in 2024.
25 January - 23 April
Studio Voltaire in Clapham, one of the UK’s leading not-for-profit arts organisations, welcomes New Jersey-born artist Scott Covert for his first solo exhibition outside the US. A fixture on the East Village arts scene in New York, when he used to hang out with Keith Haring and Basquiat, Covert’s 40-year career has seen him largely focus on his Monument paintings. These comprise carefully rendered rubbings of gravestones in chalk, oil stick and charcoal, all of which he has produced on site. Travelling across the world to seek out specific subjects, including friends, public figures, artists and film stars, his long-standing series captures everyone from Marilyn Monroe and Edie Sedgwick to Billie Holiday.
Not Black or White
24 February - 17 March
This contemporary art, craft and design exhibition at the Marylebone-based shop-meets-events space features works by a collective of creatives from Africa and the UK. Over 60 pieces from London, South Africa, Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast have been collated across painting, textiles, sculpture and design, by artists including Nene Mahlangu, Nthabiseng Boledi Kekana, Chris Day and Maison Intègre. All have reimagined the traditional use of colour and material, looking to their heritage, the natural environment and personal narratives as inspiration. Running concurrently to the show is a programme of performances, talks and salons featuring some of the artists.
Ukraine: Photographs from the Front Line
Imperial War Museum
3 February - 8 May
Photojournalist Anastasia Taylor-Lind has been documenting events in Ukraine from 2014 until June 2022. This exhibition brings together a few of her images which give a challenging insight into eight years of unrest and upheaval across the country, culminating in the Russian invasion in February 2022. The subjects of Taylor-Lind’s photographs are ordinary citizens, whose lives have been uprooted by devastating conflict, from the reality of displacement to the pain of separation from loved ones. Captions and text are written by long-term collaborator and friend, the Ukrainian journalist Alisa Sopova.