25 of the most exciting new art exhibitions to see in London this autumn

From retrospectives of era-defining artists to cutting-edge immersive installations, the city’s art scene is thriving this season

The art exhibitions in London this autumn are extraordinary in their depth and breadth of subject matter. From major retrospectives (Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, Sarah Lucas, Marina Abramović) to unique collaborations and thought-provoking displays that address everything from climate change to the cult of beauty, here’s what to see in the capital’s galleries and museums right now

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London Art Exhibitions for Autumn 2023

Sarah Lucas: Happy Gas
Tate Britain
28 September - 14 January 2024

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Sarah Lucas, COOL CHICK BABY, 2020. Collection of Alexander V. Petalas

One of the YBAs who emerged in the early 1990s, Sarah Lucas has always been celebrated for her bold, playfully provocative use of materials and imagery. Happy Gas is a must-see survey that brings together more than 75 of Lucas’s works. It starts with her early sculptures which often incorporated domestic furniture (her use of chairs and her depiction of seated figures has a central role in the exhibition). Also included are brand new pieces, as well as a series of large-scale photographs of the artist, including the well-known portrait Eating a Banana. All explore the human body, mortality and the quintessentially British experiences of sex, class and gender.

Claudette Johnson: Presence
The Courtauld Gallery
29 September - 14 January 2024

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Claudette Johnson, Figure in blue, 2018 © Claudette Johnson

Claudette Johnson, who is known for her larger-than-life drawings of Black women and men, is the subject of a major exhibition at the Courtauld, Presence. Indeed, it’s the first monographic show of Johnson’s work at a major public gallery in London. Works from across her 30-year career will be on display, from key early drawings to recent and never-before-seen pieces. This is a fascinating insight into one of the most significant figurative artists of her generation, who was also one of the founding members of the Black British Art Movement.

Lisetta Carmi: Identities
The Estorick Collection
20 September - 17 December

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Lisetta Carmi, I Travestiti, 1965-1967
25 Exciting London Art Exhibitions To See This Autumn 2023Pin
Lisetta Carmi, I Travestiti, 1965-1971

The Estorick Collection houses one of the finest displays of modern Italian art. This season, the gallery celebrates the work of the pioneering photographer Lisetta Carmi (1924-2022) with Identities. An artist and humanist, she focused her lens on the more marginalised sectors of society, such as the working-class and trans community of her native Genoa in the 1960s. The photographs she took resulted in a – at the time – highly controversial volume of images, published in 1972, which later became a cult classic. This exhibition brings these striking photos together, exploring the often-overlooked aspects of Italian life and culture.

Marina Abramović
Royal Academy
23 September - 1 January

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Courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives. © Marina Abramović

It’s one of the most-anticipated shows of the Autumn, and will no doubt see Marina Abramović fans making a beeline for the RA. The performance artist has been “pushing the limits of her physical and mental endurance” for the past five decades, subjecting herself to exhaustion, pain and even the possibility of death. This show gathers together all the key moments from her extraordinary career, through sculpture, video, installation and performance. While some of the works are re-staged through archive footage, others will be reperformed by next-gen performance artists, meaning no two visits to this gallery will be the same.

Summer- Seventies - Saint-Tropez
Hamiltons Gallery
4 September - 4 October

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Philippe Garner, Summer- Seventies - Saint Tropez

The latest exhibition at the Mayfair gallery Summer- Seventies – Saint-Tropez celebrates the work of Philippe Garner. The auction specialist in photography and 20th century arts and design was also a talented photographer. This showcases Garner’s images documenting life in and around Aix-en-Provence some 50 years ago. All shot on Kodachrome film, known for its beautifully rich and vibrant colours, they particularly focus on the raffish, bohemian-chic spirit of the La Voile Rouge beach in St Tropez. “I was twenty-three when I took the first of these pictures,” says Garner. “Thinking back to those years, I recall how driven I already was to make images that captured the essence of all that engaged me.”

Fashion City
Museum of London Docklands
13 October – 14 April 2024

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Carnaby Street during the 'swinging 60s' © Henry Grant Collection Museum of London

From East End tailors and factories to the couture boutiques of the West End, Fashion City charts the contribution Jewish designers and retailers made in shaping London as a global fashion city. Spanning from the late-19th century through the Swinging Sixties to the modern day, the displays of garments and textiles, ephemera and archival photography reveal the stories of the creators of some of the eras’ most recognisable looks. These include the likes of David Sassoon, one of Princess Diana’s favourite designers, and the charismatic Mr Fish, whose flamboyant menswear was worn by David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix.

Rebel: 30 Years of London Fashion
Design Museum
16 September – 11 February 2024

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Matty Bovan, Spring/Summer 2019. Model Fran Summers, Hat Stephen Jones for Matty Bovan, Dress Matty Bovan. Photo Rebecca Maynes

London has always been revered for its avant-garde take on fashion. Rebel: 30 Years of London Fashion – held in collaboration with the British Fashion Council – spotlights the rebellious, radical work of over 300 young designers, aka the NEWGEN alumni. Expect to find multiple ground-breaking creations on display such as Christopher Kane’s revolutionary neon debut collection and the experimental sheer womenswear of Nensi Dojaka, a favourite with stylish London tastemakers like Emma Corrin and Iris Law. And don’t miss Marjan Pejoski’s infamous swan dress worn by Björk at the 2001 Oscars.

Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto
16 September – 25 February 2024

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Dorothy + Little Bara priest, Paris (Vogue) © 1960 William Klein; Model Marion Morehouse wearing Chanel, Vogue US, 1926. Photo: Edward Steichen/Condé Nast/Shutterstock

Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto is dedicated solely to the work and legacy of the pioneering French couturière – and will no doubt be top of the must-visit art exhibitions in London list. Further cementing the V&A as the capital’s go-to spot for fashion history buffs, the blockbuster exhibition will delve into Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel’s archives. With over 180 looks seen together in London for the first time, it showcases the evolution of her legendary style and the establishment of the House of Chanel, from the opening of her first millinery boutique in Paris in 1910 to her final collection in 1971.

The Missing Thread
Somerset House
21 September – 7 January 2024

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Untitled 1, Afro Hair and Beauty, 1998, Eileen Perrier © Eileen Perrier

Somerset House’s The Missing Thread explores the shifting landscape of Black British culture and the contribution it has made to Britain’s rich fashion design history. From the 1970s to the present day, a generation of Black creativity is celebrated through works by renowned and unsung names across art, design and fashion. On display are original commissions by contemporary Black designers including Bianca Saunders and Nicholas Daley. The show concludes by spotlighting the late Joe Casely-Hayford OBE, presenting the first ever major staging of pieces from the designer’s archive.

Gucci Cosmos
180 Studios
11 October – 31 December

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The Gucci Cosmos exhibition comes to London with an immersive installation showcasing the house’s most iconic designs from its 102-year history. Renowned British artist Es Devlin has created a dedicated set-up at 180 Studios, including elements that pay homage to London and the role the city played in inspiring Guccio Gucci to establish his label in 1921. Visitors can expect never-before-seen items from the Gucci Archive, showing how the Italian fashion house has evolved over the last century. There’ll also be looks from previous creative directors such as Tom Ford and Frida Giannini.

The Fabric of Democracy
Fashion & Textile Museum
29 September - 3 March

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The Fabric of Democracy: Propaganda Textiles from the French Revolution to Brexit may not have the catchiest name, but it promises much. The exhibition shines a light on how fabrics have been used as a political medium over the years, whether through furnishing or fashion. Curated by design historian Amber Butchart, it looks at how fabric designers have responded to political upheaval over the years. As print techniques developed from the mid-18th century onwards, so too did the opportunity to ‘democratise’ textile decoration, allowing leading bodies to use the power of print for their own purposes, whether wartime slogans or revolutionary ideals.

The Cult of Beauty
Wellcome Collection
26 October - 28 April 2024

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12 Reasons You’re Tired All The Time, 2013, Juno Calypso © Juno Calypso, courtesy the artist and TJ Boulting

A deep-dive into the notions of beauty across time and cultures, exploring three themes: The Ideals of Beauty, The Industry of Beauty and Subverting Beauty. New commissions, contemporary artworks and archival material have all been brought together for The Cult of Beauty, inviting the visitor to consider the influence of status, health, age, race, gender and morality on perceptions of beauty. From an ancient Egyptian mirror through to modern-day works by photographer Juno Calypso and a multisensory commission Beauty Sensorium, the objects on display will leave visitors seeing beauty in a very different light.

Rafal Zajko: Clocking Off
16 September - 26 November

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As part of its current season, which centres on the theme of labour, the gallery is holding an exhibition by the Polish sculptural ceramicist Rafal Zajko, Clocking Off. The centrepiece is a monumental, suspended sculpture of a swinging pendulum. Reminiscent of a beehive and finished off in copper and ceramic, it explores the subject of industrialisation and its relation to working-class heritage and queer identities. Three additional free-standing sculptures will drip artificial sweat throughout the day, in reference to the poor working conditions of factory employees.

Rubens & Women
Dulwich Picture Gallery
27 September - 28 January 2024

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Peter Paul Rubens, The Virgin in Adoration of the Child, c. 1616, oil on panel, 65 x 50 cm. KBC Bank, Antwerp, Snijders&Rockox House

Over 40 paintings and drawings (many from international and private collections) have been collated for this one-off exhibition of Peter Paul Rubens. Rubens & Women turns the idea that the Flemish artist only ever painted one type of woman on its head. Instead, through his masterpieces and archival material, we see how Rubens’ relationship with women played an integral role in his oeuvre. Visitors will come away with a better understanding of how the great loves of his life, female patrons, family members and his profound faith nourished both his creativity and his career.

Frank Walter: Artist, Gardener, Radical
Garden Museum
4 October - 25 February 2024

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Frank Walter, Plantation Fields and Workers (undated). Courtesy Frank Walter Family and Kenneth M. Milton Fine Arts

Antiguan artist, writer and environmentalist Frank Walter largely worked in seclusion in his middle age, on a hilltop in a self-built house without water or electricity, looking out towards the ocean. Here he continued to prolifically create – when he died, he left behind some 5,000 paintings, 1,000 drawings, 2,000 photographs, 600 hand-carved wooden sculptures and 25,000 pages of writing. Frank Walter: Artist, Gardener, Radical brings together 100 works of these works, curated to explore Walter’s relationship with the island, environmentalism, Caribbean and Black identity and his close relationship with nature, landscape and place.

Radical Landscapes
William Morris Gallery
21 October - 18 February 2024

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Helen and Hula hoop, Seacoal Camp, Lynemouth, Northumberland 1984. Chris Killip Photography. Courtesy: Martin Parr Foundation

Radical Landscapes is an exploration into art that’s inspired by the land. The exhibition considers the natural world as a source of artistic inspiration and social connection as seen through the lens of William Morris, who was one of Britain’s earliest environmentalists. Work spanning two centuries has been collated – by artists including J.M.W. Turner, Derek Jarman and Veronica Ryans – to encourage the viewer to reflect on how British landscapes have been used across social, class and racial lines over the years. It also looks at the current climate crisis, including Morris’s own love of the land.

Turn it Up: The Power of Music
Science Museum
19 October - 6 May 2024

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The toe-tapping, foot-stomping Turn it Up: The Power of Music delves into the science of music and how technology has helped make music more accessible to all. It’s very hands-on, with plenty of interactives including a newly commissioned “musical playground” where visitors can play with beat, melody and harmonies. There’s also a chance to meet Haile, a musical robot and see the pioneering MiMU Gloves, used by artists like Ariana Grande to make gestures that control music-making software live on stage. Keep an eye out for the display of unusual instruments like the Pyrophone, an organ powered by flames. A fun, family-friendly way to further understand how music can unlock our feelings and emotions.

Hiroshi Sugimoto
Hayward Gallery
11 October - 7 January 2024

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East China Sea, Amakusa 1992

The largest retrospective to date of Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, whose meticulously crafted, meditative images have so enraptured for the past fifty years. This show brings together the artist’s major photographic series, which highlight Sugimoto’s ability to unite the real and the abstract, using the median to both document and invent. Lesser-known works are also on display, revealing Sugimoto’s interest in the history of photography, as well as in mathematics and optical sciences.

On Foot
Offer Waterman
18 September - 28 October

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Lucian Freud Pigeon, 1946 oil on board Private Collection, Courtesy Offer Waterman, London Lucian Freud

Designer Jonathan Anderson – who helms London-based fashion label JW Anderson and is creative director at Loewe – curates On Foot. Pieces from his recent collections are displayed alongside iconic works of modern British art, all presented At Offer Waterman as if the visitor was walking through London. The show takes you from Mayfair, where the gallery is located, to Soho where the JW Anderson store has its home. Even the corridors, staircases, storeroom and outdoor bench have been taken over to represent aspects of the city. Artist Anthea Hamilton has collaborated with JW Anderson to produce a limited-edition version of the iconic pigeon clutch, available at the gallery and the JW Anderson Soho store.

Nicole Eisenman: What Happened
Whitechapel Gallery
11 October – 14 January 2024

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Nicole Eisenman, The Triumph of Poverty, 2009, Oil on canvas, 165.1 x 208.3 cm. From the Collection of Bobbi and Stephen Rosenthal, New York City, Image courtesy Leo Koenig Inc., New York

The French-born American artist Nicole Eisenman is known for her oil paintings and sculptures. Nicole Eisenman: What Happened brings together 100 works from Eisenman’s three-decade career, not just her monumental canvases and sculptures, but also monoprints, animation and drawings. The display serves to illuminate not just the breadth and inventiveness of her practice; it also highlights her unique ability to explore some of the most pressing socio-political issues of the day, often in a humorous way. Gender and identity, governmental turmoil in the US, the impact of technology… all are addressed by Eisenman in this exhibition.

Frans Hals
National Gallery
30 September - 21 January 2024

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Frans Hals, The Laughing Cavalier, 1624. © Trustees of the Wallace Collection, London

You know when it’s the Credit Suisse exhibition at the NPG that it won’t disappoint. This one is the first major retrospective of Frans Hals in more than thirty years and is an absolute must-do art exhibition in London this autumn. Not only that, but it brings together 50 of the Dutch artist’s finest works including the first ever loan of his most famous picture The Laughing Cavalier (1624), from the Wallace Collection. From his smaller works to large group portraits, this blockbuster shows what a remarkably gifted and pioneering painter he was, who depicted his sitters as relaxed, smiling, even laughing – which was unheard of at the time.

Turner and Bonington
The Wallace Collection
20 September - 21 April 2024

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Turner and Bonington is a one-room display of watercolour landscapes by J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) and Richard Parkes Bonington (1802-1828). There are ten works in total by the two artists, the first time they’ve been on display for 17 years. There are four views of Yorkshire by Turner and five depictions of Normandy and Venice by Bonington. Hung together, they take the visitor n a wonderful journey from the Yorkshire Dales and Scarborough beach to the grand canals of Venice and the gothic grandeur of Rouen cathedral.

Georg Baselitz: Sculptures 2011 - 2105
Serpentine Galleries
5 October - 7 January 2024

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Georg Baselitz: Sculptures 2011 - 2105 Serpentine Galleries

Serpentine continues its historic sculpture series with its first solo exhibition of German painter, sculptor and graphic artist Georg Baselitz, Georg Baselitz: Sculptures 2011 – 2105. With a career spanning 60 years, it wasn’t until the 1980s that Baselitz turned to sculpture, exploring the push and pull between figurative and abstract through his carved wooden figures and body parts. Serpentine will be displaying ten of these sculptures, all never-before-exhibited, each one carved from a single tree trunk. In addition, expect over 60 related drawings in pencil, pen and ink, as well as a monumental nine-metre-tall sculpture Zero Dom (Zero Dome) in the Royal Park, presented for the first time in the UK.

The Mother & The Weaver
Foundling Museum
22 September - 18 February 2024

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Louise Bourgeois, Spider V, 1999. Ursula Hauser Collection, Switzerland © The Easton Foundation / 2023 DACS, London

Occupying the entire museum, The Mother & The Weaver takes the unseen mother as a point of departure to explore ideas around motherhood and childhood, love and loss, sexuality and identity. The landmark exhibition brings together over 40 works by 17 artists, all women, most of which are from the Ursula Hauser Collection, with its special emphasis on female artists. Expect to see pieces by Louise Bourgeois, Marlene Dumas, Luchita Hurtado and Maria Lassnig, to name a few. These are displayed in dialogue with historic objects and works of art from the Foundling Museum, inviting visitors to reconsider what it means to be a ‘good’ mother or woman.

Re/Sisters: A Lens on Gender and Ecology
Barbican Art Gallery
5 October - 14 January 2024

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Judy Chicago, Immolation from Women and Smoke, 1972

Featuring 50 women and gender non-conforming artists, Re/Sisters: A Lens on Gender and Ecology looks at the links between the oppression of women and the degradation of the planet. Photography and film explore how the female understanding of our environment has been at odds with capitalist economies which exploit our planet to make money. Alongside is a display of works of an activist nature, which underscore how women are often at the forefront of advocating and caring for our planet and its precarious ecosystem.

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