Autumn is always a strong season for the arts – this year more than ever, with the capital’s museums and art galleries presenting a packed programme of blockbuster exhibitions, shows and retrospectives. From powerful photography documenting the impact of climate change at the Science Museum and a large-scale installation addressing questions around censorship at the Barbican to the RA’s deep-dive into the late work of 19th-century landscape artist Constable and a trip into Beanotown at Somerset House, here’s our guide to the don’t-miss art exhibitions in London this autumn…
Must-see London Art Exhibitions
23 October - 23 January 2022
Over the last three decades, Swiss-French architectural photographer Hélène Binet has captured the world’s greatest historic and contemporary buildings by the most celebrated names in architecture including Le Corbusier, Gottfried Böhm and Peter Zumthor Hon RA. This show brings together 90 of Binet’s photographs, spanning myriad projects across a formidable career, with a number of them hand printed at her North London studio. A highlight has to be the a section focusing on Binet’s work with Zaha Hadid RA, with whom she had a close working relationship for many years.
Until 9 January
“Sculpture can be a vital force in our everyday life if projected into communal usefulness.” So said Isamu Noguchi, one of the 20th century’s most experimental and trailblazing sculptors. This touring retrospective – the first in Europe for 20 years – retraces the Japanese-American artist’s six-decade career. Expect an extraordinary display of over 150 works including his sculptures, made in stone, ceramics, wood and aluminium, set designs, architectural and playground models, lighting and furniture design. Further archive materials and photographs give a rare insight into this remarkable man .
Until 6 November
Kudzanai-Violet Hwami’s solo exhibition, her first with Victoria Miro, presents a new body of work by the Zimbabwe-born, UK-based artist. Hwami has built up a huge following for her vividly-coloured, large-scale pieces, which she often layers with visual fragments such as archival images and personal photographs to create new narratives and raise new questions. Her powerful yet intimate nudes are a point of departure, with the artist addressing sexual, spiritual and political identity.
23 October - 20 February 2022
Waste Age shows how new design ideas are redefining our throwaway culture and helping us rethink our relationship to everyday things. It is eye-opening in its depiction of the devastating scale and impact of waste, with a large-scale art installation by Ibrahim Mahama made from e-waste in Ghana. And yet it also focuses on the visionary designers working towards a cleaner future, including Formafantasma, Stella McCartney and The Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “This is not just an exhibition, it is a campaign, and we all have an active part in our future,” says Curator Gemma Curtin.
Until 2 January 2022
Artist and activist Yoko Ono’s interactive installation draws on kintsugi (the Japanese art of mending broken pottery). Visitors are invited to repair broken fragments of pottery with simple materials (glue, twine, scissors and tape), all presented on two plain white tables, with a set of instructions provided by Ono that reads: ‘Mend carefully. / Think of mending the world at the same time’. The idea is that the physical act of repairing should serve as “a timely metaphor for a different kind of mending which takes place in the mind and through community.”
Until March 2022
Sebastião Salgado is one of today’s most celebrated social documentary photographers. This exhibition brings together the culmination of seven years’ work, during which time Salgado documented twelve different indigenous communities in the Brazilian rainforest. The result is over 200 powerful black-and-white images, including powerful portraits, landscapes and aerial shots, all of which highlight the fragility of the Amazon and those who live in it. To add to the dramatic effect, the exhibition is accompanied by a new soundtrack by renowned French composer Jean-Michel Jarre.
Until 12 December
Mixing It Up: Painting Today brings together 31 contemporary painters all tasked with creating fresh works of art that tap into the zeitgeist. The show features three generations of artists, all of whom live and work here. With over a third of those participating born in other places, however, the result is a compelling show which reflects the international character of the contemporary scene in this country. This is a show that challenges conventionality and our own conceptions of gender, race and identity.
Until 6 February 2022
Curated by writer Ekow Eshun, this group exhibition presents a different view of humankind’s impact on the planet by looking at the correlation between today’s environmental crisis and the legacies of colonialism. From Carolina Caycedo, who documents the effects of damming in South America, to Otobong Nkanga, who reflects on the harvesting of the kola nut and its significance in Nigeria, the show spotlights the work of eleven different artists. Each one of them brings the cultural practices and perspectives of indigenous peoples to the fore, expanding the narrative around climate change.
30 October – 13 February
We all know him for his bucolic landscapes, but this show presents a different side to John Constable. Spanning from 1825 until his untimely death in 1837, the retrospective dives into the artist’s late style, highlighting the free and expressive brushwork that defines it. The show explores how he turned to watercolour and printmaking, working on mezzotints to enhance his use of light and shade. Bringing together Constable’s oil paintings and plein air sketches, as well as prints, drawings and watercolours, the viewer will gain an appreciation of how this chapter of the artist’s life impacted the next generation of painters.
Until 13 November
This exhibition presents a new selection of Annie Morris’s gravity-defying Stack sculptures. These precariously balanced, vibrant orbs at once convey the fragility and uncertainty of human life paralleled with strength, renewal and lightness. The London-based artist began her Stack series in 2012 as a way to process her grief following her personal experience of stillbirth, though they have since evolved to encompass hope and rebirth. Alongside these towering pieces is a rich, jewel-toned display of Morris’s expressive drawings and tapestries.
Main image: Annie Morris © Timothy Taylor
Until 6 February 2022
In this, her inaugural major London solo show, Mumbai-based multi-disciplinary artist Shilpa Gupta will present a reconfiguration of her acclaimed project For, In Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit (2017-2018). The immersive installation and soundscape consists of 100 microphones suspended above 100 spikes. Each spike is piercing a sheet of poetry scribed by someone who has been incarcerated for their writings or beliefs from the 8th to the 21st century. The result is a show that addresses questions around censorship and resistance.
Until 16 January
The annual Hyundai Commission returns to the Turbine Hall with a major new work from Anicka Yi, In Love With The World, her most ambitious to date. The conceptual artist has created her own vision of a new kind of ecosystem. In reference to the Hall’s former incarnation as home to Bankside Power Station’s turbines, Yi has created helium-filled, rotor-propelled floating machines, called aerobes. There are the ‘xenojellies’ with their semi transparent bodies and patterned tentacles and the bulbous ‘planulae’; both move through the enormous space, prompting viewers to consider how machines might inhabit the world.
22 October – 8 May 2022
This new exhibition brings to life 200 years of activity on the River Thames, exploring how the city has been shaped by its maritime trade. It also looks at how its docks have been the capital’s lifeblood from the 18th century to the creation of the modern behemoth that is London Gateway, the city’s mega port. The exhibition draws on the expansive archives of the Port of London Authority to portray the complex operations of running a port on such a huge scale (it handles over 50m tonnes of cargo and receives over 12,000 commercial vessels each year). For an exhibition that is alive with personal stories, absorbing characters and pivotal moments, this is it.
21 October – 6 March 2022
Take a trip into Beanotown at this exhibition about the world’s longest running comic and its raft of well-loved larger-than-life characters. Alongside original artwork and artifacts celebrating their spirit of rebellion, curator (and life-long Beano fan) Andy Holden has gathered together works by other creative rule-breakers across every medium from music and writing to sculpture and photography. Contributors include Sarah Lucas, Martin Creed, Phyllida Barlow and cartoonist Martin Rowson, to name a few. Plus there will be new commissions on display, with a comic strip by artist Nicola Lane and a neon sculpture from Simeon Barclay.
30 September - 30 January 2022
Over 100 rare drawings by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai – completed for an illustrated encyclopedia called The Great Picture Book of Everything in the 1820s to the 1840s that was never published – will go on display for the first time. Depicting scenes from Buddhist India, ancient China and the natural world, the brush drawings give an insight into the final years of Hokusai’s masterful career, as well as an intriguing glimpse into 19th century Japan. Alongside the drawings, viewers will also be able to take in Hokusai’s masterpiece The Great Wave.