26 unmissable new London exhibitions to book this spring

The capital’s world-class galleries and museums promise a packed season of not-to-be-missed shows, installations and retrospectives

Spring 2023 sees the opening of some of the best London exhibitions – and what choice there is for the art lover. From an Ai Weiwei blockbuster and a once-in-a-lifetime show about the Rossettis to a deep dive into Andy Warhol’s textile designs and a glittering display of ancient Persian treasures, these are the new art exhibitions in Londons to bookmark for a culture hit this season.

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Spring 2023 Art Exhibitions in London

Ai Weiwei: Making Sense
Design Museum
7 April - 30 July

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© Image courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio

Ai Weiwei’s Making Sense at the Design Museum is surely one of the best new London exhibitions this season. Visitors can expect never-before-seen work, with the multi-disciplinary artist and activist focusing on design and the history of making as a means of considering what we value. The show centres around five major site-specific installations, aka ‘fields’, containing hundreds of thousands of objects from Stone Age tools to Lego bricks, all collected by Weiwei since the 1990s. The exhibition draws on his ongoing fascination with historical Chinese artefacts and traditional craftsmanship, juxtaposed with the country’s more recent history of demolition and urban development, exploring “the tension between past and present, hand and machine, precious and worthless, construction and destruction.”

Ashish: Fall in Love and Be More Tender
William Morris Gallery
1 April - 10 September

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Tinsel jumpsuit, Ashish, Autumn Winter 2018 © Ashish Gupta

Fashion fans will want to visit this major survey of designer Ashish Gupta where over 60 designs are on display, created by his eponymous London-based fashion label over the past two decades. Known for making clothes that are at once glamorous and joyful, many exquisitely hand-embroidered in sequins and beads, Ashish has been worn by everyone from Beyonce and Rihanna to Debbie Harry. The exhibition explores “spectacle”, a recurring theme in Ashish’s work, inspired by mid-century Hollywood and Disco-era fashion. It also looks at Ashish’s use of fashion as a means of social and political messaging (such as his designs emblazoned with ‘More glitter less Twitter’ devised in response to the election of President Trump in 2016). It also spotlights Ashish’s SS17 ‘The Yellow Brick Road collection, which was an overt celebration of LGBTQ+ inclusion and acceptance.

Gilbert & George: The Corpsing Pictures
White Cube Mason’s Yard
29 March - 20 May

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Gilbert & George, SHOEING, 2022

White Cube presents The Corpsing Pictures at Mason’s Yard. The exhibition promises their most profoundly personal and confrontational works to date, with the tableaux of large-scale pictures depicting the collaborative duo dressed in bright red suits in a range of emotional states, surrounded by bones, chains, knotted string and decayed plants. The show coincides with the unveiling of the new Gilbert & George Centre in Spitalfields, which opens on 1 April. The new space comprises three state-of-the-art galleries over three levels, and it’s anticipated that there will be one or two exhibitions per year showing the creations of Gilbert & George, as well as a community and education programme. The Centre’s inaugural exhibition is The Paradisical Pictures, 35 works created by the duo in 2019 in which they explore paradise.;

Aladdin Sane: 50 Years
Southbank Centre
6 April - 28 May

Aladdin Sane - Eyes Open 1973Pin

This year marks the 50th anniversary since the creation of David Bowie’s iconic 1973 album Aladdin Sane. Bowie fans will want to make a beeline to Southbank, which marks the occasion with a two-month exhibition in the Royal Festival Hall, exploring the creation of the album’s iconic artwork. The main focus is on the celebrated lightning flash portrait of the singer by photographer Brian Duffy; indeed, the London exhibition has been curated by Chris Duffy, the son of Duffy, and Geoff Marsh. As well as showcasing the vibrant music scene of the 70s to contextualise when Duffy and Bowie first met, the show looks at the relationship between the two, as well as the January 1973 photoshoot which culminated in the famous album cover. Visitors can also expect a line-up of live music and talks inspired by the album. In conjunction, Southbank Centre Archive presents a separate free display exploring David Bowie’s history with the Centre.

Isabella Ducrot: Other Things
Sadie Coles HQ
29 March - 5 May

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Isabella Ducrot, Bella Terra XI, 2022

This is the first solo show in Britain for the Rome-based artist Isabella Ducrot, whose career has spanned more than seven decades. Over the years, using pencil, pastel, ink and watercolour, Ducrot has encompassed philosophy, folklore and textile weaving into her works, drawing inspiration from the rare textiles she has collected from all over the world. This London exhibition focuses on her oeuvre of the last five years, spanning her series including ‘Tendernesses’, a portrayal of godlike figures inspired by Persian miniatures but on a huge scale; ‘Bella Terra’, the depiction of a landscape in different seasons; and ‘Pots’, a series of still-life arrangements of flowers. The works are presented on parchment-like sheets of handmade paper and thin cotton, reflecting both Ducrot’s fascination with pattern and her interest in the capacity for memory and narrative through the repetition of marks and motifs.

Michelle Williams Gamaker: Our Mountains Are Painted on Glass
South London Gallery
31 March - 18 June

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Michelle Williams Gamaker, Thieves, (behind the scenes still with Ananya Jaidev as the Silver Maiden), 2022. Photo Ellen Jane Rogers

British-Sri Lankan video artist Michelle Williams Gamaker is known for her distinctive, skilful filmmaking, exploring themes around race, identity, her love of cinema and the power of storytelling. For her solo exhibition at South London Gallery, Gamaker premieres a new film, Thieves. Often drawing on and celebrating the classic movies she watched when she was younger, Gamaker’s new fantasy adventure pays homage to The Thief of Bagdad, with Anna May Wong and Sabu, who starred in the original films as marginalised characters, as leading characters in Gamaker’s compelling retelling (played by Gamaker’s long-time collaborators Krishna Istha and Dahong Wang). The film will be shown in a bespoke installation featuring sculptural works and cinematic ephemera that draw on elements of the film’s set.

The Rossettis
Tate Britain
6 April - 24 September

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Proserpine 1874 © Tate

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the Rossettis – Dante Gabriel, his sister Christina and his wife Elizabeth (neé Siddal). Spanning the Pre-Raphaelite years and beyond, over 150 paintings and drawings have been brought together at Tate Britain. Indeed, it is the largest exhibition of Dante Gabriel’s work in two decades and the first full retrospective of Elizabeth Siddal for 30 years, with many of her rare surviving watercolours and drawings on display. This major exhibition will showcase the Rossettis’ unique approach to life, love and art and how their influence manifests itself to this day. One not to miss.

Mostly Nude
Hamiltons Gallery
31 March - 10 September

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Gavin Bond, Michelle Behennah, Vivienne Westwood, Paris, 1994

Hamiltons gallery has curated a series of outstanding images by some of photography’s greats for its latest exhibition Mostly Nude. Displayed together, they tell the story of how the genre of Nude has undergone many shifts and how these shifts permeate differently in each artist. Works on display include earlier images such as Horst P. Horst’s Odalisque I interpretation of neoclassicism (1943) and Irving Penn’s Nude No. 150 from 1950 through to Herb Ritts’ iconic 1991 photograph of Naomi Campbell and Erwin Olaf’s Mature Series. As well as gathering together works from the pioneers of 20th century photography, right through to contemporary artists, this exhibition also celebrates photographs as an art form, something which the gallery has been doing for the past forty years.

Style and Society: Dressing the Georgians
The Queen’s Gallery
21 April - 8 October

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British School, St James’s Park and the Mall, c.1745

This exploration into life in the 18th century, presented through the fashions of the day, is one for the best new art exhibitions in London list. Over 200 works from the Royal Collection are on display at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, including paintings, prints and drawings by artists such as Gainsborough, Zoffany and Hogarth. These are shown alongside rare examples of clothing and accessories from the era. All build a fascinating picture of what the Georgians wore – from the day-to-day practical attire of, say, laundry maids, to the bejewelled finery at court. Exhibition highlights include a rarely seen full-length portrait of Queen Charlotte by Thomas Gainsborough, which usually hangs in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle. This will be shown beside a beautifully preserved gown of a similar style, worn at Queen Charlotte’s court in the 1760s. And don’t miss Queen Charlotte’s book of psalms, covered in the only silk fabric known to survive from one of her dresses.

Andy Warhol: The Textiles
Fashion & Textile Museum
31 March - 10 September

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Shoes Textile, blouse, Jayson Classics, circa 19571958 © 2022 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. Licensed by DACS, London

He is, of course, famous the world over as the King of Pop Art, whose works so brilliantly embraced consumerism, celebrity and counterculture. But what isn’t as well known about Andy Warhol is that he produced a series of textile designs during his early career as a commercial designer and illustrator in the 1950s and early 60s. This exhibition brings together over 45 of these designs, dazzling in their colours and patterns. Ice cream sundaes, toffee apples, lemons, pretzels, clowns… all feature, both as fabric lengths and garments, showing how this body of work added considerably to his ability as an artist. Some of the most important manufacturers in American textile history are also represented, such as Stehli Silks, Fuller Fabrics Inc., and M Lowenstein and Sons.

Berthe Morisot
Dulwich Picture Gallery
31 March - 10 September

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Berthe Morisot, Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight, 1885

Berthe Morisot was undoubtedly a trailblazer. The French painter was a founding member of the circle of painters in Paris who became known as the Impressionists. Her paintings – which give fascinating, often intimate, glimpses into everyday life in the 19th century – featured prominently in the Impressionist exhibitions at the time, defying the social norms and what was undoubtedly a very male profession. Around 30 of Morisot’s masterpieces have been collated from around the world for this exhibition, held in partnership with Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris. They will be displayed alongside artwork by greats such as Reynolds, Gainsborough and Fragonard to help trace the roots of Morisot’s inspiration and highlight the originality of her artistic vision.

Souls Grown Deep Like the Rivers
Black Artists from the American South
Royal Academy of Arts
Until 18 June

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Thornton Dial, Stars of Everything, 2004

Taking its name from the work of the writer and activist Langston Hughes, this standout London exhibition brings together 64 works created over the last century by Black artists from the American South. These include sculpture, paintings, reliefs, drawings and quilts, many never-before-seen in the UK and Europe. It will also feature the celebrated quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend, Alabama and the neighbouring communities of Rehoboth and Alberta. Working in near isolation from established practices, the artists created these pieces using local materials – clay, driftwood, roots, soil and recycled objects – to express America’s painful past including enslavement, segregationist policies and institutionalised racism.

Hilma af Klint & Piet Mondrian: Forms of Life
Tate Modern
20 April - 3 September

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Hilma af Klint, The Ten Largest, Group IV, No. 3, Youth, 1907. Courtesy of The Hilma af Klint Foundation
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Piet Mondrian, Composition with red, black, yellow, blue and gray 1921. Kunstmuseum Den Haag

Though they never met each other, Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian had much in common: each had a deep connection to the natural world and shared a mutual desire to understand the forces behind life on earth (both, too, died in 1944). For the first time ever, this exhibition presents the artists in close dialogue with around 250 works on display, including paintings, drawings and archival materials, revealing just how much their art reflected the new ideas, theories and scientific discoveries in the first half of the 20th century. Incidentally, this is the largest presentation of Hilma af Klint’s work in the UK to date – and will be the first time in over 25 years in this country that Mondrian’s early work has been shown alongside his iconic grid paintings.

Private and Public: Finding the Modern British Garden
Garden Museum
Until 4 June

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Charles Mahoney, Autumn, 1951

During the interwar period in Britain, many artists sought solace in their gardens, retreating to these private sanctuaries to plant and paint. This London exhibition looks at how the creatives of the era – Charles Mahoney, Evelyn Dunbar, Eric Ravilious et al – depicted everything from their greenhouses to favoured plant specimens. Conversely, this period also saw several artists venture further afield, with many also delighting in painting more public green spaces, such as courtyards and parks. The exhibition also examines the blurring of boundaries between private and public, with artists frequenting houses and gardens such as Garsington and Sissinghurst, and the emergence of artist communities such as the Great Bardfield group. Many of the works on display will be available for purchase, in aid of the Garden Museum’s educational and community programmes.

RESOLVE Collective: them’s the breaks
30 March - 16 July

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Resolve Collective On The Corner, 2019, Tate Modern, London. Photography: Resolve Collective

Interdisciplinary design practice RESOLVE Collective have created this large-scale site-specific installation for The Curve using “foraged” materials from London and the south coast, as well as materials from previous installations. The result is a 90-metre space that’s akin to an interactive landscape, with reclaimed and repurposed pieces and ephemera rippling across its length and up the walls. Visitors will be encouraged to interact with and touch the installation, in a bid to break down barriers between the public and art on display. The idea is also that the transformed gallery space will serve as a place for visitors to sit, meditate, work, converse and “exist freely within the Barbican’s wider space.” In addition, RESOLVE plans to co-curate a programme of events with other artists, thinkers, creatives and organisers to facilitate discussion about and around society’s institutions.

The Van de Veldes: Greenwich, Art and the Sea
The Queen’s House, Greenwich
Until 14 January 2024

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An English Ship at Sea Lying-To in a Gale by Willem Van de Velde the Younger

The Queen’s House in Greenwich was once the home of the Dutch artists Willem van de Velde the Elder and his son, Willem van de Velde the Younger, the most important and influential marine painters of the 17th century. They lived there for 20 years, during which time they arguably revolutionised marine painting, laying the foundations for a genre which remains relevant today. So it seems only fitting that it should house this exhibition, which marks 350 years since the Dutch duo arrived in England and showcases all the van de Velde’s finest works from the collection of the National Maritime Museum.

After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art
The National Gallery
25 March - 13 August

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Paul Cézanne, Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses), about 1894 – 1905

The decades between 1880 and the First World War were ones of instability, but they were also a time of artistic questioning, searching and innovation. At the forefront were Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin. This blockbuster – and easily one of the best new art exhibitions in London this Spring – brings together iconic works by these artistic greats to celebrate not just their achievements, but also the influence they had on the generations of artists across Europe that followed in their wake. Other works by artists ranging from Klimt to Kandinsky, Matisse to Mondrian, Rodin to Claudel, further serve to explore the creation of a new modern art, free from the constraints of convention, taking in Expressionism, Cubism and Abstraction.

Whorled (Here After Here After Here)
Somerset House
Until 23 April

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Jitish Kallat’s outdoor installation is the Mumbai-based artist’s first major public commission in the UK. The striking piece, on display in the Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court, has been conceived as a galactic whorl and is made up of two intersecting spirals, 363 metres long. The vast extended scrolls echo the signage of UK motorways. These signs indicate the distance from Somerset House to over 300 locations across the planet and beyond, with visitors invited to walk around the installation, as if they were walking through both space and time. There is a strong environmental message, too, with some of the places featured victims of rising sea levels or under threat of submersion, which particularly resonates with Somerset House’s proximity to the Thames and London’s vulnerability to flooding.

The Offbeat Sari
Design Museum
19 May - 17 September

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Norblack Norwhite. Photo Bikramjit Bose

This London exhibition unravels the role of the sari and its manifold definitions of India today. Curated by the Design Museum’s Head of Curatorial Priya Khanchandani, over 90 saris will be on display, including some of the finest designs of our time. Exquisitely crafted and often experimental, these include the first ever sari worn to the Met Gala and Tarun Tahiliani’s shimmering creation for Lady Gaga. Through their textures, weaves and colours, all tell the story of how the sari is an expression of identity and resistance. The exhibition also serves to showcase how this ubiquitous item of clothing has had a 21st century overhaul, with designers experimenting with evermore hybrid forms such as sari gowns and dresses, pre-draped saris and innovative materials such as steel.

Isaac Julien: What Freedom Is To Me
Tate Britain
26 April - 20 August

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Isaac Julien, The Lady of the Lake (Lessons of the Hour)

London-born artist Isaac Julien is renowned for breaking down the barriers between different artistic disciplines – film, dance, photography, music, theatre, painting, sculpture – and using them to construct his own visual narratives through his lyrical films and video art installations. Tate Britain presents a unique overview of Julien’s pioneering 40-year career, including his trailblazing early films and immersive videos of the early 1980s to the kaleidoscopic, sculptural multi-screen installations for which he is so renowned today. A fascinating insight into Julien’s critical thinking and the way his work reflects themes of desire, history and culture.

The Queen and her Corgis
The Wallace Collection
Until 25 June

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Queen Elizabeth II at Balmoral Castle with one of her Corgis, 28 September 1952

It’s no secret Queen Elizabeth II was a fan of Pembroke Welsh corgis, owning over 30 of them during her reign. This one-room display celebrates the connection, with a series of images that capture Her Majesty’s love of the breed. These include a photo of the 18-year-old Princess Elizabeth with her new puppy Susan and another from 1969 which shows the Queen with four corgis in tow, returning from Balmoral to London to meet the astronauts of Apollo 11 at Buckingham Palace. The exhibition runs concurrently with the gallery’s main exhibition Portraits of Dogs: From Gainsborough to Hockney (29 March – 15 October), a look at our centuries-old devotion to four-legged friends. From a late first-century Roman marble sculpture of two greyhounds to a drawing of a paw by da Vinci and vignettes of David Hockney’s dachshunds, Stanley and Boodgie, this exhibition depicts the continuing and unique bond between humans and their canine companions.

The Ugly Duchess: Beauty and Satire in the Renaissance
The National Gallery
Until 11 June

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Quinten Massys, An Old Woman 'The Ugly Duchess', about 1513

Quinten Massys’s 16th century painting of an old woman, often referred to as ‘The Ugly Duchess’, is one of the best-known faces in the National Gallery. This Spring, and for the first time ever, it goes on display alongside a related drawing after Leonardo da Vinci, a rare loan from a private collection. Hung next to each other, it shows the artists’ shared interest in fantastical, ‘grotesque’ heads and the vibrant artistic exchange between Italy and Northern Europe in the Renaissance. It also gives visitors a chance to see Massy’s famous portrait in a new light – inviting the viewer to look beyond the surface to discover a Duchess who – rather than being a cruel joke – is fierce and defiant. In addition, the show includes works that look at how women, old age and facial differences were satirised and often demonised in the Renaissance, shaping attitudes that remain to this day.

Angela Heisch: Low Speed Highs
Pippy Houldsworth Gallery
24 March - 29 April

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Heisch, Alone in Space, 2023

This is New York-based artist Angela Heisch’s second solo exhibition in London, comprising a new body of work that is on her grandest scale to date. Combining the beauty and design of the Baroque with the unconscious mind, as advocated by the Surrealists, Heisch takes movement as her subject. Each meticulously detailed picture represents a landscape – land, sky, sea and deep space – in the form of abstract shapes and her signature organic forms. The artist, who juxtaposes delicate outlines and smooth gradients with bright expanses of colour, does so here with brilliant effect.

Luxury and Power: Persia to Greece
The British Museum
4 May - 13 August

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Sphinx Drinking Cup © The Trustees of the British Museum
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Gilt silver rhyton © The Trustees of the British Museum

This promises to be a blockbuster of a show highlighting the relationship between luxury and power in the Middle East and southeast Europe between 550-30BC. The London exhibition looks beyond ancient Greece to Iran, Athens and the world of Alexander, king of Macedon, aka ‘Alexander the Great’. Expect some incredible loans – including the extraordinary Panagyurishte Treasure from Bulgaria – as well as objects from the British Museum’s own extensive collection, including a glittering array of gold, silver and glass artefacts. These exquisite pieces have been curated to help the visitor understand how the concept of luxury changed over the centuries, from the royal Persian court who used luxurious objects as markers of authority to those pioneers of early democratic Athens who – dismissing Persian culture as decadent – put their own unique spin on luxury.

I saw the other side of the sun with you
Female Surrealists from Eastern Europe
Cromwell Place
12 - 30 April

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Teresa Żarnower, Untitled, 1945

This is the world’s first exhibition dedicated exclusively to female Surrealists from Eastern Europe. Commissioned by European ArtEast Foundation, the show presents some of the most outstanding historical and contemporary avant-gardes from Poland, the former Czechoslovakia and the former Yugoslavia – all of them women. The medians of painting, drawing, illustration and sculpture are all on display, alongside an assortment of archival materials – with artists including Maria Anto, Alina Szapocznikow, Zofia Rydet, Toyen, Margo Litvinova and Oleksandra Tsapko all represented. “In the interwar period, women artists from Eastern Europe took on the language of Surrealism, developing radical and highly innovative visions about modern gender issues and sexualities,” curator Anke Kempkes says. “The exhibition highlights the transhistorical dimension of Surrealist language as a strong female lineage in Eastern European art history, still vital and newly relevant today.”

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