Our guide to the best exhibitions in London in 2018, updated throughout the year. Check back for the latest shows in the capital
Barbican – British Library – British Museum – Camden Arts Centre
Social outsiders take centre stage at the Barbican
At the Barbican, Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins (February 28 – May 27) focuses on outsiders existing on the fringes of society in communities across the globe. The show features photographs by 20 photographers, from the 1950s to today and covers themes such as drugs, addiction, sexuality, minorities and youth culture – discussing the idea of social outsiders as agents for change.
For spring, the Curve gallery is reserved for a new commission exploring methods of resistance from Morocco-based French multimedia artist Yto Barrada (February 7 – May 20) whose photography, video and sculpture is infused with politics and documentary methods.
The importance of recorded sound at the British Library
Over at the British Library there’s still time to catch Harry Potter: A History of Magic (until February 28), a fascinating display of wizarding books, manuscripts and magical objects and other centuries-old British Library treasures, paired with original material from Bloomsbury’s and J.K. Rowling’s own archives.
Listen: 140 Years of Recorded Sound (until May 13) explores the history of recorded sound through gems from the library’s sound archive. The exhibition mines the past 140 years since the invention of the phonograph and discovers how important capturing sound has been in recording history and transforming society. Included in the show are recorded readings by James Joyce, Sylvia Plath and Maya Angelou, a new audio installation from composer Aleks Kollowski and the recorded 1922 diary of teenager Alfred Taylor.
Living with gods at the British Museum
At the British Museum, Living with gods: peoples, places and worlds beyond (until April 8) inspects the ever-present existence and importance of belief in a higher being. Everyday beliefs across different societies and religions are explored together with how people choose to honour their beliefs, regardless of what they may be. The exhibition also how we are predisposed to faith in supreme beings, the comfort we get from the structure these beliefs impart on our lives and the way we build relationships with like minded people.
Money, and the disparity in wealth and status that inevitably accompanies it, should have no place in a Utopian communist society, yet no state has ever managed to successfully eradicate it. The currency of communism (until March 18) looks at the role of money in communist states since the Russian Revolution of 1917 and explores how communist societies have reduced and distorted both the value and meaning of money.
The paint does the talking at Camden Arts Centre
Up at Camden Arts Centre the first UK solo show of Giorgio Griffa (January 26 – April 8), spotlights the Italian abstract painter with links to the Arte Povera movement in the 60s and 70s whose work broke away from traditional practice to welcome new materials and methods into Italian art. Griffa’s minimalist paintings, which he approaches as individual performances of the materials aided passively by his hand, are, he says, shaped by the will of the materials, rather than his own.
Chisenhale Gallery – Courtauld Gallery – Design Museum – Dulwich Picture Gallery
Violence and resistance at Chisenhale Gallery
At Chisenhale Gallery, London-Oran based artist Lydia Ourahmane (January 25 – March 25) has her first solo exhibition. The multi-disciplinary artist explores the idea of violence and resistance in a new commission inspired by the theft of her two guard dogs, and her search to find them.
The lavishness of the royal court at Courtauld Gallery
At the Courtauld Gallery, there’s still time to catch Soutine’s Portraits: Waiters, Cooks and Bellhops (until January 21) in an exhibition showcasing 20th Century artist Chaïm Soutine’s obsession with French hotel staff, their mannerisms and their bright uniforms. These expressionist images established Soutine as one of the leading artists in Paris in the 1900s.
They follow up with a selection of celebrated works by 16th century artist Antoine Caron, reunited for the first time, for Antoine Caron: Drawing for Catherine de’ Medici (January 18 – April 15). The show is centered around the Valois series produced for Queen Caterine de’ Medici of France, depicting the frivolity and exuberance of her royal court.
A design classic at the Design Museum
Seventy years after building its very first racing car, one of the world’s most iconic car brands is the subject of the Design Museum’s current show, Ferrari: Under the Skin (until April 15), which explores the history of the Italian brand and reveals the passion and drive of the man behind the machine. Featuring a selection of rare cars and Ferrari memorabilia, the show takes a look at the defining moments of the brand which is now so closely associated with fame, luxury and glamour.
Canadian modern art at Dulwich Picture Gallery
At Dulwich Picture Gallery, a revered 20th century Canadian painter and printmaker is celebrated in David Milne: Modern Painting (February 14 – May 7), which is the first major UK exhibition of Milne’s work and explores the modernist feel of his art, drawing on pieces from a career spanning the first half of the 20th century.
Following this, another influential 20th century artist is explored in Edward Bawden (May 23 – September 9). The exhibition focuses on his versatility as an artist, to create both commercial design work and fine art depicting a terrific range of subject matter – from war art to architecture and gardens. The show, which contains 170 works spanning 60 years of Bawden’s career, includes previously unknown work, on display for the first time.
Fashion and Textile Museum – Foundling Museum – Guildhall Art Gallery – Hayward Gallery
Cult, culture and subversion at the Fashion and Textile Museum
At Bermondsey’s Fashion and Textile Museum T-SHIRT: CULT | CULTURE | SUBVERSION (February 9 – May 6) explores how, from humble beginnings as a man’s undergarment, the simple t-shirt grew into a symbol for rebellion, a method for communicating political beliefs and a luxury fashion item – becoming the western world’s most affordable and most popular garment.
Later in the year, the versatile and iconic designs of Irish designer Orla Kiely are celebrated in A Life in Pattern (May 25 – September 23). The exhibition will be the first in the UK exploring Keily’s recognisable designs which have adorned everything from mugs and stationary, to clothes and cars. Featuring prototypes and original sketches, the show discovers how Keily’s designs made beauty out of simplicity.
Illustration at the Foundling Museum
At the Foundling Museum The Lost Words (January 19 – May 6) is an exhibition of poetry and illustration focusing on the nature words which are disappearing from children’s vocabulary. Recent research shows a frightening disconnect between children and nature, highlighted by the absence of the natural world in children’s stories and imaginations, and the exhibition uncovers the magic of the natural world, emphasising the capacity it has to engage and enchant minds young and old alike.
Alongside, Lucky Button (January 19 – May 6) is an exhibition of original illustrations by Michael Foreman for a new book by celebrated children’s author Michael Morpurgo. Lucky Button is a story about a young carer who discovers the history of the Foundling Hospital through a chance encounter. The book’s illustrations bring the hospital’s historic locations and collections to life in beautiful watercolour paintings.
Re-imagining still life at Guildhall Art Gallery
The Guildhall Art Gallery’s Nature Morte (until April 2 2018) is a 21st century re-imagining of the historic genre of still life. The exhibition of over 100 works of art by both international contemporary artists and historic artists from the City’s collection examines how artists have interpreted the theme for a modern-day audience.
Next up, the gallery has Sublime Symmetry (May 11 – October 28) focusing on the work of one of the most intriguing Victorian potters and designers, William de Morgan, who revolutionised ceramic design. The son of a distinguished mathematician and close friend of fellow designer William Morris, de Morgan is best known for creating exquisite ceramic tiles and the exhibition explores these works, and the mathematical tools used to create them.
The Hayward Gallery gallery reopens with a celebrated photographer retrospective
At the Southbank Centre the Hayward Gallery reopens and kicks off its 50th anniversary year with the first UK retrospective of German photographer Andreas Gursky (January 25 – April 22). One of the world’s most celebrated contemporary photographers, Gursky produces large format images in impeccable detail, scrutinizing the consumerism and capitalism of modern life. The exhibition features some of the photographer’s most well-known works chronicling the effects of globalisation.
Horniman Museum – House of Illustration – IWM –Jewish Museum London
The beauty of the coral reef at the Horniman Museum & Gardens
Inspired by the Horniman Museum’s famous aquarium and collection of Natural History specimens Coral: Fabric of the Reef (until September 9) is an exhibition of textile artworks by artist Karen Dodd. The pieces on display have been intricate dyed and sculpted to represent and draw attention to the beauty and vulnerability of coral reefs.
In February, Colour: The Rainbow Revealed (February 10 – October 28) explores how colour shapes our world. The exhibition looks at the science behind how colour is made and how it is used by animals to uncover the different meanings of colours to different people across the planet.
John Yeoman and Quentin Blake at House of Illustration
At the House of Illustration, John Yeoman and Quentin Blake: 50 Years of Children’s Books (until March 4) celebrates a half-century long collaboration between one of the nation’s favourite illustrators and a writer of well-loved children’s books. The exhibition features original illustrations from the pair’s first book in 1960, as well as their most recent release – and 10 favourite books in between.
Art in the age of terror at Imperial War Museum
In Lambeth, Imperial War Museum London‘s Age of Terror: Art Since 9/11 (until May 28) examines artist responses to the ever-present threat of terror in exhibition that takes the horrific attacks on September 11 2001 as a starting point. It features work by over 40 British and international artists who communicate their thoughts on war, conflict and the continuing state of emergency through their artworks.
Designs on Britain at Jewish Museum London
The Jewish Museum London’s Designs on Britain (until April 15) explores how Jewish immigrants to Britain shaped the face of British design. Included in the display are iconic designs for some of Britain’s most famous brands and institutions, including London Underground, the General Post Office and Tate & Lyle.
London Transport Museum – National Gallery – Natural History Museum
Celebrating women graphic designers at London Transport Museum
At Covent Garden’s London Transport Museum, Poster Girls: A Century of Art and Design (until January 2019) is a powerful exhibition of over 150 posters and original artworks, produced by female artists for London Transport and Transport for London. The display focuses on graphic designers from the 20th and 21st century and encompasses an incredible variety of styles and mediums by the likes of Mabel Lucie Attwell, Laura Knight and Zandra Rhodes.
Drawn in colour at the National Gallery
At London’s National Gallery, it’s the absence of colour that’s being celebrated in Monochrome: Painting in Black and White (until February 18). The exhibition brings together an assortment of black and white paintings created from the Middle Ages to today, featuring artists as diverse as Rembrandt, van Eyck, Bridget Riley and Gerhard Richter. Spanning 700 years, and featuring major loans from around the world, the show explores the beauty created when an accomplished artist embraces the simplicity of black and white.
Speaking of van Eyck, the gallery also has Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites (until April 2), which uncovers the sumptuous realism of van Eyck’s 1434 oil painting The Anrolfini Portrait, thought by many critics and scholars to be one of the most complex and original artworks in the Western world. The display brings together the revered painting and a selection of pieces from the Tate collection by the Pre Raphaelites, to explore the influences this innovative painting had on the likes of Rossetti, Millais and William Holman Hunt, among others.
In contrast to the Monochrome show, Drawn in Colour: Degas from the Burrell (until May 7) is a vibrant display of paintings and pastels from French Impressionist Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, depicting modern life in Paris. The show, which coincides with the centenary of the artist’s death, features 20 pastels from the Burrell collection – their first showing outside of Scotland since their acquisition.
For the spring, the gallery has Murillo: The Self Portraits (February 28 – May 21). Better known for his religious paintings and depictions of everyday Spanish scenes including beggars, street urchins and flower girls, Murillo is only known to have produced two self-portraits. This display brings the paintings together for the first time in more than 300 years, alongside a selection of his more familiar works.
2018 brings a landmark collaboration between three London galleries: the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and Royal Academy of Arts, to celebrate the work of contemporary visual artist Tacita Dean. The National Gallery’s show Tacita Dean: STILL LIFE (March 15 – May 28) focuses on the genre of still life, featuring work by Dean and her contemporaries, examining the genre within the history of art and demonstrating the continued importance and popularity of the genre.
Wildlife photographer of the year at Natural History Museum
At the Natural History Museum, the annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year (until May 28) prize exhibition displays the world’s best wildlife photography. Back with the ever-vivid, surprising and serendipitous images of the creatures, plants and landscapes that share our planet, the images are a wonderful reminder of the beauty this world has to offer.
National Portrait Gallery – Parasol unit – Photographers’ Gallery – The Queen’s Gallery
The birth of art photography at the National Portrait Gallery
At the National Portrait Gallery, Cézanne Portraits (until February 11 2018) brings together over 50 of the post-impressionist’s portraits from collections across the world, including works never before on public display in the UK. The major international exhibition draws from Cézanne’s 45-year artistic career to consider how particular sitters helped shape his practice.
In spring, Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography (March 1 – May 20) is a celebration of four early photographers who were instrumental in identifying the medium as an art form, rather than a science. Lewis Carroll, Julia Margaret Cameron, Oscar Rejlander and Clementina Hawarden utilised photography as a tool for creating their art, making striking portraits of some very famous sitters.
The NPG’s Tacita Dean exhibition focuses, of course, on portraits. Tacita Dean: PORTRAIT (March 15 – May 28) is the first exhibition at the Gallery to focuses entirely on video, and contains film portraits of Merce Cunningham, Claes Oldenburg and Cy Twombly and David Hockney, amongst others.
Light poetry at Parasol unit foundation for contemporary arts
At the forward-thinking Parasol unit foundation for contemporary arts, POEM IN LIGHTS TO BE SCATTERED IN THE SQUARE MILE, 2017 (until March 18) is a site-specific installation of an eloquent light poem, by Scottish artist-poet Robert Montgomery.
Wim Wenders’ personal Polaroids at Photographers’ Gallery
At the Photographers’ Gallery, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Wim Wenders’ personal Polaroid photographs, taken both on and off location are on show this winter. Instant Stories. Wim Wenders’ Polaroids (until February 11) is a selection of some of the thousands of Polaroids Wenders used as a visual notebook, taking us on a literal and metaphorical journey through the US and Europe.
In 1934, ground-breaking new opera Four Saints in Three Acts was first performed in Hertford, Connecticut. Composed by Virgil Thomson with a libretto by Gertrude Stein, the opera’s cast comprised entirely African-American performers, portraying European saints – a notion previously unprecedented. 4 Saints in 3 Acts – A Snapshot of the American Avant-garde (until February 11) brings together photographs of the production by a handful of photographers, including Lee Miller and Carl Van Vechten.
A monumental royal portrait at The Queen’s Gallery
At the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace, life in the court of King Charles II is revealed through his monumental portrait, master paintings and splendid furniture. Charles II: Art & Power (until May 13) brings to light a happier time, after a decade of oppression under the rule of Oliver Cromwell, when the monarchy was restored and the rightful King took his seat.
Royal Academy of Arts – Royal Observatory – Serpentine Galleries – Somerset House
An astounding collection reunited at Royal Academy of Arts
Reunited for the first time since the 17th century, the spectacular art collection amassed by King Charles I goes on show at the Royal Academy of Arts in Charles I: King and Collector (January 27 – April 15), which brings together works by some of history’s finest artists – including Titian, Holbein, Van Dyck and Reubens – many of which were scattered across the globe after his execution.
Celestial beauty at the Royal Observatory
In Greenwich, the Royal Observatory’s awe-inspiring exhibition is the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017 (until July 22). Offering a feast of stars, moons, galaxies and nebulae, the exhibition showcases the stunning celestial images by the latest winners of the world’s biggest international astrophotography competition, as well as an interactive exhibit featuring all of the shortlisted entries.
Rose Wylie’s witty paintings at the Serpentine Galleries
At the Serpentine Gallery, Wade Guyton: Das New Yorker Atelier, Abridged (until February 8) sees the artist’s linen paintings and compositions on paper fill the gallery space. Guyton works with modern tech – iPhones, cameras, computers and printers – and focuses on the translations happening between the different media to create large-scale glitchy artworks.
Across the bridge at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, Rose Wylie: Quack Quack (until February 4), presents the acclaimed artist’s engaging and energetic large-scale paintings. Quack Quack features Wylie’s witty paintings from the 1990s to today, drawing on a variety of sources, from film and comic books, to history and the natural world.
The Thames and the human body at Somerset House
At Somerset House, North: Fashioning Identity (until February 4) features over 100 photographs, artworks and fashion garments focussing on the spirit and identity of the North of England. The exhibition features work from a variety of renowned artists and designers including Jeremy Deller, Alice Hawkins and Paul Smith and explores how the North’s identity has been shaped by style and culture.
Also on display is a playful installation by Somerset House Studios artist Eloise Hawser. By the Deep, By the Mark (January 31 – April 22) draws parallels between the River Thames and the human body, bringing together a carefully researched collection of archival materials, medical equipment and audio-visual displays exploring civil and medical engineering.
Tate Britain – Tate Modern – V&A – Wellcome Collection – Whitechapel Gallery
Impressionists at Tate Britain
Over at Tate Britain, there’s still some time to catch Rachel Whiteread (until January 21) – the artist’s largest show to date, bringing some of her most acclaimed works to the gallery. The first woman to win the Turner Prize, Whiteread is one of the UK’s most important sculptors; her work gives a tangible weight to negative space, revealing the invisible spaces inside the objects we know.
Taking us into spring, The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London (until May 7) is the story of the artists escaping the devastation of the Franco-Prussian war to find a new home in Britain. Expect captivating pieces by Monet, Pissaro, Sisley and their colleagues.
And taking us into summer the gallery has All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life (February 28 – August 27) – a celebration of a selection of painters working in Britain in the mid-20th to early 21st centuries, striving to capture the human figure. The exhibition features the likes of Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and Paula Rego and explores the influence of key figures from the previous generation, such as Walter Sickert.
Picasso’s pivotal year at Tate Modern
If you’re quick you can still catch Red Star Over Russia: A Revolution in Visual Culture 1905 – 55 (until February 18) at Tate Modern, an exploration of artworks made by Russian and Soviet artists over five decades, from the first revolution of 1905 to the death of Stalin in 1953.
There’s also a comprehensive retrospective of 20th century painter and sculptor Modigliani (until April 23), featuring a selection of the Paris-based artist’s emotional portraits and lesser-known sculptures. Also on show are a group of his controversial nudes, which drove the police to censor his only ever solo show, and a VR experience of the artist’s studio in Paris.
In March it’s the turn of American Video and Performance artist Joan Jonas (March 14 – August 5). The largest exhibition of Jonas’ work in the UK, the show is a chance to see some of her landmark pieces – including Organic Honey, The Juniper Tree and Reanimation.
Alongside, there’s Tate Modern’s first ever solo exhibition of work by one of history’s most famous artists, Pablo Picasso. The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy (March 8 – September 9) focuses in on the year 1932 – known as Picasso’s ‘year of wonders’ – revealing month by month the incredible quality and quantity of work he produced. Among these pivotal works are some of his best loved and most iconic.
The age of ocean travel at the V&A
At the V&A, the world’s largest museum of art and design, Opera: Passion, Power and Politics (until February 25) is an opulent and an immersive feast for the eyes taking visitors back to seven opera premières in seven different cultural and historical settings – a journey through almost 400 years from opera’s origins to today.
The master of couture fashion is celebrated in Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion (until February 18), with a display of more than 100 pieces of high fashion garments and accessories created by the Spanish fashion designer and those he has inspired.
Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic (until April 8 2018) draws on the V&A’s own archive of pencil sketches, proofs, letters and photographs and many key loans to reveal the story behind the creative partnership of A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard and the factors contributing to the success and enduring popularity of the little honey-loving bear.
Ocean Liners: Speed & Style (until June 17) reveals the opulence of the age of ocean travel, exploring the design of the world’s largest and most iconic ocean liners, including the Titanic, Normandie and the Queen Mary. Models, advertising posters and furnishings are on show together with some of the guests’ fine clothing, accessories and luggage.
Ayurvedic Man at the Wellcome Collection
At the Wellcome Collection, Ayurvedic Man: Encounters with Indian Medicine (until April 8) draws on the institution’s wealth of historical medical objects from around the world, to examine the evolution and the modern application of Indian Medicine. On top of the Wellcome’s historical artefacts, the exhibition also includes a newly-commissioned drawing of the Bombay plague by artist Ranjit Kandalgaonkar and a film by Nilanjan Bhattacharya exploring contemporary practitioners of Indian Medicine.
In Somewhere In Between (March 8 – August 27), four contemporary artists have collaborated with scientists to discuss themes affecting our everyday lives and health and the blurred area between ‘art’ and ‘science’.
A visual journey at the Whitechapel Gallery
In East London at the Whitechapel Gallery there’s still time to see Thomas Ruff: Photographs 1979 – 2017 (September 27 2017 – January 21 2018), a major retrospective of the German photographer, which draws on nearly 40 years of work and features Ruff’s photographic series, and his diverse themes including utopianism, suburbia, advertising culture, pornography and surveillance.
A new commission by Portuguese artist Leonor Antunes, the frisson of the togetherness (until April 9) which references overlooked 20th century designers. Antunes’ installation takes the viewer on a journey around the space, guided by hanging rope, metal and leather sculptures illuminated by lights designed by the artist.
What are you looking forward to seeing in 2018? Let us know in the comments below…