The best art exhibitions in London in 2019 2

Banish those winter blues by indulging in some of the dazzling exhibitions on display in London this year. Here’s our guide to the best exhibitions in London in 2019.

Barbican – Bethlem Museum of the Mind – British Library – British Museum – Camden Arts Centre


still from film showing woman peering through small hole in wall

Daria Martin, Tonight the World, 2018. anamorphic 16mm film transferred to HD. 13 minutes. © Daria Martin, courtesy Maureen Paley, London

Kicking off 2019 at the Barbican, Daria Martin: Tonight the World (January 31 – April 7) is an immersive installation at The Curve incorporating film and gaming technology. The artist draws on a collection of dream diaries kept by her grandmother – a Holocaust survivor – over a 35-year period to produce a complex and atmospheric portrait of migration, loss and resistance.

Following this, AI: More than Human (May 16 – August 26) takes over the whole centre in a highly interactive exhibition challenging you to explore the boundaries between man and machine that brings together a survey of developments in AI and new artist commissions which use artificial intelligence as both inspiration and medium.

abract artwork in red and pink

Lee Krasner, Icarus, 1964. Thomson Family Collection, New York City. © The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, courtesy Kasmin Gallery, New York. Photo: Diego Flores.

Lee Krasner: Living Colour (May 30 – September 1) reveals the work of Abstract Expressionist Lee Krasner, whose remarkable work has been all but overshadowed by that of her husband, Jackson Pollock. With almost 100 works on show, including highly-acclaimed pieces from the 1940s, this is the first major show of her work in Europe for more than 50 years.


Bethlem Museum of the Mind

In the grounds of the famous psychiatric hospital, Bethlem Museum of the Mind they examine the causes and cures for melancholia proposed in the 17th century best-selling book The Anatomy of Melancholy (January 16 – April 27). The exhibition delves into the hospital’s collection of art, finding echoes between the book and the artworks and features pieces by former patients including Richard Dadd and Jonathan Martin, as well as outsider artists and contemporary artists.


British Library

If you’re quick there’s still time to catch Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War (until February 19) at the British Library. This highly-anticipated exhibition brings together treasures from the British Library’s collection along with important British archaeological finds as well as the Domesday book and a Northumbrian Bible taken to Italy 1300 years ago. It charts the beginnings of the English language, boasting some of the earliest ever examples of English written text.

illustration of three cats stood on hind legs with linked front legs

Tabby Polka by P- Bucalossi, 1865 © The British Library Board

The delightful Cats on the Page (until March 17) celebrates the enigmatic feline, following the history of cats in books, manuscripts and art. The family-friendly exhibition explores how cats come to life on the page, with plenty of familiar and lesser-known examples from around the world.

The New Londoners (March 22 – July 7) presents photographs from Chris Steel-Perkins’ fascinating project to photograph families originating from every country in the world in their own London homes. With almost 200 countries recognised by the UN, Steel-Perkins’ ambitious project creates ‘a record of new London’ and celebrates the rich cultural tapestry that comprises the capital.


British Museum

Over at the British Museum I am Ashurbanipal: king of the world, king of Assyria (until February 24) tells the story of a once all-powerful Assyrian king whose death is shrouded in mystery and controversy. On show are over 200 extraordinary objects uncovered by archaeologists in the area, including cuneiform texts from the 7th century BC king’s own library.

print showing figure on bridge holding face and screaming. in the background there are boats on a lake and two figures walking along the bridge

The Scream 1895,Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Private Collection, Norway. Photo: Thomas Widerberg

Edvard Munch: love and angst (April 11 – July 21) is the largest UK show in 45 years to celebrate Norway’s innovative and enduring answer to Van Gogh. Charting the development of Munch’s style, the show looks at how he mastered the art of printmaking, and explores how his work was shaped by his strict upbringing. Focusing on pre-war Oslo, Berlin and Paris the exhibition also reveals his quest for personal and political independence, and his unconventional lifestyle.

Japanese cartoon strip showing cat reading a book

Komani Kanata (b.1958), Chi’sSweet Home (2004-2015) ©Konami Kanata / Kodansha Ltd.

Towards the end of spring, Manga (May 23 – August 26) explores the Japanese art of manga – the visual narrative art form where art and storytelling collide which has become a global phenomenon. The immersive exhibition showcases original manga from Japan and uncovers its influence across the world.

Camden Arts Centre

film still showing hands with purple glitter nail polish holding a tarot-style card reading 'is like a bubble'

Beatrice Gibson, I Hope I’m Loud When I’m Dead. Film Still, 2018. Copyright Beatrice Gibson. Courtesy the artist

At Camden Arts Centre Beatrice Gibson: Crone Music (January 18 – March 31), presents two new interconnected works by the British film artist. Produced in collaboration with two significant contemporary American poets, I Hope I’m Loud When I’m Dead explores the theme of ritual through footage shot in the US and Europe. Deux Soeurs Qui Ne Sont Pas Soeurs (Two Sisters who aren’t Sisters) is based on a screenplay by Gertrude Stein which was written in the 1920s as European fascism was growing – set in modern-day Paris, Gibson’s adaptation also highlights political and social unrest.


Chisenhale Gallery – Design Museum – Dulwich Picture Gallery – Estorick Collection

Chisenhale Gallery

In the East End, Chisenhale Gallery has Ghislaine Leung: Constitution (January 25 – March 24), a new exhibition by Swedish artist and writer Ghislaine Leung. The new commission combines sound, scale and temperature to address the ways in which we prioritise efficacy, productivity and visibility over maintenance, care and love.


Design Museum

photograph of modernist lamp sat on green chair in front of a selection of house plants

Michele De Lucchi, Sinerpica Angolosa, 1978. © Felix Speller for the Design Museum

On Kensington High Street the Design Museum looks at yesterday’s thoughts and designs for the home of the future in Home Futures (until March 24). By exploring today’s homelife through the context of yesterday’s imagination we can see which predictions rang true and where we have resisted change. The exhibition features more than 200 objects and uncovers social and technological aspirations and advances which have shaped our most important places.

Staying with the theme of home, Designers in Residence 2018: Dwelling (until March 24) is a showcase of work from contemporary designers responding to the notion of ‘Dwelling’. The top floor of the museum features work from designers across a variety of disciplines, working with ideas around social housing, craft, smart devices and concepts of time.

David Adjaye: Making Memory (February 2 – May 5) celebrates groundbreaking work by British-Ghanaian architect Sir David Adjaye OBE, whose monuments and memorials are used as storytelling devices. The exhibition focuses on seven of Adjaye’s landmark structures, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the UK National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre, and explores how he uses form to reveal the history and stories around human lives.

blacka nd white photograph of two men seen playing chess from behind. they are sat around a large round war-room table on a film set

Stanley Kubrick and George C. Scott playing chess in the War Room, in a break during filming of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, directed by Stanley Kubrick (1963-64; GB/United States). Production photo. © Sony/Columbia Pictures Industries Inc.

The museum’s blockbuster show in 2019 celebrates the cinematic giant that is Stanley Kubrick. Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition (April 26 – September 17) offers a unique insight into the 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining and A Clockwork Orange director, revealing props, costumes, models and more from Kubrick’s own vast archive. The exhibition pays particular attention to Kubrick’s relationship with London as both a filming location and source of inspiration.


Dulwich Picture Gallery

painting showing small illuminated fisherman's cottage at night through tall trees

Harald Sohlberg, Fisherman’s Cottage, 1906, Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Edward Byron Smith. CC0 Public Domain Designation.

In picturesque leafy Dulwich the Dulwich Picture Gallery reveals the work of lesser-known Norwegian Painter, Harald Sohlberg. Harald Sohlberg: Painting Norway (February 13 – June 2) features a selection of atmospheric and otherworldly landscapes to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the artist’s birth. The show uncovers the artist who, though a household name in his native Norway, never enjoyed the same acclaim in the rest of Europe.

Alongside, Breathing Yellow: And then the world changed colour (February 13 – June 2) is a new installation by artist Mariele Neudecker, commissioned for Dulwich Picture Gallery as part of the Sohlberg exhibition. The piece is one of Neudecker’s tank installations, which is inspired by the dense birch trees of Norway’s forests, and changes throughout the day based on the ambient light conditions.


Estorick Collection

photograph of sculpture of various shapes atop a platform held up by chains

Fausto Melotti Giardino pensile (Hanging Garden), 1970. ©Fondazione Fausto Melotti, Milan. Courtesy Fondazione Fausto Melotti and Hauser & Wirth

In Islington at the Estorick Collection – home of Italian art in London – Fausto Melotti: Counterpoint (January 16 – April 7) presents the delicately-balanced sculptural work of artist Fausto Melotti. The elegant abstract pieces appear to be carefully-calculated and hark back to Melotti’s training in mathematics and physics. Constructed from materials such as wire and cloth the pieces are often inspired by the mathematical principals of music.

For summer Who’s Afraid of Drawing? Works on Paper from the Ramo Collection (April 17 – June 23) draws on the vast archive of Milan’s Ramo Collection, which comprises nearly 600 works on paper by some of the most important 20th century artists in Italy. The exhibition emphasises the validity of drawing as an artform in itself, rather than solely a preparatory discipline.


Fashion and Textile Museum – Freud Museum – Gasworks – Guildhall Art Gallery

Fashion and Textile Museum

black and white photograph of smiling woman with outstretched arms standing outside a 1960s clothes shop

Mary Quant outside her shop Bazaar on the Kings Road, 1960s. Vintage Publicity Photograph, Courtesy of a Private Collection.

At the Fashion and Textile Museum, Swinging London: A Lifestyle Revolution / Terence Conran – Mary Quant (February 8 – June 2) tells the story of the revolution seen in the art and design world between 1952 and 1977. The exhibition focuses on two key figures in this movement, Mary Quant and Terence Conran, and features rare and early examples of their work as well as the avant-garde artists, architects, designers and photographers who worked alongside them.


Freud Museum

Salvador Dali's painting 'The Metamorphosis of Narcissus'

‘The Metamorphosis of Narcissus’ by Salvador Dali © Salvador Dali, Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation/DACS, London 2018

The Freud Museum London has Freud, Dalí and the Metamorphosis of Narcissus (until February 24) which explores the connection between history’s most famous psychoanalyst, and history’s most famous surrealist. Marking the 80th anniversary of when the two met – an occasion to which Dalí brought his recently completed painting The Metamorphosis of Narcissus – the exhibition focuses on Freud’s influence on Dalí, as well as examining his own attitude to painting.



Starting off the year at Gasworks, Libita Clayton: Quantum Ghost (January 24 – March 24) is a major new commission by British-Namibian sound and multi-media artist Libita Clayton – her first solo exhibition in the UK. Quantum Ghost comprises sound work, sculpture and prints and is the outcome of a deeply personal process researching sites of historical unrest and questioning power structures.

From spring, New York artist Pedro Neves Marques (April 11 – June 23) presents a solo exhibition of work tracing the history of colonialism while also exploring themes of science, technology and politics. For his first solo exhibition in the UK, Neves Marques exhibits a body of work responding to a genetically-modified mosquito factory against the backdrop of the Zika virus epidemic.


Guildhall Art Gallery

a painting of a woman showing a child to play a lute

The Music Lesson, Lord Frederic Leighton, 1877.

Guildhall Art Gallery’s Seen and Heard: Victorian Children in the Frame (until May) documents, through rarely-seen works from the gallery’s collection, the age when children stopped being seen as small adults and were given the opportunity to explore, learn and play. The exhibition offers a welcome escape into childhood innocence and wonder.


Hayward Gallery – Heath Robinson Museum – Horniman Museum – House of Illustration

Hayward Gallery

blacka nd white photograph of woman in large fur coat sat on a bus

Lady on a bus, N.Y.C. 1957 by Diane Arbus © The Estate of Diane Arbus, LLC.

A must for photography fans is diane arbus: in the beginning (February 13 – May 6) at the Hayward Gallery, which explores the first seven years of the portraitist’s career, mostly in New York City. Drawing both fierce criticism and resonant acclaim for her depictions of circus performers, eccentrics, transgender people and children, Arbus’s early works are some of her most intimate and surprising. The exhibition features more than 100 photographs from this seminal period, including many never exhibited before in the UK.

Alongside, the first UK survey exhibition of artist Kader Attia brings together playful and thought-provoking work from the past 20 years. Kader Attia: The Museum of Emotion (February 13 – May 6) features the Attia’s work exploring Western colonialism and how it shapes our views on other world cultures.


Heath Robinson Museum

In Pinner, at the Heath Robinson Museum, Heath Robinson’s Home Life (until February 17) reveals work from a period in Heath Robinson’s life when his work was centred around domestic life. Featuring original pieces from his popular book How to Live in a Flat, and photographs of Heath Robinson’s house at the Ideal Home Exhibition, which is said to have inspired the Wallace and Gromit film The Wrong Trousers.

illustration depicting floating figure embracing a head, with water and flower design below

Aubrey Beardsley, ‘The Climax’ from Salome (1894)

Following this, The Beardsley Generation (March 2 – May 19) focuses on the early days of process engraving and explores the impact this new photographic method had on the art world. The exhibition highlights a new generation of artists which included Aubrey Beardsley, Charles Ricketts and the Robinson brothers, and looks at how they rejected the dull realism captured by artists before them in search for a emotional intensity.


Horniman Museum

At Forest Hill’s wonderful Horniman Museum EVOLUTION of The Artist and The Exhibited Works (until March 17) presents a body of work by artist Shauna Richardson, who uses the medium of crochet to replicate taxidermy trophy heads of animals, including a bear, lioness and wild boar. The exhibition also includes family trees, graphs and diagrams.

a photo of a white algae against a blue background

Vol. 1, part. 1, Plate 55. Dictyota dichotoma, in the young state and in fruit. Image courtesy of the Horniman Museum and Gardens

The Lore of the Land (until April 28) is an immersive exhibition developed by Serena Korda in the museum’s brand-new arts space, examining the human relationship with the natural world. The multi-sensory installation includes ceramic artworks which diffuse scents inspired by the museum’s garden, a site-specific soundscape and 100 objects from the anthropology collection. Not to be missed are the over 150-year-old cyanotypes of British algae produced by Anna Atkins, the first recognised female photographer.


House of Illustration

The House of Illustration has Journeys Drawn: Illustration from the Refugee Crisis (until March 24), which features multi-media work by 12 contemporary illustrators, telling the stories of refugees from both observation and first-hand experience.

typographical artwork in red white and blue with variations on the words 'American', 'assassination', 'vietnam', 'violence' and 'why not'

Corita Kent, american sampler, 1969. With permission of Corita Art Center, photograph by Arthur Evans

Corita Kent: Power Up (February 8 – May 12) is the biggest ever show in the UK of work by British pop artist, social activist and nun Corita Kent. The exhibition features Kent’s bold, controversial and typographical prints which combine public protest with spiritual reflection.

The final exhibition by the gallery’s Illustrator in Residence YiMiao Shih (March 29 – July 14) opens in the spring. YiMiao Shih has spent 6 months gathering opinions on Brexit and for her final show she will be satirising the public’s reaction to the current political landscape through illustrative embroidery woven into a contemporary ‘epic’.

comic strip showing two girls walking, on the bus and talking to boys

Posy Simmonds – Tamara Drewe

Later in the year, Posy Simmonds: A Retrospective (May 24 – September 15) is the first UK retrospective of work by the celebrated comic artist whose career spans 50 years. The creator of Tamara Drewe, which was made into a film adaptation in 2010, the first British graphic novel True Love and a cartoon strip featured in the Guardian, Simmonds’ exhibition features original and previously unseen pages while offering a sneak peek at her new 2018 book, Cassandra Darke.


IWM London – Jewish Museum London – London Transport Museum – National Army Museum

IWM London

In Lambeth, Imperial War Museum London is commemorating the centenary of the end of the First World War with a trio of remembrance exhibitions and installations. Renewal: Life after the First World War in Photographs draws from the IWM’s vast photographic collection to reveal the aftermath of WWI through more than 130 images. The photos uncover how the conflict shaped Europe and beyond, and how communities began to rebuild themselves after the devastation of war.

Alongside, I Was There: Room of Voices brings together recordings from the IWM’s sound archive in an immersive sound installation. The audio histories are reactions to the Armistice by soldiers, civilians and children who lived through the conflict.

Finally, Moments of Silence (all until March 31) uses animation, sound, projection and space to explore the history and future of remembrance rituals. The installation comprises twelve atmospheric two minute ‘silences’ mostly collected from around the UK.


Jewish Museum London

black and white photograph of a group of schoolchildren

[Jewish schoolchildren, Mukacevo], ca. 1935-38. © Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography.

At the Jewish Museum London Roman Vishniac Rediscovered (until February 24) is the first UK retrospective of Russian-born American photographer Roman Vishniac. Vishniac is best known for producing the most comprehensive account of Jewish life in Europe during the inter-war period, and documenting the rise in Nazism and the persecution of German Jews. This major exhibition takes place over two venues – the Jewish Museum London and The Photographers’ Gallery – and features many of his most iconic works.


London Transport Museum

Over in Covent Garden the London Transport Museum has The Poster Prize for Illustration 2019: London Stories (opens February 8). The exhibition showcases the top 100 entries to the Poster Prize for Illustration which for 2019 has invited illustrators to capture a familiar or lesser-known narrative in a single image. These shortlisted artists have all captured an aspect of London – either historical or contemporary.


National Army Museum

Oil painting by Alfred Munnings: Halt on the March by a Stream at Nesle

Halt on the March by a Stream at Nesle by Alfred Munnings © Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, Canadian War Museum 19710261-0445

At the National Army MuseumAlfred Munnings: War Artist, 1918 (until March 3) explores work produced by the famous equine artist during his time with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during World War One. Brought together for the first time in over a century, the work, which helped secure Munnings’ admittance to the Royal Academy, highlights the important role horses played during wartime.


National Gallery – National Portrait Gallery – Natural History Museum – Parasol unit

National Gallery

oil painting showing stag with 12-pointed antlers stood in misty mountainous landscape

Edwin Landseer, The Monarch of the Glen, about 1851. © National Galleries of Scotland

Spurred on by the return to the National Gallery of an iconic work by celebrated animal painter Edwin Landseer, best known for creating Trafalgar Square’s famous bronze lions, Landseer’s The Monarch of the Glen (until February 3) puts the widely-admired painting of a resplendent stag in a dramatic mountainous landscape at the centre of an exhibition celebrating the artist’s Highland scenes.

Lorenzo Lotto Portraits (until February 10) explores the symbolism behind the work of one of the greatest portraitists of the Italian Renaissance, Lorenzo Lotto. The exhibition looks at Lotto’s portraits of men, women and children and decodes the symbols which added extra meaning and psychological depth to his work.

painting showing two young women kissing

Louis-Léopold Boilly, Two Young Women Kissing, about 1790-4. Oil on canvas, 45.5 × 37.5 cm. The Ramsbury Manor Foundation. Photo © courtesy the Trustees

Next up, Boilly: Scenes from Parisian Life (February 28 – May 19) brings to life the turbulent era of revolutionary Paris through the work of painter and draftsman Louis-Leopold Boilly. Living through the French Revolution, the rise and fall of Napoleon and the Restoration of the French Monarchy, Boilly’s viewpoint at the heart of a politically uncertain Paris led to some daring and wry paintings.

Joaquín Sorolla, After the Bath, the Pink Robe, 1916. Oil on canvas, 208 × 126.5 cm. Museo Sorolla, Madrid. © Museo Sorolla, Madrid

In Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light (March 18 – July 7) more than 60 paintings by the celebrated Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida come together to form the most complete exhibition of his work outside Spain. The exhibition is a rare opportunity to see Sorolla’s masterful control of light in his sumptuous seascapes, portraits and landscapes.

In Sea Star: Sean Scully at the National Gallery (April 13 – August 11) two-time Turner Prize nominee Sean Scully responds to JMW Turner’s atmospheric painting, The Evening Star. Scully’s distinctive abstract and highly textural oil paintings capture personal memories and experiences,  using the deep connection he feels to The Evening Star as a starting point.


National Portrait Gallery

Over at the National Portrait Gallery Gainsborough’s Family Album (February 3) charts the career of one of Britain’s most celebrated painters of the 18th century, through publicly and privately-owned work, some of which have never been on display in the UK before. The exhibition brings together for the first time all 12 surviving portraits of his daughters Mary and Margaret, and offers a rare glimpse into the artist’s private life.

Following this, Elizabethan Treasures: Miniatures by Hilliard and Oliver (February 21 – May 19) brings together a selection of key works by renowned miniaturists Nicholas Hilliard and Isaac Oliver, who gained international fame for their skilled miniature paintings in the 16th and 17th centuries. The exhibition features portraits of influential Tudor and Jacobean figures, including Elizabeth I, Charles I, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake.

Only Human: Photographs by Martin Parr (March 7 – May 27) brings together works by the renowned Magnum photographer famed for revealing the quirks and idiosyncrasies of everyday British life. For the exhibition, a selection of Parr’s best-known images with a focus on people are presented alongside new works exploring Britain’s current socio-political climate in the wake of the EU referendum.


Natural History Museum

photograph of two small wild cats fighting in a snowy forest scene

© Julius Kramer – Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Each year you can rely on the Natural History Museum‘s Wildlife Photographer of the Year (until June 30) exhibition to amaze and inspire. Now entering its 54th year, the annual photography prize is famous for its spectacular images of the wildlife we’re lucky to share this planet with, with each year’s entries growing more technically advanced, more surprising and more poignant.


Parasol unit

mixed media artwork showing flames, hair, heads, swords, a tiger and stuffed animals

Hyon Gyon, Flame, 2010. Acrylic and Japanese paper on panel. 225 x 360 cm (88 ½ x 141 ¾ in). Private Collection.

At Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art there’s a major solo show of work by Korean artist Hyon Gyon (January 23 – March 31). Hyon Gyon’s large scale explosive mixed media paintings incorporate traditional materials such as Korean textiles and Japanese papers as well as less conventional media. Inspired by Korean shamanism, the pieces explore themes of identity, grief, anger and sexual politics.


The Photographers’ Gallery – Queen’s Gallery – Royal Academy of Arts – Serpentine Galleries

The Photographers’ Gallery

Presented in collaboration with the Jewish Museum London the dual-site major retrospective of Russian-born American photographer Roman Vishniac is also on show at The Photographers’ Gallery in Roman Vishniac Rediscovered (until February 24).

photograph of smartphone attached to fan-like machine with stylus attached

Stephanie Kneissl & Maximilian Lackner, Stop The Algorithm, 2017. Courtesy the artists. All I Know Is What’s On The Internet is on display at The Photographers’ Gallery from 26 October 2018.

Alongside, the provocatively-titled All I Know Is What’s On The Internet (until February 24) is a group show which analyses cultural value and digital labour, and looks at the impact that social media, algorithms, bots and mass media have on the photographer today.

Arno Schidlowski: Inner Skies (until March 3) presents two bodies of work by the contemporary  German photographer that are influenced by Romantic art and literature and examine the use of nature to convey an internal state of mind.

The gallery’s annual photography competition, the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2019 (March 8 – June 2) returns for another year and this time the four shortlisted artists are Laia Abril, Susan Meiselas, Arwed Messmer and Mark Ruwedel. Through their varied practice the photographers have explored themes around women’s rights, ethnic and religious conflict, human rights, extreme politics and environment.


Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace

At the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace a duo of exhibitions focus on Russia. Russia: Royalty & The Romanovs explores the relationship between the British and Russian royal families through rich and varied paintings, sculptures and photographs, while Russia: Roger Fenton’s Photographs of the Crimea, 1855 (both until April 28) presents the pioneering images captured by Roger Fenton, one of the very first war photographers, during the Crimean War.

drawing showing star of bethlehem flower and various smaller studies of other flowers

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow. Leonardo da Vinci, A star-of-Bethlehem and other plants, c.1506-12, red chalk, pen and ink. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018

Later in the year, to mark the 500th anniversary of his death, Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing (May 24 – October 13) brings together a collection of over 200 drawings by the Renaissance master. The largest da Vinci exhibition for 60 years, it’s a rare opportunity to delve into the mind of one of history’s most important figures.


Royal Academy of Arts

Marking the centenary of both artists’ deaths, Klimt/Schiele: Drawings from the Albertina Museum, Vienna (until February 3), on show at the Royal Academy of Arts, comprises around 100 works on paper by the artists who took Vienna by storm. A rare opportunity to see the fragile drawings that are considered to be some of the 20th century’s most important works on paper, the exhibition includes portraits, landscapes and erotic nudes from the early Modernist era – some of which are so delicate they will not go on display again for many years.

still from film showing cloaked figure in silhouette in front of wall of fire

Bill Viola, Fire Woman, 2005. Video/sound installation. Performer: Robin Bonaccorsi. Courtesy Bill Viola Studio. Photo: Kira Perov

Combining work by two masters of their disciplines Bill Viola / Michelangelo: Life Death Rebirth (January 26 – March 31) presents Michelangelo’s exquisite drawings alongside vast, immersive installations by video artist Bill Viola. The exhibition looks at how the two artists, through born centuries apart, both excel in using the human body to express emotion and spiritual states.

In spring a dazzling selection of works by Titian, Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo and other masters of the Renaissance era goes on show in The Renaissance Nude (March 3 – June 2). Focusing on the 15th and 16th centuries as a pivotal time in Western art, the show looks at the resurgence of the nude in art, inspired by a renewed interest in Greek and Roman art.

photograph of large indoor sculpture formed of many varying pieces of reclaimed wood

Phyllida Barlow, demo. Installation view, Kunsthalle Zürich, 2017. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. © Phyllida Barlow. Photo: Annik Wetter

The academy’s new Gabriel Jungels-Winkler Galleries host a brand new site-specific installation for Phyllida Barlow RA: cul-de-sac (February 23 – June 23). Barlow’s seemingly finely-balanced large-scale sculptural installations completely transform the spaces they inhabit. Constructed from raw and reclaimed materials, the anti-monumental pieces test our perception of otherwise familiar spaces.


Serpentine Galleries

At the Serpentine Gallery is an exhibition of work by a leading contemporary conceptual artist  – Pierre Huyghe: UUmwelt (until February 10). Huyghe’s immersive installation presents digital images which all started in the mind of a human. During the course of the exhibition they will undertake a constant course of reconstruction, affected by the external factors of the exhibition – light, humidity and insects. The central gallery incubates thousands of flies while the sanded remains of previous exhibitions’ wall paint litters the gallery floors. Huyghe’s site-specific situations often culminate in the creation of ‘co-evolving systems’, which explore dynamic themes such as time and memory.

Kicking off the new year at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, Grace Wales Bonner (January 19 – February 16) takes over the space for a month to explore mysticism, ritual and magical resonances within black culture. A collection of installations, shrines and happenings create a reflective environment encouraging contemplation.

video still showing woman holding her face, the background of geometric shapes can be seen through her cheeks and forehead

Hito Steyerl, How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File, 2013 (still), HD video, 15 minutes 52 seconds, colour, sound. Image CC 4.0 Hito Steyerl, courtesy of the Artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York

Next up at the Sackler is Hito Steyerl: Power Plants (March 6 – May 6), an immersive installation by German artist Hito Steyerl. Following extensive research of the areas surrounding the gallery – recorded as one of the most socially uneven areas in Europe – Steyerl has produced an augmented reality app, which shows the gallery shaped and influenced by social inequality.

intricate geometric drawing in orange, green and black

Emma Kunz, Work No. 004, Photo: © Emma Kunz Zentrum

Back over at the Serpentine Gallery the aesthetically pleasing abstract geometric drawings by Swiss healer Emma Kunz (March 23 – May 19) go on display. Kunz used a pendulum to channel these complex geometric drawings for her patients, which she believed could help heal. An outsider artist, her work was not exhibited until a decade after her death.


Sir John Soane’s Museum – Somerset House – Strawberry Hill House – Tate Britain

Sir John Soane’s Museum

At Sir John Soane’s Museum Code Builder: A Robotic Choreography by Mamou-Mani (until February 3) explores the future of building construction with a prototype cable construction robot, named Polibot, installed in the gallery. Using the idea of sports stadium spider cams, the Polibot has been programmed to construct and deconstruct Sir John Soane’s own designs for the Bank of England dome in the gallery.

architectural sketch of large vestibule of building with circular skylight revealing church spire

Eric Parry, Preliminary sketch of the lightwell and interlocking circular form, St Martin’s in the Fields, London, 2002–08

Eric Parry: Drawing (February 20 – May 27) is a major exhibition examining the role of drawing in architectural design, study and understanding. Presenting work made by contemporary architect Eric Parry over the past four decades, the show analyses his sketchbooks, designs and construction drawings while contextualising them with Soane’s own relationship to drawing and architecture.


Somerset House

drawing of black and white dog wearing scarf and flying helmet and goggles atop a red doghouse

Red Baron© Peanuts

At Somerset House an ever-popular cartoon is celebrated in Good Grief, Charlie Brown! (until March 3). The exhibition features work by artists who have been inspired by Charles M. Schulz’ beloved cartoon Peanuts, alongside original strips rarely seen in the UK.

black and white photogoraph of paper mache hand in room, a woman's face pokes out from the index finger

Joyce Ng, In Her Five Elements, 2018© Joyce Ng/Somerset House

The work of two contemporary fashion photographers is showcased in Hanna Moon & Joyce Ng: English as a Second Language (January 25 – April 28). Hanna Moon reimagines Somerset House’s distinct neoclassical setting through her two muses; one from London, where she lives, and one from South Korea, where she was born. Joyce Ng has used models cast from Somerset House’s own community and invited them to become characters in a narrative inspired by 16th century Chinese novel Journey to the West.


Strawberry Hill House

Out at Twickenham at the imposing gothic-revival Strawberry Hill House, Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill: Masterpieces from Horace Walpole’s Collection (until February 24) is a once in a lifetime exhibition, reuniting some of the most important pieces from art historian, politician and antiquarian Horace Walpole’s enviable collection. Having purchased the house in 1747, and transforming it into the castle-esque tourist attraction we know today, Walpole amassed one of the most significant collections of art, furniture and curiosities of the 18th century.


Tate Britain

painting of two figures peering into a font in an orchard, a face peers through from a bush and all three faces are reflected in the font's water

Edward Burne-Jones, The Baleful Head, 1885. © Southampton City Art Gallery

At Tate Britain you can explore the sumptuous work of Pre-Raphaelite Edward Burne-Jones (until February 24) – a member of the movement which rejected the industrial world of the Victorians to make beautiful artworks inspired by medieval art, myths, legends and religion. The exhibition explores the painter, designer and embroiderer who worked closely with William Morris, and was a pioneer in the Arts and Crafts movement.

Part of the Art Now series which focuses on new work by emerging artists, Art Now: Jesse Darling: The Ballad of Saint Jerome (until February 24) presents the work of Jesse Darling, a multi-discipline artist working to explore identity through gender, sexuality, disability, love and companionship. Darling’s exhibition explores the legend of Saint Jerome and the Lion, a popular tale in the Renaissance period, populating the gallery with sculptures constructed from everyday objects, reflecting the themes of wounding and liberation found in the famous story.

photograph of corner of building - on the left are a group of police in riot gear, on the right is a man in a suit holding a plank of wood above his head

Don McCullin – Northern Ireland, The Bogside, Londonderry, 1971

A comprehensive retrospective of photographs by renowned British photographer Don McCullin (February 5 – May 6) goes on show from February. Featuring more than 250 photographs, all printed by McCullin himself in his own darkroom, the exhibition brings to light his legendary and harrowing war and reportage photography.

painting of sunflowers in yellow and cream vase on a yellow table in front of a cream wall

Vincent van Gogh (1853 –1890), Sunflowers, 1888. Oil paint on canvas, 921 x 730 mm. © The National Gallery, London/ Bought, Courtauld Fund, 1924

With the largest collection of paintings by one of history’s most famous painters on show in the UK for nearly a decade, The EY Exhibition: Van Gogh and Britain (March 27 – August 11) is a must-see exhibition. Revealing how Van Gogh was inspired by Britain and how he, in turn, inspired British artists, the exhibition recounts the years that Van Gogh spent in England as a young man. Key works on show include Shoes, Starry Night on the Rhône and Sunflowers.

Heading into summer, there’s a major exhibition covering the entire career of painter Frank Bowling (May 31 – August 26). The show follows Bowling’s career from the 60s to today, and explores how he has developed his abstract and sculptural style over the decades, influencing generations of painters.


Tate Modern – Two Temple Place – V&A – V&A Museum of Childhood

Tate Modern

colourful expressionist painting of nude woman lying in a bath

Pierre Bonnard (1867 –1947), Nude in the Bath (Nu dans le bain), 1936-8. Oil paint on canvas, 930 x 1470 mm. Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris/Roger-Viollet

At Tate Modern The C C Land Exhibition: Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory (January 23 – May 6) is the first major exhibition of Bonnard’s work in the UK for 20 years. The exhibition brings together a selection of pieces from 1912, when he began to develop his unique sense of colour, until his death in 1947. A contemporary of Henri Matisse, Bonnard worked from memory, capturing intimate moments and landscapes in an imaginative and expressive way.

Opening in February, the gallery has a major retrospective of work by playful sculptural artist Franz West (February 20 – June 2) who subverted the art world with his irreverent but philosophical artworks. The exhibition includes West’s absurd, ironic and abstract sculptures, and visitors will also be able to handle replicas of West’s Passstücke (Adaptives) – papier-mâché sculptures designed to be touched and moved.

surrealist painting in sepia tones showing family members at a table in various sizes

Dorothea Tanning (1910 –2012), Family Portrait, 1954. Oil paint on canvas 910 x 765 mm. Acquired in 1977. Centre Pompidou, Paris. Musée national d’art modern/Centre de création industrielle. Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/image Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI © DACS, 2018

Alongside is the first large-scale exhibition of work by surrealist artist Dorothea Tanning (February 27 – June 9) for 25 years. Tanning’s 7-decade career is revealed through one hundred works, including her enigmatic paintings, which depict ‘unknown but knowable states’ and her pioneering fabric sculptures from the 1960s.

The year-long celebration of the uncanny and mysterious art of interwar Germany, Magic Realism: Art in Weimar Germany 1919-33 (until July 14) continues until the summer. The exhibition contains pieces not often seen on display from artists including Otto Dix, George Grosz, Albert Birkle and Jeanne Mammen, and explores their diverse practices as art shifted from the expressionist era towards cold veracity and unsettling imagery.

photograph of installation view of artwork displaying words along long tubes in led lights

Exhibition view: Artist Rooms: Jenny Holzer, Tate Modern,London, 2018. © 2018 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NYPhoto: Jack Hems

ARTIST ROOMS: Jenny Holzer (until July 31) presents work by the American artist Jenny Holzer, who uses the power of words to provoke strong responses – whether they’re carved in granite, illuminated in LEDs or stitched in wool. Holzer’s texts can be eye-catching, lyrical or contradictory, and address the informational overload we experience and interpret on a daily basis.


Two Temple Place

To commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of Victorian polymath John Ruskin, Two Temple Place has John Ruskin: The Power of Seeing (January 26 – April 22). The exhibition brings together almost 200 paintings, drawings, daguerreotypes, metal work and plaster casts to demonstrate the link between Ruskin’s radical views on society and attitude to aesthetic beauty.



screenshot of videogame showing yellow desert-like scene with mountain in distance and character in silhouette in foreground

Screenshot, Journey™ ©2012, 2014 Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC. Journey is a trademark of Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC. Developed by Thatgamecompany.

Not just for the avid gamers amongst us the V&A has Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt (until February 24) which uncovers the artistic and design process through a selection of contemporary videogames. The exhibition showcases original prototypes and early character designs since the mid-2000s alongside immersive, interactive installations.

photograph of model wearing draped lilac fabric, held around her by a kneeling man

Christian Dior with model Sylvie, circa 1948. Courtesy of Christian Dior

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams (February 2 – July 14) reveals the 72-year history of one of the most influential couturiers of the 20th century, Christian Dior. The exhibition explores Dior’s Anglophilic relationship with Britain, as well as revealing his enduring influence on fellow fashion designers.

photograph of woman in fashion studio selecting a large roll of striped fabric from a stack of fabric

Mary Quant selecting fabric, 1967. ©Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images

Opening in spring and keeping with the fashion theme, the museum has a celebration of the work of Mary Quant (April 6 – February 16 2020) whose miniskirts, patterned fabrics and peter pan collars were the epitome of sixties fashion. The exhibition features more than 200 garments and accessories from the designer who revolutionised the British high street.


V&A Museum of Childhood

At the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green Little Happenings: Photographs of Children by Dorothy Bohm (until March 17) presents the wonderful images captured by photographer Dorothy Bohm. Having acquired her first camera from her father while fleeing Nazi Germany Bohm went on to photograph the spontaneity and joy of life, and it is her images of children in particular which reflect her hope and strong belief in humanity.

cartoon-style painting of man with long moustache wearing skull and cross bones hat and holding treasure map

Framed painting of Captain Pugwash, painted by John Ryan, 1950, oil on board © John Ryan Estate

A Pirate’s Life for Me (until April 22) is an immersive exhibition focusing on the influence of fictional pirates in popular culture. The exhibition takes you on an imaginary journey from coastal inn to tropical island, revealing over 300 years of pirates in children’s popular culture, including 1950s favourite Captain Pugwash and Peter Pan’s nemesis, Captain Hook.


Wallace Collection – Wellcome Collection – Whitechapel Gallery – William Morris Gallery

Wallace Collection

black and white photograph of man in studio space standing behind a sculpture reminiscent of an armour helmet

Portrait of Henry Moore with Helmet Head No. 2 (LH281). Reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation.
Photo: John Hedgecoe, 1967

Opening in spring at the Wallace Collection, Henry Moore: The Helmet Heads (March 6 – June 23) reveals the eminent sculptor’s obsession with armour, something he would spend many hours admiring at the Wallace Collection. The exhibition presents Moore’s Helmet Head sculptures, which are shown together for the first time at the location where Moore would indulge in his fascination.


Wellcome Collection

black and white photograph of children playing on a raised walkway between brutalist concrete buildings

Tony Ray Jones, Pepys Estate, Deptford London: children playing on a raised walkway, 1970. Credit: Tony Ray-Jones / RIBA Collections

At Wellcome CollectionLiving with Buildings (until March 3) examines the relationship between architecture and health, revealing how the environments we live in can affect our wellbeing. The exhibition includes work from Ernő Goldfinger, whose brutalist architecture incensed Bond author Ian Fleming so much he named a villain after him, and Rachel Whiteread, who won the 1993 Turner prize for her since-demolished sculpture House, a cast made from the interior of a Victorian terraced house.

black and white photograph of man sitting in chair surrounded by floating hands

Photograph of William Marriot in Pearson’s Magazine. Image from the Harry Price Library of Magical Literature, Senate House Library, University of London

Moving into spring there’s Smoke and Mirrors (April 11 – September 15) which explores the relationship between magic and psychology, focusing on how bias and suggestion can alter our senses and asking why so many of us believe in magic, despite extensive logical debunking. The exhibition features artefacts from the world of magic, including spirit photography, magic props and psychology experiments.


Whitechapel Gallery

In East London at the Whitechapel Gallery there’s a new film commission by German artist Ulla von Brandenburg. The film recalls an installation at the gallery in 1973, which marked Britain’s entry to the European Common Market through an enticing display of confectionary from across the continent – the exhibition ended abruptly when the guard was overwhelmed by schoolchildren, who ate all of the displays. Ulla von Brandenburg: Sweet Feast (until March 31) recreates this event following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, exploring the hopes of young people at a time when Brexit may limit opportunities for future generations.

black and white photograph of art gallery displaying large paint-splattered canvasses

Jackson Pollock (1912 –1956). Installation view of Jackson Pollock exhibition, 1958. Installation view © Whitechapel Gallery

Staging Jackson Pollock (until March 24) looks back at a seminal exhibition held at the gallery – the first showing of Jackson Pollock’s masterpiece Summertime 9A in the UK. The exhibition reveals why the original show was so revolutionary, exploring the rumoured link between the CIA and the Abstract Expressionism movement which suggests that the intelligence service funded and promoted the movement as an opposition to Soviet communist ideology. Staging Jackson Pollock also looks at how the show prompted the gallery to become as modern as Pollock’s art – transforming into a white cube gallery the Whitechapel was able to explore the painting as environment for the first time.


William Morris Gallery

colour illustration showing Chinese workers of various occupations in front of a landscape view and surrounded by pink and orange flowers

Jiasheng Ding; Shanghai Theatre Academy (est. 1945),Characters from the revolutionary operas, 1974, Shanghai People’s Publishing House (est. 1951), (publisher), Lithograph © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

At the splendid Georgian William Morris Gallery in Waltham Forest Cultural Revolution brings to light a collection of Chinese propaganda posters from the 1960s and 70s. The exhibition reveals the traditional landscapes, images of leader Chairman Mao and intricate papercuts all dating from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution of 1966-76.

Alongside, Haiku Adventure – The Craft of Games (both February 23 – May 26) focuses on the link between traditional Japanese woodblock prints and modern day videogaming – two media seemingly worlds apart yet linked by a common sensibility. At its centre the exhibition looks at Small Island Games’ indie videogame Haiku Adventure, which marries these two not so disparate artforms, while also featuring original Japanese prints and interactive game displays.


What are you looking forward to seeing this year? Let us know in the comments below.

2 comments on “The best art exhibitions in London in 2019

  1. Mario Ricca on

    Fantastic post! This blog is a treasure. Thank you !
    I’ve been several times in London, I knopw many of these venues, but NOT Two Temple Place. I MUST see the house and Ruskin’s drawings.


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