The best art exhibitions in London in 2019 6

The longest day has been and gone; the sun is finally shining – find out the best exhibitions to see in London for summer and beyond with our handy guide. Updated June.

Barbican – Bethlem Museum of the Mind – British Library – British Museum


At the Barbican there’s still time to catch AI: More than Human (until August 26), which takes over the whole centre in a highly interactive exhibition challenging you to explore the boundaries between man and machine. The exhibition brings together a survey of developments in AI and new artist commissions which use artificial intelligence as both inspiration and medium.

Lee Krasner: Living Colour (until 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.

3. Trevor Paglen Four Clouds Scale Invariant Feature Transform; Maximally Stable Extremal Regions; Skimage Region Adjacency Graph; Watershed, 2017 (c) Trevor Paglen Crt. Artist Metro Pictures NY

Later in the year artist and geographer Trevor Paglin: From ‘Apple’ to ‘Anomaly’ (September 26 – February 16 2020) comes to The Curve with a new body of work focusing on the significance of the moment we live in. Paglin’s conceptual work spans image-making, sculpture, investigative journalism, writing and engineering and helps us to imagine alternative futures. In this piece Paglin works with a vast set of images, used to train AI software.

Into the Night: Cabaret & Clubs in Modern Art (October 4 – January 19 2020) is a colourful and lively celebration of some of the world’s most iconic cabarets, clubs and cafés, as depicted by pioneering modern artists of the 1880s to 1960s. The exhibition reveals the exciting history of the famous spaces which nurtured and encouraged avant-garde performers and artists to push the boundaries of artistic expression.


Bethlem Museum of the Mind

painting showing face of woman in abstract red, orange pink and blue shapes on a brown background

Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Portrait of Nena Stachurska, Merck Mescaline + C, 1929. Courtesy of the Teodor Białynicki-Birula collection, Museum of Middle Pomerania, Słupsk, Poland.

In the rounds of the famous psychiatric hospital, Bethlem Museum of the Mind opens the doors of perception with Brilliant Visions: Mescaline, Art Psychiatry (until August 31). The exhibition examines a group of Surrealist artists who, in the 1930s, painted under the influence of psychosis-inducing drug mescaline to aid the understanding of patients at the nearby Maudsley Hospital and their own psychoses. These Guttman-Maclay experiments were used as illustrations of psychopathic states and were used to identify and classify mental illnesses.


British Library

At the British Library, The New Londoners (until July 7) presents photographs from photographer 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.

Imaginary Cities (until July 14) is a new body of work by artist in residence Michael Takeo Magruder, who has created four technology-based art installations reminiscent of fantastical cityscapes, using a combination of contemporary digital technologies and traditional analogue processes. The resulting images, created algorithmically, highlight the position of the library as both an archive and a method for creative potential.

da Vinci notebook

Observations on the course of the River Arno. British Library, Arundel MS 263, f. 149r (c) British Library Board

Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion (until September 8) brings together selected pages from three of the Renaissance polymath’s incredible notebooks, the Codex Arundel, Codex Forster and Codex Leicester. The pages exemplify da Vinci’s talent for describing, depicting and understanding natural phenomena.

For the Autumn, a major exhibition explores the origins, philosophy and contemporary relevance of one of the world’s largest religions. Buddhism (October 25 – February 23 2020) uncovers the religion’s beginnings in India in the 6th century BC and explores how its knowledge and teachings have been shared over centuries, through brightly-coloured scrolls and manuscripts, unique cosmologies, temple banners, and bejewelled books from the library’s collection.


British Museum

Over at the British Museum, Manga (until August 26) explores the Japanese medium 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.

Reimagining Captain Cook (until August 4) commemorates 250 years since Captain James Cook left England on the first of three expeditions to the Pacific Ocean. Displaying contemporary artworks by Pacific artists alongside objects collected from the voyages, the display explores the debate around Cook’s legacy and the lasting impact of these expeditions on the islands Cook visited.

The World Exists To Be Put On A Postcard: artists’ postcards from 1960 to now (until August 4) is the first major museum display of artists’ postcards, a medium which was created to share simple greetings and musings, but was adopted by artists as a method for highlighting important social and political issues. The display contains examples from a recently-gifted collection of 300 postcards addressing a wide range of issues, from feminism to anti-war protest and the fight against aids.

illustration in brown ink on paper of young woman sleeping

Rembrandt van Rijn, 1606
– 1669. Young woman sleeping (Hendrickje Stoffels?), brush and brown wash, around 1654. © the Trustees of the British Museum

To mark the 350th anniversary of the artist’s death Rembrandt: thinking on paper (until August 4) brings together a selection of the Old Master’s works on paper, which were often made on his own initiative, unlike his paintings. The display includes 65 self-portraits, portraits, landscapes and biblical scenes, which highlight Rembrandt’s technical ingenuity and reveal a more personal side to his outstanding work.

Troy amphora

The BM round off the year with a phenomenal new exhibition, Troy: myth and reality (November 21 – March 8 2020). The show tells the dramatic and tragic legend of the great city of Troy through breathtaking art and archaeology – retelling the story of the Trojan Horse, the kidnap of the most beautiful woman in the world and the fall of the city.


Camden Arts Centre – Chisenhale Gallery – Design Museum – Dulwich Picture Gallery

Camden Arts Centre

Wong Ping, still from ‘Who’s the Daddy’, 2017, single channel video animation, 9 min. Image courtesy of Edouard Malingue Gallery and the artist.

At Camden Arts Centre Wong Ping: Heart Digger (July 5 – September 15) brings the artist’s absurd and darkly humorous narratives to London, to test our political and cultural anxieties. The innovative artist’s digital work uses technicolour animations to disguise a deeper social critique of some very human and universal fantasies.

Elizabeth Murray, Sandpaper Fate, 1992-93. Oil on canvas (three parts). 104 x 102 x 10 in. (264.2 x 259.1 x 25.4 cm). Collection of the Murray-Holman Family Trust, courtesy Pace Gallery, New York. © The Murray-Holman Family Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS 2019

Elizabeth Murray: Flying Bye (July 5 – September 15) is the first UK exhibition of the celebrated American painter, which highlights a dramatic decade of her work between the early 1980s and 1990s. During this period Murray dominated the New York art scene with her exciting three-dimensional paintings, including Wake Up and Sandpaper Fate, neither of which have been exhibited in the UK before.


Chisenhale Gallery

photograph of half-eaten sandwich on large pile of money, with oyster card to the side

Ima-Abasi Okon, Production image (2019). Commissioned and produced by Chisenhale Gallery. Courtesy the artist and artist’s brother.

In the East End, Chisenhale Gallery has the first solo exhibition of sculptor and sound and video artist Ima-Abasi Okon (until September 1), who produces works exploring the historical and political charge of materials. Okon repurposes objects to challenge the notion of subjectivity, productivity and excess.


Design Museum

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange,directed by Stanley Kubrick (1970-71; GB/United States).Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) in the Korova Milkbar.© Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

On Kensington High Street the Design Museum‘s blockbuster show in 2019 celebrates the cinematic giant that is Stanley Kubrick. Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition (until 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.

Following this, the museum’s annual celebration of the most influential, innovative and ingenious designs of the past 12 months kicks off again. Beazley Designs of the Year 2019 (opens September) presents the very best in fashion, architecture, transport and product and graphic design.

Rounding off the year, Mars (October 16 – March 1 2020) is an immersive exhibition exploring how we can arrive, survive and thrive on the red planet. The exhibition takes an in-depth look at how every detail in this endeavour has to be designed, presenting commissions and collaborations by contemporary designers responding to different potential scenarios.


Dulwich Picture Gallery

Cyril Power, The Merry-Go-Round, c.1930, © The Estate of Cyril Power. All Rights Reserved, [2019] / Bridgeman Images/ photo The Wolfsonian–Florida International University

In picturesque leafy Dulwich the Dulwich Picture Gallery has Cutting Edge: Modern British Printing (until September 8), which focuses on a group of interwar artists who played a leading role in the modern art world, all for excelling in the medium of printmaking and, especially, linocut. The exhibition looks at Claude Flight and his students, including Sybil Andrews, Cyril Power, Lill Tschudi, William Greengrass, Leonard Beaumont and Eileen Mayo and examines their bold use of colour and line which went on to define the medium of linocut.

When you enter the gallery you can’t help but spot the eight-meter long papercut crocodile suspended from the entrance hall. Cut entirely from one sheet of paper, Nahoko Kojima’s Sumi (until September 8) questions our relationship to nature while championing the power of paper as a creative medium.

Unlocking Paintings: Artists in Amsterdam (August 6 – October 21) is a display exploring the personal stories of artists in Amsterdam, asking why artists were drawn to the city which underwent a period of rapid growth in the 17th century.

Rembrandt van Rijn, A Woman bathing in a Stream (Hendrickje Stoffels?). © The National
Gallery, London. Holwell Carr Bequest, 1831.

Finishing off the year, Rembrandt’s Light (October 4 – February 2 2020) is part of the celebrations taking place throughout Europe to mark the 350th anniversary of the incomparable Dutch Master’s death. The show brings together a selection of important works from Rembrandt’s greatest years, 1639 – 1658. 35 paintings, drawings and etchings are on display arranged thematically in a dramatically-lit exhibition which aims to refresh the way we look at Rembrandt’s masterful artworks.


Emerge festival – Estorick Collection – Fashion and Textile Museum – Freud Museum – Gasworks

Emerge festival

This Autumn, brand-new festival Emerge (September 27 – 28) will see a huge creative takeover of the capital. Emerge will bring art installations, live music, DJs and immersive experiences to some of London’s most iconic spaces: from household names such as The Natural History Museum and The Barbican to quirky hidden gems like The Chocolate Museum.


Estorick Collection

Paolo Scheggi, Curved Intersurface, 1965, Intersuperficie curva. Red acrylic on three superimposed canvases, 100 x 100 x 6 cm. Franca and Cosima Scheggi Collection, Milan

In Islington at the Estorick Collection – home of Italian art in London – Paolo Scheggi: In Depth (July 3 – September 15) is a major exhibition presenting a comprehensive history of neo-avant garde artist Paolo Scheggi. A key figure in the Spatialism movement of the 1960s, Scheggi’s famous works formed layered punctured canvasses are on show alongside his lesser known work in the theatre and fashion worlds.

Boccioni: Recreating the Lost Sculptures (September 25 – December 22) uses ground-breaking 3D printing techniques coupled with extensive photographic research to recreate three of Futurist artist Umberto Boccioni’s avant-garde sculptures, which were amongst a number of plaster sculptures tragically destroyed in 1927. The display enables visitors to see these lost masterpieces for the first time in nearly a century.


Fashion and Textile Museum

photograph of piece of dark red fabric showing figure in white with arms and legs outstretched and four birds

Ocucaje Shirt with Figure, Paracas Culture. 200 BC – 300 AD. Courtesy of Paul Hughes Textiles.

Over at the Fashion and Textile Museum, Weavers of the Clouds: Textile Arts of Peru (until September 8) explores the clothing designs of Peru and takes a look at how designers around the world have been inspired and influenced by traditional Peruvian dress. The exhibition highlights both historic and contemporary Peruvian textiles and garments and, through photographs, illustrations and paintings dating from pre-Hispanic to present day, explores the history and future of Peruvian arts.

Following this, to mark 50 years of the museum founder’s own fashion label, Zandra Rhodes: Fifty Years of Fabulous (September 27 – January 26 2020) celebrates the acclaimed British designer who was the brains behind one of the most recognisable fashion labels in London. Launched in 1969, Zandra Rhodes’ Pop Art infused designs and bold take on structure is explored through 100 key looks and 50 original textiles.


Freud Museum

abstract artwork showing image of shell, sudoku puzzle, figurines and lightbulb

At the Freud Museum London, The Enigma of the Hour: 100 Years of Psychoanalytic Thought (until August 4) marks the centenary of The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, founded in 1920 by Ernest Jones and Sigmund Freud. The exhibition combines archival material from the inception of the journal, alongside work by 20th century and contemporary artists exploring the ideas and themes which are ever present in both psychoanalysis and art, including the unconscious, metaphor and dreams.

carved figure of Sphinx

Figure of Sphinx, Italian, late 5th to early 4th century BC © Freud Museum London

Between Oedipus and the Sphinx: Freud and Egypt (August 7 – October 13) brings to light the eminent psychoanalyst’s fascination with Egypt, as evidenced in both his writings and his collection of antiquities. The exhibition takes its name from the painting of Oedipus’ encounter with the Sphinx, which famously hung beside Freud’s couch, and compares Freud’s thoughts and collection with that of his contemporary, Flinders Petrie, the first Professor of Egyptology in the UK.



Patricia Domínguez, Eyes of Plants (film still), 2019. 4K video, color, audio, 24:54 min. Commissioned by Gasworks.

Over at Gasworks, is the first UK solo exhibition by Patricia Domínguez (July 4 – September 8), which includes a major new commission by the Chilean installation artist. In her show, Domínguez presents her ongoing work on ethnobotany and shamanistic processes in a multimedia installation combining sculpture and video, and tracing the colonial circulations of seeds and data in a hyperconnected society.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, Sekuru Koni, 2017. Acrylic and oil on canvas. Courtesy of the artist and Tyburn Gallery.

To round off the year, the gallery presents the first institutional solo exhibition by Kudzanai-Violet Hwami (September 19 – December 15), a London-based artist born in Zimbabwe and raised in South Africa.  In her vividly colourful paintings, Hwami uses her own experience of geographical displacement to address the representation of the black body, challenging the conditions of representation and raising questions about gender, sexuality, ancestry and spirituality.


Guildhall Art Gallery – Hayward Gallery – Heath Robinson Museum – Horniman Museum

Guildhall Art Gallery

Guildhall Art Gallery’s Architecture of London (until December 1) charts 400 years of London’s architecture through the work of more than 60 artists, bringing together work from the 17th century to today to examine the rich diversity of buildings in the capital. The exhibition includes work from a wide variety of artists: from the work of renowned Venetian topographical painter and printmaker Canaletto, to the tower blocks of contemporary painter David Hepher.


Hayward Gallery

photograph of man covered in pieces of gold leaf against a black background

LUCIANO CASTELLI, Goldene Schallplatte 4, 1974. 100 / 68 cm (Photo taken with selftimer). Digital-C-Print ( Digitale Lambda Belichtung auf Fuji-Cyistal-Archive-Paper) © luciano castelli. (Part of Hayward Gallery’s Kiss My Genders exhibition 12 June – 8 September)

In Kiss My Genders (until September 8) at the Hayward Gallery the work of 30 international artists is brought together for a group show challenging the binary notion of gender. Featuring works from the 60s to today, the exhibition includes paintings, immersive installations, sculpture, text, photography and film from artists who explore and engage with different identities across the spectrum of gender identity and expression.

painting showing black and white checkerboard design which grows narrower towards the right-hand side of centre, giving the effect that the design is curving

Bridget Riley, Movement in Squares, 1961. Synthetic emulsion on board, 123.2 x 121.2 cm. © Bridget Riley 2018. All rights reserved.

Taking us into the new year is a major retrospective dedicated to the work of Bridget Riley (October 23 – January 26 2020), the acclaimed British artist whose works are synonymous with the op art movement which gained traction in the 1960s. The exhibition takes a close look at Riley’s early works, focusing on the beginnings of her foray into perceptual paintings and tracing pivotal points in her career. Developed in close collaboration with the artist, the show also features preparatory material and recent works.


Heath Robinson Museum

In Pinner, at the Heath Robinson Museum, Tim Lewis: Automata (until September 1) presents the ingenious automata creations of artist Tim Lewis, whose large-scale mechanical marvels include a variety of machines which respond to their environment. The pieces on show include colourful stroboscopic spinning artworks, sinister mechanical rabbits and chairs walking with crutches.

watercolour painting of woman and child on beach

Mother & Child on a Beach, William Heath Robinson. Photo © William Heath Robinson Trust

Heath Robinson Watercolours (September 7 – November 24) follows, which examines a lesser-known, but by no means less talented, aspect of the artist’ repertoire. Despite being known for his wacky contraptions and comedic illustrations, Heath Robinson’s watercolours were accomplished and expressive studies of light, colour and movement. Here these paintings are exhibited for the first time, in their own dedicated exhibition.


Horniman Museum

Installed artwork as part of Claire Morgan's As I Live and Breathe

As I Live and Breathe, 2019. © Claire Morgan. Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne, Paris, St. Moritz. Photograph © Horniman Museum and Gardens

At Forest Hill’s Horniman Museum As I Live and Breathe (until May 4 2020) is an installation by artist Claire Morgan, which encourages us to question our relationship with nature, our over reliance on plastics and the impact that our waste has on wildlife and the environment. The pieces are on display in the atrium and the natural history gallery, and use pieces of plastic torn from shopping bags, and taxidermy animals to relay their important message.


House of Illustration – Jewish Museum London – London Transport Museum – National Army Museum

House of Illustration

The House of Illustration has the final exhibition by the gallery’s Illustrator in Residence YiMiao Shih (until July 14) to take them into the summer. 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

Posy Simmonds: A Retrospective (until 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.

Marie Neurath: Picturing Science (July 19 – November 3) takes a look at the groundbreaking design produced by Marie Neurath and her team, who developed the Isotype method of communicating ideas and statistics through pictures. Between 1944 and 1971 Neurath and her team produced more than 80 books for children, which explained the wonders of the scientific world through infographics and illustrated diagrams.

Artwork of Fidel Castro

Fidel © Alfredo G. Rostgaard, OSPAAAAL

In Autumn, Designed in Cuba: Cold War Graphics (September 27 – January 19 2020) brings together an unprecedented collection of Cuban propaganda posters and magazines from the Cold War era. The exhibition features provocative pieces by the likes of Alfredo Rostgaard, Helena Serrano and Emory Douglas whose designs for political persuasion championed Cuba’s revolutionary message.

Infographic showing freemen and slaves among black Americans

Proportion of Freemen and Slaves Among American Negroes © WEB Du Bois

The infographics produced by pioneering American sociologist and activist W.E.B. Du Bois go on display at the end of the year. W.E.B. Du Bois: Activism by Numbers (November 8 – March 1 2020) explores how his modern interpretations of statistics gathered from research on the achievement of African Americans in 1900 present the inequalities experienced by the black population, and communicated these findings to an international audience.


Jewish Museum London

a cartoon of a monekt like figure with a human head counting money

Le Baron James, France 1900. This poster was produce for the Musee des Horreurs, an antisemitic series of cartoons inspired by the Dreyfus Affair. James de Rothschild founded the French branch of the family bank and was a prominent member of French society. He appears here in monstrous from hoarding sacks of money.© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

At the Jewish Museum London, Jewish Museum London, Jews, Money, Myth (until October 17) is a major exhibition exploring the relationship between Jews and money over the period of 2000 years. The show examines ideas, myths and stereotypes by bringing together art, film, literature and cultural ephemera, including artworks by Rembrandt, Jeremy Deller and Doug Fishbone.


London Transport Museum

Over in Covent Garden the London Transport Museum has The Poster Prize for Illustration 2019: London Stories (until July 14). 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

a poster with a design showing food in a submarine periscope aperture

Wasted Food is Another Ship Lost. In March 1943, 169,800 tons of food and feeding stuffs were lost at sea due to enemy action.Abram Games, IWM PST 2865 © Imperial War Museum

At the National Army Museum, The art of persuasion: Wartime posters by Abram Games (until November 24) examines the life and work of Abram Games, an iconic British graphic designer born to Jewish émigré parents the day after the outbreak of World War One. Games served in the British Army in World War Two before being appointed as an official war poster artist, where he began to produce some of his iconic poster designs. The exhibition focuses on his work in recruiting new soldiers, and encouraging support for the war effort from civilians.


National Gallery – National Portrait Gallery – Natural History Museum

National Gallery

At the National Gallery, in Sea Star: Sean Scully at the National Gallery (until 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.

Bartolomé Bermejo: Master of the Spanish Renaissance (until September 29) brings two of the Renaissance painter’s dazzling masterpieces to the UK for the first time, displaying them alongside the gallery’s own Bermejo, Saint Michael’s Triumphs over the Devil which has recently undergone conservation work.

painting of Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin, Self-Portrait Dedicated to Carrière, 1888 or 1889. Oil on canvas, 46.5 × 38.6 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon (1985.64.20) Image courtesy of the Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

Towards the end of the year, The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Gauguin Portraits (October 7 – January 26 2020) is the first ever exhibition dedicated to Paul Gauguin’s portraits. The exhibition follows the artist in his later years, and examines the shift his work took from Impressionism to Symbolism. The exhibition features around 50 works, including paintings, works on paper and three-dimensional pieces, exploring how the revered artist expressed meaning in his portraits.

Photo of David Bomberg painting

Portrait photograph of David Bomberg painting. Unknown. c.1912-1914. © Presented by Juliet Lamont, November 2010 © Tate Archive

Finally for 2019, Young Bomberg and the Old Masters (November 27 – March 1 2020) examines audacious modernist artist David Bomberg’s works, alongside the old masters that inspired him. A selection of Bomberg’s rebellious pieces sit next to the paintings he most admired in the gallery, from Botticelli to Michelangelo.


National Portrait Gallery

Over at the National Portrait Gallery, a major new retrospective of work by Cindy Sherman (until September 15) goes on show in the summer, which brings together around 150 of the photographer and filmmaker’s works. The exhibition explores the development of Sherman’s output over the past four decades, and focuses on how she manipulates her own appearance as part of her artistic practice.

BP Portrait Award (until October 20) returns for another year to showcase outstanding contemporary portraiture. The annual prize exhibition is in its fortieth year at the NPG, and promises to represent the very best artists working in portraiture around the globe today.

Next up at the gallery is a show presenting the work of leading contemporary artist Elizabeth Peyton (October 3 – January 5 2020), focusing on her unique and distinctive portraiture work. The exhibition takes a detailed look at the development of her work over the past two decades through more than 40 pieces, which capture a diverse range of political, artistic and pop culture figures, including Kurt Cobain, Napoleon and Frida Kahlo.

Pre-Raphaelite Sisters (October 17 – January 26 2020) is the first major exhibition to uncover the untold story of the women of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, exploring the significant role played by women as artists, models and muses. The show features new discoveries and never-before seen works from the likes of Evelyn de Morgan, Effie Millais (nee Gray) and Elizabeth Siddal, as well as Joanna Wells (nee Boyce), whose work has been all but eradicated from the movement’s history.


Natural History Museum

photograph of large dark room with tall blacked out windows and large orb depicting the moon in the centre

Museum of the Moon at University of Bristol UK. Credit: Simon Galloway, SWNS

Making its way to the Museum in time for the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, Museum of the Moon (until September 8) at the Natural History Museum is a six-metre model of our closest celestial neighbour, based on meticulous NASA imagery of the lunar surface. The artwork brings ambient moonlight and an evolving soundscape to the museum space, and is accompanied by a programme of events, performances and interactive experiences.



The Photographers’ Gallery – Queen’s Gallery – Royal Academy of Arts – Saatchi Gallery

The Photographers’ Gallery

At The Photographers’ Gallery TPG New Talent (until October 6) is a group showcase of eight artists working across different fields of photographic practice, from experimental to documentary.

Urban Impulses: Latin American Photography From 1959 To 2016 (until October 6) features the work of more than 70 photographers and artists, spanning half a century of Latin American photography. The exhibition encompasses a diverse range of styles and approaches, from street photography to collage, and reflects pollical and historical events affecting the region throughout the decades.

Shot in Soho (October 18 – February 9 2020) celebrates the unorthodox and diverse culture of Soho, through a collection of photographs and ephemera. It’s a great opportunity to see work from the likes of William Klein, Anders Petersen and Corrine Day as well as other, lesser known, photographers and explore the fashion, music and communities which make Soho so unique.


Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace

A drawing by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci, A study of a woman’s hands, c.1490. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

At the Queen’s Gallery, to mark the 500th anniversary of his death, Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing (until 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.

George IV: Art & Spectacle (November 15 – May 3 2020) takes a look at the unrivalled art collection amassed by the magnificent monarch, who enriched his life with the finest art and artefacts. George IV purchased a huge range of paintings, textiles, metalwork, ceramics and furniture by the finest artists, including Sir Thomas Lawrence and Sir Joshua Reynolds.


Royal Academy of Arts

The Royal Academy of Arts’ Summer Exhibition (until August 12) has run without interruption since its inception in the mid-18th century. The world’s largest open-submission art show, the Summer Exhibition is this year coordinated by British painter Jock McFayden who has selected groundbreaking art from both established and new and emerging artists. Expect a collage-like display of prints, paintings, photographs, film, sculpture and more.

Félix Vallotton: Painter of Disquiet (June 30 – September 29) is the first comprehensive survey of the Swiss painter and printmaker held in the UK, featuring more than 80 of his works. The exhibition takes a look at Vallotton’s witty commentaries on domestic and political life, explores his life in Paris and his involvement with other members of Parisienne post-impressionist movement Les Nabis, including Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard, and examines his lasting influence on the art world.

A painting by Helen Schjerfbeck

Helene Schjerfbeck, Self-portrait, Black Background, 1915. Oil on canvas, 45.5 x 36 cm. Herman and Elisabeth Hallonblad Collection. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum; photo: Yehia Eweis

Another first major UK exhibition of a European painter comes to the gallery this summer, this time celebrating Finnish national icon Helene Schjerfbeck (July 20 – October 27). The exhibition presents more than 60 of Schjerfbeck’s ethereal portraits, landscapes and still lifes as it traces the evolution of her career. The show addresses the artist’s fascination with the aging process and brings her painterly vision into the well-deserved light.

Antony Gormley (September 21 – December 3) is a landmark exhibition of the sculptor’s work, bringing together early experimental pieces with large-scale environments made especially for the Royal Academy. The exhibition welcomes both physical and imaginative participation, and asks what it means to have a body when everything essentially consists of the same space and energy.

Self-portrait of Lucian Freud

Lucian Freud, Reflection (Self-portrait), 1985. Oil on canvas, 55.9 x 55.3 cm. Private collection, on loan to the Irish Museum of Modern Art. © The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images

Lucian Freud: The Self-Portraits (October 27 – January 26 2020) brings more than 50 paintings, prints and drawings spanning nearly 7 decades together, in a world first. Freud’s compelling self-portraits span the artist’s life – from his first in 1939 to his final one, completed 64 years later – and offer both a study of the process of ageing and a testament to his consistent style.

Eco-Visionaries (November 23 – February 23 2020) addresses the devastating impact that climate change, food shortage and resource depletion is having on our planet. The exhibition examines the effects of modern life, and asks how cutting-edge art and architecture can help us respond to this rapidly-changing world.


Saatchi Gallery

At the Saatchi Gallery, Sweet Harmony: Rave Today (July 12 – September 14) is an immersive exhibition celebrating the birth of dance music. The show looks at a special moment in recent British history and explores how rave has impacted youth culture today. Featured in the exhibition are multimedia installations and artworks by some of the movement’s most influential figures.

Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh (November 2 – May 3 2020) commemorates the centenary of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. With the largest collection of the Ancient Egyptian king’s treasures ever to travel outside of Egypt, the exhibition is sure to capture the imagination of visitors, who can discover the legend of the golden king through 150 original artefacts.


Serpentine Galleries – Sir John Soane’s Museum – Somerset House – Tate Britain

Serpentine Galleries

Painting by Faith Ringgold

Faith Ringgold, American People #15: Hide Little Children, 1966 Oil on canvas 66 x 121.9 cm Private collection, courtesy Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London © 2018 Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

At the Serpentine Gallery Faith Ringgold (until September 8) has her first exhibition in a European institution. Ringgold’s challenges the perceptions of African American identity and gender inequality, through her ground-breaking artworks; including paintings, story quilts and political posters.

Painting by Luchita Hurtado

Luchita Hurtado: I Live I Die I will Be Reborn (Installation view, 23 May – 20 October 2019, Serpentine Galleries) © 2019 Luchita Hurtado Photo: Hugo Glendinning

Over the bridge at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery is Luchita Hurtado: I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn (until October 20) is the first UK solo exhibition of Hurtado’s graphite and ink drawings, crayon and ink paintings and oil paintings. The exhibition spans the artist’s 80-year career which she has spent exploring unexpected perspectives of her surroundings, nature and language.


Sir John Soane’s Museum

Painting by Hogarth

The Rake’s Progress, Hogarth. Thomas Rakewell and Prostitutes in the Rose Tavern © Sir John Soane’s Museum

At Sir John Soane’s Museum Hogarth: Place and Progress (October 9 – January 5 2020), reunites all of Hogarth’s surviving painted series for the first time. The show exposes Hogarth’s wry narratives, which present the vice that the artist perceived across all classes of society. The exhibition features the museum’s own series A Rake’s Progress and An Election, as well as featuring loans from other collections.


Somerset House

At Somerset House Get Up, Stand Up Now (until September 15) celebrates black creativity in Britain and beyond, taking artists of the Windrush generation as a starting point and continuing to the work being created by groundbreaking black artists today. The multi-sensory exhibition explores black experience and influence from the post-war era to now.

Artwork by Seba Kurtis

Untitled 5 – Heartbeat, 2012 © Seba Kurtis, Courtesy of Christophe Guye Galerie

Alongside, Kaleidoscope: Immigration and Modern Britain (until September 8) is a new photography exhibition showcasing the work of ten photographers, all born or raised in Britain but many from families originating abroad. The exhibition features work by artists with Hong Kongese, Jamaican and Russian ancestry, and asks how it feels to be descended from immigrants in Britain today.

Water Life by Aida Muluneh (September 24 – October 20) tackles the ever-increasing issue of water scarcity        and ecological emergency, in a new series of works commissioned by WaterAid. The artist explores these and other issues facing us – such as gender and social justice – through 12 large-scale photographic works.

Mary Sibande: I Came Apart at the Seams (October 3 – January 5 2020) is a series of photographic and sculptural works by one of South Africa’s most prominent contemporary artists, Mary Sibande – her first solo exhibition in the UK. The exhibition takes you on a journey through the character Sophie, who transforms from a housemaid into myriad empowered characters.


Tate Britain

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 (until August 11) at Tate Britain 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.

There’s a major exhibition covering the entire career of painter Frank Bowling (until 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.

Painting by France-Lise McGurn

MOODY, 2018. Photo credit Max Slaven © France-Lise McGurn

France-Lise McGurn: Sleepless (June 29 – September 8) is a site-specific exhibition by Glasgow-based artist Frace-Lise McGurn. The exhibition explores the experience of city life through the artist’s paintings, which typically spill from the canvas onto the gallery walls, floors and ceiling.

Mark Leckey: O’ Magic Power of Bleakness (September 24 – January 5 2020) is an ambitious large-scale exhibition by the Turner Prize winning artist, and one of the most influential artists working today. Leckey’s exhibition comprises new and existing work, which sees the gallery transformed with a life-size replica of a bridge on the M53 motorway, as well as theatrical experiences, spectral visions and sound and video.

Artwork by William Blake

William Blake (1757-1827), Newton, 1795-c. 1805. Colour print, ink and watercolour on paper. 460 x 600 mm. Tate

The gallery rounds off the year with an exhibition of visionary art by painter, printmaker and poet William Blake (September 11 – February 2 2020). The show presents Blake’s radical and rebellious work in the way that he wanted it to be seen – at enormous scale. An immersive recreation of the room in which Blake showed his work in 1809 will be juxtaposed by digital projections of his work on the gallery wall, on the huge scale that Blake dreamed of.


Tate Modern – V&A – V&A Museum of Childhood

Tate Modern

At Tate Modern 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 for a little longer. 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.

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.

Colourful design with birds by Natalia Goncharova

Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962). Design with birds and flowers. Study for textile design for House of Myrbor, 1925-1928. Gouache and graphite on embossed paper, 745 x 670 mm. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. Bequeathed by A.K. Larionova-Tomilina, Paris 1989. © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019

Natalia Goncharova (until September 8) is the first ever UK retrospective of the prolific Russian avant-garde artist, who established herself as a serious player in the scene with a major exhibition in Moscow in 1913. Most of the works going on show have never been seen in Britain before.

Installation by Takis

Magnetic Fields (detail), 1969. Metal, magnets. 63.5 × 426.7 × 914.4 cm. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019

Takis (July 3 – October 27) is a major exhibition showcasing more than 70 works from the 70-year career of sound and energy artist Panayiotis Vassilakis, better known as Takis. Takis’s pioneering sculptures use magnets, electricity and viewer participation to generate sounds which are resonant and random.

Installation by Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson (b.1967), Beauty, 1993. Spotlight, water, nozzles, wood, hose, pump. Dimensions variable. Installation view at Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 2015. Photo: Anders Sune Berg. Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles. © 1993 Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson: In real life (July 11 – January 5 2020) brings the artist’s captivating installations to the gallery once again, to play with the way we perceive the world around us. Eliasson’s immersive, experiential artworks invite you to become aware of your senses in an unforgettable experience. Back in 2003 Eliasson’s The Weather Project brought more than 2 million people to the Turbine Hall to bask in terrific sunlight.

Installation by Nam June Paik

TV Garden 1974-1977 (2002). Single-channel video installation with live plants and color television monitors; color, sound. Courtesy Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf.

In autumn, a major retrospective of video pioneer Nam June Paik (October 17 – February 9 2020) comes to the gallery. The exhibition features a selection of work by the Korean American visionary, whose innovative, playful and entertaining career spanned five decades, and continues to have a major influence on art to this day.

Another major retrospective finishes off the year, with the UK’s largest retrospective of surrealist photographer Dora Maar (November 20 – March 15 2020). Maar’s experimental photographic techniques produced some of the most celebrated photomontages of the surrealist movement, and she worked with Pablo Picasso to create a series of experimental portraits.



At the V&A after selling out the entire run in just three weeks Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams (until September 1) has been extended until the start of autumn. The exhibition reveals the 72-year history of one of the most influential couturiers of the 20th century, Christian Dior and 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 (until 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.

Tim Walker fashion photograph

Duckie Thot, Aubrey’s shadow. Fashion: Saint Laurent. London, 2017. © Tim Walker Studio

Tim Walker: Wonderful Things (September 21 – March 8 2020) brings the wonderful world of a legendary fashion photographer to London in an extraordinary immersive exhibition. The show sees Walker’s pictures, films, sets and installations fill the V&A’s galleries, alongside ten new series of photographs, inspired by the institution’s marvellous collections

Cars: Accelerating the Modern World (November 23 – April 19) examines how cars have shaped the world we live in today, and explores the future as we embark on a new wave of automobile technology and design. The exhibition explores how the automobile industry revolutionised manufacturing and has forever changed our cities and our environment.


V&A Museum of Childhood

At the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green Playing with Buildings (until March 2020) sees seventy architecture students rethinking the museum space, reimagining how visitors can interact with the museum and designing new inventive environments for learning and for play. The ideas have been tested and interpreted by local school students who have created their own inventive responses.


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

Wallace Collection

Over at the Wallace Collection, a treat for footwear fans comes in the form of An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahník at the Wallace Collection (until September 1). Visitors to the collaboration between the gallery and the high fashion shoe brand will encounter a decadent display of shoes from a personally selected edit of Blahník’s private archives, alongside the Wallace’s inspiring collection of exceptional art.


Wellcome Collection

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

Image from the Harry Price Library of Magical Literature, Senate House Library, University of London

At Wellcome Collection there’s Smoke and Mirrors (until 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.

Bringing together the work of two artists who are inspired by the representation of chronic illness, Jo Spence and Oreet Ashery: Misbehaving Bodies (until January 26 2020) challenges ideas of ‘untypical’ bodies and examines how chronic illness can disrupt the way you think about the body, family and identity. Jo Spence’s highly influential and incredibly raw photographs of her journey following her breast cancer diagnosis are on display alongside contemporary artist Oreet Ashery’s series ‘Revisiting Genesis’, exploring death and dying in the digital age.


Whitechapel Gallery

In East London at the Whitechapel Gallery Myvillages: Setting the Table: Village Politics (until August 18) is an exhibition by artist collective Mywillages, exploring the idea that ‘rural’ doesn’t just refer to georgraphy, but can exist as a mindset, practice or shared identity. Using this notion, they reimagine the gallery as a mental and physical space to access the rural, and allow the voices, experiences and expectations to meet.

Iraqi-American conceptual artist Michael Rakowitz (until August 25) comes to the gallery with his first European survey show. Rakowitz takes his cue from historic buildings and artefacts, and uses these reference points to create environments responding to socio-political issues such as housing crises and the unrest in the Middle East.

Queer Spaces: London, 1980s – Today (until August 25) takes a look at the rarely-seen archives of LGBTQ+ venues and social networks from UCL’s Urban Laboratory – a centre for investigating and critiquing urgent urban issues. The exhibition is a celebration of queer culture, with material coming from multiple communities from the 80s to today, including the London Lesbian and Gay Centre and the Black Lesbian and Gay Centre of the 80s and 90s, and LGBTQ+ venues such as The Black Cap and The Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

”la Caixa” Collection of Contemporary Art Selected by Maria Fusco (until September 1) is a display curated by British experimental author Maria Fusco from the La Caixa Contemporary Art Collection. The show is the next instalment in a series of four displays drawn from Spain’s leading contemporary art collection and curated by acclaimed authors. This iteration includes works by Esther Ferrer, Christina Iglesias and Cindy Sherman, amongst others.

Helen Cammock: Che si può fare (until September 1) charts Max Mara Art Prize for Women winner Helen Cammock’s journey through Italy on a discovery of lament through jazz and baroque music. The display features a vinyl recording of her own voice, reviving the legacy of Baroque composers Barbara Strozzi and Francesca Caccini.


William Morris Gallery

At the splendid Georgian William Morris Gallery in Waltham Forest Haiku Adventure (until September 15) 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.

a black ink drawing crowded with shapes and faces

Madge Gill, Untitled. Black ink on card

Madge Gill: Myrninerest (until September 22) explores visionary and enigmatic artist Madge Gill, whose meticulous large-scale embroideries, textiles and drawings she attributed to her spirit-guide, Myrninerest. The exhibition takes place in the artist’s home town, and features many pieces never exhibited before.

6 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.

  2. Cas on

    This article is great, so useful and very in-depth!
    It would be even more amazing, however, if there were a way for me to download to PDF or print a copy off… is this possible? I would like to make notes against any events I’m interested in and then make a plan, plot a course. Thanks!

  3. Katie on

    I don’t know if it is just because I am looking at this on my computer, but it is a nightmare page to view. The pictures are huge. It was taking me so look to look through things, I got fed up and stopped. I am sure there is some good information, but when I picture takes up 3 views, and scrolls on my computers screen it’s madness.


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