The best art exhibitions in London in 2019 6

What better way to spend a crisp autumn day than revelling in inspiring art in beautiful locations? Here’s our guide to the best exhibitions in London for the rest of 2019. Updated September.

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


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

At the Barbican artist and geographer Trevor Paglin comes to The Curve with a new body of work focusing on the significance of the moment we live in. Trevor Paglin: From ‘Apple’ to ‘Anomaly’ (September 26 – February 16 2020) 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.

poster showing illustration of black cat sitting on red surface with handwritten black script

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, ‘Réouverture du Cabaret du Chat Noir (Reopening of the Chat Noir Cabaret)’, 1896. Lithograph. Credit: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.


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

In the grounds of the famous psychiatric hospital, Bethlem Museum of the Mind has Impatient! Stories of Service User Advocacy (until January 4 2020), which explores the material culture of the advocacy groups that represent and support mental health services. The exhibition charts their development and impact, reflecting the broad variety of groups: from grassroots to national, informal to established, conservative to radical.


British Library

The Life of Buddha

The Life of Buddha © British Library Board

Opening at the British Library this 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.

Marvellous and Mischievous: Literature’s Young Rebels (November 8 – March 1 2020) celebrates the headstrong characters in some of our most beloved children’s books who break the rules and defy conventions to make the world a better place. Rediscover your favourite characters from Pippi Longstocking, Matilda, Where the Wild Things Are, The Secret Garden and more and rekindle your youthful optimism and defiance.


British Museum

Troy amphora

Rounding off the year at the British Museum is 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.

Inspired by the east: How the Islamic world influenced western art (October 10 – January 26 2020) charts the long history of the relationship between East and West, exploring the interactions between art and culture. Featuring a diverse selection of ceramics, glass, jewellery, clothing and art the exhibition takes a close look at the Orientalism movement, which reached its peak in the mid-19th century.


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

Camden Arts Centre

At Camden Arts Centre Christodoulos Panayiotou: Act II: The Island (September 26 – January 5 2020) is the first major UK exhibition of work by Cypriot artist Christodoulos Panayiotou. Informed by his interest in archaeology and anthropology, the exhibition addresses themes of politics, nationhood, religion, imperialism and oppression through a collection of the artist’s highly charged works, including a series of large-scale paintings produced from thousands of demonetised pulped Euro banknotes.


Chisenhale Gallery

Production image for Sidsel Meinech Hansen's 'Welcome to End-Used City'

Live Life Well ® (2019). Commissioned and produced by Chisenhale Gallery, London.

In the East End, Chisenhale Gallery has Welcome to End-Used City (September 20 – December 8), an exhibition of new and existing works by Sidsel Meineche Hansen, which explores the frameworks connect virtual and robotic bodies with human ones. Meineche Hansen’s video, photographic and sculptural works explores issues relating to labour, desire and value; at the centre of the exhibition is a new installation focusing on the growing monetisation of personal and behavioural data.


Design Museum

On Kensington High Street the Design Museum rounds off the year with Moving to Mars (October 16 – March 1 2020), 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.

Sound in Mind: Yuri Suzuki (until January 2020) sees sound artist, musician and designer Yuri Suzuki’s past works and new interactive pieces fill the museum’s atrium. The exhibition explores how we navigate and connect with the world through sound, and features everything from experimental product design to large-scale sound installations.

PriestmanGoode presents Get Onboard: Reduce. Reuse. Rethink (until January 2020) looks at the environmental impact of travel, critiquing the trails of waste we leave behind every time we travel. The display aims to raise awareness of the unsustainability of these habits which have an enormous impact on the environment, and challenges us to rethink our behaviours, infrastructure and products while on the go.


Dulwich Picture Gallery

In picturesque leafy Dulwich the Dulwich Picture Gallery has Unlocking Paintings: Artists in Amsterdam (until October 21), 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.


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

Estorick Collection

Archive photograph of Boccioni with sculpture

Umberto Boccioni posing next to Synthesis of Human Dynamism in his studio, May 1913.

At Islington’s Estorick CollectionUmberto 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

Zandra Rhodes in 1986

Zandra Rhodes photo for the poster for the S/S 1986 ‘Spanish Impressions’ collection. Photograph by Robyn Beeche.

Over at the Fashion and Textile Museum, 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 LondonBetween Oedipus and the Sphinx: Freud and Egypt (until October 27) 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.



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

To round off the year, Gasworks 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 pieces 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 renowned Venetian topographical painter and printmaker Canaletto, to the tower blocks of contemporary painter David Hepher.

Alongside, The London That Never Was (until December 8) celebrates architectural ideas from the fanciful to the absurd, in a display featuring some of the most intriguing plans, designs and proposals for infrastructure in London that were never made.


Hayward Gallery

At the Hayward Gallery, Thabiso Sekgala: Here is Elsewhere (until October 6) is a display of work by the late South African photographer Thabiso Sekgala, whose nuanced portraits of people and place offer alternative insights into life in Africa. Featuring 50 images captured between 2009 and 2014, the display highlights Sekgala’s fascination with home, and the factors which alter our relationship with it.

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.

Seeing out the 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

watercolour painting of woman and child on beach

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

In Pinner, at the Heath Robinson MuseumHeath Robinson Watercolours (until November 24) 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

At Forest Hill’s Horniman Museum Turn It Up: On Paradoxes (until June 2020) is a photographic display by Nigerian photographer Jide Odukoya whose documentary photography centres on lifestyle, social, health and gender issues in Nigeria and beyond. The display presents the buzz and splendour of traditional Nigerian weddings – presented as some of the most extravagant in the world.

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 – National Army Museum

House of Illustration

The House of Illustration has Marie Neurath: Picturing Science (until November 3), taking a look at the groundbreaking designs 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.

In the gallery dedicated to work of the House of Illustration’s founder – the beloved illustrator Quentin Blake – is an evolving display of the artist’s work from his London studio. Quentin Blake: From the Studio (until December 31) gives you the opportunity to cast your eyes on a wide variety of Blake’s work, from recent publications and forthcoming books to personal works and preparatory drawings.

Artwork of Fidel Castro

Fidel © Alfredo G. Rostgaard, OSPAAAAL

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 towards 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 bloated figure sitting on a large bag of money

Der Giftpilz (The poisonous mushroom) Germany 1938. This Nazi propaganda boo indoctrinated children about the Jewish threat. The text reads: “Money is the God of the Jew. He commits the greatest crimes to earn money.”

At the 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.


National Army Museum

a poster featuring a jaunty character walking through a red doorway

‘Get in Shape for Civvy Street Civil Resettlement Units’, 1945

At the National Army MuseumThe 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, 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.

Nearing 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.

Detail of Leonardo da Vinci painting

Virgin of the Rocks – raking light detail of the Virgin’s eye and cheek including a handprint in the priming layer © The National Gallery, London

The innovative Leonardo: Experience a Masterpiece (November 9 – January 12 2020) reveals the secrets of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece The Virgin of the Rocks, inviting you to look at the painting in a new way. Split into four distinct spaces: The mind of Leonardo, The studio, The light and shadow experiment and The imagined chapel, the exhibition takes you on a thorough journey through the painting’s conception and execution.

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, the 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.

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2019 exhibition (November 7 – February 16 2020) sees out the year. The leading international competition for exceptional contemporary portrait photography, each year the prize showcases the best work from photographers at every stage of their practice, capturing a vast range of characters, mood and locations.


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 Natural History Museum in time for the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, Museum of the Moon (until January 5 2020) is a six-metre model of our closest celestial neighbour, created by artist Luke Jerram and 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 Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition (October 18 – May 21 2020) opens for its 55th year, still proving that we can be delighted and surprised by the wonders of the natural world. An ever-increasing theme in the exhibition is the fragility of wildlife and the growing environmental challenges we face as a global community. This year’s exhibition is set to challenge as well as charm.


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 political and historical events affecting the region throughout the decades.

Shot in Soho

Clancy Gebler Davies, The Colony Room Club, 1999 – 2000 © Clancy Gebler Davies, Courtesy of the artist
Shot in Soho will be on display at The Photographers’ Gallery, London from the 18th October 2019.

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.

Feast for the Eyes – The Story of Food in Photography (October 18 – February 9 2020) casts light on the history and effect of food in photography, looking in particular at how food is represented in photographic practice and how it can represent issues including wealth, poverty, appetite, tradition, gender, race and revulsion. The exhibition features more than 140 works by some of photography’s leading figures, including Nobuyoshi Araki, Nan Goldin, Martin Parr and Man Ray.


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 Leonardo 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

At the Royal Academy of Arts there’s still time to see Félix Vallotton: Painter of Disquiet (until September 29) if you’re quick. It’s 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.

Another first major UK exhibition of a European painter comes to the gallery this summer, this time celebrating Finnish national icon Helene Schjerfbeck (until 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.

Anthony Gormley's Lost Horizon I

Antony Gormley, Lost Horizon I, 2008. Cast iron, each element 189 x 53 x 29 cm. Installation view, White Cube, Mason’s Yard, London, England. Courtesy of the Artist and PinchukArtCentre (Kiev, Ukraine) © the Artist. Photo: Stephen White, London

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

Artefact on show at Gaatchi Gallery's Tutankhamun exhibition

Gold Boy, on show at Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh. Credit: IMG

At the Saatchi GalleryTutankhamun: 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.


Science Gallery London – Serpentine Galleries – Sir John Soane’s Museum – Somerset House

Science Gallery London

artwork by Ann Lislegaard

Bellona (After Samuel R Delany) © Ann Lislegaard, Bellona

Blurring the boundaries between science and art, Science Gallery London brings together science researchers and artists to produce surprising interactive exhibitions. ON EDGE: Living in an Age of Anxiety (September 19 – January 19 2020) looks at environmental and social factors that can induce worry and stress, exploring the way that people live with anxiety. Combining research from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, and the work of artists including Benjamin Drew, Ann Lislegaard and Resolve Collective, the exhibition aims to highlight positive and creative responses to this natural feeling that we all get at some stage in our lives


Serpentine Galleries

Artwork by Albert Oehlen

Albert Oehlen, Sohn von Hundescheisse, 1999, oil on canvas, 278 x 359cm, Private Collection, Photo: Archive Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin | Paris © Albert Oehlen

Located in the Royal Park of Kensington Gardens the  Serpentine Galleries present emerging and established artists from around the world. Opening at the Serpentine Gallery this autumn is a major exhibition of work by Albert Oehlen (October 2 – January 12 2020), one of the most innovative and significant artists working today. Oehlen’s expressionist and surrealist paintings demonstrate the intrinsic freedom in the medium of painting.

Just across the bridge at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery is Luchita Hurtado: I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn (until October 20), 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 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.

Opening a brand-new gallery space, Gallery 31, dedicated to providing a permanent space for work developed through residencies and the Studios, Bonds (until January 5 2020) is a season exploring the connection beyond the physical and the immediate. Featuring work by Laura Grace Ford, Anna Mikkola, Imran Perretta, Hannah Perry, Nick Ryan and Flora Yin-Wong, the exhibition looks at what happens when we share a space, physically and emotionally, playing with the qualities that certain acts of communication have.

Mary Sibande as a toy soldier

Mary Sibande, Living Memory, 2011. Copyright of the artist

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.

Artwork by Pierre Huyghe

Pierre Huyghe, Les Grands ensembles, 2001 © Pierre Huyghe

Somerset House’s major winter exhibition analyses our inability to truly switch off from our non-stop culture, and challenges the pressure we feel to constantly consume and produce information around the clock in a late capitalist world. 24/7 (October 31 – February 23 2020) tackles themes like the erosion of boundaries between night and day, the impact on our sleep and restlessness and the ever-shrinking line between work and play. The exhibition features interactive and immersive work from well-known artists, including Matt Collishaw, Rut Blees Luxemburg, Susan Hillier and Marcus Coates alongside pieces from artists and designers from Somerset House Studios.


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

Tate Britain

Artwork by William Blake

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

Tate Britain rounds off the year with an exhibition of visionary art by painter, printmaker and poet William Blake (until 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.

Alongside, 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.


Tate Modern

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

At Tate Modern Takis (until 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 both 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 (until 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 exhibition 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.



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

At the V&A there’s 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 WalkerStudio

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 an Extinction Rebellion display (until February 2020) brings together objects from the environmental movement which has children – and their futures – at its heart. On display are protest banners, flags and posters as well as photographs, which show how the activist group engages young families.

Playing with Buildings (until March 2020) sees seventy architecture students rethinking the museum space, re-imagining 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 (extended until October 27). 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

At Wellcome Collection Jo Spence and Oreet Ashery: Misbehaving Bodies (until January 26 2020) brings together the work of two artists who are inspired by the representation of chronic illness to challenge ideas of ‘untypical’ bodies and examine 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.

Photograph by Shirley Baker

Girls upside down by Shirley Baker. © 2019 Nan Levy for The Estate of Shirley Baker

Play Well (October 24 – March 8 2020) dives into the world of play, asking why it’s important that we play as children, and exploring how it develops our social, emotional and physical skills. Featuring video games, toys, comics and photographs of people at play across the world as well as a newly commissioned play space by artist Adam James, the exhibition examines what it means to play well.

Whitechapel Gallery

In East London the Whitechapel Gallery has Eileen Simpson and Ben White (Open Music Archive): Once Heard Before (until January 5) – a special commission by two artists who draw on the rich history of popular music to inspire their work. Working with a group of young musicians, Simpson and White explore the history of sample culture. Alongside, a film by the duo Everything I have Is Yours features musicians now in their 70s and 80s experiencing the music of their youth.

A photograph of a Fluxus performance

George Maciunas, In Memoriam to Adriano Olivetti, 1962. Performed by George Maciunas and other Fluxus artists at “The Fluxus Constellation”, Villa Croce, Genova 2002. Photo: F. Garghetti. Courtesy of Fondazione Bonotto. Copyright © Fabrizio Garghetti. All Rights Reserved

Sense Sound/Sound Sense: Fluxus Music, Scores & Records in the Luigi Bonotto Collection (until February 1 2020) recalls the Fluxus art movement in which artists and performers staged experimental happenings with everyday objects. Featuring works by John Cage, Philip Corner, Dick Higgins, Alison Knowles, George Maciunas, Claes Oldenburg and Yoko Ono this display highlights the relationship the Fluxus movement had with music.

photographic triptych by Anna Maria Maiolino

Entrevidas, da série Fotopoemação (Between Lives, from the series Photopoemaction) 1981/2010. Photo: Henri Virgil Stahl. Courtesy the artist, Private Collection, Monza and Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milano

Spanning six decades of work, Anna Maria Maiolino: Making Love Revolutionary (September 25 – January 12 2020) is a major retrospective of work by Italian artist Anna Maria Maiolino, whose sculptures and drawings explore themes of longing, fragility and resistance. This is the artist’s first retrospective in the UK and the deprivation and survival of her early years in authoritarian regimes is reflected in her politically-charged works.

“la Caixa” Collection of Contemporary Art: Selected by Tom McCarthy (September 19 – January 5 2020) is a display curated by British novelist Tom McCarthy from the la Caixa Contemporary Art Collection. The show is the third 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 Sophie Ristelhueber, Steve McQueen and Isa Genzken.


William Morris Gallery

a photo of an angular armchair with unusual back and arms

Marcel Breuer Armchair 1922 © Estate of Marcel Breuer / Victoria and Albert Museum, London

At the former home of the Arts and Crafts pioneer, the William Morris Gallery has Pioneers: William Morris and the Bauhaus (October 19 – January 26 2020). The exhibition examines the strong but unlikely correlation between Morris’s beautiful designs and the functional, iconic work of the Bauhaus school. The exhibition views the work of the Bauhaus using Morris’s key principles of unity, craft, simplicity and community.

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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