The best art exhibitions to see in London in 2018 8

We’ve now published our 2020 round-up of London exhibitions. Click here to see the current guide.

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

Intimacy in art at the Barbican

At the Barbican there’s a site-specific installation by New Zealand sculptor Francis Upritchard. In Wetwang Slack (until January 6 2019) the artist draws from ceramics, tapestry and glassblowing, splitting the space into three distinct galleries which play with scale, pattern and colour.

Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-Garde (October 10 – January 27 2019) focuses in on the work of legendary couples in the worlds of art and literature, exploring how their intimate relationships, be them obsessive, fleeting or life-long, have helped nurture and inspire brilliant creations. The show includes work born from the partnerships of some of the 20th century’s most influential artistic couples, including Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson; Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West; and Lee Miller and Man Ray.

The everyday life of a British institution at Bethlem Museum of the Mind

Situated in the grounds of the infamous hospital, Bethlem Museum of the Mind has House of Bread: Inside Bethlem Hospital (until January 11). The exhibition presents work by artist-photographer Mark Neville documenting the everyday life in the hospital, exploring the complex nature of mental illness, treatment and recovery.


70 years since Windrush at the British Library

Over at the British Library, there’s a celebration of the 70 years since the HMT Empire Windrush travelled from Jamaica to the UK, bringing over 800 Caribbean migrants to London. Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land (until October 21) revisits this momentous event in 1948 and revealing the Caribbean voices behind the 1940s headlines. The exhibition features music, poetry, political writings and manuscripts by influential black British people, and explores how the Windrush Generation helped shape Britain today.


The search for dissent at the British Museum

At the British Museum, I object: Ian Hislop’s search for dissent (until January 20 2019) sees the satirist and broadcaster rummage through the BM’s collections to present a history in 100(ish) objects documenting the idea of dissent. The exhibition uncovers what the ‘other people’ had to say – giving a voice to the downtrodden, the forgotten and the protestors.

Later in the year, I am Ashurbanipal: king of the world, king of Assyria (November 8 – February 24 2019) tells the story of a once all-powerful Assyrian king whose death is shrouded in mystery and controversy. On show are over 200 extraordinary objects uncovered by archaeologists in the area, including cuneiform texts from the 7th century BC king’s own library.


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

Distinctive contemporary painting at Camden Arts Centre

Camden Arts Centre showcases he distinctive paintings of contemporary artist Amy Sillman – on show for the remainder of the year. Amy Sillman: Landmine (until January 6 2019) is the artist’s first institutional exhibition in the UK and brings together work from her 30-decade career as well as an ambitious body of new work.


Earwitness testimony at Chisenhale Gallery

At Chisenhale Gallery, Beirut-based artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan (until December 9 2018) has produced a body of work with survivors of the Syrian Regime prison of Saydnaya. Intentionally kept blindfolded and in the dark, prisoners developed a heightened sense of hearing, and Abu Hamdan has worked with the former prisoners to produce a series of works sharing and interpreting their experience.


Designs of the year at the Design Museum

Fashion fans still have the chance to see this summer’s major exhibition at the Design Museum, which celebrates the life and vision of a masterful fashion designer, who dressed some of the most famous women of the late 20th century. Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier (until October 7) was co-curated by the respected couturier before his death in November last year, and presents a selection of his iconic garments, while sharing the incredible stories of his life and career.

Seeing out 2018, Beazley Designs of the Year 2018 (until January 6) celebrates the most innovative and thought-provoking designs from the past year. Chosen by hundreds of design experts, the exhibition showcases design products across six categories: architecture, digital, fashion, product, graphics and transport.

A nightmare world at Dulwich Picture Gallery

At Dulwich Picture Gallery, Unlocking Paintings: The Art of Work (until January 13 2019) gives an insight into the lives of ordinary people in the 17th century, offering a snapshot of the working lives of the past.

Ribera: Art of Violence (until January 27 2019) explores the nightmare world of the Spanish Baroque artist Jusepe de Ribera. Famed for his depiction of sadism, suffering and violence, Ribera’s technically brilliant and macabre works reflect an era of religious violence and martyrdom.


Estorick Collection – Fashion and Textile Museum – Foundling Museum – Freud Museum London

A new figurative art at the Estorick Collection

At the Estorick Collection, home of modern Italian art in London, A New Figurative Art 1920-1945: Works from the Giuseppe Iannaccone Collection (until December 23) showcases a large variety of Italian art amassed by a private collector – Milanese lawyer named Giuseppe Iannaccone – since the 90s. This inter-war art collection features work by the likes of Luigi Broggini, Renato Guttuso and Carlo Levi.


Exquisite 30s fashion at the Fashion and Textile Museum

At Bermondsey’s Fashion and Textile Museum Night and Day: 1930s Fashion and Photographs – reveals the day and evening styles of the decade that took us from the glamorous suits and gowns of the Jazz Age to the utilitarianism of wartime fashion.

Alongside, Cecil Beaton: Thirty from the 30s | Fashion, Film, Fantasy (both October 12 – January 20 2019) presents images by one of the most famous photographers of the 1930s, Cecil Beaton. One of Britain’s most influential photographers, Beaton captured some of the most influential stars of the era – including the likes of Salvador Dali, Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn.


Ladies of quality and distinction at the Foundling Museum

At the Foundling Museum, Ladies of Quality & Distinction (until January 20 2019) reveals the hidden history of some of the influential women who were instrumental in the setting up and running of the hospital. The exhibition includes portraits and the stories of these important figures whose contributions have been overshadowed by their male peers.


The meeting of two greats at the Freud Museum London

The Freud Museum London has Freud, Dalí and the Metamorphosis of Narcissus (October 3 – February 24 2019) which explores the connection between history’s most famous psychoanalyst, and history’s most famous surrealist. Marking the 80th anniversary of when the two met – an occasion to which Dalí brought his recently-completed painting The Metamorphosis of Narcissus – the exhibition focuses on Freud’s influence on Dalí, as well as examining his own attitude to painting.


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

Repton revealed at the Garden Museum

In Lambeth, the Garden Museum has Repton Revealed (October 24 – February 3 2019) celebrating the life of English landscape designer Humphrey Repton, and his Red Books, an ingenious marketing tool he created to demonstrate his design skills to potential clients. Alongside objects from his life and work, 23 of Repton’s Red Books are on display showing the delicate watercolours, notes and critique he used to sell his skills.


The innocence of childhood at Guildhall Art Gallery

Guildhall Art Gallery’s Sublime Symmetry (until October 28) focuses on the work of one of the most intriguing Victorian potters and designers, William de Morgan, who revolutionised ceramic design. The son of a distinguished mathematician and close friend of fellow designer William Morris, de Morgan is best known for creating exquisite ceramic tiles and the exhibition explores these works, and the mathematical tools used to create them.

Following this, Seen and Hear: Victorian Children in the Frame (November 23 – May 2019) documents, through rarely-seen works from the gallery’s collection, the age when children stopped being seen as small adults and were given the opportunity to explore, learn and play. The exhibition offers a welcome escape into childhood innocence and wonder.


Sensory disruption at the Hayward Gallery

At the Southbank Centre the Hayward Gallery has DRAG: Self-portraits and Body Politics (until October 14). The exhibition features work by more than 30 artists who use drag to explore and question identity, including Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman and Pierre Molinier, as well as younger contemporary artists.

Also at the Hayward, Space Shifters (until January 6 2019) is a major exhibition displaying artworks by more than 20 artists whose work seeks to disrupt our sense of space and alter our understanding of our surroundings. Including large-scale and site-specific works, as well as pioneering pieces from artist of the Light and Space movement on the 1960s, Space Shifters will turn your understanding of the famously brutalist gallery upside down.


Home life at the Heath Robinson Museum

At the Heath Robinson Museum, located within the lush and picturesque Pinner Memorial Park, Peter Pan and Other Lost Children (until November 18) brings to light work by two talented but largely forgotten female illustrators from the Edwardian era, to coincide with the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, which granted some women the right to vote. Alice Bolingbroke Woodward was the first illustrator of the popular children’s book Peter Pan, and also produced drawings for Alice in Wonderland, and Edith Farmiloe wrote and illustrated stories based on the lives of the poor families living in her husband’s parish.

Following this, Heath Robinson’s Home Life (November 24 – February 17 2019) reveals work from a period in Heath Robinson’s life when his work was centred around domestic life. Featuring original pieces from his popular book How to Live in a Flat, and photographs of Heath Robinson’s house at the Ideal Home Exhibition, which is said to have inspired the Wallace and Gromit film The Wrong Trousers.


Horniman Museum – House of Illustration – Imperial War Museum London – Jewish Museum London

The human relationship with the natural world at the Horniman Museum & Gardens

The Horniman Museum has Colour: The Rainbow Revealed (until October 28), exploring how colour shapes our world. The exhibition looks at the science behind how colour is made and how it is used by animals to uncover the different meanings of colours to different people across the planet.

EVOLUTION of the Artist and The Exhibited Works (until March 17 2019) presents a body of work by artist Shauna Richardson, who uses the medium of crochet to replicate taxidermy trophy heads of animals, including a bear, lioness and wild boar. The exhibition also includes family trees, graphs and diagrams.

Later in the year The Lore of the Land (October 20 – April 28 2019) is an immersive exhibition developed by Serena Korda in the museum’s brand-new arts space, examining the human relationship with the natural world. The multi-sensory installation includes ceramic artworks which diffuse scents inspired by the museum’s garden, a site-specific soundscape and 100 objects from the anthropology collection. Not to be missed are the over 150-year-old cyanotypes of British algae produced by Anna Atkins, the first recognised female photographer.


Unseen art at the House of Illustration

In King’s Cross, there’s still some time to see the House of Illustration’s John Vernon Lord: Illustrating Carroll and Joyce (until November 4) – a display of Vernon Lord’s rich illustrations produced for books by James Joyce and Lewis Carroll.

They follow this with Journeys Drawn: Illustration from the Refugee Crisis (November 9 – March 10 2019),  which features multi-media work by 12 contemporary illustrators, telling the stories of refugees from both observation and first-hand experience.

A duo of exhibitions from the gallery’s founder Quentin Blake are also on show this autumn. Quentin Blake: The Model as Artist charts the beloved illustrator’s first foray into figurative art and accompanies a main gallery show, 100 Figures: The Unseen Art of Quentin Blake (both October 5 – February 24 2019), a major exhibition showcasing Blake’s fruitful but relatively unknown figurative artwork, created between 1950 and 2000.


Life after the First World War at Imperial War Museum London

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

Alongside, I Was There: Room of Voices (both until March 31 2019) brings together recordings from the IWM’s sound archive in an immersive sound installation. The audio histories are reactions to the Armistice by soldiers, civilians and children who lived through the conflict.


Rediscovering an innovative photographer at Jewish Museum London

The Jewish Museum London has a site-specific exhibition by artist Maya Attoun. The Charms of Frankenstein (until November 4) commemorates the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s iconic novel Frankenstein, through mixed media work focusing on Jewish culture and history and sci-fi and Gothic literary genres.

Roman Vishniac Rediscovered (October 26 – February 24 2019) is the first UK retrospective of Russian-born American photographer Roman Vishniac. Vishniac is best known for producing the most comprehensive account of Jewish life in Europe during the inter-war period, and documenting the rise in Nazism and the persecution of German Jews. This major exhibition takes place over two venues – the Jewish Museum London and The Photographers’ Gallery – and features many of his most iconic works.


London Transport Museum – National Army Museum – The National Gallery – National Portrait Gallery

Celebrating women graphic designers at London Transport Museum

At Covent Garden’s London Transport Museum, Poster Girls: A Century of Art and Design (until January 2019) is a powerful exhibition of over 150 posters and original artworks, produced by female artists for London Transport and Transport for London. The display focuses on graphic designers from the 20th and 21st century and encompasses an incredible variety of styles and mediums by the likes of Mabel Lucie Attwell, Laura Knight and Zandra Rhodes.


The war art of Alfred Munnings at the National Army Museum

At the National Army Museum, Alfred Munnings: War Artist, 1918 (November 30 – March 3 2019) explores work produced by the famous equine artist during his time with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during World War One. Brought together for the first time in over a century the work, which helped secure Munnings’ admittance to the Royal Academy, highlights the important role horses played during wartime.


Courtauld Impressionists at The National Gallery

At The National Gallery, Ed Ruscha: Course of Empire (until October 7) presents a body of work by the pop artist, famed for his representation of typical urban American landscapes, which he produced for the Venice Biennale in 2005. Ruscha has revisit an earlier set of works – five black and white paintings depicting various industrial buildings in his home city of LA – and repainted the scenes in colour to create ‘an accelerated, aged version of the same urban landscape’.

Thomas Cole: Eden to Empire (until October 7) gives a rare opportunity to see the dramatic paintings of the Bolton-born English-American artist on show in the UK. Largely self-taught Thomas Cole (1801–1848) produced sublime landscapes portraying the American wilderness and the National Gallery exhibits them here in the same space as the masterful artists who inspired him in early life; Constable and Turner.

The gallery also has Courtauld Impressionists: From Manet to Cézanne (until January 20 2019), which charts the development of impressionist and post-impressionist art through over forty much-loved masterpieces from the Courtauld Gallery.  It features stunning paintings by Seurat, Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec.

Mantegna and Bellini (October 1 – January 27 2019) tells the story of two Italian Renaissance painters, and brothers-in-law, Andrea Mantegna and Giovanni Bellini. Following their painting careers in Padua and Venice, the exhibition reveals the relationship and rivalry between the two.

Later in the year Lorenzo Lotto Portraits (November 5 – February 10 2019) explores the symbolism behind the work of one of the greatest portraitists of the Italian Renaissance, Lorenzo Lotto. The exhibition looks at Lotto’s portraits of men, women and children and decodes the symbols which added extra meaning and psychological depth to his work.

Spurred on by the return to the gallery of an iconic work by celebrated animal painter Edwin Landseer, best known for creating Trafalgar Square’s famous bronze lions. Landseer’s The Monarch of the Glen (November 29 – February 3 2019) puts the widely-admired painting of a resplendent stag in a dramatic mountainous landscape at the centre of an exhibition celebrating the artist’s Highland scenes.

Alongside, Rachel Maclean: In dialogue with the National Gallery (November 29 – February 3 2019) is a display of the film The Lion and The Unicorn by Scottish satirical artist Rachel Maclean. Maclean’s darkly comical films examine Scottish-English relationships and take a look at how we shape collective and individual identities.


Gainsborough’s family album at the National Portrait Gallery

At the National Portrait Gallery, to coincide with what would have been Michael Jackson’s 60th birthday, Michael Jackson: On the Wall (until October 21) explores the influence of the inimitable performer on leading contemporary artists. The most depicted cultural figure in visual art, Jackson is one of the 20th century’s most influential figures and this show brings together work by over 40 artists that he inspired.

Picturing Friendship (until May 13 2019) is a display which delves into the collection and pulls out examples of the power of friendship. Featuring a diverse range of works, the display includes photographs of Elizabeth Taylor with David Bowie, George Harrison with Ravi Shankar and Morcambe and Wise, as well as the oldest known oil self-portrait painted in England.

Votes for Women: Pioneers (until January 13 2019) commemorates the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, which gave some women the right to vote. The display tells the story of some of the Victorian women who were leading figures in the struggle for women’s suffrage.

Seeing out the year Gainsborough’s Family Album (November 22 – February 3 2019) charts the career of one of Britain’s most celebrated painters of the 18th century, through publicly and privately-owned work, some of which have never been on display in the UK before. The exhibition brings together for the first time all 12 surviving portraits of his daughters Mary and Margaret, and offers a rare glimpse into the artist’s private life.


Natural History Museum – Parasol unit – Photographers’ Gallery – The Queen’s Gallery

One-in-a-million wildlife photographs at the Natural History Museum

Each October you can rely on the Natural History Museum‘s Wildlife Photographer of the Year (opens October 19) exhibition to amaze and inspire. Now entering its 54th year, the annual photography prize is famous for its spectacular images of the wildlife we’re lucky to share this planet with, with each year’s entries growing more technically advanced, more surprising and more poignant.


A major survey exhibition at Parasol unit foundation for contemporary arts

At Parasol unit foundation for contemporary arts a large body of works by Heidi Bucher (September 19 – December 9) goes on show for a major survey exhibition explore ideas of fragility and impermanence. The enigmatic latex works, made by the Swiss artist in the last 20 years of her life, include a number of her Häutungen (skinnings) – pieces representing objects, clothing and architectural spaces created by pressing liquid latex into the surface, and peeling it off to create hanging and free-standing forms uncomfortably reminiscent of yellowing disembodied skin.


Making sense of digital life at The Photographers’ Gallery

At The Photographers’ Gallery there’s a major mid-career exhibition of photographs and film works by American Photographer Alex Prager. Silver Lake Drive (until October 14) presents more than 40 of the artist’s distinctive large-scale technicolour photos of hyper styled, high contrast, manufactured scenes. The melodramatic still images are accompanied by the artist’s film works.

In contrast to Prager’s carefully orchestrated scenes the gallery also has an exhibition of work by the British documentary photographer Tish Murther. Works 1976 – 1991 (until October 14) reveals Murther’s mission to document the social instability and deprivation in Britain, while living it herself.

Presented in collaboration with the Jewish Museum London the dual-site major retrospective of Russian-born American photographer Roman Vishniac is also on show at The Photographers’ Gallery in Roman Vishniac Rediscovered (October 26 – February 24 2019).

Alongside, the provocatively-titled All I Know Is What’s On The Internet (October 26 – February 24 2019) is a group show which analyses cultural value and digital labour, and looks at the impact that social media, algorithms, bots and mass media has on the photographer today.


Famous war photography at The Queen’s Gallery

At the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace a duo of exhibitions reveal the wonders of South Asia. Splendours of the Subcontinent: A Prince’s Tour of India 1875–76 and Splendours of the Subcontinent: Four Centuries of South Asian Paintings and Manuscripts (both until October 14) draw on the Royal Collection’s collection of South Asian paintings and Indian treasures, exploring the long-standing relationship between the British Crown and South Asia.

Following this, another duo of exhibition focuses this time on Russia. Russia: Royalty & The Romanovs explores the relationship between the British and Russian royal families through rich and varies paintings, sculptures and photographs, while Russia: Roger Fenton’s Photographs of the Crimea, 1855 (both November 9 – April 28 2019) presents the pioneering images captured by Roger Fenton, one of the very first war photographers, during the Crimean War.


Royal Academy of Arts – Saatchi Gallery – Serpentine Galleries – Sir John Soane’s Museum

Two 20th century giants at the Royal Academy of Arts

At the Royal Academy of Arts Renzo Piano: The Art of Making Buildings (until January 20 2019) charts the career of the prominent and celebrated architect Renzo Piano, whose iconic designs set him apart as one of the greatest architects of our time. The exhibition incorporates rarely-seen drawings, models and photography relating to Piano’s work, which includes the Shard, The Pompidou Centre and the New York Times Building.

Oceania (September 29 – December 10) commemorates the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s voyage to the southern continent, bringing together around 200 works from ethnographic collections spanning over 500 years. The objects on display include ornaments, canoes, and house façades, as well as artworks by contemporary artists exploring history, identity and place making.

Marking the centenary of both artists’ deaths, Klimt/Schiele: Drawings from the Albertina Museum, Vienna (November 4 – February 3 2019) comprises around 100 works on paper by the artists who took Vienna by storm. Presenting the fragile drawings that are considered to be some of the 20th century’s most important works on paper, the exhibition includes portraits, landscapes and erotic nudes from the early Modernist era – some of which are so delicate they will not go on display again for many years.


Art as satire at Saatchi Gallery

At the Saatchi GalleryBlack Mirror: Art as Social Satire (until January 13 2019) explores the role of art in social satire, featuring work by 26 contemporary artists. The show, which celebrates art as an important tool for dissecting power structures and questioning societal norms, holds a (black) mirror to society, reflecting the current collective unease felt in the wake of recent political events. The exhibition features work by photographer Richard Billingham, multimedia Welsh artist Bedwyr Williams and Chilean sculptor Alejandra Prieto, amongst others.


A leading conceptual artist at the Serpentine Gallery

Seeing out the year at the Serpentine Gallery is the work of a leading contemporary conceptual artist Pierre Huyghe (October 3 – February 10 2019). Huyghe’s immersive installation presents digital images which all started in the mind of a human. During the course of the exhibition they will undertake a constant course of reconstruction, affected by the external factors of the exhibition – light, humidity and insects. The central gallery incubates thousands of flies while the sanded remains of previous exhibitions’ wall paint litters the gallery floors. Huyghe’s site-specific situations often culminate in the creation of ‘co-evolving systems’, which explore dynamic themes such as time and memory.

Across the bridge at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, Atelier E.B: Passer-by (October 3 – January 6 2019) is an exhibition of pieces by collaborative fashions label Atelier E.B, in which a selection of artists whose own work often focuses on the cultural significance of clothing have responded to the label’s past collections with their own interpretation. The show draws on Atelier E.B’s extensive research on the mannequin, exploring the history of their use in expositions and world fairs, iconic department stores and ethnographic museum displays.


The future of construction at Sir John Soane’s Museum

Sir John Soane’s Museum has an exhibition inspired by a strange book written by Soane in the early 19th century in which he imagines his house as a ruin in the future inhabited by four characters: a lawyer, a monk, a magician and architect, Out of Character: A Project by Studio MUTT (until November 18) sees architecture studio MUTT create four forms to inhabit different spaces within the museum. Based on the four characters in Soane’s book, the colourful architectural compositions draw on the Museum’s rich archive.

The second edition of The Architecture Drawing Prize (October 17 – November 18) kicks off this autumn, with winning and commended entries being shown at the museum. Launched in 2017, the prize was conceived to celebrate the importance of drawing in communicating architectural concepts.

Last up, Code Builder: A Robotic Choreography by Mamou-Mani (December 5 – February 3 2019) explores the future of building construction with a prototype cable construction robot, named Polibot, installed in the gallery. Using the idea of sports stadium spider cams, the Polibot has been programmed to construct and deconstruct Sir John Soane’s own designs for the Bank of England dome in the gallery.


Somerset House – Tate Britain – Tate Modern – V&A

Charlie Brown at Somerset House

This autumn at Somerset House there’s the first UK exhibition of acclaimed South African artist, Athi-Patra Ruga. Of Gods, Rainbows and Omissions (October 4 – January 7 2019) brings together a trio of recent works to showcase his diverse and vibrant artworks exploring a mythical utopia.

Hannah Perry: GUSH (October 3 – November 4) is a major exhibition of dynamic sculpture, film and sound artworks by British artist and Somerset House Studios resident Hannah Perry. At the centre of GUSH is an immersive film installation, surrounding the viewer with 360 degrees of contorted, shifting bodies.

An ever-popular cartoon is celebrated later in the year in Good Grief, Charlie Brown! (October 25 – March 3 2019). The exhibition features work by artists who have been inspired by Charles M. Schulz’ beloved cartoon Peanuts, alongside original strips rarely seen in the UK.


The last Pre-Raphaelite at Tate Britain

Love it or hate it the Turner Prize (until January 6 2019) returns to Tate Britain for its 34th year. The exhibition presents the four artists shortlisted for the annual art prize known for its conceptual (and often controversial) contemporary art. This year the shortlisted artists – Naeem Mohaiemen, Charlotte Prodger, Luke Willis Thompson and interdisciplinary team Forensic Architecture – are all presenting film work.

Focusing on sculpture which emerged in Britain following the Second World War and took shape in the shadow of the Cold War, Figure Totem Beast: Sculpture in Britain in the 1950s (October 29 – February 4 2019) takes a look at how sculptural work produced during this period reflected the intense tension and anxiety. Featuring work by Lynn Chadwick, Elizabeth Frink, Eduardo Paolozzi, Jacob Epstein and Henry Moore, as well as entries to a 1953 competition to design a monument to the ‘Unknown Political Prisoner’.

The gallery has work by one of the last Pre-Raphaelites on display at the end of the year. Edward Burne-Jones (October 24 – February 24 2019) was part of the movement that rejected the industrial world of the Victorians to make beautiful artworks inspired by medieval art, myths, legends and religion. The exhibition explores the painter, designer and embroiderer who worked closely with William Morris, and was a pioneer in the Arts and Crafts movement.

Part of the Art Now series which focuses on new work by emerging artists, Art Now: Jesse Darling: The Ballad of Saint Jerome (until February 24 2019) presents the work of Jesse Darling, a multidiscipline artist working to explore identity through gender, sexuality, disability, love and companionship. Darling’s exhibition explores the legend of Saint Jerome and the Lion, a popular tale in the Renaissance period, populating the gallery with sculptures constructed from everyday objects, reflecting the themes of wounding and liberation found in the famous tale.


Textile art at Tate Modern

At Tate Modern, Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art (until October 14) explores the relationship between the invention of photography and the birth of abstract art, bringing together two stories often told separately, but both defining moments which responded to each other. The exhibition features work from both strands, and features pieces by Man Ray, Barbara Kasten and Thomas Ruff, as well as contemporary work conceived especially for the exhibition.

Anni Albers (October 11 – January 27 2019) is a full-scale retrospective of one of the most respected textile artists of the 20th century. A student of the revolutionary German Bauhaus school of art and crafts, Albers produced pioneering and innovative textile art which helped propel the medium of weaving from practical to artistic.

A 24-hour film that tells the time of day through a montage of thousands of film and television forage of clocks carefully edited together, Christian Marclay: The Clock (until January 20) is a captivating masterpiece of editing, the end result of years of painstaking research. As much a journey through cinematic history as much as it is a journey through a day, The Clock invites you to experience a vast range of narratives through an array of well-known and lesser-known films.


The art of the videogame at the V&A

At the V&A, Fashioned from Nature (until January 27 2019) is an exhibition of 300 intriguing and unsettling fashion objects, exploring the often-difficult relationship between fashion and the natural world. The exhibition looks at the negative environmental impact of processes used by the fashion industry, while exploring sustainable alternatives. Showcasing contemporary designers of ethical fashion, alongside pieces from the past 400 years including an 1875 pair of earrings formed from the heads of two real Honeycreeper birds, and posters and slogan clothes protesting fashion’s dark side from activists including Vivienne Westwood.

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up (until November 4) examines the meticulously controlled identity and style the artist adopted as a means of empowering herself after suffering a horrific accident in her late teens. With objects from Kahlo’s home, the Blue House, on show outside of Mexico for the first time, the exhibition offers a never-before seen insight into Kahlo’s colourful, and pained, life.

The Future Starts Here (until November 4) uncovers the power of design in shaping the future through a selection of creative projects and innovations. Featuring projects by major corporations – such as Facebook’s Aquila aircraft, designed to bring affordable connectivity to unconnected regions – and exploring AI and internet culture, the exhibition will ask visitors a series of ethical and speculative questions.

Not just for the avid gamers amongst us the V&A has Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt (until February 24 2019) which uncovers the artistic and design process through a selection of contemporary videogames. The exhibition showcases original prototypes and early character designs since the mid-2000s alongside immersive, interactive installations.


V&A Museum of Childhood – Wellcome Collection – Whitechapel Gallery – William Morris Gallery

A pirate’s life for me at the V&A Museum of Childhood

In Bethnal Green, the V&A Museum of Childhood has Dream On (until January 20 2019), an exploration of dreaming, imagination and unconsciousness. The exhibition features a ceramic installation by artist Christie Brown, referencing dolls from the artist’s childhood memories who go on journeys around the museum after-hours. Alongside, a series of photographs produced by photographer Madeleine Waller and artist Katherine Tulloh in collaboration with students from a local primary school interpret the students’ own remembered dreams.

A Pirate’s Life for Me (October 20 – April 22 2019) is an immersive exhibition focusing on the influence of fictional pirates in popular culture. The exhibition takes you on an imaginary journey from coastal inn to tropical island, revealing over 300 years of pirates in children’s popular culture, including 1950s favourite Captain Pugwash and Peter Pan’s nemesis, Captain Hook.


Living with buildings at Wellcome Collection

At Wellcome Collection, Living with Buildings (October 4 – March 3 2019) examines the relationship between architecture and health, revealing how the environments we live in can affect our wellbeing. The exhibition includes work from Ernő Goldfinger, whose brutalist architecture incensed Bond author Ian Fleming so much he named a villain after him, and Rachel Whiteread, who won the 1993 Turner prize for her since-demolished sculpture House, a cast made from the interior of a Victorian terraced house.


A witty artistic duo at the Whitechapel Gallery

In East London at the Whitechapel Gallery a new film commission by German artist Ulla von Brandenburg. The film recalls an installation at the gallery in 1973, which marked Britain’s entry to the European Common Market through an enticing display of confectionary from across the continent – the exhibition ended abruptly when the guard was overwhelmed by schoolchildren, who ate all of the displays. Ulla von Brandenburg: Sweet Feast (until March 31 2019) recreates this event following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, exploring the hopes of young people at a time when Brexit may limit opportunities for future generations.

Elmgreen & Dragset: This Is How We Bite Our Tongue (September 27 – January 13 2019) is an exhibition of work by artist duo Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset exploring social and sexual politics, which sees the gallery turned into a platform for their witty, uncanny, metaphorical installations.


The magic of outdoor spaces at the William Morris Gallery

At the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow The Enchanted Garden (October 20 – January 27 2019) explores the allure of the garden, revealing William Morris’ place as a key figure in domestic garden design. The exhibition looks at how he, his contemporaries, and subsequent artists respond to the magic, romance and menace of these semi-wild spaces. Featuring works by Monet, Pissaro, Beatrix Potter, Cicely Mary Barker and Vanessa Bell.


8 comments on “The best art exhibitions to see in London in 2018

  1. Emily on

    So many great exhibitions to see in 2018! Just found out that a 3 month national art pass is currently available for only £10 – it would give 50% many major exhibitions and free entry to over 240 museums, art galleries and historic houses across the UK!!! Check it out –

  2. Margaret Devitt on

    As I live out of Town, I find this survey of up-coming exhibitions immensely valuable, especially to plan my visits to London as efficiently and cheaply as possible. Thank you.

  3. Martin on

    Excellent website, good for finding all sorts of interesting exhibitions I wouldn’t have been aware of otherwise, well selected , summarised and easily browsed, I routinely check it, especially a while before travelling, thanks, Martin


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