The best art exhibitions to see in London in 2018 3

Our guide to the best exhibitions in London in 2018, updated throughout the year. Check back for the latest shows in the capital – updated March

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

Social outsiders take centre stage at the Barbican

colour photograph showing head and shoulders portrait of trans male in evening wear and full makeup

Paz Errázuriz
From the series La Manzana de Adán (Adam’s Apple), 1983
© Paz Errázuriz / Courtesy of the artist

At the Barbican, Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins (until May 27) focuses on outsiders existing on the fringes of society in communities across the globe. The show features photographs by 20 photographers, from the 1950s to today and covers themes such as drugs, addiction, sexuality, minorities and youth culture – discussing the idea of social outsiders as agents for change.

For spring, the Curve gallery is reserved for a new commission exploring methods of resistance from Morocco-based French multimedia artist Yto Barrada (until May 20) whose photography, video and sculpture is infused with politics and documentary methods.

close up black and white photograph of man with his hand in front of his face

Dorothea Lange, Migratory Cotton Picker, Eloy, Arizona, 1940, the Oakland Museum of California

Later in the year, Dorothea Lange / Vanessa Winship (June 22 – September 2) is a duo of exhibitions showcasing work by two documentary photographers. American Depression-era photojournalist Dorothea Lange’s iconic photographs go on display in her first ever UK retrospective, Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing. Lange’s era-defining images are complemented by work by British contemporary photographer Vanessa Winship, 2011 winner of the Henri Cartier-Bresson prize.


The life and work of Cynthia Pell at Bethlem Museum of the Mind

Situated in the grounds of the infamous hospital, Bethlem Museum of the Mind cares for the hospital’s collection of archives, objects and art. It is the latter that is explored in the exhibition Encased: The Work of Cynthia Pell / (Mrs) Cynthia Weldon (until June 22), a display of works by the promising artist Cynthia Pell, whose mental illness lead to a life in and out of hospital and homelessness.


The importance of recorded sound at the British Library

Over at the British Library, Listen: 140 Years of Recorded Sound (until May 13) explores the history of recorded sound through gems from the library’s sound archive. The exhibition mines the past 140 years since the invention of the phonograph and discovers how important capturing sound has been in recording history and transforming society. Included in the show are recorded readings by James Joyce, Sylvia Plath and Maya Angelou, a new audio installation from composer Aleks Kollowski and the recorded 1922 diary of teenager Alfred Taylor.


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Living with gods at the British Museum

photograph of carved white fox figurine

Fox shrine figure Mikawachi Japan 1826–75
The fox is a spirit messenger for Inari – the important Shinto deity for rice harvests, trade and prosperity. © the Trustees of the British Museum

At the British Museum, Living with gods: peoples, places and worlds beyond (until April 8) inspects the ever-present existence and importance of belief in a higher being. Everyday beliefs across different societies and religions are explored together with how people choose to honour their beliefs, regardless of what they may be. The exhibition also how we are predisposed to faith in supreme beings, the comfort we get from the structure these beliefs impart on our lives and the way we build relationships with likeminded people.

Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece (April 26 – July 29) explores how French master sculptor Rodin was inspired by Greek classical sculptures from the Parthenon, during a visit to the British Museum in 1881. A selection of his works, including his two most famous pieces – The Kiss and The Thinker – goes on show alongside the ancient sculptures that inspired him.

a painting of three Greek sailors around a table enjoying food and wine

John Craxton, Still Life with Three Sailors, 1980-85. Tempera on canvas. Private Collection, UK. © 2018 Craxton Estate/DACS

The influence of Greece is explored further in Charmed Lives in Greece: Ghika, Craxton, Leigh Fermor (until July 15), which focuses on the friendship between three significant 20th century cultural figures. Artists Niko Ghika and John Craxton, and writer Patrick Leigh Fermor lived and worked together in Greece, and this exhibition brings together their artworks and possessions to tell the story of their friendship and the enduring work they created together.


Camden Arts Centre – Cartoon Museum – Chisenhale Gallery – Courtauld Gallery

New work by New York artist at Camden Arts Centre

Up at Camden Arts Centre the first UK solo show of Giorgio Griffa (until April 8), spotlights the Italian abstract painter with links to the Arte Povera movement in the 60s and 70s whose work broke away from traditional practice to welcome new materials and methods into Italian art. Griffa’s minimalist paintings, which he approaches as individual performances of the materials aided passively by his hand, are, he says, shaped by the will of the materials, rather than his own.

After this, Sleep Rock (April 19 – June 24) sees New York artist Sadie Benning’s mixed media artworks fill the gallery walls. Benning’s collages of photographs, found images and painting are compiled and distorted by layers of resin, blurring the line between the familiar and the unknown.


A special anniversary at the Cartoon Museum

drawing of three polar bears with pile of snowballs - one polar bear is about to throw a snowball at a group of five penguins

Copyright Mike Williams. Cartoon Museum Collection.

To celebrate 50 exhibitions at 35 Little Russell Street, the Cartoon Museum has 50 Glorious Shows! (until September 2). Bringing together highlights from the past 12 years, the show features comic artists, graphic novelists and political satirists and looks at how cartoons and comics have illustrated social, cultural and political changes.


Violence and resistance at Chisenhale Gallery

At Chisenhale Gallery, the entire space is occupied by an immersive installation by London-based artist Paul Maheke (April 13 – June 10). Maheke presents a new commission exploring appearance and disappearance, and incorporates sculpture, video projection, murals and live performance.


The lavishness of the royal court at Courtauld Gallery

At the Courtauld Gallery a selection of celebrated works by 16th century artist Antoine Caron are reunited for the first time for Antoine Caron: Drawing for Catherine de’ Medici (until April 15). The show is centered around the Valois series produced for Queen Catherine de’ Medici of France, depicting the frivolity and exuberance of her royal court.

illustration of artist sat sketching trees

Doomer, Lambert (1624-1700), An artist seated by a tree, sketching a belt of trees. Private Collection.

After this, Artists at Work (May 3 – July 15) draws on drawings from a private specialist collection to focus on the subject of the artist at work. The show presents work spanning from the 16th to 20th century, and contains depictions of the artist’s studio, as well as the self or others at work.


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

Hope to nope at the Design Museum

Seventy years after building its very first racing car, one of the world’s most iconic car brands is the subject of the Design Museum’s current show, Ferrari: Under the Skin (until April 15), which explores the history of the Italian brand and reveals the passion and drive of the man behind the machine. Featuring a selection of rare cars and Ferrari memorabilia, the show takes a look at the defining moments of the brand which is now so closely associated with fame, luxury and glamour.

photograph of large black banner with 'je suis charlie' hand written in white suspended on large stone pillars outside a building

Je suis Charlie banner outside Palais de Tokyo at January 10, 2015. Photo credit: Paul SKG

Following this, Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008 – 18 (until August 12) explores how public engagement with politics has changed so drastically over the past 10 years. More than 160 objects and installations reveal how posters, protest art and internet memes have challenged, aided and altered important political moments.


Edward Bawden at Dulwich Picture Gallery

At Dulwich Picture Gallery, a revered 20th century Canadian painter and printmaker is celebrated in David Milne: Modern Painting (until May 7), which is the first major UK exhibition of Milne’s work and explores the modernist feel of his art, drawing on pieces from a career spanning the first half of the 20th century.

colourful linocut print of lions, spiders, flies and foliage

Edward Bawden, [Aesop’s Fables] Gnat and Lion, 1970, Colour linocut on paper,Trustees of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery (The Higgins Bedford), © Estate of Edward Bawden

Following this, another influential 20th century artist is explored in Edward Bawden (May 23 – September 9). The exhibition focuses on his versatility as an artist, to create both commercial design work and fine art depicting a terrific range of subject matter – from war art to architecture and gardens. The show, which contains 170 works spanning 60 years of Bawden’s career, includes previously unknown work, on display for the first time.

The birth of Modernism at the Estorick Collection

black and white photograph of man and woman at a glass bar with diorama inside. The room has wood panelled walls and glass shelves holding spirit bottles and cocktail equipment

Gastone Medin Set design for La casa del peccato (The House of Sin; Dir. Max Neufeld, 1938), with Assia Norris and Umberto Melnati Gelatin silver print on paper, 23.7 x 29.5 cm (Photographer: attributed to Aurelio Pesce) Fondazione Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia – Cineteca Nazionale

At the Estorick Collection, home of modern Italian art in London, there’s a celebration of a little-known period in Italian cinematic history. Rationalism on Set: Glamour and Modernity in 1930s Italian Cinema (April 18 – June 24) focuses on Italy’s contribution to both architecture and cinema in the 1930s, looking at the role of Italian architects in the development and popularisation of the Modernist aesthetic through film sets. The show presents vintage photographs, film clips and sketches, and compares them with contemporary architecture from the RIBA collection.

Early printed fans at the Fan Museum

In Greenwich, the Fan Museum brings together a diverse collection of fans for Early Printed Fans (until May 6). The display explores how technological advancements meant that an object previously reserved for society’s wealthy elite became affordable to the masses.


Fashion and Textile Museum – Foundling Museum – Freud Museum – Garden Museum

Cult, culture and subversion at the Fashion and Textile Museum

black and white photograph showing Margaret Thatcher shaking hands with a woman wearing a tshirt reading "58%

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher greets fashion designer Katharine Hamnett, wearing a t-shirt with a nuclear missile protest message. 17th March, 1984. Press Association.

At Bermondsey’s Fashion and Textile Museum T-SHIRT: CULT | CULTURE | SUBVERSION (February 9 – May 6) explores how, from humble beginnings as a man’s undergarment, the simple t-shirt grew into a symbol for rebellion, a method for communicating political beliefs and a luxury fashion item – becoming the western world’s most affordable and most popular garment.

Later in the year, the versatile and iconic designs of Irish designer Orla Kiely are celebrated in A Life in Pattern (May 25 – September 23). The exhibition will be the first in the UK exploring Keily’s recognisable designs which have adorned everything from mugs and stationary, to clothes and cars. Featuring prototypes and original sketches, the show discovers how Keily’s designs made beauty out of simplicity.


Illustration at the Foundling Museum

painting of kingfisher perched on a branch

Jackie Morris, Kingfisher, 2017 © Jackie Morris

At the Foundling Museum The Lost Words (January 19 – May 6) is an exhibition of poetry and illustration focusing on the nature words which are disappearing from children’s vocabulary. Recent research shows a frightening disconnect between children and nature, highlighted by the absence of the natural world in children’s stories and imaginations, and the exhibition uncovers the magic of the natural world, emphasising the capacity it has to engage and enchant minds young and old alike.

Alongside, Lucky Button (January 19 – May 6) is an exhibition of original illustrations by Michael Foreman for a new book by celebrated children’s author Michael Morpurgo. Lucky Button is a story about a young carer who discovers the history of the Foundling Hospital through a chance encounter. The book’s illustrations bring the hospital’s historic locations and collections to life in beautiful watercolour paintings.

For summer, Sea (May 25 – September 2) is a set of three site-responsive installations by British artist Jodie Carey. Inspired by the fabric tokens that mothers left with their babies at the hospital, Carey has dipped hundreds of fabric swatches in clay and fired them, covering the floor in these fragile fragments. Elsewhere in the gallery, plaster sculptures explore memory and time, and delicate floor to ceiling bronze sculpture grace the foyer.


Contemporary art at the Freud Museum

At the Freud Museum, Breathe (May 16 – July 18) presents thought-provoking work by two contemporary artists, Fay Ballard and Judy Goldhill. Ballard and Goldhill have both experienced parental loss, and this loss, and the unresolved feelings and questions it creates, is a central theme in their work.


Flower fairies at the Garden Museum

In Lambeth, the Garden Museum has Cedric Morris: Artist Plantsman (April 18 – July 22) an exploration of the work of the artist and plantsman who was at the forefront of the Modern British avant-garde and taught painting and drawing to Lucian Freud and Maggi Hambling. The exhibition, which runs alongside a Cedric Morris exhibition at Philip Mould & Company, forms part of the first major reassessment of Morris in more than 30 years.

A pink fairy holding up a fuchsia stem

The Fuchsia Fairy, from A Flower Fairy Alphabet ® The Estate of Cicely Mary Barker 1934

In the late summer, Cicely Mary Barker’s enchanting Flower Fairies (August 8 – September 30) are the focus of a show which celebrates the centenary of their first publication. The original illustrations of over 40 of Barker’s whimsical characters demonstrate both her imagination and her botanical accuracy.


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

Re-imagining still life at Guildhall Art Gallery

The Guildhall Art Gallery’s Nature Morte (until April 2 2018) is a 21st century re-imagining of the historic genre of still life. The exhibition of over 100 works of art by both international contemporary artists and historic artists from the City’s collection examines how artists have interpreted the theme for a modern-day audience.

Next up, the gallery has Sublime Symmetry (May 11 – October 28) focusing on the work of one of the most intriguing Victorian potters and designers, William de Morgan, who revolutionised ceramic design. The son of a distinguished mathematician and close friend of fellow designer William Morris, de Morgan is best known for creating exquisite ceramic tiles and the exhibition explores these works, and the mathematical tools used to create them.


 A celebrated photographer retrospective at the Hayward Gallery

photograph of large warehouse containing thousands of different products

Andreas Gursky, Amazon, 2016. Inkjet-Print 207 x 407 x 6.2 cm
© Andreas Gursky/DACS, 2017. Courtesy: Sprüth Magers

At the Southbank Centre the Hayward Gallery reopens and kicks off its 50th anniversary year with the first UK retrospective of German photographer Andreas Gursky (January 25 – April 22). One of the world’s most celebrated contemporary photographers, Gursky produces large format images in impeccable detail, scrutinizing the consumerism and capitalism of modern life. The exhibition features some of the photographer’s most well-known works chronicling the effects of globalisation.

Acclaimed South Korean contemporary and installation artist Lee Bul (May 30 – August 19) takes the space next with a mid-career survey exploring the body and its relationship to architectural space.


Neo-romantic illustration at the Heath Robinson Museum

illustrated book sleeve showing image of country house

Book sleeve for Short Lease by Vicky Lancaster, designed by Eric Fraser © The Estate of Eric Fraser

At the Heath Robinson Museum, located within the lush and picturesque Pinner Memorial Park, Neo-Romantic Book Illustration in Britain 1943 – 1955 (until May 20) reveals illustrative works from a time, post WW”, when artists were artists such as Keith Vaughn, John Craxton and Edward Bawden were focusing on the emotional impact of their work, rather than the form.

After this, A Curious Turn: Moving, Mechanical Sculpture (May 26 – August 19) draws inspiration from the gallery’s namesake with an exhibition of automata – kinetic sculptures brought alive by cogs and cranks. Heath Robinson’s fantastical illustrations of eccentric machines inspired a resurgence in automata making, and a couple of his related designs are on show alongside the automata.


The beauty of the coral reef at the Horniman Museum & Gardens

Inspired by the Horniman Museum’s famous aquarium and collection of natural history specimens Coral: Fabric of the Reef (until September 9) is an exhibition of textile artworks by artist Karen Dodd. The pieces on display have been intricate dyed and sculpted to represent and draw attention to the beauty and vulnerability of coral reefs.

In February, Colour: The Rainbow Revealed (February 10 – October 28) explores how colour shapes our world. The exhibition looks at the science behind how colour is made and how it is used by animals to uncover the different meanings of colours to different people across the planet.

House of Illustration – Imperial War Museum London –Jewish Museum London – King’s College London

A mid-century influencer at the House of Illustration

colourful illustration showing woman in pink apron and white coat and hat with a large selection of food products

New Year card, 2005, collection of Nicholas Bonner, image courtesy of Phaidon

In King’s Cross, the House of Illustration has the UK’s first ever exhibition of graphic art from North Korea. Made in North Korea: Graphics from the DPRK (until May 13) features hundreds of objects giving a rare insight into the secretive country, including posters, food packaging, ticket stubs and comics.

Following this, Enid Marx: print, Pattern and Popular Art (May 25 – September 23) is a major exhibition celebrating the life of textile designer and printmaker Enid Marx, a contemporary of Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden who helped define mid-century design. The exhibition includes her book illustrations, stamp and poster design.


Art in the age of terror at Imperial War Museum

photograph of artwork showing miniature models of people standing in a line being searched

© The Artist / Photo Thelma Garcia / Courtesy Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris-Brussels Jitish Kallat, Circadian Rhyme 1, 2011 Paint, resin, aluminium, steel

In Lambeth, Imperial War Museum London‘s Age of Terror: Art Since 9/11 (until May 28) examines artist responses to the ever-present threat of terror in exhibition that takes the horrific attacks on September 11 2001 as a starting point. It features work by over 40 British and international artists who communicate their thoughts on war, conflict and the continuing state of emergency through their artworks.


Grit and Glamour at Jewish Museum London

poster showing illustration of black cat holding an umbrella falling in front of an orange, white and black background. reading 'falls are not funny'

Falls Are Not Funny poster, designed by Stan Krol, 1967. © The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

The Jewish Museum London’Designs on Britain (until April 15) explores how Jewish immigrants to Britain shaped the face of British design. Included in the display are iconic designs for some of Britain’s most famous brands and institutions, including London Underground, the General Post Office and Tate & Lyle.

photograph of woman in swimsuit standing behind a translucent screen in a warehouse

Elsbeth Juda – Barbara Goalen behind a printing screen, Lancashire, 1952 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Elsbeth Juda: Grit and Glamour (until July 1) is a retrospective of the work of the pioneering Jewish émigré photographer who trained under László Moholy-Nagy’s wife Lucia Moholy. Juda worked as commercial photographer, setting up The Ambassador magazine with her husband Hans, to promote British trade and industry. The exhibition had a selection of her remarkable photograph produced for The Ambassador, including images of Winston Churchill, Henry Moore and the Sadler’s Wells ballet.


The Classical, re-imagined at King’s College London

photogrpah of classical style statue depicting man reclining, dressed in modern clothes

‘Hipster in Stone’ © Leo Caillard

At King’s College London, major exhibition The Classical Now (until April 28) runs at the Arcade at Bush House and the Inigo Rooms, exploring the endurance of Classicism. The exhibition asks what it is about Greek and Roman classical art that captivates the imagination even now. Featuring work by Yves Klein, Picasso, Rachel Whiteread and Grayson Perry alongside ancient Greek and Roman objects.


London Transport Museum – National Gallery – Natural History Museum – 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.


Drawn in colour at the National Gallery

At London’s National Gallery, Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites (until April 2) uncovers the sumptuous realism of van Eyck’s 1434 oil painting The Arnolfini Portrait, thought by many critics and scholars to be one of the most complex and original artworks in the Western world. The display brings together the revered painting and a selection of pieces from the Tate collection by the Pre Raphaelites, to explore the influences this innovative painting had on the likes of Rossetti, Millais and William Holman Hunt, among others.

The gallery also has Drawn in Colour: Degas from the Burrell (until May 7), a vibrant display of paintings and pastels from French Impressionist Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, depicting modern life in Paris. The show, which coincides with the centenary of the artist’s death, features 20 pastels from the Burrell collection – their first showing outside of Scotland since their acquisition.

Painted portrait of man with dark hair and moustache

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Self-Portrait, about 1650-5. Oil on canvas, 107 x 77.5 cm The Frick Collection, New York, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Henry Clay Frick II, 2014 © The Frick Collection, New York

For the spring, the gallery has Murillo: The Self Portraits (until May 21). Better known for his religious paintings and depictions of everyday Spanish scenes including beggars, street urchins and flower girls, Murillo is only known to have produced two self-portraits. This display brings the paintings together for the first time in more than 300 years, alongside a selection of his more familiar works.

2018 brings a landmark collaboration between three London galleries: the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and Royal Academy of Arts, to celebrate the work of contemporary visual artist Tacita Dean. The National Gallery’s show Tacita Dean: STILL LIFE (until May 28) focuses on the genre of still life, featuring work by Dean and her contemporaries, examining the genre within the history of art and demonstrating the continued importance and popularity of the genre.

impressionistic painting in purple hue showing the Houses of Parliament in fog

Claude Monet, The Houses of Parliament, Fog Effect (Le Parlement, effet de brouillard), 1904. Oil on canvas, 80.3 × 90.2 cm
© Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, FL. Museum purchase and partial gift of Charles and Margaret Stevenson Henderson 1979.5

Next up, Monet & Architecture (April 9 – July 29) is the first exhibition in history to focus on Monet’s prodigious career entirely through the buildings he painted. Together for the first time, more than 75 of his paintings depict the architecture of Monet’s time, from village buildings to some of Europe’s most iconic landmarks.


Wildlife photographer of the year at Natural History Museum

a photo of a bald eagle as it stares into the camera

Bold eagle © Klaus Nigge – Wildlife Photographer of the Year

At the Natural History Museum, the annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year (until May 28) prize exhibition displays the world’s best wildlife photography. Back with the ever-vivid, surprising and serendipitous images of the creatures, plants and landscapes that share our planet, the images are a wonderful reminder of the beauty this world has to offer.

The Art of British Natural History (until July 1) celebrates the remarkable diversity of our natural history through artwork from the museum library’s collection. The exhibition examines how our unique wildlife, flora and geology has captured the imagination of artists over the past 300 years.


The birth of art photography at the National Portrait Gallery

black and white photograph of young woman in white dress, looking down

Unidentified young woman by Oscar Rejlander, 1863-9 © National Portrait Gallery, London

At the National Portrait Gallery, Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography (until May 20) is a celebration of four early photographers who were instrumental in identifying the medium as an art form, rather than a science. Lewis Carroll, Julia Margaret Cameron, Oscar Rejlander and Clementina Hawarden utilised photography as a tool for creating their art, making striking portraits of some very famous sitters.

The NPG’s Tacita Dean exhibition focuses, of course, on portraits. Tacita Dean: PORTRAIT (until May 28) is the first exhibition at the Gallery to focuses entirely on video, and contains film portraits of Merce Cunningham, Claes Oldenburg and Cy Twombly and David Hockney, amongst others.

screen print image of michael jackson in red jacket on yellow background

Michael Jackson 1984 by Andy Warhol. © National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D. C.; Gift of Time magazine

In Summer, to coincide with what would have been Michael Jackson’s 60th birthday, Michael Jackson: On the Wall (June 28 – 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; this show brings together work by over 40 artists that he inspired.


October Gallery – Parasol unit – Photographers’ Gallery – The Queen’s Gallery

Neuroscience inspired art at October Gallery

At October Gallery, Portal (until May 5) explores the potential creativity of the human mind. Six contemporary artists present their work, examining how trances, visions and dreams manifest in human consciousness.


Exploring the city at Parasol unit foundation for contemporary arts

At Parasol unit foundation for contemporary arts, Carlos Garaicoa (April 13 – June 3) is a solo exhibition of works by the Cuban artist, showing in London for the first time in a public institution. Garaicoa’s large-scale installations, sculptures, video and photography look at the city environment, exploring the city’s limitations, potential and possibilities.


A secret history of cross-dressers at Photographers’ Gallery

archive photograph of woman dresses in men's suit and top hat, sat at table

Woman in tuxedo. Albumen print, England, circa 1890. © Sébastien Lifshitz Collection. Courtesy of Sébastien Lifshitz and The Photographers’ Gallery

At the Photographers’ Gallery, Under Cover: A Secret History Of Cross-Dressers (until June 3) explores gender non-conformity and cross-dressing. Drawing on the personal collection of French screenwriter and director Sébastien Lifshitz, the exhibition features found photographs dating from the 1880s onwards, reflecting a range of styles and attitudes.

Alongside, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2018 (until June 3) presents the outstanding work of the four photographers shortlisted for this year’s prestigious prize. One of photography’s most distinguished award The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize highlights and celebrates the most significant photographic work, made by artists of any nationality.


A monumental royal portrait at The Queen’s Gallery

At the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace, life in the court of King Charles II is revealed through his monumental portrait, master paintings and splendid furniture. Charles II: Art & Power (until May 13) brings to light a happier time, after a decade of oppression under the rule of Oliver Cromwell, when the monarchy was restored and the rightful King took his seat.

photograph of gold fish with jewelled eyes

Gold fish, c.1875. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

After this 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 June 8 – October 14) draw on the RC’s collection of South Asian paintings and Indian treasures, exploring the long-standing relationship between the British Crown and South Asia.


Royal Academy of Arts – Royal Observatory – Serpentine Galleries – Science Museum

An astounding collection reunited at Royal Academy of Arts

Reunited for the first time since the 17th century, the spectacular art collection amassed by King Charles I goes on show at the Royal Academy of Arts in Charles I: King and Collector (until April 15), which brings together works by some of history’s finest artists – including Titian, Holbein, Van Dyck and Reubens – many of which were scattered across the globe after his execution.

Chris Orr RA: The Miserable Lives of Fabulous Artists (until August 9) presents the delightfully witty and vibrant illustrations of Royal Academician Chris Orr. Orr’s colourful works on paper place some of history’s greatest artists in imagined scenarios, combining both truthful and fabricated elements and featuring the likes of Much, Barbara Hepworth, Constable and Louise Bourgeois.

photograph of artist working on large-scale chalk drawing of mountain on gallery wall

Tacita Dean working on The Montafon Letter, Los Angeles, 2017 Photo: Fredrik Nilsen Studio.
Artwork: © Courtesy the artist; Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland; Frith Street Gallery, London and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris.

The RA’s Tacita Dean show looks at LANDSCAPE (May 19 – August 12), including the artist’s sublime large-scale mountain blackboard drawing in chalk, a new series of cloudscapes in chalk created especially for the gallery and a new experimental 35mm film, ‘Antigone’.

In the Summer, the RA has the 250th installation of its annual Summer Exhibition (June 12  – August 19). The world’s largest open submission show, the jam-packed Summer Exhibition presents work by a diverse and talented mixture of emerging and established artists.


Celestial beauty at the Royal Observatory

In Greenwich, the Royal Observatory’s awe-inspiring exhibition is the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017 (until July 22). Offering a feast of stars, moons, galaxies and nebulae, the exhibition showcases the stunning celestial images by the latest winners of the world’s biggest international astrophotography competition, as well as an interactive exhibit featuring all of the shortlisted entries.


Virtual life at the Serpentine Galleries

photograph of installation view of interactive simulation exhibition, showing person holding device at a screen

Ian Cheng, Installation view, Serpentine Gallery, London (6 March – 28 May 2018) © 2018 Hugo Glendinning

A duo of artwork by American virtual artist Ian Cheng inhabit the Serpentine Gallery throughout spring. Cheng’s BOB (until 22 April), is a new ‘living simulation’ by the innovating artist, a litter of the sentient artworks begin life in the gallery, growing, learning and reacting to the gallery visitors. The second half of this two-part exhibition, Emissaries (April 24 – May 28), is a trilogy of computer-generated simulations using complex logic systems and multiple models of AI. The cast of characters interact in open-ended narratives, in an infinite cycle of activity.

Across the bridge at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, Sondra Perry: Typhoon coming on (until May 20) is an immersive installation responding to JMW Turner’s 1840 painting Slave Ship (originally titled Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On) which depicts the drowning of 133 slaves in an insurance fraud ploy.


Illuminating India at the Science Museum

photogrpah of Indian man and four children inside black car, the driver's door is open and the man is holding a cigarette

Mitch Epstein, Shravanabelagola, Karnataka, India 1981
Courtesy of Galerie Thomas Zander, Köln

At the Science Museum, Illuminating India: Photography 1857 – 2017 (until April 22) explores how, after its invention in Britain in the 1830s, the medium of photography gained popularity in India. Photography was used by the British to document and exert power over the Indian population, and to produce propaganda, but was also adopted by Indians keen to record their stories and express their experiences.

Alongside, Illuminating India: 5000 Years of Science and Innovation (until April 22) documents the remarkable history of Indian science, mathematics and innovation, which has played a pivotal role in the understanding of the world around us over the past 5000 years.


Somerset House – Sir John Soane’s Museum – Tate Britain – Tate Modern

The Thames and the human body at Somerset House

At Somerset House, By the Deep, By the Mark (until April 22) draws parallels between the River Thames and the human body, bringing together a carefully researched collection of archival materials, medical equipment and audio-visual displays exploring civil and medical engineering.


Postmodernist architecture at Sir John Soane’s Museum

Sir John Soane’s Museum has the first exhibition exploring Postmodernism in British architecture. The Return of the Past: Postmodernism in British Architecture (May 16 – August 27) focuses on a selection of pivotal works from leading Postmodernist architects, including Terry Farrell, Piers Gough, Jeremy Dixon, John Outram and James Stirling/Michael Wilford.


Impressionists at Tate Britain

Over at Tate Britain, The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London (until May 7) is the story of the artists escaping the devastation of the Franco-Prussian war to find a new home in Britain. Expect captivating pieces by Monet, Pissaro, Sisley and their colleagues.

Taking us into summer the gallery has All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life (until August 27) – a celebration of a selection of painters working in Britain in the mid-20th to early 21st centuries, striving to capture the human figure. The exhibition features the likes of Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and Paula Rego and explores the influence of key figures from the previous generation, such as Walter Sickert.

collage of photographic images and german text on red white and blue background

Hannah Hoch – Dada Rundschau, 1919
437 x 345 mm Berlinische Galerie, Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Berlin © DACS, 2018

Aftermath: Art in the Wake of World War One marks the centenary of the end of the First World War by examining how the physical and psychological impact of war was depicted by artists. This moving exhibition shows how artists responded to war through their styles, and features artists who treated their work as a documentary tool, artists for whom a return to tradition felt necessary, as well as Dada and Surrealist artists whose movements were established in response to the futility of war.


Picasso’s pivotal year at Tate Modern

At Tate Modern there’s a comprehensive retrospective of 20th century painter and sculptor Modigliani (until April 23), featuring a selection of the Paris-based artist’s emotional portraits and lesser-known sculptures. Also on show are a group of his controversial nudes, which drove the police to censor his only ever solo show, and a VR experience of the artist’s studio in Paris.

In March it’s the turn of American Video and Performance artist Joan Jonas (until August 5). The largest exhibition of Jonas’ work in the UK, the show is a chance to see some of her landmark pieces – including Organic Honey, The Juniper Tree and Reanimation.

abstract painting of nude woman reclining in chair

Pablo Picasso, Nude in a Black Armchair (Nu au feauteuil noir ), 1932.
Oil paint on canvass, 1613 x 1295 mm.
Private collection, USA. © Succession Picasso/DACS London, 2017

Alongside, there’s Tate Modern’s first ever solo exhibition of work by one of history’s most famous artists, Pablo Picasso. The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy (until September 9) focuses in on the year 1932 – known as Picasso’s ‘year of wonders’ – revealing month by month the incredible quality and quantity of work he produced. Among these pivotal works are some of his best loved and most iconic.

abstract photogram

László Moholy-Nagy, 1895-1946 – Photogram c.1925. Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper 181 x 238 mm.
Jack Kirkland Collection, Nottingham

Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art (May 2 – 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.


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

The age of ocean travel at the V&A

At the V&A, Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic (until April 8) draws on the museum’s own archive of pencil sketches, proofs, letters and photographs and many key loans to reveal the story behind the creative partnership of A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard and the factors contributing to the success and enduring popularity of the little honey-loving bear.

Ocean Liners: Speed & Style (until June 17) reveals the opulence of the age of ocean travel, exploring the design of the world’s largest and most iconic ocean liners, including the Titanic, Normandie and the Queen Mary. Models, advertising posters and furnishings are on show together with some of the guests’ fine clothing, accessories and luggage.

photograph of cape fashioned from peacock feathers

Cape of curled cockerel feathers, Auguste Champot, France, ca. 1895
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Fashioned from Nature (April 21 – January 27) 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.

The Future Starts Here (May 12 – 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.

photograph of Frida Kahlo holding figurine, with pink flowers in her hair

Frida Kahlo with Olmec figurine, 1939. Photograph Nickolas Muray. © Nickolas Muray Photo Archives

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up (June 16 – 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.


Nordic design at the V&A Museum of Childhood

In Bethnal Green, the V&A Museum of Childhood has Century of the Child: Nordic Design for Children 1900 to Today (until September 2). The exhibition features progressive design, architecture and literature produced within Nordic countries in the 20th century, exploring how children have inspired some of the region’s most iconic designs. Showcasing the like of LEGO, IKEA and the Moomins, the exhibition documents a shift in 20th century attitudes towards children, when they became the centre of adults’ attention.

photograph of young girl breaking through an oversized hand-drawn calendar

Exuma by pupil at Lauriston School

Dream On (until January 20 2019) is 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.


Ayurvedic Man at the Wellcome Collection

two drawings of the human body - one image showing a man in lotus position with the chakras marked on his body, one showing a standing figure with veins and organs showing

Two drawings: the easiest method how to practice pranayam © Wellcome Collection (CC BY)

At the Wellcome CollectionAyurvedic Man: Encounters with Indian Medicine (until April 8) draws on the institution’s wealth of historical medical objects from around the world, to examine the evolution and the modern application of Indian Medicine. On top of the Wellcome’s historical artefacts, the exhibition also includes a newly-commissioned drawing of the Bombay plague by artist Ranjit Kandalgaonkar and a film by Nilanjan Bhattacharya exploring contemporary practitioners of Indian Medicine.

In Somewhere In Between (until August 27), four contemporary artists have collaborated with scientists to discuss themes affecting our everyday lives and health, and the blurred area between ‘art’ and ‘science’.

advertising poster showing painting of red squirrel brushing its teeth with pink toothepase from a yellow and white tube

A red squirrel cleaning its teeth with Binaca toothpaste. Colour lithograph by N. Stoecklin, 1944.
Photographer: Laura Hart

Known for their curious exhibitions exploring the human condition the Wellcome’s upcoming Teeth (May 17 – September 16), is no exception. Drawing on the Wellcome’s collection, as well as that of the British Dental Association, the exhibition examines the history of dentistry through cartoons and caricatures, advertisements, medical tools and protective amulets.  Featuring fascinating examples of past practice and tools, fears and anxieties around dentistry, and the idea of oral hygiene as a right and responsibility.


A visual journey at the Whitechapel Gallery

In East London at the Whitechapel Gallery there’s a new commission by Portuguese artist Leonor Antunes, the frisson of the togetherness (until April 9), which references overlooked 20th century designers. Antunes’ installation takes the viewer on a journey around the space, guided by hanging rope, metal and leather sculptures illuminated by lights designed by the artist.

Mark Dion: Theatre of the Natural World (until May 13) is a major solo exhibition by American artist Mark Dion, discussing the relationship between us and the natural world. The show, which comprises a series of large scale installations made between the 1990s and the present day, At the centre of the first gallery, The Library for the Birds of London is a large aviary housing 22 zebra finches, an apple tree and a large collection of natural history and literary books – the new installation invites the viewer to share the gallery space with a group of living things that are simultaneously very close to us, but so different from us.


Exploring Epping Forest at the William Morris Gallery

Gayle Chong Kwan: The People’s Forest (until May 20) at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow is an exploration of the ancient Epping Forest woodland through photography and sculpture. The fruit of a two-year project by the artist, the series of artworks delves into this historically important place, revealing the stories, people and politics of the woodland, and looking at Epping Forest’s role as a site of historic and recent protest.


What are you looking forward to seeing in 2018? Let us know in the comments below…

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3 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 –


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