The best art exhibitions to see in London in 2018 3

Get out and about in the capital this summer with our guide to the best exhibitions London has to offer – updated July 2018

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

Intimacy in art at the Barbican

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

At the Barbican, Dorothea Lange / Vanessa Winship (until 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.

In the autumn, the Curve has a site-specific installation by New Zealand sculptor Francis Upritchard. In Wetwang Slack (September 27 – 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.

black and white photograph showing woman sat in the lap of a large anthropomorphic sculpture, with a man crouching behind the sculpture

Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst with his sculpture, Capricorn, 1947 © John Kasnetsis

Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-Garde (October 10 – January 27 2019) focuses in on the work of legendary couples in the art and literature world, 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 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 September 1), a display of works by the promising artist Cynthia Pell, whose mental illness lead to a life in and out of hospital and homelessness.


A voyage to the unknown at the British Library

dawing showing maori man and british man facing each other, the maori man is holding a lobster on a string

Banks and a Maori by Tupaia © British Library Board

Over at the British LibraryJames Cook: The Voyages (until August 28) commemorates the 250th anniversary of British explorer and Navigator Captain James Cook’s first expedition on the HMS Endeavour. The scientific voyage to the Pacific Ocean saw Cook as among the first Europeans to reach the east coast of Australia and encounter indigenous Australians. The exhibition includes Cook’s handwritten journal, drawings by the Polynesian navigator Tupaia, and works by expedition artists.

2018 marks 70 years since the HMT Empire Windrush travelled from Jamaica to the UK, bringing over 800 Caribbean migrants to London and. 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.


you might also like: britain's best places to see


The search for dissent at the British Museum

At the British Museum, 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.

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 20thcentury 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.

photograph of white button badge with rainbow text reading 'make America gay again'

Make America Gay Again badge © The Trustees of the British Museum

Later in the year, I object: Ian Hislop’s search for dissent (September 6 – 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.


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

Colour photography as fine art at Camden Arts Centre

Over at Camden Arts Centre they’re celebrating colour photography as fine art with Peter Fraser: Mathematics – an exhibition of the photographer who sees the beauty in found situations and accidental compositions. Photographing everyday objects, places and people, Fraser uncovers the underlying patterns between seemingly juxtaposing images.

Alongside, Voluta (both July 6 – September 16) is a site-specific installation created by a previous artist in residence at the art centre. Japanese artist Yuko Mohri utilises forces such as magnetism, gravity and light to create her installations, which reveal the inherent feelings certain architectural spaces embody.


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, Istanbul-based artist Banu Cennetoğlu (until August 26) has her first major solo exhibition in Britain – a multi-titled moving image installation presenting an archive of images and videos sourced from a variety of the artist’s devices, which traces more than 10 years of social and political flux.

Hope to nope at the Design Museum

At the Design Museum 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.

Just outside the Hope to Nope exhibition is a display recalling the iconic youth protest which took place in France in 1968. May ’68 and the Atelier Populaire (until September 2) presents some of the posters made during the month-long workshop Atelier Populaire, run by students and artists opposing the anti-Vietnam war and Soviet dictatorship.

photograph of model wearing snakeskin bra holding a phone with her hair rolled in cans

Naomi Campbell wearing Azzedine Alaia Tati Collection Spring Summer 1991. Courtesy of Ellen von Unwerth.

Fashion fans won’t want to miss this summer’s major exhibition, 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.


Dulwich Picture Gallery – Estorick Collection – Fan Museum – Fashion and Textile Museum

Edward Bawden at Dulwich Picture Gallery

At Dulwich Picture Gallery an influential 20th century artist is explored in Edward Bawden (until 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.

Following this, Ribera: Art of Violence (September 26 – 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.


Fancy a Campari at the Estorick Collection?

illustration showing sprite character in red inside an orange peel holding a bottle of Campari

Leonetto Cappiello Bitter Campari (Lo Spiritello), 1921 Bitter Campari (The Sprite). Lithographic colour print on paper. Courtesy Archivio Galleria Campari, Milan

At the Estorick Collection, home of modern Italian art in London, there’s an exhibition of the distinctive poster art created to advertise the bitter red liquor, Campari. The Art of Campari (July 4 – September 16) looks at how the innovative brand used this new medium to grow a sophisticated reputation, firstly through stylish art deco artwork by respected artists of the early 20th century, through to the futurist style now synonymous with the Italian aperitivo.


Fabulous feathers at the Fan Museum

In Greenwich, the Fan Museum has A Bird in the Hand (until September 23) which brings together a collection of stunning fans constructed from a variety of feathers. The exhibition explores how naturally beautiful feathers were utilised in the making of fans for the aristocracy, and features stunning examples, including the museum’s oldest fan, dating at least 1000 years old and tipped with macaw feathers.


Exquisite 30s fashion at the Fashion and Textile Museum

photograph of women in vintage style dress sat at desks in row with typewriters

Courtesy of Orla Kiely © Orla Kiely

At Bermondsey’s Fashion and Textile Museum the versatile and iconic designs of Irish designer Orla Kiely are celebrated in A Life in Pattern (until 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.

Later in the year the museum has Night and Day: 1930s Fashion and Photographs – an exhibition revealing the day and evening styles of the decade that took us from the glamourous 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 30s, Cecil Beaton. One of Britain’s most influential photographers, Beaton immortalised some of the most influential stars of the era – including the likes of Salvador Dali Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn – in his iconic portraits.


Foundling Museum – Garden Museum – Guildhall Art Gallery – Hayward Gallery

Exploring memory and time at the Foundling Museum

At the Foundling Museum, Sea (until 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.

For the autumn, the museum has Ladies of Quality & Distinction (September 21 – January 20 2019) which 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 had been overshadowed by their male peers.


Flower fairies at the Garden Museum

An orange fairy sitting in a nasturtium plant

The Nasturtium Fairy From a Flower Fairy Alphabet ® The Estate of Cicley Mary Barker 1934

In Lambeth, the Garden Museum has Cedric Morris: Artist Plantsman (until 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.

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 wonderful imagination and her botanical accuracy.


The beauty of symmetry at Guildhall Art Gallery

a photo of a round platter with a bee design

© 2017 De Morgan Foundation

The 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.


Dreamy installations at the Hayward Gallery

At the Southbank Centre the Hayward Gallery has acclaimed South Korean contemporary and installation artist Lee Bul (until August 19), who takes over the recently-reopened space with a mid-career survey exploring the body and its relationship to architectural space.


Heath Robinson Museum – Horniman Museum – House of Illustration – Imperial War Museum London

Peter Pan at the Heath Robinson Museum

At the Heath Robinson Museum, located within the lush and picturesque Pinner Memorial Park, there’s A Curious Turn: Moving, Mechanical Sculpture (until August 19), which 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.

After this, Peter Pan and Other Lost Children (August 25 – 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, where some women were granted 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.


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

photograph of fabric artwork in sea colours

Changing Tides by Karen Dodd

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 (until 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.


A mid-century influencer at the House of Illustration

Illustrated packaging for game featuring circus ring-leader, clown and variety of animals

Envelope for Menagerie Cut Out Game, Royle Publications, 1947, 23x30cm © Enid Marx, courtesy of Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections

In King’s Cross, the House of Illustration has Enid Marx: print, Pattern and Popular Art (until September 23), 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.


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 over 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 September 21 – March 31 2019) brings together recordings from the IWM’s sound archive in an immersive sound installation. The audio histories are reactions to the ceasefire by soldiers, civilians and children who lived through the conflict.


Jewish Museum London – London Transport Museum – The National Gallery – National Maritime Museum

Astérix in Britain at Jewish Museum London

drawing of man sat at drawing desk smoking a cigarette

Self-portrait at drawing table, René Goscinny, 1948 © Anne Goscinny

The Jewish Museum London is celebrating the unique imagination of the cartoonist and writer of Polish descent, who co-created one of the most beloved comics of the 20th century, which has been translated into 150 different languages. Astérix in Britain: The Life and Work of René Goscinny (until September 30) is a playful exhibition which tells the story of the man born into a family of Jewish immigrants, whose wit touched countless lives across the globe.


Celebrating women graphic designers at London Transport Museum

At Covent Garden’s London Transport MuseumPoster 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 The National GalleryMonet & Architecture (until 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.

black and white painting of square building with sign reading 'tool & die'

Ed Ruscha, Blue Collar Tool & Die, 1992. Whitney Museum of American Art 2006.8 © Ed Ruscha / photography Paul Ruscha

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 – 5 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. The self-taught artist’s sublime landscapes portraying the American wilderness are exhibited in the same space as the masterful artists who inspired him in early life; Constable and Turner.

impressionist painting showing two women in long narrow yellow row boat

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Skiff (La Yole), 1875. © The National Gallery, London

For autumn, the gallery has Courtauld Impressionists: From Manet to Cézanne (September 17 – January 20 2019), which charts the development of impressionist and post-impressionist art through over forty much-loved masterpieces from the Courtauld Gallery. Featuring stunning paintings by Seurat, Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec.


The great British seaside at the National Maritime Museum

photograph of two seagulls on a wall with polystyrene container of chips

GB. England. Dorset. From West Bay. 1996. © Martin Parr – Magnum Photos

In Greenwich, the National Maritime Museum has a season dedicated to the great British seaside holiday. The Great British Seaside (until September 18) features photography from four celebrated British photographers, including new work from Martin Parr which expose our idiosyncratic relationship with the seaside, and the British determination to enjoy a day out whatever the weather.


National Portrait Gallery – Parasol unit – Photographers’ Gallery – The Queen’s Gallery

The legacy of Michael Jackson at the National Portrait Gallery

At the National Portrait GalleryThe BP Portrait Award (until September 23) presents some of the stand-out portraits painted by entrants to the 2018 award. The most prestigious competition of its kind in the world, the BP Portrait Award exhibition promises to showcase the very best in contemporary portrait painting.

photograph of table covered in personal effects, including photographs, clock, trinket box

700 Nimes Road, Bedside Table by Catherine Opie 2010-11. Courtesy the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles © Catherine Opie

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; 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.


Fragility and impermanence at Parasol unit foundation for contemporary arts

At Parasol unit foundation for contemporary artsCarlos Garaicoa (until July 20) 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 photo of a hanging piece of fabric with window like images on it

Heidi Bucher, Kleines Glasportal, Bellevue Kreuzlingen (Small glass portal, Bellevue Kreuzlingen), 1988. Installation view at Art Basel Unlimited, 2016. Photograph by Robert Glowacki, image courtesy The Approach, London. Courtesy the Estate of Heidi Bucher

Later in the year, 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.


Melodrama at The Photographers’ Gallery

A girl in a green dress, lying on a patterned carpet, with a cigarette in hand. she is lit from the side

The Big Valley: Desiree, 2008 © Alex Prager Studio and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong. Courtesy Alex Prager Studio, Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

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.

Dafydd Jones: The Last Hurrah (August 3 – September 8) is a display of work by British photographer Dafydd Jones, who documented the social elite at dances, balls and weddings. Jones’ candid photos show the most privileged of London at play and offer a revealing insight into how the other half live.


A prince’s tour of India at The Queen’s Gallery

At the Queen’s Gallery 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.

At The State Rooms at Buckingham Palace there’s a display to celebrate the 70th birthday of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. Prince and Patron (July 21 – September 30) is an exhibition of art from the RC’s collection, specially chosen by The Prince. The display includes pieces that he finds particularly interesting and inspiring, including Johan Joseph Zoffany’s painting, The Tribuna of the Uffizi and Napoleon’s cloak.


Royal Academy of Arts – Serpentine Galleries – Somerset House – Sir John Soane’s Museum

It’s miserable being fabulous at the Royal Academy of Arts

At the Royal Academy of Arts 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 sculpture of trolley containing a variety of colourful items with large sign reading 'everything must go'

Michael Landy RA, Closing Down Sale. Image courtesy the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery. © Michael Landy

The RA’s annual Summer Exhibition is back for its 250th year. Coordinated by artist Grayson Perry, this year’s offering promises to be bigger and brighter than ever. Works from giants of the contemporary art world including Anish Kapoor, David Hockney, Tracey Emin, Mona Hatoum and Rose Wylie are on display and there’s a new ‘room of humour’ featuring work by David Shrigley and Martin Parr, among others.

Alongside, The Great Spectacle (both until August 19) tells the story of two and a half centuries of the Summer Exhibition, revisiting important moments in the history of both the RA and its famed annual show.

Tacita Dean: LANDSCAPE (until August 12), features 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’.

Later in the year, Renzo Piano: The Art of Making Buildings (September 15 – 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.

photograph of document with Maori design

Tooi [Tuai], Drawing of Korokoro’s moko, 1818. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, GNZMMS-147

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.


Legendary sculptors at the Serpentine Galleries

photograph of stacked colourful barrels blocking a narrow street

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Wall of Barrels – The Iron Curtain, Rue Visconti, Paris, 1961-62 Courtesy of the artist, Photo: Jean-Dominique Lajoux, © 1962 Christo

The Serpentine Gallery celebrates the ambitious large-scale sculptures of husband and wife artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, famous for wrapping Berlin’s Reichstag building in thousands of meters of fabric, with Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Barrels and The Mastaba 1958–2018 (until September 9). The exhibition coincides with a new temporary sculpture by Christo in the Serpentine lake nearby – his first outdoor public work in the UK – and showcases plans for past works, including unrealised pieces.

Across the bridge at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, past Turner Prize Winner Tomma Abts (until September 9) proves that bigger isn’t always better. Working almost exclusively in a 48cm x 38cm format, Abts’ paintings manifest as colourful and geometric experiments which evolve during the painting process.


Charlie Brown at Somerset House

At Somerset House, Print! Tearing It Up (until August 22) celebrates the rise in popularity of the British independent magazine. Charting the history and impact of these indie publications, the show looks at why they’ve returned to print in such a digital age, and how they address the issues of today such as gender and diversity.

The Influence Project (until August 22) explores pioneering African American musicians through the medium of photography. The exhibition features unseen portraits of some of Funk, Hip Hop, Afrobeat, Soul and R&B’s most influential names, and looks at how they pushed social and political boundaries, ushering in a new age of music.

photograph of cluster of colourful balloons with pink human legs riding a zebra, surrounded by tropical foliage, flowers and stack of hats

Athi-Patra Ruga, Night of the Long Knives I, 2013 © Athi-Patra Ruga

In the autumn 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.

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.


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 (until 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.

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 inspeted by four characters: a lawyer, a monk, a magician and architect, Out of Character: A Project by Studio MUTT (September 12 – 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.


Tate Britain – Tate Modern – V&A

Art in the wake of war at Tate Britain

Over at Tate Britain, All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life (until August 27) is 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.

Inspired by a mysterious photo taken of American choreographer Erick Hawkins dressed like a squash, artist Anthea Hamilton has conceived a 6 month long installation in which a performer in a squash-like costume inhabits the gallery and interprets the photo as they choose. The Squash (until October 7) sees the gallery’s central Duveen Galleries transformed into the performance space, with their famous neo-classical interior architecture temporary replaced by large white tiles and geometric structures, giving a swimming pool-esque vibe.

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

Hannah Hoch – Dada Rundschau, 1919. Berlinische Galerie, Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Berlin © DACS, 2018

Aftermath: Art in the Wake of World War One (until September 23) 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 an exhibition of work by 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 HoneyThe Juniper Tree and Reanimation.

There’s still time to catch Jordan Wolfson’s deeply disturbing Coloured sculpture (until August 26) in The Tanks – a seven foot puppet child which gets unceremoniously dragged around the gallery space on a series of chains. The child’s cartoon-like appearance evokes American pop culture boyhood while the intentionally crude composition of the puppet helps to pacify the shocking treatment it appears to be subjected to.

abstract painting of nude woman reclining in chair

Pablo Picasso, Nude in a Black Armchair (Nu au feauteuil noir ), 1932. 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.

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.

photograph of textile artwork in orange and blue with intersecting lines

Intersecting, 1962. Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop © 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London.

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 feminist icon at the V&A

At the V&AFashioned 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.

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.

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 (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.


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

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.


Brush your teeth at the Wellcome Collection

At the Wellcome Collection has Somewhere In Between (until August 27), in which 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 by N. Stoecklin, 1944. Photographer: Laura Hart

Known for their curious exhibitions exploring the human condition the Wellcome’s upcoming Teeth (until 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 both a right and responsibility.


A witty artistic duo at the Whitechapel Gallery

In East London at the Whitechapel Gallery Killed Negatives: Unseen Images of 1930s America (until August 26) brings together defaced documentary photographs commissioned by Roy Stryker to expose the desperate poverty of rural America in the great Depression. Some of the greatest photographers of the era, including Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans were recruited for this task. They were also subjected to Stryker’s heavy-handed editing – any image which didn’t fit his vision was defaced with a hole punched through the negative. When printed the rejected images result in a surreal, and rather ominous, black dot, rendering them unprintable. The exhibition brings together 70 of these ‘killed’ negatives.

ISelf Collection: Bumped Bodies (until August 12) draws on the ISelf collection of artwork relating to the self to explore the relationship between the body, the object and the environment. Taking its title from a work by artist Paloma Varga Weisz’s sculpture Bumped Body, depicting an androgynous pregnant figure, the exhibition makes us consider our relationship with our body and the body’s relationship to the world.

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.


Weaving worlds at the William Morris Gallery

tapestry showing abstract colourful shapes and foliage with berries

Ripples & Ribes by Jennie Moncur, 2015. © The Artist

At the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow Weaving New Worlds brings together 16 international women artists who use the traditional medium of tapestry to tell contemporary stories, with the human condition at the heart of the works.

Tatsuo Miyajima (both until September 23) presents the work of one of Japan’s most respected contemporary artists, whose artworks explore the concept of time. Miyajima has collaborated with the gallery to incorporate Morris’ iconic Bird fabric design to add to his body of work made in response to the establishment of Greenwich Mean Time.

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 –


Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *