Important: March 2020 – Due to the coronavirus we urge our readers to please double check that the museum/gallery you wish to visit is open before you make a special journey.
There’s surrealism, futurism, impressionism, pop art and loads more going on in London in the new year. See in the twenties in style with our guide to the best exhibitions in the city in 2020 – updated throughout the year
At the Barbican, Masculinities: Liberation through Photography (February 20 – May 17) explores the evolution of masculinity over time through the work of over 50 international photographers and film artists, including Laurie Anderson, Sunil Gupta, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Isaac Julien and Catherine Opie. From the sixties to the modern day and in the wake of #MeToo, the exhibition investigates notions of toxic and fragile masculinity, and reveals film and photography’s role in shaping our ideas of what masculinity truly means.
Following this is the first ever UK exhibition by Nigerian-American artist Toyin Ojih Odutola, whose work takes the medium of drawing as a form of storytelling. In A Countervailing Theory (March 26 – July 26) the artist explores an imagined ancient myth, and invites the audience to piece together her narrative through the fragments of story that she presents.
Bethlem Museum of the Mind
At the Royal hospital’s own on-site museum, Bethlem Museum of the Mind, there’s The Four Ages of Woman: Perspectives from Bethlem Museum of the Mind (January 8 – April 25), which explores the representations of women in visual culture through the museum’s art collection.
From its unique position the museum can explore the depiction of women in art from perspectives other than just the appraising gaze of men, as is often seen in many art collections. Highlighting obscure women artists who deserved to be better known, including Marion Patrick, Elise Warriner Pacquette, Charlotte Johnson and Cynthia Pell, the exhibition explores how the artists have determinedly narrated their own stories.
Continuing at the British Library, a major exhibition explores the origins, philosophy and contemporary relevance of one of the world’s largest religions. Buddhism (until February 23) uncovers the religion’s beginnings in India in the 6th century BC and explores how its knowledge and teachings have been shared over centuries, through brightly-coloured scrolls and manuscripts, unique cosmologies, temple banners, and bejewelled books from the library’s collection.
Marvellous and Mischievous: Literature’s Young Rebels (until March 1) celebrates the headstrong characters in some of our most beloved children’s books who break the rules and defy conventions to make the world a better place. Rediscover your favourite characters from Pippi Longstocking, Matilda, Where the Wild Things Are, The Secret Garden and more to rekindle your youthful optimism and defiance.
At the British Museum the phenomenal exhibition, Troy: myth and reality (until March 8) continues. The show tells the dramatic and tragic legend of the great city of Troy through breathtaking art and archaeology – retelling the story of the Trojan Horse, the kidnap of the most beautiful woman in the world and the fall of the city.
Camden Arts Centre
Kicking off 2020 at Camden Arts Centre is Vivian Suter, Tintin’s Sofa (January 16 – April 5). Suter’s textural canvasses evolve from the environment they were created in – her lakeside studio in Guatemala. The unstretched canvases feature traces of rain, mud, leaves and the effects of passing animals.
Alongside, Athanasios Argianas: Hollowed Water (January 16 – April 5) offers a contrasting show of new film, sculpture and musical works exploring redundant technologies and modernist aesthetics. The exhibition comprises modular ceramic sculptures representing the subtle shift in design ideals from art nouveau to modernism, and casts and replicas of acoustic technologies.
Over at Chisenhale Gallery, Imran Perretta (January 17 – March 15) presents a new film the destructors which tackles the complexities of coming of age for British Muslim men. Taking its name from a short story by Graham Greene in which a gang in post-war London plot to destroy an elderly man’s house, the film follows a group of young men, navigating the pressures of growing up in a society where they are considered threatening. Alluding to institutional surveillance, state-sponsored Islamophobia and the lack of public space for working class communities of colour, the film reflects Perretta’s own experiences as a young man of Bangladeshi heritage.
On Kensington High Street there’s still plenty of time to catch the Design Museum’s Moving to Mars (until March 1), an immersive exhibition exploring how we can arrive, survive and thrive on the red planet. The exhibition takes an in-depth look at how every detail in this endeavour has to be designed, presenting commissions and collaborations by contemporary designers responding to different potential scenarios.
PriestmanGoode presents Get Onboard: Reduce. Reuse. Rethink (until February 9) looks at the environmental impact of travel, critiquing the trails of waste we leave behind every time we travel. The display aims to raise awareness of the unsustainability of these habits which have an enormous impact on the environment, and challenges us to rethink our behaviours, infrastructure and products while on the go.
Opening in the spring, Electronic (April 1 – July 26) explores the heady world of electronic music across the US and Europe. Transporting you through the people, art, design, technology and photography that captured and shaped the scene, the exhibition features the likes of Jean-Michel Jarre, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Jeff Mills as well as photos of rave culture by Andreas Gursky, iconic DJ fashions and more. There’s even a 3D Kraftwork experience and mesmerising installations to dive right into if the mood takes you.
Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street (May 6 – September 6) is some serious eye candy for the sneakerheads. Cult classics, as well as limited edition silhouettes and colourways are on display in a show which explores the design process, the brands that have shaped the scene and the hold that sneakers have on subculture. Split into Performance, Street Culture and Fashion, the exhibition reveals the most innovative brands, and asks what impact the ever-growing sneaker industry has on technology, designers and manufacturers.
Dulwich Picture Gallery
In picturesque, leafy Dulwich the Dulwich Picture Gallery’s highly regarded exhibition Rembrandt’s Light (until February 2) continues as part of the celebrations taking place throughout Europe to mark the 350th anniversary of the incomparable Dutch Master’s death. The show brings together a selection of important works from Rembrandt’s greatest years, 1639 – 1658. Thirty five paintings, drawings and etchings are on display arranged thematically in a dramatically-lit exhibition which aims to refresh the way we look at Rembrandt’s masterful artworks.
The gallery’s first new exhibition of 2020 comes in the shape of British Surrealism 1783–1952 (February 26 – May 17), the first major show to explore the origins of surrealist art in Britain. Featuring works from the likes of Eileen Agar, Francis Bacon, Edward Burra, Leonora Carrington and Paul Nash, the exhibition explores themes of the unconscious and uncanny, war, anarchy and sexual desire.
The first major photography exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery, Unearthed: Photography’s Roots (June 17 – September 20) kicks off in the summer, investigating the link between photography and nature. In the show, which features key figures in photography as well as work by a selection of overlooked photographers, the history of photography is traced through depictions of nature, from Fox Talbot’s early paper negatives to the eroticism of Robert Mapplethorpe and Nobuyoshi Araki.
In the north, at the marvellous Estorick Collection, Tullio Crali: A Futurist Life (January 15 – April 11) features rarely-seen works from the 1920s to the 1980s by futurist painter Tullio Crali. Crali took futurism as an attitude to life itself; his obsession for modern machinery and technology fuelled his vibrant paintings. Crali was particularly drawn to the ‘visual and sensory drama of flight’ and he produced a series of iconic aeropaintings – a staple subject in the futurist group. Read our preview.
Fashion and Textile Museum
Over at the Fashion and Textile Museum, to mark 50 years of the museum founder’s own fashion label, Zandra Rhodes: Fifty Years of Fabulous (until January 26) continues until the end of January. The exhibition celebrates the acclaimed British designer who was the brains behind one of the most recognisable fashion labels in London. Launched in 1969, Zandra Rhodes’ Pop Art-infused designs and bold take on structure is explored through 100 key looks and 50 original textiles.
Following this, Out of the Blue: Fifty Years of Designers Guild (February 14 – June 14) celebrates another half-century anniversary. The exhibition tells the five-decade history of the design company founded by Tricia Guild, which started life as a small section in a shop in Chelsea, and grew into a global enterprise which has shaped the way we think about design within our homes. The exhibition offers a unique insight into the company’s archive, and features never-before-seen designs and artwork.
At the Foundling Museum, the former Foundling Hospital for abandoned children and UK’s first children’s charity, there’s Portraying Pregnancy: From Holbein to Social Media (January 24 – April 26). This major exhibition features portraits made over 500 years, all exploring representations of women in pregnancy and asking why very few surviving portraits depict pregnant bodies. Highlights in the show include Hans Holbein II’s portrait of Cicely Heron; a portrait by George Dawe of a pregnant Princess Charlotte, who died in childbirth that same year; and a photograph of Beyoncé, pregnant with twins, which became the most liked photograph on Instagram in 2017. Read our preview.
Freud Museum London
At the Freud Museum London to celebrate the centenary of Freud’s paper on The Uncanny there’s an exhibition that could give you the shivers. The Uncanny: A Centenary (until February 9) sees a group of five contemporary artists exhibiting new works exploring this creepy phenomenon. It features work by Elizabeth Dearnley, lili Spain, Martha Todd and Karolina Urbaniak and Martin Bladh, including an audio trail and immersive room.
Ida Applebroog: Mercy Hospital (February 29 – June 7) is an exhibition of a set of drawings rediscovered 40 years after they were made by American mixed media artist Ida Applebroog. Created while Applebroog was a patient at San Diego’s Mercy Hospital – which she had checked herself into during struggles with her mental health – the drawings feature her characteristic bold and vibrant abstract figures. The museum offers a unique and sympathetic space in which to explore this sensitive body of work.
In Lambeth, the green-fingered Garden Museum is celebrating London’s Royal Parks. Former royal hunting grounds, the parks have evolved over the centuries into public spaces, setting London out as one of the greenest capital cities in the world. Play, Protest and Pelicans: A People’s History of London’s Royal Parks (until February 9) reveals the histories of Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Richmond Park, Bushy Park, St James’s Park, Green Park, Regent’s Park, and Greenwich Park, drawing on artworks, photographs and ephemera to recall how the parks have been used throughout history.
Exploring the legacy of the director, artist, writer and gardener, Derek Jarman: My garden’s boundaries are the horizon (April 24 – July 12) tells the story of Jarman’s garden at his home in Dungeness, Prospect Cottage, a small fisherman’s shack. Following his HIV diagnosis, he set about creating his garden, vowing to get as much out of life as possible. His garden became an artwork in its own right, as he utilised beach debris and driftwood alongside careful planting to create living still lifes. Works of art and film are on display alongside his garden notebooks, tools and furniture borrowed from the cottage.
Contemporary arts space Gasworks has Lauren Gault: CITHRA (January 22 – March 22), the first London show and a major new commission by the Glasgow-based Northern Irish artist. Gault combines unorthodox materials such as horn, glass, light, water and even milk powder to discuss different environmental, political and ethical scenarios.
On the Southbank there’s still time to catch Bridget Riley (until January 26) at the Hayward Gallery, the acclaimed British artist whose works are synonymous with the op art movement which gained traction in the 1960s. The exhibition takes a close look at Riley’s early works, focusing on the beginnings of her foray into perceptual paintings and tracing pivotal points in her career. Developed in close collaboration with the artist, the show also features preparatory material and recent works.
Following this, the works of Turkish musical artist Nevin Aladag (February 12 – April 13) go on show. Aladag’s video and sculptural pieces include a musical portrait of Stuttgart in which instruments are ‘played’ by elements of the city, a piece exploring the infectious rhythm of dancing feet and a piece using percussion from India, Pakistan and Iraq. A playful exploration of sound, rhythm and music, this is Aladag’s first solo exhibition in the UK.
Heath Robinson Museum
Over at the Heath Robinson Museum, the lovely Fairies in Illustration (until February 23) explores how artists have interpreted and given life to these mythical winged creatures. The exhibition features work by prolific Victorian fairy artist Richard Doyle and a selection of interwar artists, as well as eight original watercolours from Cicely Mary Barker’s enduring Flower Fairies books, an original cel from Disney’s Peter Pan and artworks by Labyrinth mastermind Brian Froud.
At Forest Hill’s Horniman Museum, Stages of Making (until April 12) is an immersive exhibition exploring design, techniques and time. The artworks in the exhibition are inspired by the history of the museum and its collection, and they all have a story to tell. Led by artist Katie Schwab, the exhibition has contributions from community members and the public are also encouraged to contribute through creative workshops.
Turn It Up: On Paradoxes (until June 21) is a photographic display by Nigerian photographer Jide Odukoya whose documentary photography centres on lifestyle, social, health and gender issues in Nigeria and beyond. The display presents the buzz and splendour of traditional Nigerian weddings – presented as some of the most extravagant in the world.
As I Live and Breathe (until May 4) is an installation by artist Claire Morgan, which encourages us to question our relationship with nature, our over reliance on plastics and the impact that our waste has on wildlife and the environment. The pieces are on display in the atrium and the natural history gallery, and use pieces of plastic torn from shopping bags, and taxidermy animals to relay their important message.
House of Illustration
At the House of Illustration the infographics produced by pioneering American sociologist and activist W.E.B. Du Bois are on display. W.E.B. Du Bois: Activism by Numbers (until March 1) explores how his modern interpretations of statistics gathered from research on the achievement of African Americans in 1900 present the inequalities experienced by the black population, and communicated these findings to an international audience. Read our preview.
In the gallery dedicated to work of the House of Illustration’s founder – the beloved illustrator Quentin Blake – is an evolving display of the artist’s work from his London studio. Quentin Blake: From the Studio (until October 31 2021) gives you the opportunity to cast your eyes on a wide variety of Blake’s work, from recent publications and forthcoming books to personal works and preparatory drawings.
Jewish Museum London
In Camden, at the Jewish Museum London Charlotte Salomon: Life? or Theatre? (until March 1) presents the remarkable artwork of German-Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon. Created in the last years of her tragically short life, these 200+ small gouache paintings are a selection from a larger body of work that she created whilst in hiding from the Nazis. A tender portrait of the artist’s life, the collection of paintings chronicle her family life, her time growing up in Berlin, the rise of the Nazis and her exile to France. Salomon was murdered at Auschwitz concentration camp aged 26, and five months pregnant.
JEW. Photographs by John Offenbach (until April 19) presents 34 large scale photographs by renowned, award-winning photographer John Offenback. The photographs aim to challenge dangerous stereotypes by presenting Jews across a wide spectrum of society. Depicting a spy, a refuse collector and a Nobel laureate amongst many more, the display dispels the myth that there is only one type of Jew.
Museum of London
At the Museum of London London Calling: 40 Years of The Clash (until March 20) celebrates the band’s formative album which rocked the music scene and served as an anthem for the city. Showcasing personal objects, images, music and memories from the band, the display explores how they were inspired by the capital, as well as a strong desire for social justice. Star objects include Paul Simonon’s Fender bass, smashed on stage in NYC, and Joe Strummer’s notebook from when the album was being conceived.
National Army Museum
At the National Army Museum Tribute Ink (January 31 – April 17) explores the role that tattoos play in the armed forces, telling stories of identity, comradery and sacrifice. The exhibition looks at the artwork that adorns the skin of sailors, soldiers and airmen, featuring photographs of the personal tattoos of serving and ex-military personnel, expressing their experiences, their triumphs and their losses.
The National Gallery
At the National Gallery, Young Bomberg and the Old Masters (until March 1) examines audacious modernist artist David Bomberg’s works, alongside the old masters that inspired him. A selection of Bomberg’s rebellious pieces sit next to the paintings he most admired in the gallery, from Botticelli to Michelangelo.
Nicolaes Maes: Dutch Master of the Golden Age (February 22 – May 31) is the first exhibition dedicated to one of Rembrandt’s most important students, and a leading artist of the Dutch Golden Age. Spanning the artist’s entire career, the exhibition features more than 35 paintings and drawings inviting the viewing into intimate everyday scenes.
Opening in the spring, Titian: Love, Desire, Death (March 16 – June 14) reunites a series of paintings by Titian, who was at the time the most famous painter in Europe. Commissioned by Prince Philip of Spain in 1551, the paintings depict classical myths and five of the six of them are shown together, on loan from collections in Boston, Madrid and London.
Celebrating the remarkable career of female Italian baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi, Artemisia (April 4 – July 26) is the first major exhibition of her work in the UK. Working in a time where women artists were not easily accepted, Artemisia’s career was truly exceptional. She was the first to gain entry to Italy’s prestigious Accademia delle Arti del Disegno and enjoyed huge success as a painter, working for more than four decades.
National Portrait Gallery
Over at the National Portrait Gallery, the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2019 exhibition (until February 16) continues into the new year. The leading international competition for exceptional contemporary portrait photography, each year the prize showcases the best work from photographers at every stage of their practice, capturing a vast range of characters, moods and locations.
In the spring, Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things (March 12 – June 7) is a major exhibition celebrating the hedonistic and eccentric excess of the Bright Young Things – the original party animals of the 1920s. The exhibition presents the iconic photographs that Cecil Beaton took of the group, which helped shape their devil-may-care reputation. Featuring the leading cast of the Bright Young Things, the show includes photographs of the likes of Anna May Wong, Baba Beaton and Stephen Tennant, as well as artworks by friends and artists associated with the group.
Finally for 2020, before the gallery closes for a major 3-year refurbishment, they go out with a bang with David Hockney: Drawing from Life (February 27 – June 28) which explores the pop artist’s talent for drawing, a skill he has honed from the 1950s to today. The first major exhibition of his drawings in more than 20 years, the show features around 150 works, focusing on himself, his muse Celia Birtwell, his mother Laura Hockney, the curator Gregory Evans and printer Maurice Paine.
While you’re visiting the NPG why not sample some of the delights of the fastest-growing area of the collection. Inspiring Photographs: Collecting for the Future (until June 1) presents a selection of the ever-growing photographs department, speaking to the sociopolitical landscape and including work by women photographers and photographers and sitters from the BAME and LGBTQ communities.
Natural History Museum
At the Natural History Museum the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition (until May 21) is in its 55th year, still proving that we can be delighted and surprised by the wonders of the natural world. An ever-increasing theme in the exhibition is the fragility of wildlife and the growing environmental challenges we face as a global community. This year’s exhibition is set to challenge as well as charm.
Palaeoart – Reconstructing the Past (until April 28) is a display celebrating the artwork that aims to reconstruct prehistoric animals, piecing together pieces of information from fossils and the latest scientific information. The display features palaeoart spanning nearly 200 years, and explores how, as our knowledge of these prehistoric beasts has improved, so has our depiction of them.
Exhibiting innovative contemporary art from all over the world, the October Gallery has P O R T A L II: Inside the Cordillera Occidental (until February 1), which presents work by contemporary artists either working in or inspired by the rugged landscapes of the Cordillera mountain chain. Exploring the cultures from this part of the Americas – from Northern New Mexico to Guadalajara – the exhibition celebrates the different people found along the chain.
Parasol unit for contemporary art
At Parasol unit for contemporary art there’s the first UK solo exhibition of work by French artist Christine Rebet (January 23 – March 26). With drawing at the centre of her practise, Rebet often creates hand-drawn animations through traditional animation techniques. For this exhibition she produces commentaries on shared histories, addressing trauma, illusion and destruction. It’s your last chance to visit the Shoreditch gallery, as it closes the doors to its permanent space after the exhibition to run a programme of international exhibitions.
At The Photographers’ Gallery, Shot in Soho (until February 9) celebrates the unorthodox and diverse culture of Soho, through a collection of photographs and ephemera. It’s a great opportunity to see work from the likes of William Klein, Anders Petersen and Corrine Day as well as other, lesser known, photographers and explore the fashion, music and communities which make Soho so unique.
Feast for the Eyes – The Story of Food in Photography (until February 9) casts light on the history and effect of food in photography, looking in particular at how food is represented in photographic practice and how it can represent issues including wealth, poverty, appetite, tradition, gender, race and revulsion. The exhibition features more than 140 works by some of photography’s leading figures, including Nobuyoshi Araki, Nan Goldin, Martin Parr and Man Ray.
In February Jan Svoboda: Against the Light (February 21 – June 7) opens, it’s the first major UK exhibition of the work of Czech photographer Jan Svoboda, whose experiments in form and tone redefined the language of photography, since the early 80s. In the 60s, Svoboda became the only photographer accepted into Máj, one of the very few avant-garde artist groups operating in Communist Czechoslovakia, where he worked alongside influential Czech contemporaries. His metaphysically charged still lifes interrogate the boundaries of photography, and he was highly celebrated in his lifetime for his radical and philosophical works.
The Queen’s Gallery
At Buckingham Palace, The Queen’s Gallery has George IV: Art & Spectacle (until May 3), which takes a look at the unrivalled art collection amassed by the magnificent monarch, who enriched his life with the finest art and artefacts. George IV purchased a huge range of paintings, textiles, metalwork, ceramics and furniture by the finest artists, including Sir Thomas Lawrence and Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Drawing on The Royal Collection’s splendid collection of some of the most significant examples of Japanese art and design in the western world, Japan: Courts and Culture (June 12 – November 8) tells the story of the relationship between the British and Japanese royal and imperial families. Featuring rare pieces of porcelain and lacquer, samurai armour and diplomatic gifts, the exhibition recalls 300 years of ritual, honour and artistry linking Britain and Japan, from the court of James I to Her Majesty the Queen today.
Royal Academy of Arts
At the Royal Academy of Arts, Eco-Visionaries (until February 23) addresses the devastating impact that climate change, food shortage and resource depletion is having on our planet. The exhibition examines the effects of modern life, and asks how cutting-edge art and architecture can help us respond to this rapidly-changing world.
One of the greatest artists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso reinvented the medium of painting, but it wasn’t only here that he shone. Picasso and Paper (January 25 – April 13) explores the artist’s paper works, which were as surprising and innovative as his paintings. Spanning Picasso’s 80-year career, the exhibition charts his ingenious use of paper and brings together his paper sculptures, collages and pastel and watercolour works. A star of the show is his nearly 5 meter wide collage, Women at Their Toilette, on show in the UK for the first time in more than 50 years.
Edging into spring there’s an exhibition of work by visionary artist Léon Spilliaert (February 23 – May 25) whose dreamlike scenes of the North Sea coast are reminiscent of Edvard Munch and Vilhelm Hammershøi. The first major exhibition of his work in the UK, the show features 90 of Spilliaert’s symbolist works, which drew on his affinity with writers and thinkers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Friedrich Nietzsche, and possess an unusual eerie tranquillity.
Drawn from the Ordrupgaard Collection, home to some of the most important Impressionist paintings in northern Europe, Gauguin and the Impressionists: Masterpieces from the Ordrupgaard Collection (March 29 – June 14) brings together 60 works by the likes of Manet, Monet, Renoir and Degas, and a stunning series of Post-Impressionist works by Gaugin – many of which have never been seen before in the UK. Unlocking this treasure trove, which was amassed by a Danish Couple with the help of Théodore Duret – French writer and early champion of the Impressionists – the exhibition is a must for any lover of Impressionism.
Royal College of Physicians
The Royal College of Physicians asks ‘Whose body is it anyway’ in an exhibition where contemporary art and seven centuries of anatomy collide. Under the skin: anatomy, art and identity (until April 3) brings together several contemporary artists whose works explore the human form and its place in art, medicine and society. Shown alongside ancient anatomical drawings, historic preserved human remains and state-of-the-art 21st century medical imaging, the exhibition challenges our complicated relationship with our bodies and is equal parts amazing and shocking.
At the Saatchi Gallery, Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh (until May 3) commemorates the centenary of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. With the largest collection of the Ancient Egyptian king’s treasures ever to travel outside of Egypt, the exhibition is sure to capture the imagination of visitors, who can discover the legend of the golden king through 150 original artefacts.
Alongside, Artists-in-Residence to Respond to Tutankhamun (until May 3) presents a selection of work by contemporary artists who have found inspiration in the key themes of the exhibition. The display aims to bring contemporary art to a wider audience, while showcasing emerging local and international artists.
Located in the Royal Park of Kensington Gardens the Serpentine Galleries present emerging and established artists from around the world. At the Serpentine Gallery a major exhibition of work by Albert Oehlen (until February 2), one of the most innovative and significant artists working today, continues into February. Oehlen’s expressionist and surrealist paintings demonstrate the intrinsic freedom in the medium of painting.
Over at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, Patrick Staff: On Venus (until February 9) is a site-specific installation exploring structural violence, registers of harm and the corrosive effects of acid, blood and hormones through architectural intervention, video and print. The gallery’s chemically-coloured and leaking elements suggest intimate fluids and the transmitting of viruses and data, and a series of etchings explore how the media uses cultural anxieties to reinforce social and sexual norms. Also on display in the exhibition is a new video work, not for the fainthearted, which features distressing footage of the abhorrent malpractice in factory farming industry, asking what lives are deemed ‘visible’ in institutional spaces.
In the spring at the Serpentine Gallery, Cao Fei: Blueprints (March 4 – May 17) is a major exhibition of the innovative Chinese multi-media artist and filmmaker. Fei explores the impact of virtuality on our understanding of reality, from the escapism of virtual platform Second Life, to the alienation of mechanised labour in China. The immersive, site-specific installation explores how we can shape a collective future in an age of rapid technological growth through deadpan humour and surreal encounters.
Alongside at the Sackler, Studio Formafantasma: Cambio (March 4 – May 17) tackles the subject of design’s ecological and political responsibilities. Italian design duo Studio Formafantasma lead experimental investigations into the history, context and implications of turning natural resources into commodities, and their project for the Serpentine Galleries sees the pair questioning how design can transform environmental awareness into practical changes. The exhibition focuses specifically on forestry practices, and the production of wood products.
Sir John Soane’s Museum
At the former home of the architect of some of London’s finest buildings, Sir John Soane’s Museum, there’s a fitting exhibition celebrating the best in architectural drawing today. The Architecture Drawing Prize (January 15 – February 16) presents the competition winner along with a selection of commended entries, and highlights the importance of this creative medium in the architectural design process.
Langlands & Bell: Degrees of Truth (March 4 – May 31) is a major exhibition of work by artists Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell. Exploring the complex web of relationships between people and architecture, the exhibition features their ambitious sculpture, installation and architecture as well as film, video and media work.
At Somerset House a major exhibition analyses our inability to truly switch off from our non-stop culture, and challenges the pressure we feel to constantly consume and produce information around the clock in a late capitalist world. 24/7 (until February 23) tackles themes like the erosion of boundaries between night and day, the impact on our sleep and restlessness and the ever-shrinking line between work and play. The exhibition features interactive and immersive work from well-known artists, including Matt Collishaw, Rut Blees Luxemburg, Susan Hillier and Marcus Coates alongside pieces from artists and designers from Somerset House Studios.
Mushrooms: The art, design and future of fungi (January 31 – April 26) delves into the wonderful world of mushrooms, celebrating the progressive, poetic and psychedelic power the remarkable mushroom possesses. The exhibition brings together 40 people from across the creative landscape, including Cy Twombly, Beatrix Potter and John Cage, and looks at fungi’s cultural legacy, and the potential to re-imagine our relationship with the planet.
Gallery 31: I Should Be Doing Something Else Right Now (January 23 – May 31) is a new exhibition in Somerset House’s new space dedicated to profiling the institution’s Studios and work developed through residencies. The exhibition looks at the culture of change, and brings together work exploring this idea through digital collage, print material, sound and sculpture.
South London Gallery
At the South London Gallery, in its 70th year Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2019 (until February 23) continues to bring to light the work of emerging artists. Selected from over 1500 entrants by guest panel Rana Begum, Sonia Boyce and Ben Rivers, this open exhibition showcases 45 of the very best in contemporary art across sculpture, painting, performance, film, sound and photography.
Over at Tate Britain is an exhibition of visionary art by painter, printmaker and poet William Blake (until February 2). The show presents Blake’s radical and rebellious work in the way that he wanted it to be seen – at enormous scale. An immersive recreation of the room in which Blake showed his work in 1809 is juxtaposed by digital projections of his work on the gallery wall, on the huge scale that Blake dreamed of.
Tate’s first show to explore baroque art in Britain, British Baroque: Power and Illusion (February 5 – April 19) considers the use of art to convey power, status and influence in the later 17th century. With many of the works on display for the first time – having hung in the same stately homes since they were made – the show features the leading painters of the day, and celebrates grand-scale portraiture, trompe l’oeil and mural painting.
The fruits of a groundbreaking project by artist and director Steve Mcqueen are on display in Steve McQueen Year 3 (until May 3). McQueen invited every Year 3 pupil in London to have their photograph taken, producing a large-scale installation which captures a snapshot of London’s future, and presents the children in a milestone year of their development. Nearly 80,000 children across London are featured in the exhibition, including those from state schools, faith schools, special schools, pupil referral units and homeschooled children.
The largest exhibition of his work in over 50 years, Aubrey Beardsley (March 4 – May 25) charts the artist’s intense, but tragically short career. Though it spanned just seven years as his life was cut painfully short by tuberculosis, Beardsley produced some of the most arresting artworks of the late 19th century, which shocked and delighted late-Victorian London. Beardsley’s contribution of the Art Nouveau style is explored through over 200 works and contextualised against artworks which brought him inspiration, including Japanese scrolls and watercolours by Edward Burne-Jones and Gustave Moreau.
Tackling the issue of black identity and representation, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (May 19 – August 31) is an exhibition of work from one of the most important painters of today. More than 80 works come together in what is the first major survey of Yiadom-Boakye’s art, which focuses on enigmatic depictions of fictional black characters.
At Tate Modern there’s a major retrospective of video pioneer Nam June Paik (until February 9). The exhibition features a selection of work by the Korean American visionary, whose innovative, playful and entertaining career spanned five decades, and continues to have a major influence on art to this day.
Another major retrospective continues into the new year, with the UK’s largest exhibition of surrealist photographer Dora Maar (until March 15). Maar’s experimental photographic techniques produced some of the most celebrated photomontages of the surrealist movement, and she worked with Pablo Picasso to create a series of experimental portraits.
Steve McQueen (February 13 – May 11) brings together immersive video and film installations made by one of the most important contemporary film-makers, who has been central in developing the way in which artists work with film. The works, all produced since 2000, are provocative portraits of time and place and highlight the urgent issues of today.
Continuing into the summer is the year-long retrospective of work by Hungarian artist Dóra Maurer (until July 5). Having trained as a graphic artist in the 1950’s, Maurer’s experimental graphic works push the medium to its limit, and she took to films, photographs and paintings to capture movement and displacement, perception and transformation. The exhibition brings together 35 works spanning the artist’s career, from her early graphic art, to her geometric and abstract paintings of the 1970s, right up to her recent paintings.
In the spring, a major exhibition of the American pop art icon Andy Warhol (March 12 – September 6) comes to the gallery, bringing a host of his most famous subjects – Marilyn Monroe, Coca-Cola and Campbell’s Soup. The son of immigrants, the exhibition explores the artist who transported himself into the bustling art scene of New York and redefined modern art through his with enthusiasm for consumerism, celebrity and counterculture. You’ll be able to immerse yourself in Warhol’s world and experience the psychedelic Exploding Plastic Inevitable of the 1960s.
In Twickenham, Turner’s House – the revered artist’s former home – has Turner and the Thames: Five Paintings (January 10 – March 29), showcasing five rarely-seen paintings in which Turner has captured the famous London river. The display explores the Thames as an influence and companion which flowed through the artist’s life, from his birth near the Thames in Covent Garden, to his fishing trips on the river and his building his home in Twickenham, with a view out to the water from his bedroom. Read our preview.
Two Temple Place
Over at Two Temple Place Unbound: Visionary Women Collecting Textiles (January 25 – April 19) celebrates the women collectors who saw beyond the functional to reveal the artistic beauty and cultural importance of textiles. Focusing on several major collectors from the late 19th century to the early 21st century, including artists and curators, the exhibition reveals how these women championed costume and textiles through historic fashion, various outfits from different cultures around the world, and textile artworks from the likes of Alice Kettle and Yinka Shonibare.
At the V&A the celebration of the work of Mary Quant (until February 16), whose miniskirts, patterned fabrics and peter pan collars were the epitome of sixties fashion, continues. The exhibition features more than 200 garments and accessories from the designer who revolutionised the British high street.
Tim Walker: Wonderful Things (until March 8) brings the wonderful world of a legendary fashion photographer to London in an extraordinary immersive exhibition. The show sees Walker’s pictures, films, sets and installations fill the V&A’s galleries, alongside ten new series of photographs, inspired by the institution’s marvellous collections.
Cars: Accelerating the Modern World (November 23 – April 19) examines how cars have shaped the world we live in today, and explores the future as we embark on a new wave of automobile technology and design. The exhibition explores how the automobile industry revolutionised manufacturing and has forever changed our cities and our environment.
Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk (February 29 – June 21) brings together a sumptuous selection of kimono for what is the first major exhibition of its kind in Europe. The show urges us to think differently about kimono, often thought of as traditional and unchanging, and see the garment as a dynamic fashion icon. The show explores how the introduction of kimono to Europe in the 1600s, and the introduction of fabrics from around the world into Japan has influenced fashion both in the east and the west. It also explores how the garment has had an impact on pop culture, including costume examples from the Star Wars films and the dress designed for Björk’s Homogenic album.
V&A Museum of Childhood
At the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green an Extinction Rebellion display (until February) brings together objects from the environmental movement which has children – and their futures – at its heart. On display are protest banners, flags and posters as well as photographs, which show how the activist group engages young families.
Playing with Buildings (until March) sees seventy architecture students rethinking the museum space, re-imagining how visitors can interact with the museum and designing new inventive environments for learning and for play. The ideas have been tested and interpreted by local school students who have created their own inventive responses.
Over at the Wallace Collection, Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company (until April 19) is a treat for the eyes, bringing together for the first time works by Indian master painters commissioned by the East India Company officials in the 18th and 19th centuries. Showcasing historically overlooked artists such as Shaikh Zain ud-Din, Bhawani Das, Shaikh Mohammed Amir of Karriah, Sita Ram and Ghulam Ali Khan, the exhibition celebrates these vivid and original paintings, and reminds us of an all-but-forgotten period in Anglo-Indian history.
At the Wellcome Collection, Play Well (until March 8) dives into the world of play, asking why it’s important that we play as children, and exploring how it develops our social, emotional and physical skills. Featuring video games, toys, comics and photographs of people at play across the world as well as a newly commissioned play space by artist Adam James, the exhibition examines what it means to play well.
At the Whitechapel Gallery, Sense Sound/Sound Sense: Fluxus Music, Scores & Records in the Luigi Bonotto Collection (until February 1) recalls the Fluxus art movement in which artists and performers staged experimental happenings with everyday objects. Featuring works by John Cage, Philip Corner, Dick Higgins, Alison Knowles, George Maciunas, Claes Oldenburg and Yoko Ono this display highlights the relationship the Fluxus movement had with music.
Following this, Radical Figures: Painting in the New Millennium (February 6 – May 10) exhibits work by a generation of artists who represent the body in progressive ways to tell stories and explore ideas. The artists on show, including Michael Armitage, Cecily Brown, Tala Madani, Daniel Richter and Tschabalala Self, have pushed the notion of figurative painting to its limit, exploring contemporary issues around identity, society and politics.
William Morris Gallery
At the former home of the father of the arts and crafts movement, the William Morris Gallery, Kehinde Wiley: The Yellow Wallpaper (February 22 – May 25) is an exhibition of portraits of women by African-American artist Kehinde Wiley. The show draws on inspiration from the novel The Yellow Wallpaper, written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1892, which sees the narrator diagnosed with hysteria and confined to her bedroom, and explores the consequences of denying women independence. Wiley’s portraits feature women he met in East London, who he has depicted as strong and autonomous.