Updated September 2020 – Note: please double check that the museum/gallery you wish to visit is open before you make a special journey. You will need to book most visits in advance.
After the emotional rollercoaster that was the first half of 2020, museums and galleries are tentatively reopening their doors to share the treasures that have been locked away inside. We take a look at which London venues are welcoming guests to their exhibitions.
At the Barbican you’ll find 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 (until January 24 2021) the artist explores an imagined ancient myth, and invites the audience to piece together her narrative through the fragments of story that she presents.
Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer (October 7 – January 3 2021) is the first major exhibition of the radical multi-disciplinary choreographer Michael Clark, whose meteoric rise in the 1980s saw him become on of the most influential and inspirational choreographers in the UK. The exhibition showcases his unique approach of fusing traditional ballet with punk culture, with artists on display including Leigh Bowery, The Fall, Sarah Lucas, Wolfgang Tillmans and more.
Bethlem Museum of the Mind
At the famous psychiatric hospital’s on site museum Bethlem Museum of the Mind, All consuming: Food, Mental Health and Wellbeing (until December 23) showcases a range of representations of food and eating from the museum’s collection of artworks made by patients at the hospital. The show features works by Louis Wain, Richard Dadd, Cynthia Pell, Stanley R. Lench and others, and explores how our relationship with food impacts our mental health, wellbeing and identity.
At the British Library, Hebrew Manuscripts: Journeys of the Written Word (until April 11 2021) reveals the history, culture and traditions of Jewish people from across the world through the ages. The exhibition features rarely-seen treasures stretching all the way back to the 10th century, including an Italian Rabbi’s letter to Henry VIII after the monarch had asked for advice about divorcing Catherine of Aragon.
At the British Museum Tantra: enlightenment to revolution (September 24 – January 24 2021) explores the radical South Asian philosophy which transformed the political landscape of India and beyond. Originating in medieval India, Tantra centres on the power of diving feminine energy, and the exhibition explores the link between the philosophy and revolutionary thought from its inception in the seventh century to today, featuring sculpture, painting, prints and ritual objects.
Stepping inside the arctic circle, Arctic: culture and climate (October 22 – Feb 21 2021) explores how the Arctic has been home to rich cultures for millennia, rather than being the inhospitable hinterland it’s so often perceived to be. The exhibition looks at how communities within the Arctic have worked with the challenging and unique weather to thrive, and explores the ingenuity and resilience of Arctic Peoples throughout time.
Camden Arts Centre
Exploring our relationship with the plant world at Camden Arts Centre is The Botanical Mind: Art, Mysticism and The Cosmic Tree (September 24 – December 23). The exhibition investigates the way in which humanity’s history and evolution is intimately linked with that of the plant kingdom, from developing shelter, food, fuel and tools to inspiring medicine, myth and decoration. The show features work by a wide range of trans-cultural artists and includes some rare selections of woven materials from the Shipbo people – an indigenous people from the Amazonian lowlands of Peru.
At Chisenhale Gallery there’s the first solo UK exhibition of work by Vietnamese artist Thao Nguyen Phan (September 26 – December 6). The exhibition comprises a newly commissioned video work centred on the Mekong River and telling stories of destruction, renewal and reincarnation and watercolour on silk paintings. Through the work, Phan continues ongoing research about the river, which stretches across Southeast Asia, exploring history and tradition along the way.
At the Design Museum Electronic (until February 14 2021) 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.
Each year the Beazley Designs of the Year 2020 (October 21 onwards) exhibition showcases the most inventive and ingenious designs from the past twelve months across ever aspect of everyday life – from fashion and architecture design to transport and product design. The exhibition features revolutionary designs as chosen by the public and design experts and gives us a welcome recap on what the world of design looked like before the virus changed the world.
At the Estorick Collection Italian Threads: MITA Textile Design 1926 – 1976 (September 30 – January 17 2021) tells the story of Manifattura Italiana Tappeti Artistici, or MITA, a celebrated Italian Textile firm which was founded in 1926 and featured some of the most talented Italian designers of the time. The exhibition showcases 50 years of the firm’s bold rug, tapestry, scarf, and printed fabric designs produced for everything from private homes and clubs to ocean liners.
Fashion and Textile Museum
Over at the Fashion and Textile Museum Out of the Blue: Fifty Years of Designers Guild (until February 21 2021) 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 former home for abandoned children the Foundling Museum Honest Dick Leveridge: Performer, Composer & Coffee Shop Owner (September 25 – March 28 2021) tells the life story of a popular and 18th century singer, Richard Leveridge, celebrated for his performances of pieces by Purcell and Handel. The display features manuscripts, music and artworks which paint a picture of the man, his performances and his coffee shop.
Exploring the legacy of the director, artist, writer and gardener, Derek Jarman: My garden’s boundaries are the horizon (until December 13) at the Garden Museum 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.
At Gasworks, Eduardo Navarro: (breathspace) (October 1 – December 20) is the first UK solo exhibition of work by contemporary Argentinian artist Eduardo Navarro. Navarro had big plans for his exhibition at Gasworks when the pandemic quashed his hopes for a gigantic artificial lung to invite visitors into group meditation. The resulting lockdown in Buenos Aires encouraged the artist to move the studio ‘inside his own head’ and during this time of solitary reflection he began drawing daily. The resulting hundreds of sketches reflect on what the exhibition could have been, depicting past and future visions and unrealized ideas.
The Hayward Gallery welcomes you into a forest of art with the group exhibition Among the Trees (until October 31). Comprising sculptures, installations, paintings, photographs and drawings inspired by our complex relationship with trees and forests by nearly 40 international artists, the exhibition explores how trees prompt us to think about our relationship with time. The meditative pieces on display include a cast made from a 2,000 year old olive tree, a protrait of a 30 metre spruce and a forest of cardboard trees.
Heath Robinson Museum
Celebrating the life and work of an influential British book illustrator, Heath Robinson Museum has Charles Keeping: Londoner & Illustrator (until November 29). Bringing together examples of his highly original work, inspired by his childhood in Lambeth, which changed the face of British children’s book illustration.
Museum of London
At the Museum of London Dub London (October 2 – January 31 2021) examines the cultural and social impact of dub music, from its roots in Jamaican reggae to its impact on London and its people. The exhibitions shares objects, memories and stories from the people and places that shaped the movement and explores the influence of dub on subsequent musical styles, from the punk scene, to drum and bass, to pop music today.
Museum of London Docklands
At the National Gallery there’s good news for lovers of Italian Renaissance art as Titian: Love, Desire, Death (until January 17 2021) is extended into next year. The exhibition 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 (October 3 – January 24 2021) 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.
The concept of Sin (October 7 – January 3 2021) is something that everyone can relate to, but until now the relationship between art and sin has never been told. This exhibition explores this idea, both universal and highly personal, through artworks spanning centuries, from the Bruegel and Velázquez to Andy Warhol and Tracey Emin. The show looks at complex theological ideas of sin, and depicts everyday sinful behaviour, from original sin to the vices of the present day.
Later in the year, Take One Picture 2020 (November 16 – January 31 2021) explores how children have been inspired by American artist George Bellows’s 1912 oil painting Men of the Docks. Featuring work by children from 37 different primary schools, the exhibition presents their creative and often surprising responses to this painting of early 20th century industrial life.
Following on from the success of their 2017 debut solo show at the October Gallery, Alexis Peskine: Fire Figures (October 2 – November 14) is an exhibition of new works by the Afro-French artist. The exhibition explores the frustration of the African diaspora and their continued adversity through racism, violence and displacement. Peskine’s portrait works, made by precisely hammering nails into naturally-stained boards echo the strength, perseverance and pain of the Black Experience.
The Photographers’ Gallery
Over at The Photographers’ Gallery From Here to Eternity. Sunil Gupta. A retrospective. (October 9 – January 24 2021) is the first major retrospective of work by the Indian-born, UK-based photographer. The exhibition brings together works from across Gupta’s photographic career, which focuses on social issues including race, migration and sexuality.
Seeing out the year, Evgenia Arbugaeva: Hyperborea – Stories from the Russian Arctic (October 9 – January 24 2021) is the first major UK show of the award-winning Russian photographer and features brand new work exploring life in the secluded Russian Arctic. Split into four chapters, the exhibition portrays Arbugaeva’s continued connection to her homeland and documents four remote outposts in Russia’s extreme north.
The Queen’s Gallery
At Buckingham Palace, The Queen’s Gallery’s George IV: Art & Spectacle (until October 11) has been extended into the Autumn months. The exhibition 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.
Rounding off the year Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace (December 4 – January 31 2021) offers a rare opportunity to see some of the most important paintings in the Royal Collection which would normally be on display in the palace’s Picture Gallery – designed for George IV to display his old master paintings – while the palace undergoes reservicing works. Artists on show include Titian, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Rubens and Canaletto.
Royal Academy of Arts
At the Royal Academy of Arts, Gauguin and the Impressionists: Masterpieces from the Ordrupgaard Collection (until October 18) 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 – and boasts some of the most important Impressionist paintings in northern Europe, the exhibition is a must for any lover of Impressionism.
For the first time in its 252 year history the RA’s annual Summer Exhibition 2020 (October 6 – January 3 2022) is taking place in autumn and winter. Showcasing the very best work across the creative landscape, the show features hundreds of pieces by both up and coming emerging artists and household names in an uplifting experience set to bring a slice of summer to the autumn months.
Tracy Emin / Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul (November 15 – February 28 2021) presents new works by Emin alongside a selection of oils and watercolours by the Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch, an artist who Emin has long admired and found inspiration from. Featuring 19 works by Munch and more than 25 works by Emin, the highly personal show explores how both artists created their art through embracing painful experiences.
Located in the Royal Park of Kensington Gardens the Serpentine Galleries present emerging and established artists from around the world. At the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, Studio Formafantasma: Cambio (September 29 – November 15) 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.
At the Serpentine Gallery, there’s the first European solo exhibition of work by New York painter Jennifer Packer (November 18 onwards). Featuring the artist’s emotionally-charged large-scale portrait and still life works, the exhibition showcases Packer’s playful and dynamic style which depicts the fragility of life and bears witness to the issue of representation seen through observation of life.
Sir John Soane’s Museum
At the former home of the architect of some of London’s finest buildings, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Langlands & Bell: Degrees of Truth (until January 3 2021) 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.
South London Gallery
At the South London Gallery there’s a major exhibition of work from Belgian artist Ann Veronica Janssens. Ann Veronica Janssens: Hot Pink Turquoise (September 23 – November 29) brings together examples of the artist’s immersive works, including sculptures, projections, installations and light works, which all play with light and its impact on our experience. Spanning four decades of the Janssen’s career, the exhibition documents her exploration of perception and ephemerality.
At Tate Britain The fruits of a groundbreaking project by artist and director Steve McQueen are on display in Steve McQueen Year 3 (until January 31 2021). 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.
Turner’s Modern World (October 28 – March 7 2021) explores how Turner, who lived during the peak of the Industrial Revolution, faced up to these new developments and challenges. It looks at how he altered the way he worked to capture the rapidly changing world around him rather than ignoring it as many other artists of the time were doing. Bringing together some of Turner’s major works from around the world, the exhibition explores what it meant to be a modern artist in Turner’s time.
In Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly In League With The Night (November 18 – May 9 2021) 80 works by British painter and writer Lynette Yiadom-Boakye go on display. Starring fictitious characters in enigmatic titled pieces, the paintings portray imagined people in imagined situations and go hand in hand with her written work.
At Tate Modern, there’s a major exhibition of the American pop art icon Andy Warhol (until November 15) featuring 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.
Extended into 2021 is the major retrospective of work by Hungarian artist Dóra Maurer (until January 24 2021). 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 film, photography and painting 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.
A major exhibition of the groundbreaking contemporary artist Bruce Nauman (October 7 – February 21 2021) goes on display in the autumn. A prolific and highly inventive artist, Nauman constantly revisits themes and ideas, playing with and questioning the very nature of art. The exhibition features immersive and arresting sound, video and neon pieces from the influential creator whose work spans more than 50 years.
The year ends with an exciting exhibition of work by Zanele Muholi (November 5 – March 7 2021), an acclaimed contemporary photographer who uses their work as a kind of visual activism, documenting and celebrating the lives of South Africa’s black LGBTQIA+ community. Their reflective portraits and self portraits tackle issues such as Eurocentrism, labour and sexual politics.
At Turner’s House – the revered artist’s former home – there’s Turner and the Thames: Five Paintings (until October 31), 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.
At the V&A Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk (until October 25) 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.
Featuring more than 300 pieces, the major fashion exhibition Bags: Inside Out (November 21 – September 12 2021) is the UK’s most comprehensive foray into the world of bags and features luxury brands including Chanel, Mulberry and Hermès as well as some surprising examples from history. Star items include the first ever Hermès Birkin bag – the handmade handbag which became the most sought after and expensive bag in history, a gas mask bag owned by Queen Mary during WWII and Sarah Jessica Parker’s infamous Fendi Baguette bag from Sex and the City.
At the Whitechapel Gallery British artist Gary Hume leads an expedition into the gallery’s Hiscox Collection and pulls out a plethora of art by renowned artists. Accelerate your escape: Gary Hume explores the Hiscox Collection (until January 3 2021) takes its title from Heim Steinbach and explores unexpected story lines. Works on show span the past five decades and include pieces by Nan Goldin, Howard Hodgkin, David Hockney and Eduardo Paolozzi.
Nalini Malani: Can You Hear Me? (until May 1 2021) is a major new commission by Indian artist Nalini Malani in which she gives a voice to the marginalised through visual stories. The multi-layered installation explores the role of the artist as social activist to address the issue of social injustice across the world. Malani has been hailed as the pioneer of video art in India.
Including work by Richard Billingham, Cornelia Parker, Trevor Paglen and Langlands and Bell among others, Home: Live > In Room (until January 3 2021) responds to the lockdown experience, and considers the ways in which being confined to our homes has affected art and culture. Drawing from the Hiscox Collection, the works selected by Whitechapel youth forum Duchamp & Sons either transport us to faraway destinations or encourage us to take a look closer to home.
William Morris Gallery
At the famed designer’s former home, the William Morris Gallery’s Works in Progress (until January 15 2021) takes a close look at the design process, bringing together a selection of design drawings from the gallery’s collection. The exhibition explores how Morris approached design to create a vast body of textile and wallpaper, ceramic, book and stained glass designs numbering more than 600. The exhibition features design drawings and objects not usually on display, and some never seen by the public before.