12 Of The Best Exhibitions To See In October

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 57 months ago

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12 Of The Best Exhibitions To See In October

We look ahead to London art openings for September 2017 and select our must-see exhibitions to help you plan your cultural diary. With October being one of the busiest months in the art calendar, we're in for a treat. You're welcome.

Playful & subversive

Here's a public park designed by Superflex in Copenhagen. Photo: Iwan Baan

There's no way to know what to expect at this one. Superflex are known for creating subversive large scale installations and what better space to give them than the Tate Modern. They've looked in the past at everything from copyright law to migration. The one thing we do know is they like it to be participatory so get ready to muck in. Hyundai commission: Superflex at Tate Modern, Turbine Hall. 3 October - 2 April, free.

Illuminating India

An ancient earth ball. Copyright Museum of the History of Science, University of Oxford

To mark 70 years since the independence of India, the Science Museum is celebrating the country's contribution to science and technology over the last 5,000 years. On top of that there's an 150 year survey of photography of India too. We're looking forward to this full blown Indian celebration. Illuminating India is at Science Museum. 4 October - 31 March, free.

Creepy & macabre

Goya gets the Chapman Brothers treatment. Courtesy the artists and BlainSouthern, Photo Prudence Cuming

We adore the creepy and macabre art by these brothers. Their latest series of sculptures are based on the works of the dark painter Francisco Goya — expect them to be humorous and disturbing at the same time. It's difficult not to love work by artists who seem to be having so much fun making the pieces. Jake & Dinos Chapman: The Disasters of Everyday Life at Blain|Southern. 4 October - 11 November, free.

A music & art mash-up

Expect some stunning installations. Ryoji Ikeda's test pattern commission by Vinyl Factory will be adjacent to the exhibition.

The cavernous building that is 180 Strand will be taken over by music, sculpture, painting and some monster installations. Lisson Gallery is wheeling it's big names out like Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor in a collaboration with record producers The Vinyl Factory for a monster show that will include 45 works by 24 artists. Last year's incarnation was the ridiculously popular Infinite Mix (though we weren't fans) and we're expecting better this year. Lisson Gallery x The Vinyl Factory: Everything at once & Ryoji Ikeda's test pattern are at 180 Strand. 5 October - 10 December, free.

Urinal meets lobster phone

Dali's iconic lobster phone. Photo: West Dean College / © Salvador Dali foundation.

Two of art history's biggest hitters combine at the Royal Academy of Arts. Almost every artist operating today owes something to either Dali or Duchamp and it's exciting to see how the fathers of conceptualism and surrealism interacted. This show will look at their friendship and how they spurred on each other's work. Dali / Duchamp at Royal Academy of Arts. 7 October - 3 January, £15

Breathtaking video

A still from his new film. © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

John Akomfrah makes stunning multi-screen video installations. His work Vertigo Sea was our highlight of the Venice Biennale in 2015, so we're thrilled to hear there is a follow up and it will be screening at the Barbican's Curve space. He tackles climate change and biodiversity across a six screen installation — it's sure to be a powerful and beautiful film. John Akomfrah: Purple at Barbican Curve. 6 October - 7 January, free.

A fantastical world

Impressive installations is what the Kabakovs trade in.

The Kabakovs can sell us a dream better than most artists. Ilya and Emilia are a husband and wife team that create fantastical installations for us to get lost in. It's the kind of work that needs a huge amount of space to expand in, so Tate Modern is the perfect place to house three massive installations. There will be music, memories and a maze for visitors to experience. Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Not everyone will be taken into the future at Tate Modern. 18 October - 28 January, £11.30.

Literary wizardry

A phoenix rises this October. (c) Bloomsbury Publishing

A Harry Potter exhibition. We don't really need to say any more to whip fans into a frenzy. Magic, spells, mythical beasts... let's face it you know the books better than we do, and they'll all be here at The British Library. Just make sure to get booking as this will sell out fast and most likely be the library's most visited exhibition ever. Harry Potter: A History of Magic at The British Library. 20 October - 28 February, £16.


Who doesn't love Moomins? Yet Tove Jansson created so much more. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Tove Jansson is best know for her hippo-esque creations Moomins — they divide opinion here at Londonist as either cute or creepy. But she painted and illustrated much wider than her famous creations and this exhibition will look at her work beyond the Moomins. Let's see what else she had to offer. Tove Jansson: 1914-2001 at Dulwich Picture Gallery. 25 October - 28 January, £15.50.

Age of terror

Omer Fast's video looks at drone strikes and the destruction they cause. Copyright Omer Fast.

How has the art world changed since 9/11 is the powerful topic that the Imperial War Museum is taking on. Expect artwork filled with political relevance touching on foreign policy, war, terrorism, surveillance and civil liberties. This isn't going to be an easy exhibition but it's certain to be very important one for today's world. Age of Terror: Art since 9/11. 26 October - 28 May, £15.

Poignant portraits

A boy in a red waistcoat is one of the works that will be on display. Copyright: National Gallery of Art, Washington

If you had to list the greatest portrait painters of all time, then Cezanne would be up there with Picasso and Rembrandt. His portraits separated him from his fellow Impressionists as a versatile talent, and it was the gateway towards Cubism through his blocky brushstrokes that managed to be both dynamic and static at the same time. This show will bring together over 50 of these portraits as we watch his evolution over his 45 year career. Cezanne Portraits at National Portrait Gallery. 26 October - 11 February, £20.

Shades of grey

An odalisque is all shades of grey. Image courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

There will be no colour to be found in this show as The National Gallery explores the tradition of painting in black and white over 700 years, on everything from canvas to glass and silk. It's a bold choice for an exhibition theme, so we're hoping the gallery can pull it off. Monochrome: Painting in black and white at The National Gallery. 30 October - 18 February, £14/£16

Art fairs

October is a month jam packed with art fairs, so there's one for absolutely everyone. Read on for our comprehensive round-up:

The reason we have so many art fairs is because the granddaddy of all contemporary art fairs, Frieze London (5-8 October, £35+), is in town. 160 galleries and over 1,000 artists appear in a giant marquis in Regent's Park and London goes art mad for one week. There will be big name artists, experimental works, impressive installations, performances, talks and just too much for one person to do.

Here we are having fun at last year's Frieze London.

At the other end is the more refined and equally massive sister fair Frieze Masters (5-8 October, £35+). Masters looks back and showcases ancient art right through to the late 20th century. It's less attention grabbing but still has some stunning masterpieces.  

Those two are excellent but may be outside people's price ranges so read on for more affordable options.

This abyss coffee table y Christopher Duffy is just one example of the luxurious items we expect to see at PAD.

PAD (2-8 October, £25) is the venue of choice for mixing up art and design and is filled with beautiful objects from both fields. In past years we've marvelled at booths that look like the home we wish we had.

1:54 (5-8 October, £15) is all about contemporary African art and will be taking over Somerset House for a week to showcase the best in African art from galleries across the world.

Carolina Mizrahi is one of the artists participating at The Other Art Fair. Image copyright the artist.

The Other Art Fair (5-8 October, £8) returns to the Old Truman Brewery with over 130 emerging artists to find great works at reasonable prices — we've bought a few special pieces from previous fairs. As an added bonus, it's breaking the glass ceiling, with more than half of the participating artists being women. If you're looking for that special something for a blank wall, here's the place to find the perfect piece.

Moniker art fair (5-8 October, £10) specialises in street art and will be right next door to the The Other Art Fair in the Old Truman Brewery, so it makes sense to combine your visit to get a great two for one.

Sunday art fair (5-8 October, free) models itself as an anti-art fair. There's no entrance fee and there are no booths, though at least this year they have the opening times on the website. It's too cool to tell anyone it's on and you won't see any advertising for it, but it's just across the road from Frieze if you want a less frenetic fair experience.

The only art fair outside 'Frieze week' this month is the Affordable Art Fair (18-22 October)  which will be returning to Battersea this autumn for a chance to catch some great art at affordable prices — ranging from tens of pounds up to £5,000.

Last Updated 03 October 2017