14 Excellent Exhibitions To See When Museums Open This Month

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 34 months ago
14 Excellent Exhibitions To See When Museums Open This Month

Museums are reopening! Here, we look ahead to London's must-see shows. As venues are restricting numbers for social distancing, you'll need to book ahead for most of these.

To Infinity: Yayoi Kusama — Infinity Mirror Rooms at Tate Modern

Selfie time. Copyright Yayoi Kusama

Prepare to be dazzled: rooms where sparkling lights go on seemingly forever. The magic of being lost inside another dimension. You'll see Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Rooms all over your Instagram feed, but only by being there will you experience the enchantment full on. We went dotty for her last exhibition, and this one's likely to be even more popular. Get booking, as the show is sadly finite.

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Rooms at Tate Modern. 18 May - 12 June 2022, £10.

Lace Up: Sneakers Unboxed at Design Museum

Nike trainers inspired by bacon. Photo: Michaela Efford

Are you are a Converse All Stars person? Maybe Air Jordans are more your style? Design Museum has unboxed all kinds of trainers — sorry, sneakers — in this show dedicated to fashionable footwear. It contains iconic designs plus the latest technologies, including a shoe containing living organisms (presumably not the kind that eat your feet). Stride on over to get your kicks at Design Museum. More details in our preview.  

Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street at Design Museum. 18 May - 24 October, £12.

Brutal Beauty: Jean Dubuffet at Barbican

Time to get experimenting. Photograph: © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London

Long before street art was accepted by the art world, Jean Dubuffet was co-opting the graffiti he saw on the streets and bringing it into the galleries — upsetting the establishment along the way. Creating deliberately naïve looking works, Dubuffet was all about shunning elitism in art — something we can all get behind. As Dubuffet said: "Without bread, man dies of hunger, but without art he dies of boredom." There's no chance of being bored at this look back at a constantly-experimenting artist.

Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at Barbican Art Gallery. 17 May - 22 August, £18.

Medicinal: The Den & Standardized Patient at Wellcome Collection

Getting ready to see patients. Commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art © Kerry Tribe.

Wellcome Collection is re-opening its Medicine Man gallery at the same time as displaying two very relevant artworks. Kerry Tribe's video shows us how medical students are trained with actors to manage the human connections they will have to forge with patients, including a young woman seeking advice on sexual health and a broken heart, and end-of-life care for a man estranged from his daughter. In The Den, artist Sop shows us how nature became a solace for them during the pandemic.

Standardized Patient and The Den at Wellcome Collection. 18 May onwards, free.

A Sculpted Genius: The Making of Rodin at Tate Modern

The Birghers of Calais. Copyright Musee Rodin.

Auguste Rodin is best known for The Thinker and The Kiss. But how did he become the ingenious sculptor we know? Using over 200 works, Tate Modern shows us how this great sculptor experimented with techniques to revolutionise the form — including his use of early photography to capture sculpture from all angles.

The EY Exhibition: The Making of Rodin at Tate Modern. 18 May - 21 November, £18.

Light Up: Ryoji Ikeda at 180 The Strand

© Ryoji Ikeda. courtesy of The Vinyl Factory

A light that beams miles into the sky. A corridor so brightly lit that it's blinding. Oscillating lights across the floor. Ryoji Ikeda creates some of the most astounding light art we've ever experienced — alongside a collection of his works on display within the gigantic brutalist space that is 180 The Strand. Prepare to be dazzled by an immersive exhibition that we are extremely hyped for.

Ryoji Ikeda at 180 The Strand. 20 May - 1 August, £15.

Murder & Betrayal: Thomas Becket at The British Museum

An alabaster panel showing the murder of Thomas Becket. © The Trustees of the British Museum

In a story that sent shockwaves around Europe 850 year ago, the Archbishop of Canterbury was murdered by allies of the King. Now you can see how the whole thing unfolded. Becket was one of the most powerful men in the country; we see his rise to power and how he was remembered after his death as both a saint and a traitor. Sacred objects and eyewitness accounts bring his story to life in an exhibition that's reason to park the Netflix true crime binge, and examine some evidence in the flesh.

Thomas Becket: Murder and the Making of a Saint at The British Museum. 20 May - 22 August, £17.

Banksy Bonanza: Art of Banksy at 50 Earlham Street

This travelling exhibition claims to be the largest private collection of works by the anonymous street artist. As usual with these shows, it's not authorised by Banksy himself, but it does boast a wide selection of his prints, canvases and sculptures. It's already stopped off at seven other cities, and now Londoners can get a peak at a collection containing some of Banksy's best-known works, including Balloon Girl.

The Art of Banksy at 50 Earlham Street. 20 May - 21 November, £21.50-£24.50.

Art Takeover: Art in the Age of Now at Fulham Town Hall

Stackable bananas by Abigail Fallis.

How do you improve on the opportunity to explore the deliciously weathered Fulham Town Hall? By filling it with art, that's how. Artists have taken over three floors of this beautiful building: stormtroopers are perched upstairs while street artists have covered the walls of the basement. We've had a sneak peek at work in progress and it's looking spectacular.

Art in the age of now at 553-561 Fulham Road. 20 May - 6 June, free.

Through The Looking Glass: Alice - Curious and Curiouser at V&A

One of John Tenniel's illustrations from the original story.

Time to plunge down the rabbit hole. This theatrically-designed V&A blockbuster invites you to visit the Mad Hatter, the Red Queen and all the other zany characters from Lewis Carroll's books. V&A doesn't skimp on production when it comes to this type of show; there are original illustrations, fashion inspired by Alice's world and props from stage productions. All we're missing is a hookah smoking caterpillar ... he'll probably be outside with the other smokers.

Alice: Curious and Curiouser at V&A. 22 May - 31 December, £20.

Monkey-ing Around: Monkey Business at Horniman Museum

An interactive display that will be in the exhibition. Photo: Phil Wilkinson.

They may be our closest relatives, but how much do we know about our primate cousins? From mighty gorillas to tiny lemurs, they've all adapted to survive in different environments — and that continues as humanity expands into their territories. This family exhibition brings primates into our natural habitat through photography, films and over 60 taxidermy specimens.

Monkey Business at Horniman Museum. May 2021 onwards, £8 adults / £18 family.

Evil Empire?: Nero at The British Museum

The man himself in marble. Photo by Francesco Piras. © MiC Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Cagliari

Emperor at 16, dead by 30. In that short reign, Nero had his mother executed, put down Boudicca's revolt in Britain and became infamous for his tyranny and debauchery. But who was the real man behind the staggering and terrifying power trip? The British Museum shines a light on the Roman emperor and his eventful reign.

Nero: The Man behind The Myth at The British Museum. 27 May - 24 October, £20.

A Royal Show: Tudors to Windsors at National Maritime Museum

Anne Boleyn. Copyright National Portrait Gallery.

Love a royal portrait? They're all lined up in Greenwich for you, from Tudor times to modern day. There's so much to admire in these portraits — even Republicans will surely appreciate the artistry that's gone into capturing and representing the royal lineage.

Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits at National Maritime Museum. 28 May - 31 October, £10.

Persian Power: Epic Iran at V&A

A rhyton (drinking container) from the exhibition. Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

With 300 objects to cover 5,000 years of civilisation, this is one expansive exhibition on the art, design and culture of Iran — right through to the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the art created since. Ancient sculptures, illustrated manuscripts and beautiful artworks take us through five millennia in a show that lives up to its epic billing.

Epic Iran at V&A. 29 May - 12 September, £18.

Readers looking for a greater selection of exhibitions, including those free to visit, should check out our latest reviews roundup.

Last Updated 07 May 2021