How To See London's Top Exhibitions From Your Sofa

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 49 months ago

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Last Updated 21 May 2020

How To See London's Top Exhibitions From Your Sofa

With London's galleries shut due to coronavirus, here are some ongoing exhibitions you can see, all from the comfort of your home (we've already shared how to visit museums virtually).

Titian: Love, Desire, Death at The National Gallery

The rape of Europa. © Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

This exhibition is an historic moment, bringing together a series of paintings which haven't been shown together in four centuries. This collection of works by Titian, a man who loved to paint fleshy nudes in dramatic scenes, was cut short after being open for all of three days. A series of Facebook Live talks takes us through each one of these six paintings, recorded at their original locations before they travelled to The National Gallery. How they were commissioned, their historical context and their interpretations of the classic poem Metamorphoses by Ovid are all covered in these in-depth talks.

Titian: Love, Desire, Death — Facebook Live.

James Turrell at Pace London

Copyright James Turrell and Pace Gallery. Photo: Damian Griffiths.

The pulsating and colour changing lights of a James Turrell work are hypnotic. At first this online exhibition just looks like photographs of the work but allow your eyes to linger and they will gradually change before your eyes. It takes a while to trust my own eyesight as I wonder if it's all in my head, before I start to lean into these works like a fly drawn to blue lights.

James Turrell online exhibition.

Leon Spilliaert at Royal Academy of Arts

Photograph: Vincent Everarts/Collection of the Belgian State, in deposit at Musée d’Ixelles, Brussels

If there's an artist for this surreal time, then it's probably Belgian painter Spilliaert, with his gloomy and angst-ridden interiors and landscapes. It's like discovering another Edvard Munch, with works featuring dark and foreboding streets. His woman by her window is all of us in isolation right now. There's a 22-minute tour of all the work in the exhibition, with a haunting soundtrack that allows us to get up close to the works of an artist I'd never heard of until I saw this show. The RA also offers a shorter walkthrough of its impressive Picasso and Paper exhibition.

Leon Spilliaert: Virtual Exhibition Tour.

Forgotten Masters at The Wallace Collection

Image copyright Minneapolis Institute of Art

A bird flicks up a fish as it prepares to swallow it, surrounded by plants and other native creatures of India. It's the kind of illustrations you'd expect to find in western museums, but these are all the products of Indian artists. Check them out in a virtual tour of this beautiful exhibition.

Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company - YouTube tour.

Trees at Hayward Gallery

Courtesy of Hayward Gallery. Photo: Linda Nylind

The tree-mendous exhibition at Hayward Gallery had us rooted to the spot and we didn't want to leaf. You may read all about it in our four star review - no trees were harmed in writing it. Now there's a guided tour of the exhibition by Hayward Gallery director Ralph Rugoff so that we can all be virtually at one with these works inspired by nature.

Among the trees - curator's tour.

Langlands & Bell at John Soanes Museum

An installation shot of the exhibition. Photo: Gareth Gardner.

With work as diverse as a mummified whippet and a recreation of Osama Bin Laden's house, it's no surprise Langlands & Bell made it on to our must see list for March, and yet we didn't get to see it before the lock down. Now we can visit all the works scattered throughout one of our favourite museums in an interactive page on the museum's site.

Langlands & Bell: Degrees of truth.

Sarah Lucas at Sadie Coles

A giant bronze phallus, lots of breasts and legs that go on forever. These sexualised sculptures are going to fit right in at Sadie Coles HQ in Soho. Unfortunately the exhibition opened just as the city was going into lockdown, so very few people have seen it. Thankfully there's a short fly-through of the exhibition allowing people to see these humorous entangled artworks up close. If the schools being closed means your children are nearby, maybe wait until they've gone to bed before looking at it — or be prepared for some interesting questions.

Sarah Lucas: Honey Pie - exhibition walkthrough.

Andy Warhol at Tate Modern

Enter a room full of thumping music and chuck some helium balloons around, welcome to the world of Warhol - an exhibition we reviewed and gave four stars. This curated tour takes us through some of the highlights of the exhibition and gives us an abridged life history so we can place these works in context.

Andy Warhol at Tate Modern: Exhibition guide

Enchanted Interior at Guildhall Art Gallery

Image courtesy Guildhall Art Gallery.

The women are beautiful but they are caged inside decorative interiors, as if kept by a wealthy man. These references may be found in art history from the Pre-Raphaelites through to a contemporary work by Maisie Broadhead where a woman is handcuffed by her pearls that break out of the work only to be held down by a weight. This gorgeous and thought-provoking exhibition is now accessible via a curator's tour.  

The Enchanted Interior - curator's tour.

Hiro at Hamiltons

Screenshot from Galleries Now website.

Every armchair art enthusiast should be checking out the Galleries Now website, as it has a vast repository of virtual reality (VR) viewings of exhibitions. My  pick of the London ones is this rather lovely fishy show at Mayfair gallery and photography specialists Hamiltons. Standing in among these dazzling Siamese fighting fish really does create the feeling of being in a fishbowl. Don't worry if you don't have a VR headset, it's very easy to view the show on your phone, tablet or desktop as well.

Hiro: Fish and Fowl on Galleries Now.

Tutankhamun at Saatchi Gallery

Gold inlaid canopic coffinette of Tutankhamun. Image: Laboratoriorosso, Viterbo, Italy

This blinging spectacular devoted to the boy king was selling out fast, even with the high ticket prices. You can find out how impressive it is in our four star review. Rooms full of spectacular objects may be locked away but this short video with dramatic soundtrack provides a flavour of what to expect and some of highlights of this blockbuster exhibition.

IGTV - Tutankhamun London.

Slices of Time at Now Gallery

Photo: NOW Gallery

Emmanuelle Moureaux's rainbow exhibition at NOW Gallery was the hot ticket in town before the lockdown. If you haven't had the chance to see it, see what it's like to stand inside a multi-coloured timeline through Londonist's eyes, by watching our video. It's the joyous exhibition we need when we're feeling isolated and unable to get our art fix.

Londonist - slices of time.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year at Natural History Museum

Given the look of surprise it's easy to see why this is the overall winner of this year's award. Copyright Yongqing Bao.

Drama, action, sex, babies, death - we consider this to be the Game of Thrones of exhibitions and have given it a five star write up. Our absence in the wider world right now is great news for wildlife and we can see highlights from the current Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition and the winners and runners up from the last ten years on the website.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year - award winners archive.

Anthony James at Opera Gallery

Prepare to lose yourself within the lights and mirrors of the beautiful creations of Anthony James. Disappear into the infinite reflections as you try to figure out how it all works. Mathematical angles and multi-sided shapes have never looked so seductive as they do in these LED glass vitrines.

Opera Gallery - Anthony James.

Aubrey Beardsley at Tate Britain

Aubrey Beardsley was the first editor of The Yellow Book. Image courtesy Tate.

The salacious and shocking work of Aubrey Beardsley at Tate Britain got a four star review from us with his bawdy humour and giant penises. Tate has a video walkthrough of the show where the two curators of the show give us a short intro to his life, work and achievements.

Aubrey Beardsley - exhibition tour.

Sculpture in the City

Are these sofas far enough apart? Nina Saunders, Abstract Mass, (2008), image copyright the artist, courtesy of New Art Centre, Roche Court Sculpture Park, Photo: © Nick Turpin. Location: Undershaft.

We had a look last year at the current crop of sculptures in the Square Mile. Now normally they're accessible to thousands who stream past them every day. Now we imagine the City of London is dead and inaccessible to most, so we get to enjoy them through a video that makes copious use of motion blur a jazzy futuristic soundtrack.

Sculpture in the City 2019.

Kimono at V&A

While we can't sashay into the fashionable and brilliant Kimono exhibition right now, there's a set of five videos that take us on a tour of an exhibition we gave four stars to. Learn the history of this culturally important garment and find out how contemporary fashion designers have all added their own twist on it.

Series of curator tour videos.

Rafal Zajko at Castor Projects

Ventilator like machines and walls the colour of medical scrubs, this exhibition feels like it was made in response to the current healthcare crisis. My first thought was that was a quick turnaround, and it turns out the alignment is all coincidental as the artist had this work in mind well before most of has heard of a coronavirus. The exhibition is based on a Polish folklore character kept alive by a sarcophagus and the video is of a performance where both the artists and the sculptures emit smoke in this sci-fi inspired and rather creepy exhibition.

Rafal Zajko: Resuscitation preview.

George IV at The Queen's Gallery

Drinking, mistresses and dandyish clothes — George IV was not a monarch of restraint. This is everything you want from the Royal Collection — flair, opulence and extravagance taken to extremes. Put on your fanciest clothes and virtually navigate this gorgeous collection of objects and paintings, complete with pop up labels for each work so you can get the full museum experience.

George IV - Buckingham Palace: 3D space.

Fatberg at Museum Of London

The streets are empty, public transport is quiet and zombie-esque hordes have descended on our supermarkets — and yet in among all this change our one source of constancy, the remnants of the Whitechapel fatberg, lives on. Displayed at the Museum of London in 2018, it's now in quarantine, but a live 'FatCam' ensures we can keep an eye on it. So we should, as rumours* abound that should it leave the protection of the M25 then our entire sewer system will collapse — so it's up to us to watch it like a hawk.  For those looking for another London-y, and topical, flashback can visit the museum's online version of it's previous Disease X exhibition.

Museum of London's FatCam.

Nancy Atakan and Kalliopi Lemos

Screenshot from the virtual visit. Click the little dots to get more info and the circles on the floor to move about.

This two woman exhibition examines the role of women throughout time — including fashion, textiles and sculpture. The virtual element is done well so I can zoom around and get up close with the artworks including the striking wire frame sculptures. While the work does challenge gender norms it also appreciates feminine beauty so that women may "blossom out in accordance with what they are.” Many of us will recognise Kalliopi's work from he striking sculpture of migrants on a boat in Spitalfields.

Pi Artworks London - virtual visit.

What if I want to buy art?

Saroj Patel's work at 2019's The Other Art Fair.

We're all going to be staring at our walls a lot for the foreseeable future so placing some art on it is a great way to spark some joy in our homes. Two of our favourite art fairs for finding talented emerging artists — The Other Art Fair and Roy's Art Fair — have both been postponed. Many artists rely on art fairs like these to make money and you can still support them. Click on the artists from The Other Art Fair to get to their online profile on Saatchi Art and get access to their works through an online open studio. There are links to the Instagram pages of all the artists at Roy's Art Fair as well, so you can contact the artists and purchase works directly.

Another excellent initiative to help artists is the #artistsupportpledge hashtag on Twitter and Instagram. Any artist can list works that are under £200 each and once they reach £1000 in total sales the artists then pay it forward by buying another artist's work. I've already snapped up some excellent finds and there's loads on offer to suit everyone's tastes. If that's too dear, then Paper Patrons is selling works on paper by artists and all are priced at £50.

Artist Gareth Fuller is giving away his tongue in cheek pandemic map as a free artwork to download and print off. Though if you do take advantage of this generous gift, please do consider donating some money to the artist if you can afford to do so.

* Not yet verified. Also, we may have made up this rumour.