The Biggest And Best Exhibitions Opening In London In 2020

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 29 months ago

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The Biggest And Best Exhibitions Opening In London In 2020

London is in for a year of stunning exhibitions in 2020, with shows on Turner, Alice in Wonderland and Andy Warhol already announced at museums and galleries across town. Get your culture diary out and pencil this lot in:

A lot of fun(ghi): Mushrooms at Somerset House

Mushrooms. Poems have been inspired by them and they've sent us on psychedelic trips. Come to think of it, those two things may be related. Venture into the undergrowth at Somerset House to discover their medicinal properties and how they can be used in sustainable fashion, cooking and architecture. Everybody loves a mushroom — after all, he's a fun-ghi.  

Mushrooms: The art, design and future of fungi at Somerset House. 31 January-26 April, free.

Modern painting: Radical Figures at Whitechapel Gallery

Copyright Michael Armitage.

With the world of art embracing video and newer technology, what does painting still have to offer? Whitechapel Gallery tackles this question head on with a selection of painters who look at major social concerns. They range from Michael Armitage's brilliantly executed paintings that depict violence in East Africa to Tala Madani's works, which depict horrific acts being committed on caricatured figures.

Radical Figures: Painting in the New Millennium at Whitechapel Gallery. 6 February-10 May, £tbc.

25 years an artist: Steve McQueen at Tate Modern

© Steve McQueen. Courtesy the artist, Thomas Dane Gallery and Marian Goodman Gallery

Politics, identity and representation are three key themes in the work of artist Steve McQueen. He's the man behind the recent billboards featuring schoolchildren and excellent accompanying exhibition — and Oscar-winning film 12 Years A Slave too. Tate takes us through his 25-year career as an artist and film maker, in which he's covered drug-related murders, the civil rights movement and the labour conditions of gold mine workers.

Steve McQueen at Tate Modern. 13 February-11 May, £13.

Fragile or toxic: Masculinities at Barbican Art Gallery

Courtesy Sunil Gupta and Hales Gallery.

We're often told that masculinity is in crisis, that it's fragile or toxic — but what does that mean and what actually is masculinity? This Barbican exhibition features 50 artists and over 300 works as photographers and film makers capture different elements of what it means to be a man and how diverse masculinity can be. Taliban fighters, American fraternities, cowboys and men-only private members' clubs take us inside the male psyche for a look at masculine ideals, fragile egos and insecurities.

Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery. 20 February-17 May, £15-£17.

Cosmic art: Mars & Beyond at OXO Bargehouse

A futuristic city made of recycled material. Copyright Oskar Krajewski.

Should we leave Earth and aim to colonise Mars, or should we first focus on the mess we've made here? After all, if we don't learn some lessons surely we're just doomed to repeat our mistakes on a new world. A collective of artists uses art, film, music, virtual reality and augmented reality to imagine the future of our world and other planets in an immersive experience.

Mars & Beyond at Oxo Bargehouse. 20 February-15 March, £15-£20.

Floral females: Kehinde Wiley at William Morris Gallery

Naomi and her daughters. Copyright Kehinde Wiley. Courtesy Stephen Friedman

If the name Kehinde Wiley sounds familiar, it's because he famously painted Barack Obama's portrait. It makes sense for his first show at a UK public institution to be at William Morris Gallery, given his floral backdrops are often inspired by Morris's designs. For this exhibition, Wiley has exclusively painted female figures he met on the streets of Dalston.

Kehinde Wiley at William Morris Gallery. 22 February-25 May, free.

Are you for surreal?: British Surrealism at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Image courtesy Manchester Art Gallery / Bridgeman Images

We do love a good dose of Surrealism but the genre brings to mind the likes of Salvador Dali or Dorothea Tanning — very few British artists are naturally linked to this style of painting. Dulwich Picture Gallery wants to correct that, with 70 works covering themes of war, dreams, the unconscious, the uncanny, radical politics, sex and desire. Given the likes of William Blake and Lewis Carroll were experimenting with the surreal before the movement even got started, it's about time we got trippy with some Brits.

British Surrealism at Dulwich Picture Gallery. 26 February-17 May, £tbc.

For the Japanophiles: Kimono at V&A

A Christian Dior kimono. Image copyright Getty Images.

Discover the secrets of Japan's traditional garment, the kimono, including rare kimonos dating as far back the 17th century. Learn about the "sartorial, aesthetic and social significance of the kimono" through paintings, prints, film, and dress accessories. The exhibition also explores the way kimonos have shaped past and current fashion trends. There's more in our full preview. If that doesn't satisfy your fashion fill, V&A is also opening an exhibition all about bags and how they've evolved over the centuries.

Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk at V&A. 29 February-21 June, £16-£18.

Salacious & shocking: Aubrey Beardsley at Tate Britain

The Climax, from Oscar Wilde’s Salomé. Copyright Tate.

He was utterly salacious, totally scandalous, often grotesque. He was also dead at 25. Victorian boy wonder Aubrey Beardsley has his biggest exhibition in 50 years with over 200 of his controversy-courting works on display at Tate Britain. His work outraged the Victorians — and truthfully, it's pretty damned risqué in the 21st century too. More details in our full preview.

Aubrey Beardsley at Tate Britain. 4 March-25 May, £16.

Soup's up: Andy Warhol at Tate Modern

© 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London

Tate Modern dedicates a massive new exhibition to silver-haired pop art maestro Andy Warhol — the first at the gallery for almost two decades. Over 100 of the Pittsburgh-born artist's images are on display, including iconic prints of Marilyn Monroe, Debbie Harry, Elvis Presley and Coca-Cola bottles. Warhol once remarked that everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes — well his fame has lasted a lot longer and is still strong over 30 years after his death. More details in our full preview.

Andy Warhol at Tate Modern. 12 March-6 September, £22.

Bright Young Things: Cecil Beaton at National Portrait Gallery

A portrait of Baba Beaton, the photographer’s sister. Photograph: Cecil Beaton/National Portrait Gallery/PA

The extravagant world of the glamorous and stylish ‘Bright Young Things’ of the twenties and thirties can be seen through the eye of renowned British photographer Cecil Beaton at National Portrait Gallery. There are plenty of fantastic outfits, beautiful people and glamorous celebrities in the last major exhibition at the gallery before it closes for a three year refurbishment.

Cecil Beaton's Bright Young Things at National Portrait Gallery. 12 March-7 June, £17-£20.

Bronze mystery: Havering Hoard at Museum of London Docklands

The largest ever hoard of Bronze Age artefacts discovered in London was unearthed in Havering in 2018. A whopping 453 objects were found, and this exhibition shines a light on the stories these objects can tell us, and what life was like in Bronze Age London.

Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery at Museum of London Docklands. 3 April-1 November, free.

Renaissance woman: Artemisia at The National Gallery

Artemisia's self-portrait as St Catherine. Copyright The National Gallery

The National Gallery is rolling out the big hitters of Titian and Raphael for 2020. However, the artist we're most interested in Artemisia Gentileschi. 17th century art was most definitely a man's world, but Gentileschi managed to stand out as one of the most accomplished followers of Caravaggio. We've only ever seen one work by her and we were impressed — now it's time to bring on her wider portfolio so she can get the recognition she deserves.

Artemisia at The National Gallery. 4 April-26 July, £tbc.

Fight for your right: Unfinished Business at The British Library

Credit: Designed by Shakila Taranum Maan and kindly loaned by Southall Black Sisters.

"For centuries, women and their allies have fought for women’s rights in all areas of life. Their efforts have fundamentally changed the world we live in". Too right, and The British Library is making sure we know about the history of this struggle through artefacts and literature from the earliest pioneers to contemporary feminism.

Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women's Rights at The British Library. 24 April-23 August, £15.

Down the rabbit hole: Alice in Wonderland at V&A

John Tenniel's illustration from the original story.

We were grinning like Cheshire cats when we found out V&A is mounting an Alice in Wonderland exhibition. It's a great choice. Few books have had such a profound and long-lasting impact on the popular imagination. Visitors "begin with a descent into the V&A’s subterranean gallery via a theatrical interpretation of the story’s famous rabbit hole" and step through a digital looking glass at the end. It's going to make us all curiouser and curiouser.

Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser at V&A. 27 June-10 January 2021, £20.

Rain, steam and speed: Turner at Tate Britain

© The National Gallery, London

You can't go too many years without a major Turner exhibition — he was one of Britain's greatest painters, after all. Tate Britain is obliging — apt, as it's home to a fantastic collection of his paintings. This time it's all about modernisation and how Turner embraced the industrialised world with his paintings of railways, ships and the machinery of war.

Turner's Modern World at Tate Britain. 28 October-7 March 2021, £tbc.

Last Updated 11 December 2019