Welcome to our pick of the best London exhibitions to see right now — get your Spring dose of culture. We've roughly split the list by London regions to make it easier to navigate.
Exhibitions in North London
SISTER ART: Ever heard the one about the nun that made pop art? It's no joke, Corita Kent made bright colourful political works as she subverted advertising for her own ends. Throw in some religious works — she was a nun after all — and we have a unique artist making eye-catching pop artworks at the same time as Andy Warhol.
Corita Kent: Power Up at House of Illustration. Until 12 May, £8.25. ★★★☆☆ (Tuesday-Sunday)
A SLOW CYCLE: Jump on a bike and pedal achingly slowly past a mountain landscape. It's all very surreal and humorous in this show filled with works by painter John Korner's. There's a running track heading straight into a wall and a bar we have to climb to reach. We've always been big fans of his bright coloured landscapes and there's plenty of these too, in this quirky exhibition.
John Korner: Life in a Box at Victoria Miro, Wharf Road. Until 23 March, free. ★★★★☆
Exhibitions in West London
DELICIOUS PORTRAITS: Painting that's so thick and delicious that you just want to chew on it. That's the reaction we have to Leon Kossoff's heavily layered paintings in this fabulous show in West London across two gallery spaces opposite one another. Whether it's a summer's day in Dalston or a self-portrait, layer upon layer of paint gives each painting an energy that grabs hold of us and pulls us in. Plenty of his drawings are on display too and they have a scratchy charm all of their own. Kossoff is one of Britain's greatest living artists and this show is proof of his brilliance.
Leon Kossoff: A London Life at Piano Nobile. Until 22 May, free. ★★★★★ (Monday-Saturday)
Exhibitions in Central London
NUDITY BY THE BUTT-LOAD: Men and women in various states of undress was all the rage in the Renaissance, well at least until a rather prudish Pope came along. This exhibition is all about the naked form, so we get Titian's beautiful Venus rising from the sea next to a dynamic sculpture of Hercules wrestling Antaeus. The quality of the work here is varied from an anxious Christ whose proportions are all over the place to a small drawing of battling sea Gods by Mantegna which is sublime. All the big hitters including Donatello, Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci are here, and there are enough stunning pieces to make up for the also rans.
The Renaissance Nude at Royal Academy of Arts. Until 2 June, £16. ★★★☆☆
TEETERING TOWERS: Big wooden structures look like they've been thrown together and are just about holding up. Given that they're holding up massive blocks we walk under them tentatively. Elsewhere giant sculptures lie beaten and broken or project from walls. We're big fans of Phyllida Barlow's big precarious works, though we prefer them when it's one big seamless installation like she had at Tate Britain, rather than the separate works here. An enjoyable show, but not her best work.
Phyllida Barlow RA: cul-de-sac at Royal Academy of Arts. Until 23 June, £14. ★★★☆☆
I KISSED A GIRL: The National Gallery continues its underrated programme of free to visit one room displays, bringing a lesser known artist to light. This time it's Louis-Leopold Boilly, a French painter who created a fabulous illusion of depth with a girl sat on a windowsill. But the one that will grab all the attention is of two women kissing with one's dress slipping down to reveal her breast. It was so bold that it was seen by revolutionary authorities at the time as 'revolting obscenity'. The rest of the works here aren't as exciting but do offer an insight into Parisian life at the time of the French revolution.
Boilly: Scenes of Parisian Life at The National Gallery, Room 1. Until 19 May, free. ★★★☆☆
SPINNING COLOUR: Best buds sculptor Alexander Calder and abstract painter Joan Miro are reunited in this bijou exhibition. The colours of Calder's mobiles floating above or in front of Miro's abstract works almost sing in harmony. This show may only contain five works but each is breathtakingly beautiful. We want to stay here for hours as the air currents gently swing the mobile around in front of the static painting.
Calder / Miro: Claire de Lune at Nahmad Projects. Until 18 April, free. ★★★★☆ (Monday-Friday)
WISH YOU WERE THIS: The humble postcard is often overlooked as a serious medium for art. There's no wish you were here's in this how with humorous, political and conceptual art placed across postcards that have been altered, erupt into folds and subverted. With significant art names such as Gilbert & George, Yoko Ono and the Guerilla Girls in the mix it's time for the humble postcard to shine. No one work won us over, but it's still an impressive collection and made us rethink how we views postcards.
The World Exists To Be Put On A Postcard at The British Museum, Room 90. Until 4 August, free. ★★★☆☆
BEAUTIFUL SHADOWS: Next door to the postcards is Rembrandt, the master of light and shadow. He is celebrated at The British Museum with a fantastic selection of drawings. These may be a lot smaller than his paintings but the light streaming down from heaven in the Annunciation and the painter's self-portrait in the half light are spectacular treasures. It's a beautiful show to remember Rembrandt by, 350 years after his death.
Rembrandt: thinking on paper at The British Museum, Room 91. Until 4 August, free. ★★★★☆
HELMET HEADS: Helmets are a practical item to protect a soldier's head but sculptor Henry Moore also saw them as works of art. This exhibition brings together his helmet inspired sculptures, a series we're a lot less familiar with than his reclining figures. It's great to see these mechanical looking creations next to the armour that inspired them, even if we still prefer his larger works. It's great to see a different side to Moore and The Wallace Collection's first ticketed exhibition offers some new insights into a familiar artist.
Henry Moore: The Helmet Heads at The Wallace Collection. Until 23 June, £10. ★★★☆☆
TOUCH THE ART: Sculpture that you can... whisper it... pick up and play with or sit on top of. Franz West was a playful character and would have want us to pick up and fondle all his works. Alas, some are now too delicate to touch but there's plenty of opportunity to sit on a long snake like piece or sit and stare at a spiky suspended work. It's a simple and fun way to while away half an hour even if we didn't find too much depth to the work.
Franz West at Tate Modern. Until 2 June, £13. ★★★☆☆
A FAT CAR: In the centre of the room lies a not very mini Mini — this usually petite car is now overflowing with fatty rolls on all sides. It's a witty take on how our world today is obsessed with consuming everything — from food to cars. Nearby playful Polaroids show the the artist with pencils in his ears and we even get the the chance to pose for one with a bucket on our heads. While not all the work appealed to us, this show contains plenty of fun works.
Erwin Wurm at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. Until 23 March, free. ★★★☆☆ (Tuesday-Saturday)
TINY PEOPLE: A painting by Lu Chao shows tiny persons rushing towards a swirling tornado made of faces, while similarly small people explore a massive cathedral where those same faces adorn the massive columns. These surreal works are beautifully executed and create surreal fantastical worlds that we can't stop exploring.
Lu Chao: Black Dots at HdM Gallery, Mayfair. Until 11 May, free. ★★★★☆ (Monday-Friday)
BOTCHED ABORTIONS: This year's Deutsche Borse Photography Foundation Prize is filled with political entries but in a few the narrative is muddled and it's hard to follow at the time. For us the strong frontrunner is Laia Abril who looks at botched abortions, women who've lost their lives in parts of the world where abortion is illegal. It's full of heartbreaking stories and is extremely powerful display.
Deutsche Borse Photography Foundation Prize at The Photographers' Gallery. Until 2 June, £5. ★★★☆☆
Exhibitions in South London
BACK TO CHILDHOOD: Have you ever wanted to kick your shoes off, step on to a raspberry ripple rug, sit on a giant pickle and read a book under a giant helium balloon? That's a silly question — of course you have, and now you can thanks to Studio Morison's latest installation at Now Gallery in North Greenwich. Books for children — written by authors who normally write for an older audience — gives this great sense of revisiting childhood, when there were no phones and kids lost themselves in a literary adventure.
The Mouse and his Child: Studio Morison at Now Gallery. Until 28 April, free. ★★★★☆
STARLIGHT, SUNSETS & SNOW: Starlit mountains, blazing sunsets and snowy villages. Norwegian painter Harald Sohlberg captured them all beautifully — see it on display at a new exhibition in Dulwich Picture Gallery. There's a magical quality to his paintings, whether it be a pretty vista or the mysterious glow from a house spied upon from the woods. We love how this gallery keeps bringing fantastic painters we've never heard of to our attention — long may it continue. This one's another beaut.
Harold Sohlberg: Painting Norway at Dulwich Picture Gallery. Until 2 June, £16.50. ★★★★☆
BAD & WORSE: Two painters come together in this show and the key decision for us is deciding which is worse — Alan Davie's generic abstract works or John Bellany's surreal fantasies featuring what we think are aliens and witches. This is a pairing of two dire sets of paintings, but hey at least it's marginally better than the previous Martin Eder show here that we gave a one star review to.
John Bellany and Alan Davie: Cradle of Magic at Newport Street Gallery. Until 2 June, free. ★★☆☆☆
Exhibitions in East London
GUTS & CLOCKS: A gutted shark with its intestines spilled out on the floor is a painting you're unlikely to forget soon. Ken Currie's paintings are all filled with violent imagery — whether it be a nightmare of a man valiantly trying to fend off a giant stag beetle with a rolled up newspaper or the hunting of gannet chicks which still happens in Scottish islands. Upstairs is a more subtle affair where Tom Lovelace's show plays with texture and the gallery floor, plus a playful performance where a hand comes out of the wall and tinkers with clock on the wall.
Ken Currie: Red Ground & Tom Lovelace: Interval at Flowers East. Until 27 April, free. ★★★☆☆
CHINESE PROPAGANDA: A peasant, a worker and a soldier hold hands and smile. Welcome to the world and propaganda of Chairman Mao. This selection of posters looks at life in Mao's China. Encapsulating matchboxes and traditional Chinese landscape paintings it's a glimpse back to a time when Mao declared that "art and literature should serve politics first, art second". It reminded us of the excellent Made in Korea exhibition, and while it's not as impressive as that show it's still a fascinating show.
Cultural Revolution: State graphics in China from the 1960s to the 1970s at William Morris Gallery. Until 27 May, free. ★★★☆☆
I'M ALL EYES: What would it be like to lose our sight? Artist Phoebe Boswell was forced to consider this when she had an operation to save her right eye. She explores this serious concern through a series of drawings of monocular woman and a video showing a corneal cell transplant — the latter is definitely not for those who feel squeamish about touching their eyes. This is a remarkably personal show and we felt it throughout.
Phoebe Boswell: The Spaces Between Things at Autograph. Until 30 March, free. ★★★★☆
THIS ISN'T TOMORROW: What does the future look like? Why not ask some artists and architects to collaborate and come up with some ideas? That's the premise of this exhibition so we get to be shuttled inside the kind of pens that farm animals have to deal with and enter a swirl of revolving gates so we feel how migrants are treated. Some of the works are playful are creative. However, the show is trying to show the potential future of humanity but none of the works are thought through enough to convince us that they're feasible.
Is This tomorrow? at Whitechapel gallery. Until 12 May, £12.95. ★★☆☆☆