We look ahead to the must-see shows in July and August, both inside and outside of the M25. As venues are restricting numbers for social distancing, you'll need to book ahead for most of these.
Female Figures: Paula Rego at Tate Britain
Paula Rego whisks us from fairytale landscapes to socio-political issues, like her series which drew attention to illegal abortions in her native Portugal. Whatever the scene, she captures intense, dynamic, and emotive figures — most of them female. This is the major exhibition Rego deserves in the city she's called home for most of her life.
Paula Rego at Tate Britain. 7 July - 24 October, £18.
Black justice: War Inna Babylon at ICA
This powerful exhibition covers the history of Black communities' resistance to institutional racism and policing. Case studies, personal accounts and photographs show how these communities have suffered, and the legal developments that have prevailed through activism and justice campaigns.
War Inna Babylon: The Community’s Struggle for Truths and Rights at The ICA. 7 July - 26 September, £5.
The Story of a Bear: Paddington at The British Library
Follow the splotches of marmalade and join in with the stories of London's most famous bear in this family friendly exhibition. Notes and the original typewriter from Paddington's author Michael Bond are displayed alongside pots of paint and excerpts from his stories. Enchanting for all.
Paddington: The Story of a Bear at The British Library. 9 July - 31 October, £8.
Sound off in Sussex: Summer of Sound at Wakehurst
If you like Kew Gardens (who doesn't) but fancy it a little wilder, head to its sister site in Wakehurst, Sussex. Here, the woodlands, wetlands and glades are channelling the noises of woodpeckers and subaquatic worlds — piped in through six sound installations throughout the grounds.
Summer of Sound at Wakehurst, Sussex. 9 July - 12 September, £14.50 (includes entry to the site)
People's Palace: Tino Sehgal at Blenheim Palace
Tino Sehgal's works are all about creating human connections through performances. That may sound rather abstract, and that's exactly what we thought before we were blown away by his Turbine Hall installation at Tate Modern. A new performance has been crafted for the grounds of Blenheim Palace using local people and everyone's experience will be unique as the work evolves to suit each visitor.
Tino Sehgal at Blenheim Palace & Gardens. 9 July - 15 August, £18.50.
Emotional: Joy and Tranquility at Wellcome Collection
If you're in search of a big post-lockdown dose of happiness, Wellcome Collection is on hand to provide it. We all know what joy feels like, but here we get to see the history behind emotions and to ponder why euphoria on the dance floor feels so different to, say, the joy of a meal with friends. The collection is also covering tranquility — from time spent alone to the burgeoning wellness industry.
Joy and Tranquility at Wellcome Collection. 15 July - 9 January / 27 February, free.
Skater boys and girls: No Comply at Somerset House
It's a vibrant subculture that's sometimes derided, yet skateboarding had a massive pickup during lockdown and now an exhibition rolls into Somerset House. Film, sound, art, fashion, design and photography combine to take us on an enlightening ride — whether you know your kickflips from your ollie, or not.
No Comply: Skate Culture and Community at Somerset House. 19 July - 19 September, free.
Art by the coast: Folkestone Triennial
Every three years, a wave of art sweeps over the seaside town of Folkestone, with many of the works staying put indefinitely. So Richard Woods' colourful houses and an Antony Gormley that's only visible at low tide are now joined by Rana Begum's jazzy beach huts, as well as a whole host of art inspired by Folkestone and its past.
Folkestone Triennial is located throughout Folkestone. 22 July - 2 November, free.
Art is coming home: OOF Gallery
Football and art may seem unlikely partners but not so in a new gallery that's fittingly situated in the grounds of Tottenham Hotspur's stadium. It's all about showing art that's inspired by the beautiful game. No surprise that the opening show is cheekily titled 'balls'.
OOF Gallery at Warmington House, Tottenham Hotspur stadium. 23 July onwards, free.
Mysterious temples: Do Ho Suh at London Mithraeum
The London Mithraeum is one of the city's most mysterious spots, which perhaps leaves us with more questions than answers about those who worshipped there millennia ago. Artist Do Ho Suh has replicated a similarly mysterious temple from his native Korea on the floor above to bring the two nations' cultures together — allowing us to speculate on the histories of both.
Do Ho Suh: Proposal for Sach'onwang-Sa at London Mithraeum. 28 July - 22 January 2022, free.
Short run events
July is when art fairs start to appear in London again, and the month kicks off with The Other Art Fair in King's Cross (1-4 July, £11). In west London the London Art Biennale curates art from across the world at Chelsea Old Town Hall.
Rounding out the art fairs, the Affordable Art Fair (8-11 July, £11-£13) is back in Battersea to showcase galleries that sell works for bargain hunters sniffing out statement pieces.
If art after dark is more your flavour then Whitechapel Gallery is bringing back its one-night-only Nocturnal Creatures (17 July, 6-11pm) where art takes over the East End for the night.