We look ahead to London's art and exhibition openings to close out 2020 and select the must-see shows that are opening. As museums and galleries are restricting numbers for social distancing, you'll need to book agead for most exhibitions.
Post publication note: due to the announcement of a second lockdown many of these openings are likely to be delayed. Do check the exhibition websites for the latest updates.
Medicinal: The Den & Standardized Patient at Wellcome Collection
The pandemic is front of mind for all of us so Wellcome Collection is re-opening its Medicine Man gallery at the same time as also 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. And in The Den, artist Sop shows us how nature became a solace for them and many of us.
Massive art: JR at Saatchi Gallery
Whether it be creating an optical illusion around the glass pyramid at Le Louvre or pasting photos of prisoners on top of a maximum security prison, artist JR loves to work at a huge scale. Now his work has been taken indoors at Saatchi Gallery so that we can examine his many projects and the sociological issues that are the heart of the large scale interventions of this popular artist.
JR: Chronicles at Saatchi Gallery. 13 November - 9 February, £9-12.
All the emotions: Emin/Munch at Royal Academy
What unites the painter of The Scream and the creator of the unmade bed is both Emin and Munch pour their emotions into their work. Emin's work has drawn inspiration from Munch's explorations of the human psyche and now their works have come face to face in an emotional powerhouse of an exhibition.
Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul at Royal Academy of Arts. 15 November - 28 February, £15.
In flight: Lynette Yiadom-Boakye at Tate Britain
A group of dancers warm up but what are they talking about and are we eavesdropping? What are the two children on the beach imagining? Lynette Yiadom-Boakye's paintings are all populated by black figures but unlike the portraits we're used to the persons in them are all imagined. She's changed up the idea of what a portrait should be and is encouraging us to give each one our own narrative.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly in league with the night at Tate Britain. 18 November - 9 May, £13.
Waterworld: Exposure at National Maritime Museum
We rely on our oceans for food, energy and transportation but who are the men and women that work in these industries and what are their daily lives like? These photographs by those who work in maritime industries shows us how the watery world functions from the reefs of Mexico to the isolation of Antarctica. Living primarily on land it's easy to forget those who forge a life at sea — here's our chance to enter their worlds both above and under the sea.
Exposure: Lives at Sea at National Maritime Museum. 20 November - 28 March, free.
Bags of style: Bags at V&A
From the humble carrier to the swanky Hermes Birkin, by way of the all purpose tote bag, bags are an important part of our lives and V&A is taking us on a ride through history to show us how they became the must have accessory. From utilitarian rucksacks to tiny purses carried on a finger, it's time to get mad about bags. Read our full preview here.
Bags: Inside Out at V&A. 21 November - 12 September, £12.
Photo bomb: Unearthed at Dulwich Picture Gallery
Dulwich Picture Gallery is taking us back to the 1840s and the roots of photography. Follow the journey of how this art form evolved featuring early photos of plants and botany — a look at all the floral arches on Instagram shows this attraction to beautiful natural items has been with us since the days when snapping a photo was a far more arduous task.
Unearthed: Photography's Roots at Dulwich Picture Gallery. 21 November - 9 May, £16.50.
Royal Painting: Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace at Queen's Gallery
The Queen's art collection is spectacular and here's a chance to see some of its most important paintings including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Canaletto. While Buckingham Palace gets a spruce up here's a chance to get up close with the paintings that would normally hang in among the resplendent halls and rooms of the palace.
Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace at Queen's Gallery. 4 December - 31 January 2022, £16.
A Christmas painting: Sensing the Unseen at The National Gallery
The visit of the Three Kings is a theme that's tied to Christmas but how much attention do we pay attention to the Jan Gossaert painting of this subject? Have we spotted the hairs growing out of a wart or wondered of the origins of Balthazar, the black king who bring myrrh. The National Gallery has lasered in on one painting to reveal its secrets. We've always been fans of this approach to focus on a single work, rather than being overwhelmed by the huge collection in the rest of the gallery.
Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert's 'Adoration' at The National Gallery. 9 December - 28 February, free.
Magical animals: Fantastic Beasts at Natural History Museum
Can truth be stranger than fiction? By bringing together the worlds of Harry Potter and the natural world the challenge is laid down to see how the latter inspired the former. Dinosaur fossils show us how they were probably the inspiration for dragons and real life camouflage is compared to the demiguise in Fantastic Beasts. This exhibition is one that both Potter fans and muggles can enjoy equally.
Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature at Natural History Museum. 9 December - August 2021, £22.
Short run and online events
Lots of star artists have anonymously created works on envelopes cataloguing their everyday routines — something we've all become familiar with in lockdown. It's for 'A letter in mind' an exhibition online (3-9 November, free) and all works will be sold at £85 with proceeds going to The National Brain Appeal.
Going to an art fair in person feels a long way off in a world of social distancing so the Affordable Art Fair will be going online (6-30 November, free) so you may snap up the perfect art for your home — the right idea given we're all probably going to be spending a lot more time looking at our walls this winter.
Somerset House is taking the party online with a one night only event of live-streamed premieres, collaborations, performances, and experimental DJ sets. Most of us won't be having a Christmas party this year so why not join the fun at AGM 2020 (12 November, 5-11pm, free).