London's art and exhibition is never dull, and we've had some absolute treats in 2018. Now we're looking ahead to 2019 to provide our top picks that you won't want to miss. Culture diaries out to pencil this lot in:
Martyrdom & Michelangelo at The Royal Academy of Arts
Contemporary artists being inspired by Old Masters is nothing new, but the Royal Academy brings together a great from each era. Michelangelo's drawings exploring the human form will be accompanied by the works of eminent video artist Bill Viola who also looks at the nature of humanity in powerful works. If you want a taste of what to expect check out his breathtaking martyrs video currently on display at St. Paul's Cathedral.
Bill Viola / Michelangelo: Life Death Rebirth at Royal Academy of Arts. 26 January-31 March, £20.
Shell shocked at Tate Britain
Photographer Don McCullin's work captures the horror and chaos of conflict, from Vietnam to Lebanon. He's best known for his image of the shell shocked marine but we've seen many of his photos and can attest that his portfolio is filled with powerful photographs. We're looking forward to this deserved retrospective, we'll just need to brace ourselves before entering.
Don McCullin at Tate Britain. 5 February-6 May, £16.
Remembering Madiba at Leake Street
Five years since the great Nelson Mandela died, this exhibition charts the legacy, history and achievements of a world changing statesman through film, artefacts and the man's personal belongings. If, like us, your childhood memories include news coverage of his release and later election, this exhibition will bring those memories flooding.
Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition at 26 Leake Street. 8 February-3 June, £12-£27.
What to do with half a million Lego bricks? We know — build wonders from around world including the Pyramids, the original London Bridge and the International Space Station. The Horniman Museum is going to have a Lego fiesta including a Lego replica of its most famous resident, the Horniman Walrus. It sounds like we'll be paying a visit and singing everything is awesome.
Brick Wonders at Horniman Museum. 16 February - 27 October, tickets £9 for adult / £5 for children.
More of Moore at The Wallace Collection
Henry Moore is best-known for his abstract figure sculptures, with a fantastic collection at Tate Britain. What many won't know about is his obsession with armour, and the sculptures he created inspired by Renaissance armour. Aptly, they're going on display at The Wallace Collection, next to the armour that inspired them.
Henry Moore: The Helmet Heads at The Wallace Collection. 6 March-23 June, £tbc.
Kapoor at Pitzhanger Gallery, Ealing
Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery is a fantastic building — the gallery has hosted some spectacular contemporary art exhibitions, and we visited regularly until it closed for a lengthy refurbishment. It'll open again in 2019 after restoration work to the John Soane-designed building — the first exhibition is an Anish Kapoor one, containing his usual blend of mind -bending mirrored works.
Anish Kapoor at Pitzhanger Gallery. 16 March-18 August, £tbc.
Mary Quant at V&A and Fashion & Textile Museum
The mini skirt is the item of clothing that most people associate with sixties icon Mary Quant. But she was a versatile fashion designer, and V&A pays tribute to how she revolutionised women's fashion on the high street. In an unrelated exhibition the Fashion & Textile Museum explores a similar era from a broader angle, with a show looking at the fashion, homeware, textiles and furniture of this transformative time.
Mary Quant at V&A. 6 April 2019-February 2020, £12.
Swinging London: A lifestyle revolution at Fashion & Textile Museum. 8 February-2 June 2019, £9.90.
Why have people tell you the history of London if you can get animals to do it? An immersive exhibition will tell us how lions, elephants and the humble pigeon has shaped our capital. Museum of London have teamed up with Guildhall School of Music and Drama so we're in for an entertaining show.
Beasts of London at Museum of London. 5 April - 7 January, £11 for adults, £6 for children.
Glass Master at Kew Gardens
Dale Chihuly creates sculptures out of glass that we would normally think impossible. His bright colourful forms writhe and expand as if they are living creatures — you may have seen one of them hanging in the main entrance hall of V&A. Given the organic nature of his work, placing 32 of these sculptures around Kew Gardens feels like a natural fit and we're looking forward to Kew becoming even more beautiful than it already is.
Chihuly at Kew: Reflections on Nature at Kew Gardens. 13 April-27 October, £13.75 (includes general admission to the gardens).
A film odyssey
Whether it be a spaceship gliding through space to blood flowing out of a life, Stanley Kubrick has created many iconic cinematic moments. Design Museum is bringing together props, costumes, set models and photographs to take us behind the scenes of the master movie maker's creations.
Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition at Design Museum. 26 April - 17 September, £16.
AI at Barbican
Machines are getting smarter — in our phones, in our homes and soon they'll be driving us around. What does this mean for us? Are our lives about to get a lot easier or are we giving up too much control? What will a human being look like in the future? Leading researchers and artist commissions will take on these massive questions in an exhibition us technophiles are seriously looking forward to... or did Google tell us that we'd like it?
AI: More than human at Barbican. 16 May-26 August, £15.
Manga at The British Museum
Manga has grown far beyond its Japanese roots to become a global phenomenon. The British Museum charts the history of this illustration style, right through to modern day incarnations within anime and gaming. Expect interactive elements too, including the ability to have your portrait 'Manga-fied' and a chance to indulge in some cosplay by donning costumes.
Manga at The British Museum, 23 May-26 August, £19.50.
London's waterways don't look like what they used to. Some rivers that used to exist are now underground, while others have radically changed course. How has the growth of our city impacted our rivers? That's what Museum of London Docklands is going to show us through paintings and excavated items. Best be Fleet of foot and Wandle over to see this one.
Secret Rivers at Museum of London, Docklands. 24 May - 27 October, free.
Culture, conflict and cuisine at Whitechapel Gallery
We're massive fans of the current Fourth Plinth sculpture of an Assyrian winged guardian. It's a creation of the artist Michael Rakowitz who has a major show at Whitechapel Gallery, using cuisine and cultural artefacts to tell the stories of countries including Afghanistan and post-Soviet Hungary. If the work is as good as his Fourth Plinth commission, we're in for something special.
Michael Rakowitz at Whitechapel Gallery. 3 June-25 August, £tbc
Darkness descends at Science Gallery
Even though it's still hypothetical, dark matter is thought to be responsible for 85% of the mass of the universe. That's a lot of matter and it's the theory that will form the gravitational centre of an exhibition bringing art and science together in search of the elusive. We were impressed by the inaugural Science Gallery exhibition, so we're expecting big things from this new venue in 2019.
Dark Matter at Science Gallery. 6 June-26 August, free.
Da Vinci Code at The British Library
Art, technology, anatomy; the genius of Leonardo da Vinci is still impressive, 500 years after his death. His notebooks will offer a glimpse into his beautiful mind and there will be plenty of the ideas he committed to paper. The British Library excels in intriguing and thoroughly researched exhibitions and we're sure Leonardo da Vinci will get the same treatment.
Leonardo da Vinci: A mind in motion at The British Library. 7 June-8 September, £7.
Figures abound at Royal Academy of Arts
Antony Gormley has made a name for himself by placing different versions of himself all over the country (and the world). His figures are everywhere and instantly recognisable, from the Angel of the North to the many scattered around London. A major exhibition of his work will appear in the Royal Academy of Arts towards the end of the year — it may be almost a year away, but we're already stoked.
Antony Gormley at Royal Academy of Arts. 21 September-3 December, £tbc
Shining a light on Rembrandt at Dulwich Picture Gallery
Dulwich Picture Gallery commemorates 350 years since the death of Rembrandt with an exhibition on the man who mastered the use of light and dark in his paintings. The last Rembrandt exhibition in London was superb — more of the same, please.
Rembrandt's Light at Dulwich Picture Gallery. 2 October-2 February, £tbc.
So those are our best picks for 2019 and most are available to book already. Not all museums have announced their 2019 line up yet, so we'll keep updating the list as more come in. The Brick Wonders, Beasts of London, Stanley Kubrick and Secret Rivers exhibitions were added post-publication.