What Are The Unmissable Exhibitions This September?

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 33 months ago

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What Are The Unmissable Exhibitions This September?

We look ahead to London art and exhibitions, museum and gallery openings for September 2018 and select our must-see exhibitions to keep you cultured as we head into Autumn. You're welcome.

Tomorrow's world

Flynn Talbot will be representing Australia and visitors will be able to step inside his colourful creation.

Wouldn't it be great to have all the world's most ambitious and innovative designers right here in London? Luckily there's a perfect biannual event that fits the bill and it's coming to Somerset House. 40 countries from six continents come to the capital with facial recognition, textile production and an undulating walkway all promised along the theme of emotional states. The inaugural biennale two years ago blew us away — we're hoping for a repeat victory.
London Design Biennale at Somerset House. 4-23 September, £19.50

Hail the downtrodden

Banksy's 'Peckham rock'

What do the downtrodden and the dissenters have to say? Often history hides their ideas but satirist Ian Hislop collaborates with The British Museum to unearth their stories. A fat cat effigy for the Mexican day of the dead, hidden rude words on a banknote and a Banksy 'cave painting' are among the 100 or so objects, for what should be a quirky and humorous exhibition.
I object: Ian Hislop's search for dissent at The British Museum. 6 September-20 January, £12

For the players

A screenshot from Splatoon. Copyright Nintendo.

Video gaming has changed massively in our lifetime, once seen as the hobby of socially awkward loners to nowadays, when esports events fill stadiums. From shoot em ups to MMORPGs (that's massively multiplayer online role playing games for the n00bs), blockbuster titles to small independent games, the V&A try to capture the full diversity and innovation in gaming and set a new high score. It's on like Donkey Kong.
Videogames: Design / Play / Disrupt at V&A. 8 September-24 February, £18

Back to art school

A render of what the new Goldsmiths centre will look like. Copyright Assemble.

Damien Hirst, Vivienne Westwood and Damon Albarn — they all graduated from Goldsmiths University. Now the prestigious arts college is getting its own gallery that will have an ongoing programme of contemporary art. First up is Mika Rottenberg, an artist we're not familiar with. However, she's bringing humour, absurdity and confusion — which sounds intriguing.
Mika Rottenberg at Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art. 8 September-4 November, free.

Floppy disk faces

Copyright Nick Gentry.

Portraits capture a moment in time, as do floppy disks, VHS and cassettes; just digitally. So why not combine the two to create portraits? That's what artist Nick Gentry does and we love this duality of memory, nostalgia and time preserved for both the subject and the medium. He's part of a two person show alongside Seo Young-Deok who similarly creates figures using bicycle chains.
Nick Gentry & Seo Young-Deok - Human Connection at Opera Gallery. 14-28 September, free

Tempus Fugit

Fancy watching the full 24 hours?

It flies, heals all wounds and we're always running out it. Time is our most valuable resource and Christian Marclay combines it with pop culture with a 24 hour film — that's right a film that lasts 24 hours. What's special about it is that it stitches film and television clips that contain clocks showing that exact moment of time it's being shown — if it's 6.15pm in life then the images will be of clocks showing that exact same time. For hardcore fans, there are a few 24 hour screenings.
Christian Marclay: The Clock at Tate Modern. 14 September-20 January, free.


Not everyone will be familiar with the name Renzo Piano, but no Londoner can ignore one of his designs — The Shard. It towers above us and it's his stamp on the city. Similarly across the channel the Centre Pompidou in Paris is equally distinctive. The Royal Academy of Arts is charting the life, designs and buildings of the Italian architect with a major exhibition.
Renzo Piano: The art of making buildings at Royal Academy of Arts. 15 September-20 January, £12.

Show me the Manet

Seurat's bathers at Asnieres will be in the show. © The National Gallery, London

The Courtauld Gallery is closing for a two year refurbishment but its fantastic Impressionist collection isn't being secreted away for all that time. A whole host of its works are coming to combine with The National Gallery's own collection for an Impressionist-fest. Cezanne, Manet and Renoir are on show and let's face it, everybody loves an Impressionism exhibition.
Courtauld Impressionists: From Manet to Cézanne. 17 September-20 January, £7.50

Awesome four-some

A mock-up of what the Polar Worlds gallery will look like. Copyright Casson Mann.

It's a nice treat when a museum opens a new gallery, but four new galleries is spoiling us. National Maritime Museum launches four new galleries for us to dive into — so whether we're having a school age reminisce about Tudors and Stuarts, diving into the Pacific or feeling the chill of the Polar regions, Greenwich has us covered.
Four new galleries at National Maritime Museum. 20 September onwards, free

Hooked on a feeling

A still from the Rachel Maclean film. Copyright the artist.

We love art, we love science and we love them together. So a new free to visit Science Gallery opening opposite London Bridge station is Christmas come early. The opening exhibition looks at addiction and recovery, through research, photography and artworks. It also looks at technology and social media and their addictive nature, this includes a surreal film by artist Rachael Maclean that explores the dark side of social media.
Hooked at Science Gallery. 21 September-6 January, free

Ra Ra Rasputin

Copyright State Archive of the Russian Federation

The Romanovs were the last monarchs of Russia, with the family murdered as part of the February revolution in 1917. They mark an important part of Russian history but what about the science of their time? Science Museum takes us back to relive their lives, their deaths and the influence of medicine and spiritual advisers. Of course the tale cannot be told without uncovering the truth behind the supposedly unkillable mystic Rasputin.|
The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution at Science Museum. 21 September-24 March, free

War, what is it good for?

Just some of the African soldiers who served in World War I

Most museums host one or two major exhibitions this Autumn, but Imperial War Museum has decided to share the love with four simultaneous smaller exhibitions. Photography shows how innovation flourished post-war, sound installations will tell us human stories of the time and the silence of remembrance. However, the one we're most looking forward to is a film by artist John Akomfrah that remembers the millions of African men and women who participated in the first world war. We've loved his breathtaking films in the past and so we're expecting something equally poignant.
All four exhibitions are part of the Making a new world season at IWM London. 21 September-31 March, free

Unsung heroines

Of all the exhibitions opening in September, this one wins the best title award hands down. It celebrates the women behind the Foundling Hospital who have been overlooked in history. Wet nurses, artists and the foundlings themselves are celebrated in exhibitions throughout the museum. Portraits of some of these women replace the portraits of the male Governors in the museum for the duration of the show to recognise that it's not just men that deserve celebrating.
Ladies of Quality & Distinction at The Foundling Museum. 21 September-29 January, £10

Southern laughter

Copyright Lynn Hershman.

South London Gallery was given the old fire station across the road from the main building back in 2014. It held one excellent exhibition in there, but since that time a major refurbishment has been underway and it's nearly time for the grand reveal. It doubles the space available for exhibitions and it will be inaugurated with a show that's all about humour in art. In our view, art is often too po-faced, so we welcome this rib tickler of a show.
Knock knock: humour in contemporary art at South London Gallery. 22 September-18 November, free

Art pranksters

Courtesy of María José Jove Fundación. Photo: Holger Honck

We love Elmgreen & Dragset, the playful duo who have placed a boy on rocking horse on the fourth plinth, placed a Prada store in a deserted part of Texas and presented a show of just white paint peeled off museum walls. It's art that refuses to take itself seriously. It's about time they had a major survey show of their work in London and we're already smiling at the thought of it.
Elmgreen & Dragset: This Is How We Bite Our Tongue at Whitechapel Gallery. 27 September-13 January, £tbd

Black mirror

Copyright Simon Bedwell.

Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror with its dark dystopian visions of the future is a remarkably powerful television show. Loosely based around a similar theme this show looks at artists who tackle social satire. Luxury, hedonism and the gap between rich and poor are all game in this show and we're hoping it leaves a lasting impact on us, just as the television show — we're still shiver at the thought of those robotic bees.
Black Mirror: Art as social satire at Saatchi Gallery. 28 September-13 January, free

Art fairs and festivals

It's not just all major exhibitions at big museums. There are plenty of festivals and art fairs in September and we've rounded up our highlights here:


It's all about the Thames this September.

What better subject to honour with a festival than the mighty river Thames — Totally Thames (1-30 September, free — some events ticketed) has artworks by youngsters, a film projected on to the National Theatre's fly tower and concerts in the bascule chamber of Tower bridge.

If stimulating debate floats your boat then the Royal Academy holds a Festival of Ideas (7-16 September, prices vary) — ten days of stimulating debate in art, design, architecture, literature, film and music.

V&A leads the charge for London Design Festival (15-23 September, free — some events ticketed) — an Escher-esque modular house, a spinning sculpture and illuminating works will be some of the highlights of a festival that stretches across London.

We're looking forward to climbing this structure outside V&A.

If keeping it local is key then Deptford X Festival (21-30 September, free) is for you, focusing strictly south-east with free art displays, talks, walking tours and a real sense of engagement with the local community.

Art fairs

Lauren Baker contemporary will have a booth at the fair. Copyright the artist.

September is spoiled for art fairs with two being hosted at Saatchi gallery. START art fair (13-16 September, £12.50-£15) returns with 50 artists from 25 cities across the world to catch our eye. Past fairs have been filled with bright and engaging artwork and we're expecting the same fun vibe this year. The British Art Fair arrives a week later (20-23 September, £15-£20) with the best of modern British art from the last 100 years.

Lowry is just one of the artists to be found at British Art Fair.

If luxury is the hankering then head to Berkeley Square for LAPADA (14-19 September, £20). Art and antiques give us that sense of opulence and this fair is always filled with beautiful things.

We all love an art bargain and there are two places to grab them this month. The New Artist Fair (15-16 September, free) is all about raw emerging talent, we've snapped up some real bargains here in the past and it's that rare treat — an art fair that doesn't charge an entrance fee.

Photo: Nick Cunard.

It's also the month to buy art out of the back of the car, and we promise you it's not a knock off. Big names such as Pure Evil and Gavin Turk join younger artists to flog their wares in true wheeler dealer style in Granary Square at the Art Car Boot Fair (16 September, £10)

Last Updated 29 August 2018