Selfies, Swimming Pools And Skeletons: Our Favourite Exhibitions Of 2018

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 12 months ago

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Selfies, Swimming Pools And Skeletons: Our Favourite Exhibitions Of 2018

What were the best London exhibitions of 2018? See what captivated us in another great year of exhibitions here in the capital. We've got a link to the full review of each show and opening dates if there's still a chance to catch it.

10. Ocean Liners at V&A

The French SS Normandie arrives in New York, and the scale is staggering. Image courtesy of French Lines.

Finely dressed ladies and gents enter a ballroom via a sweeping staircase, and fashionably-attired women lounge around a pool as we set sail to the glamorous golden age of Ocean Liners. From the glitz of the 1920s to the re purposing of these ships during war, this was an immersive exhibition that gave us a real flavour for what life would have been like within these palaces of the seas. Read our full review here.
Ocean Liners: Speed and Style at V&A, now closed.

9. Mark Dion at Whitechapel Gallery

Spending some time caged with the birds. Courtesy of Whitechapel Gallery. Photo: Jeff Spicer

Inside a giant bird cage, zebra finches flit around us and defecate on books about the natural world. It's not what we expected to find at Whitechapel Gallery and was part of the excellent Mark Dion exhibition. Banners celebrated the results of trophy hunting, a fusty old museum backroom was recreated and there was a glow in the dark cabinet of curiosities. This array of sensational installations were fascinating to explore and really made us think of our interaction with nature. Read our full review here.
Mark Dion: Theatre of the Natural World at Whitechapel Gallery, now closed.

8. Made in North Korea at House of Illustration

This man is fully behind the People's Economic Plan, are you? Collection of Nicholas Bonner, photo: Justin Piperger.

What's it like to live in a country where outside news is not allowed in and propaganda is beamed from all sides? We've never been to North Korea but we got a taste of it in this overwhelming exhibition. Happy workers smiled at us from all directions and even cigarette packets were showing us cultural highlights from the country. It was so intense that towards the end, even we were starting to wonder whether we should be supporting the People's Ecomonic Plan. Read our full review here.
Made in North Korea: Everyday Graphics From The DPRK at House of Illustration, now closed.

7. Michael Jackson at National Portrait Gallery

A fantastic image based on the Billie Jean video. Copyright David LaChapelle.

The moonwalk, the rhinestone glove, the high production music videos. Michael Jackson changed the face of music but he also had a profound impact on art. He commissioned a portrait of himself in the guise of a European King, and the cover art for Dangerous was magnificent. He also inspired many artists, some of whom had works on display in this exhibition that recognised how MJ broke barriers that crossed race and became a global icon. This one was a thriller. Read our full review here.
Michael Jackson: On The Wall at National Portrait Gallery, now closed.

6. Roman Dead at Museum of London Docklands

What can you tell from a Roman era skeleton dug up in London? If you happen to be the researchers involved in this exhibition, then the answer is a hell of a lot. Ethnicity, age and what they happened to wear are all found out from two thirds of a skeleton that was probably grave robbed in the 1600s. The discoveries were earth-shattering in this grisly show filled with plenty of human remains. Read our full review here.
Roman Dead at Museum of London Docklands, now closed.  

5. Hope to Nope at Design Museum

Trump, Brexit and the refugee crisis — an exhibition doesn't get more relevant than this. The last ten years have been filled with political turmoil, which graphic design has captured with flair, whether that be an 'all seeing Trump' that pumps out a fortune, or the Bye-EU tapestry commissioned by The Sun. It was a poignant, polarising and prescient exhibition. Read our full review here.
Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008-18 at Design Museum, now closed.

4. Rachel Maclean at Zabludowicz Collection

The dream world gets lethal in her film Make Me Up. Courtesy of the artist © Rachel Maclean

Consumerism, feminism and social media were all tackled through these surreal and darkly comical films. The artist playeds many of the characters, under heavy prosthetics. In a year where she's also shown at Science Gallery, The National Gallery and on TV, we're predicting big things for this talented artist. Read our full review here.
Rachel Maclean at Zabludowicz Collection, now closed.

3. I Am Ashurbanipal at The British Museum

Ashurbanipal looking heroic as he hunts on horseback. © The Trustees of the British Museum

An Assyrian king that killed lions and mercilessly crushed his enemies is at the centre of a fantastic British Museum blockbuster. Digital projectors bring colour to carved reliefs and a battlefield scene to life. Ashurbanipal may have been a megalomaniacal monster, but his story makes for a world-beating exhibition. Read our full review here.
I Am Ashurbanipal, King of the World, King of Assyria is on at The British Museum. Until 24 February. Tickets £17.

2. Elmgreen & Dragset at Whitechapel Gallery

The sad looking swimming pool — thankfully the history was all made up. Image courtesy Whitechapel Gallery.

A philanthropically founded swimming pool has been in Whitechapel since 1901. Except, that it's a complete fabrication, made up by prankster artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset. A little boy stares adoringly at a gun and we leaf through a book while sipping on whisky. This hits the perfect sweet spot of art that is both political and fun. Read our full review here.
Elmgreen & Dragset: This Is How We Bite Our Tongue at Whitechapel Gallery. Until 13 January. Tickets £12.95.

1. Space Shifters at Hayward Gallery

Which ones are mirrors, and which can we walk through? Courtesy Hayward Gallery. Photo: Mark Blower.

Mirrors are everywhere in this mind bending and perception altering exhibition. There are mazes that make us think we're walking into glass, a vat of sump oil that reflects the ceiling, and a chance to view our reflection from all angles. The exhibition may be full of selfie takers, but if we put our phones down then we realise this show captures the current age of narcissism perfectly. The works causes us to pause and reflect on how we view ourselves and is filled with stunning installations. Read our full review here.
Space Shifters at Hayward Gallery. Until 6 January 2019. Tickets £16.50.

Those were our favourite exhibitions of the year — what were your top picks? If you're thinking 2018 is so over, then we've also got our hot exhibitions for 2019 right here.

Last Updated 21 December 2018