2023 is a bumper year for museum/gallery opening/reopenings. Here's the skinny on what's happening, and when.
1. Centre for British Photography - opens January 2023
London already has some superb spots to get your fill of photography (think The Photographers' Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery) but clearly that's not enough, because now we're about to get the Centre for British Photography. The charitable, free-to-visit space opens late January 2023 on Jermyn Street, and says it'll be a "dedicated home for British Photography in all its diversity". Among the first exhibitions across this three-floor space is Natasha Caruana's Fairytale for Sale (exploring the UK's wedding traditions) and Wish You Were Here by Heather Agyepong, in which she reflects on the early 20th century dance craze, 'The Cakewalk'.
And if you're excited about this, you'll also be delighted to know that the V&A is doubling the size of its Photography Centre, with new galleries opening on 25 May 2023.
2. Hunterian Museum - reopens early 2023
Named for 18th century surgeon-and-scientist-extraordinaire John Hunter, the Hunterian Museum is an eye-opening, if sometimes grotesque, miscellany of medical curios (think preserved tumours, syphilis-addled bones, and the skeleton of 'the Irish giant' Charles Byrne). The Lincoln's Inn Fields museum — which is free to visit, with encouraged donation — has been closed for refurbishment since 2017, but finally gets going again early this year. Just have breakfast before you go.
3. BBC Earth experience - opens 30 March 2023
Fancy a voyage through all seven continents, with none other than the silky-voiced David Attenborough as your guide? Get yourself to Earl's Court from the end of March, and the BBC Earth Experience will do the rest. Pouncing on the current trend for immersive experiences, this temporary walk-through spectacular projects high-def footage of creatures from all corners of the globe onto stonking great angular screens — and might spell a brief dip in visitors to London Zoo...
4. Handel and Hendrix in London - reopens May 2023
Ever since discovering George Frideric Handel and Jimi Hendrix were London neighbours (though a couple of centuries apart), we've thought it was a ripe setup for a sitcom. Others thought it'd make a great joint house museum — and so Handel and Hendrix in London was born (and not long after, shut down again). This May, the attraction is back on the scene, following a major restoration project, and with newly-minted exhibitions to boot. Once again, the place will throb with the sound of harpsichord/Strat.
5. National Portrait Gallery - reopens 22 June 2023
One of the last things we did before Covid laid waste to London's cultural scene, was visit the National Portrait Gallery's shortlived Cecil Beaton exhibition. Seems like another era, but it's not long now till one of the city's great galleries squirts its hinges with WD-40, and reopens to a clamorous public — showing off a rehang of works "relevant to a wider range of audiences", erstwhile office space converted into top-lit galleries, plus a new North Façade entrance.
6. Redbridge Museum - reopens summer 2023
From Ice Age Ilford to suburban Wanstead and Woodford, the new permanent Redbridge Museum promises to take in a sweeping history of all things way out east (London), via family-friendly interactive displays, and more historical objects than it previously had. An excellent excuse to ride the Elizabeth line out to Ilford, too.
7. Young V&A - opens summer 2023
One of the biggest museum reopenings of the year — in all senses of the word — is the Young V&A in Bethnal Green, which you'll likely have known as the Museum of Childhood. The extravagant barrel-ceilinged hall has undergone a substantial refit, and — with the creative (but not structural) input of kids — features three new permanent spaces, the Play Gallery, the Imagine Gallery and the Design Gallery. Suffice to say, there will be a deluge of hands-on fun to be had, including workshops, arcade games and a performance space. Indeed, Young V&A has already taken the liberty of announcing itself as "the world's most joyful museum", meaning The Icelandic Phallological Museum must watch its back.
8. Museum of Homelessness - opens summer/autumn 2023
You may not have even realised that London has a Museum of Homelessness, although up until this point, the enterprise — established in 2015 by people with experience of homelessness — has been sticking to various pop-up exhibitions and events around the country. 2023 is the year the museum opens a permanent location in Finsbury Park — although don't expect your average "glass case" experience: these folks are all about inspiring change, through everything from personal objects with stories attached to them, to 'death cafes'.
It seems the V&A East museum — previously supposed to open this year, won't be doing so till 2025 now. We also wrote a while ago about a new Fire Brigade Museum, though it doesn't seem to be opening this year now either — for the time being you'll have to make do with it online exhibitions.
Feature image © V&A