We look ahead to 2022's must-see shows and bring you our pick of the bunch, plus the events in January we're looking forward to. Note that while information is correct at time of publication, exhibitions and events may be altered, postponed or cancelled due to the Covid-19 situation.
1. Man and beast - Francis Bacon at Royal Academy
Nightmarish creatures and distorted figures — Francis Bacon's painting are always packed with powerful emotions. He seems to bring the beasts out of men, and the Royal Academy has brought together his paintings of beasts, men, and everything in between, in this major collection of some of his most visceral pieces, including his last ever painting.
Francis Bacon: Man and Beast at Royal Academy of Arts. 29 January-17 April 2022, £22.
2. Potting a marker down - Body Vessel Clay at Two Temple Place
This important exhibition celebrates 70 years of ceramics made by Black women across three generations. With more than 80 works by six artists, the show looks at how pottery has evolved in Nigeria and how this impact is felt by contemporary Black women artists who use clay as their medium. All housed within the stunning interiors of Two Temple Place.
Body Vessel Clay at Two Temple Place. 29 January-24 April 2022, free.
3. One Love: Bob Marley at Saatchi Gallery
Saatchi Gallery has a immersive exhibition dedicated to Reggae legend Bob Marley, letting visitors know all about his life through photographs, memorabilia and artworks. Following that there's a chance to enter immersive rooms that recreate his world with plenty of his memorable songs throughout — now sing it with us: 'let's get together and feel alright'.
The Bob Marley One Love Experience at Saatchi Gallery. 2 February-18 April 2022, £18.
4. Selfie central - Van Gogh Self Portraits at Courtauld Gallery
A self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh with his bandaged ear is one of his most memorable works. So it's surprising that there's never been a show dedicated to his vivid self-portraits. The newly-refurbished Courtauld Gallery is rectifying this with a show of 15 self-portraits, charting his life from his early days to his latter years in an asylum — with intense stares aplenty.
Van Gogh Self Portraits at The Courtauld Gallery. 3 February-8 May 2022, £16.
5. Spider and silk - Louise Bourgeois at Hayward Gallery
Standing under one of Louise Bourgeois' spider sculptures is always a memorable experience, but we know very little about her works on fabric. Hayward Gallery is filling that gap with a show dedicated to her textile works that use everyday domestic items like bed linen and napkins, which she uses to cover the themes of identity and sexuality, trauma and memory, guilt and reparation that are central to her long career.
Louise Bourgeois: The Woven Child at Hayward Gallery. 9 February-15 May 2022, £15.
6. Mythic menhirs - Stonehenge at The British Museum
What purpose did it fulfil? Why were rocks from so far away hauled to erect this circle of stones? The mystery of Stonehenge is something that's perplexed historians for centuries and now The British Museum is shining a new light on this ancient monument and the Stone Age era. With axes, jewellery and a 4,000 year old wooden circle now known as 'seahenge' featured, it's time to gen up ancient peoples and cultures.
The World of Stonehenge at The British Museum. 17 February-17 July 2022, £18.
7. Keeping it surreal: Surrealism Beyond Borders at Tate Modern
It may feel like we live in surreal times but Surrealism in art has been a staple genre for decades, and Tate is showing us that it's a truly global phenomenon with a show that spans 80 years and 50 countries, ranging from Prague to Cairo, Buenos Aires to Tokyo. Highlighting the stories of how artists inspired one another across borders, it's time to take Surrealism away for a Eurocentric genre to something everyone can relate to.
Surrealism Beyond Borders at Tate Modern. 24 February-29 August 2022, £tbc.
8. Kick off: Designing the Beautiful Game at Design Museum
See what makes the 'beautiful game' so beautiful. Design Museum's major show is all about the various elements of design that make football the world's most watched sport, from the massive stadiums to the tiny details on team badges. Whether you're down the pub for every game or just want to know more about the sport, here's the hot ticket in town — and it's a lot easier to get your hands on than a season ticket.
Designing the Beautiful Game at Design Museum. 8 April-29 August 2022, £tbc
9. Renaissance man: Raphael at The National Gallery
Raphael ranks among the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance. He was a fantastic painter, but we can see how much more diverse he was, in an exhibition that covers drawing, architecture, archaeology, painting and tapestry — showcasing that much like Leonardo da Vinci, he was a true Renaissance man. Originally scheduled to coincide with the 500th anniversary of his death, the two-year delay to this exhibition has simply whetted appetites even more.
Raphael at The National Gallery. 9 April-31 July 2022, £tbc
10. Pensive: The Woman in the Window at Dulwich Picture Gallery
Whether it be on a 3,000 year old carved ivory panel or a contemporary photograph by Cindy Sherman, the picture of a woman looking out of a window is a theme that's been used throughout art history. Sometimes it's about voyeurism, other times it evokes empathy at the domestic life woman are often required to lead. Including fantastic painters such as Rembrandt and David Hockney, it's a great line up to highlight why this theme has recurred throughout the ages.
Reframed: The Woman in the Window at Dulwich Picture Gallery. 4 May-4 September 2022, £tbc.
11. Acclimatising: Our time on Earth at Barbican Centre
How can we respond to the climate emergency? A major exhibition in multiple spaces across the Barbican Centre includes futuristic installations, grassroots activism and learning from indigenous communities to discover how we live in a more harmonious way with nature, making Earth more habitable for us and other species. Academics, architects, artists, activists, designers, ecologists, engineers, environmental campaigners, researchers, scientists, technologists and writers have all come together for this timely exhibition.
Our Time on Earth at Barbican Centre. 5 May-29 August 2022, £tbc.
12. Travel into space: Science Fiction at Science Museum
Taking immersive to the next level, visitors can board a spaceship and find themselves hovering above Earth at Science Museum, in an exhibition that shows how close science and science fiction really are. Remember those fancy universal translators on Star Trek? We're not far off from that now, though teleporters are still beyond our means at present. It's a great chance to geek out over both the Daleks from Doctor Who and a model of a telescope being used to search for intelligent life across the Universe.
Science Fiction: Voyage to the end of Imagination at Science Museum. 6 October 2022-4 May 2023, £20
Short run events for January
The klaxon to mark the start of the art calendar, London Art Fair (19-23 January, £12+), is back for its 32nd edition with its usual mix of contemporary and Modern British art. With over 100 galleries ranging from established to emerging artists, and a great series of talks, it's always a pleasure to visit this art fair. This event has now been postponed until April 2022, due to the ongoing Covid situation.
If outdoors and after dark is more your thing, Winter Lights (19-29 January, free) has you covered. The always-popular light festival has returning favourites like the illuminated benches and bit.fall where words appear in falling water, among a stonking 27 installations across the Canary Wharf area. This event has been postponed due to disruption caused by the ongoing Covid situation.
As a warm up to the Royal Academy's Bacon exhibition, nearby Saatchi Yates gallery is hosting an event called Cheerio: 48 hours with Francis Bacon (26-27 January, free). The launch of Cheerio Publishing will coincide with an exhibition of Bacon's paintings and other events including poetry readings.