Our pick of the best exhibitions to see right now in London's galleries and museums. We've split the list into geographical areas to make it easier to navigate.
Exhibitions in central London
IN THE CLOUDS: A bed appears to float in the clouds, as do a flock of sheep that double as chairs. A grasshopper can be used to keep drinks chilled and there's a hippo turned into a sink and bathtub. This wonderfully surreal display of works that straddle art and design, by François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne, is like escaping into an inventive dreamworld. It's spread across two separate spaces so there's double the wonder.
Les Lalanne: Makers of Dreams at Ben Brown Fine Art & Claridge's Art Space. Until 29 July, free. ★★★★★
TECH IMMERSION: 180 Strand has developed a knack for delivering immersive art installations that showcase leading edge technology. For Future Shock, it's no different — with intense music accompanying a fly-through a wire frame house; spinning beams of light that make you worried they'll slice you in half; and stories that evolve by scanning a QR code. The tech is seriously impressive, even if the works themselves are hit and miss in terms of leaving a lasting impact.
Future Shock at 180 Strand. Until 28 August, £20-£25. ★★★☆☆
MOUNTAIN MUSIC: A vinyl record plays, then another layers on top of it, then another and another... until a cacophony fills the gallery. Then it dies down and starts over. The records are all different genres of music, but united in their album sleeves, which all feature mountain landscapes. The chaotic soundtrack is anything but the tranquility we associate with mountains. Downstairs in the darkened space, snow ploughs create disc shaped patterns on the Alpine snow in a hypnotic video, mirroring the spinning discs upstairs.
Melanie Manchot: Alpine Diskomiks at Parafin. Until 25 June, free. ★★★★☆
Exhibitions in west London
TOUCH EVERYTHING: Time to get hands-on and find out what sound or touch gives you the feels, by delving into the world of autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). Is it scrunching objects, watching videos of dog grooming, listening to the shipping forecast or watching a robotic tongue dripping saliva that make you all tingly and calm? Find out in this playful and experimental exhibition.
Weird Sensation Feels Good: The World of ASMR at Design Museum. Until 16 October, £9.50-£10.90. ★★★★☆
EXPLOSIVE: A shed has been blown up and now the fragments hang delicately in a gallery illuminated by a single light bulb at the centre — quite literally an exploded view. A Union Flag is 'unsewn' in a film shown in reverse, remarking on the fragility of the Union. Flattened instruments have taken their last breath. A shotgun is sawn up, rather than sawn off. Whatever material Cornelia Parker works, the results are playful, political and intelligent — conceptual art at its finest.
Cornelia Parker at Tate Britain. Until 16 October, £16. ★★★★★
SUNSETS & DARKNESS: A sunset in Venice, a gloomy Parisian street or a sinister looking man looming over a naked woman — Walter Sickert could paint it all. The Tate's new show showcases the full versatility of Sickert's styles — allowing us to fully appreciate what a hugely talented and diverse painter he was. A real revelation.
Walter Sickert at Tate Britain. Until 18 September, £18. ★★★★☆
Exhibitions in east London
SUSTAINABILITY: The climate emergency is the biggest crisis we're facing, and Our Time on Earth isn't afraid to say so. Flickering leaves represent how frequently trees in the Amazon are being felled — a devastatingly impactful way to present data. But the show also highlights hope, with sustainable versions of concrete, timber and leather on display. And we can learn a lot from indigenous cultures (for example, turning trees into bridges — how great would that be for London?). Alongside this important call to arms there are many beautiful works, including an animation of a tree's nutrient exchange in a colossal projection by Marshmallow Laser Feast.
Our Time on Earth at Barbican Centre. Until 29 August, £18. ★★★★★
Exhibitions in north London
EXTRA, EXTRA: Can we trust what the media tells us? Extra, Extra delves into a litany of mistruths and misjudgements: Christine Keeler blamed for a scandal when it was the ministers who should have taken the hit; the concerns of Grenfell residents ignored until it was too late. The press can be a force for good too; we see important work in terms of raising the profile of the Paralympics, and reporting on what was actually happening in Syria. It's a meaty topic but there's also a light hearted nod to how social media was gripped by the 'Wagatha Christie' scandal. A thought-provoking show packed with information that will get visitors thinking about how they should be using and interpreting the media.
Breaking the News at The British Library. Until 21 August, £16. ★★★★★
BLINGING: Gold has been used since ancient times to identify important objects, and books are no exception. The British Library dazzles us with a selection of important religious texts and contractual documents embellished with the precious metal. Highlights include a miniature golden Qu'ran carried as an amulet of protection, and an Indian treaty inscribed across over two metres of gold. An insightful blend of history and beautiful objects.
Gold at The British Library. Until 2 October, £8. ★★★★☆
ITALIAN DYNAMISM: Archipenko and his contemporaries' sculptures — from the Madonna to rugby players — are all sinuous curves, while in contrast the paintings are sharp and angular. What brings all these works together is their energy and dynamism, beautifully capturing persons in motion. This introduction to Ukrainian-born Archipenko and Italian avant-garde artists is what this small museum does best, bringing brilliant artists to light.
Archipenko and the Italian Avant Garde at Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art. Until 4 September, £7.50. ★★★★☆
THE AIR THAT WE BREATHE: It's hard to have a show on something that's invisible but Wellcome Collection finds a way; a pile of bricks at the entrance weighs the same as the air in the exhibition space. A political piece by Forensic Architecture looks at how the use of gas allows air to be weaponised, and an immersive wraparound screen makes the microscopic particles in the air visible. A welcome airing for a vital topic.
In the Air at Wellcome Collection. Until 16 October, free. ★★★★☆
Exhibitions in south London
WINDOW ON ART: The concept of a woman standing in the window is a theme that's been adopted throughout art history. Dulwich Picture Gallery demonstrates the scale of this sub genre, with ancient ivory panels, Rembrandt and Picasso masterpieces — right through to Tom Hunter's photograph of a woman reading an eviction notice while her baby lies next to her. Another tearjerker is an image of grandchildren interacting with their grandparents through a window during the pandemic.
Reframed: The Woman in the Window at Dulwich Picture Gallery. Until 4 September, £16.50. ★★★★☆
TRIPPY: Close your eyes, lie back and let the Dreamachine pulse and create patterns behind your eyelids, fill your ears with sounds and mimick the sensation of a psychedelic trip. It's an intense experience that you'll either find relaxing or anxiety inducing — I went through both sensations as I alternated between feeling pinned down and weightless. (If that sounds too intense, there's also a deep listening experience.) Everyone's journey is different and there's a much-needed chill out section for relaxing afterwards, process what just happened, and draw what you saw. Great art makes you feel something, and this is one unforgettable experience.
Dreamachine at Woolwich Public Market. Until 24 July, free - ticketed. ★★★★☆
Exhibitions outside London
IMPRESSIVE IMPRESSIONISM: Camille Pissarro is a chronically under-appreciated Impressionist, and this exhibition recognises just how instrumental he was in forming the movement, and constantly evolving styles — from sumptuous landscapes to fantastic portraits. There are previously-unseen etchings, too. A much-needed show, and a real treat.
Pissarro: Father of Impressionism at Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Until 12 June, £15-£16. ★★★★☆