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, with some exhibitions from outside London added to the mix.
Exhibitions in west London
GANGNAM STYLE: Learn how Korea became a cultural powerhouse and try your hand, arms and legs at a K-pop dance routine before having it projected on to a screen. This sensational exhibition charts the opening up of Korea from the Seoul Olympics right through to Squid Game and the dozens of K-pop groups that have taken the music world by storm. It's that excellent blend of history, immersive elements and dazzling exhibition design that V&A does so well.
Hallyu! The Korean Wave at V&A. Until 25 June 2023, £20. ★★★★★ (Open daily)
EMOTIONAL: What's it like to live with psychosis? Thankfully most of us won't experience it, but artist Marcus Coates puts himself through it for a series of six films, in which he is directed by those who have lived with psychosis, so that he experiences an approximation of what it's like to live with severe mental illness. Across the films he's made to feel hot and cold at the same time, to not trust friends and to doubt family photos are real, with his distress clear throughout. The six films are located throughout Pimlico, in a community centre, flat, medical centre and shops — placing these extremely powerful films within domestic and day-to-day settings amplifies their impact. It's an intense two hours to see it all but it's important and unforgettable.
The Directors: Marcus Coates - an Artangel project is across Churchill Gardens Estate. Until 30 October, free. ★★★★★ (Thursday-Sunday)
RESPLENDENT REFURB: Leighton House has always been one of our favourite west London gems, with its spectacular Arab hall worth the ticket price alone. Now it's been given a glow-up with the addition of new spaces including a naturally lit artist's studio and some fab extra exhibition spaces. As an added bonus, the nearby Sambourne House will also be opening up for regular visitors — it's a five-storey townhouse packed to the rafters with Victorian art, furniture and a quirky 'shrine' of shells, with even less room to manoeuvre than at Sir John Soane's Museum.
Leighton House & Sambourne House. Reopens 15 October, £11 each or £20 combined. ★★★★★ (Wednesday-Sunday)
Exhibitions in central London
STORMY SEAS: Winslow Homer is a painter I know best for his dramatic paintings of tempestuous seas, and there are plenty of roaring waves in this exhibitions. New to me, though, are his paintings that look at the aftermath of the US civil war and the abolition of slavery, examining the tension of Black families who then became paid labourers for the very people who had enslaved them, and how soldiers discarded their uniforms and returned to farm the land. It's this side of Homer, as a politically-engaged artist as well as a great painter, that makes for a stronger showing than expected.
Winslow Homer: Force of Nature at The National Gallery. Until 8 January 2023, £12. ★★★★☆ (Open daily)
PORTRAIT MASTER: One of recent history's greatest British painters has a major show of his works, ranging from his large-scale paintings of nudes to an intimate drawing of his mother on her death bed. Nobody painted textured, flabby flesh quite like he did, and looking at Freud's paintings is always a joy. While this exhibition doesn't offer much new beyond his National Portrait Gallery show from ten years ago it's still filled with brilliant work, and anyone wanting more of Freud or who missed that previous show should definitely give this one a visit.
The Credit Suisse Exhibition - Lucian Freud: New Perspectives at The National Gallery. Until 22 January 2023, £24-£26 (pay what you wish on Friday evenings). ★★★★☆ (Open daily)
QUANTUM SLIME: Get ready for quantum art in an exhibition by Libby Heaney that mixes the world of fine art with that of quantum physics. Distorted artworks are created using code within a quantum computer, combining the forefronts of art and technology. There's a playful element to this exhibition — watch a video piece about quantum entanglement while entangled within the tentacles of a soft giant octopus, or see glass slime moulds hanging from the bench, windowsill, doors and shelves in the gallery.
Libby Heaney: Remiqxing Still at Fiumano Clase. Until 16 October, free. ★★★★☆ (Tuesday-Saturday)
GRITTY & POLITICAL: Some of the Royal Academy's main galleries have been given a dark and blackened makeover to host the political works of William Kentridge, who uses drawings, films, opera and puppets to cover important topics such as corruption and the legacy of colonialism. They are powerful and moving works, even if the artist places so many layers into them that it sometimes feels difficult to keep up. Meanwhile, at nearby Goodman Gallery, Kentridge's latest work is an ambitious film that looks at the history of Russia between Lenin and Stalin — all set to the music of composer Shostakovich.
William Kentridge at Royal Academy of Arts. Until 11 December, £20-£22. ★★★★☆ (Tuesday-Sunday)
William Kentridge: Oh To Believe in Another World at Goodman Gallery. Until 12 November, free. ★★★★☆ (Tuesday-Saturday)
FLEEING IN FEAR: A painting shows hundreds of tiny figures fleeing with a shadow of a plane overhead, some being beaten by police. Another painting looks like blood splatter. Violence is either shown or alluded to in haunting works, made all the more powerful given the artist was born and lived in Spain under the dictatorship of Franco.
Juan Genoves: Reconsidered at Marlborough London. Until 29 October, free. ★★★★☆ (Monday-Saturday)
Exhibitions in east London
BODY POLITICS: Painting, photography, performance and politics — Carolee Schneemann's art contains it all, yet I'd never heard of her until I saw this impressive exhibition of her work. It's an intense viewing experience with an explicit film of her having sex with her partner, and distressing photographs of people leaping from the Twin Towers when they were attacked. Her unflinching look at the female body, sexuality and variety of work make for an eye-opening look at an artist who deserves greater recognition.
Carolee Schneemann: Body Politics at Barbican Art Gallery. Until 8 January, £18. ★★★★☆ (Open daily)
Exhibitions in south London
DREAMY LANDSCAPES: Lithuanian painter and composer M.K. Čiurlionis isn't that well-known, but this is a chance to lose yourself in his beautiful dreamy landscapes at Dulwich Picture Gallery. It's unlike anything we've seen before and it's easy to be seduced by his mythical works that take concepts such as the creation of the world and angels, give them their own twist to conjure up fantastical realms.
M.K. Čiurlionis: Between Worlds at Dulwich Picture Gallery. Until 12 March 2023, £15. ★★★★☆ (Tuesday-Sunday)
ASTONISHING APPLES: Paul Cezanne once said "with an apple I will astonish Paris". Over a century later, his work is still astonishing, whether it's a verdant landscape, a juicy still life or a tender depiction of his son. He could paint it all, and this vast exhibition of his work shows what a phenomenal talent he was. Tate Modern is the perfect place to show his work as all of contemporary art owes a debt to his trailblazing paintings that shifted art away from realistic depictions to capturing the spirit of its subject — and art has since been richer for it.
The EY Exhibition: Cezanne at Tate Modern. Until 12 March 2023, £22. ★★★★★ (Open daily)
FRAGILE SCULPTURE: Delicate, shell-like sculptures that feel like they could crumble with a touch, and works strung across a break in the wall, are an introduction to Slovakian Maria Bartuszova, an artist most will not have heard of. Resembling eggs and referencing themes of fertility and maternity, these are beautiful works, and most moving of all is a series of photographs where blind and partially-sighted children experienced sculpture through touching her pieces. The only downside is it's a small show, with a limited amount of work, that doesn't quite justify the hefty ticket price.
Maria Bartuszova at Tate Modern. Until 16 April 2023, £16. ★★★☆☆ (Open daily)
Exhibitions outside London
TENDER PORTRAITS: Glyn Philpot was a British painter and his portraits, particularly those of men, have a wonderful tenderness and femininity to them that's unexpected from an artist painting in the 1910s-1930s. While he was a diverse artist who could also sculpt, it's his portraits of Black men and effeminate men that really stand out in this show. Painted at a time when society was less tolerant than it is today, his work distinguishes itself as embracing differences in this sizeable exhibition.
Glyn Philpot: Flesh and Spirit at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester. Until 23 October, free. ★★★★☆
GUIDED MEDITATION: Put your watch and phone aside and lose track of time in this exhibition, where we're guided from place to place and asked to close our eyes to drift off within our own minds — sometimes standing, sitting or even lying down. It's reminiscent of guided meditation and it's easy to completely lose track of time inside the gallery — it could have been 15 minutes or an hour that I was in there. It'll likely have the largest impact on those of us with bustling lives and smartphone addictions, even if full blown revelations within the space are unlikely. It's not the strongest piece from the superstar performance artist, but still a thoughtful one.
Marina Abramovic: Gates and Portals at Modern Art Oxford. Until 5 March 2023, £10. ★★★☆☆
SHIPWRECKS BY THE SEA: Large-scale photos of shipwrecks are haunting as they hint at the rusting yet still present legacy of migration and trade — it's a powerful series and fitting that it's beside the sea in the art deco De La Warr Pavilion. The works in this show all look at our relationship with the sea, including a recreation of a part of Zineb Sedira's studio featuring shelves of books, model ships and other ocean-related ephemera she's gathered. Sedira is a powerful political artist and, while this isn't her strongest work when compared to her excellent exhibition in Venice, it's still an impressive installation of film and photography.
Zineb Sedira: Can't You See The Sea Changing? at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill. Until 8 January, free. ★★★☆☆