The 16 Biggest Exhibitions To See In London And Beyond, Right Now

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 6 months ago

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The 16 Biggest Exhibitions To See In London And Beyond, Right Now

Our pick of the best exhibitions to see in London's galleries and museums right now. We've split the list into geographical areas to make it easier to plan. We've also written a roundup of exhibitions to see in London this April.

Exhibitions in West London

Photo: Ed Reeve

BRICK BY BRICK: Ai Weiwei's blend of art and activism is brought to Design Museum. Lines of porcelain balls look beautiful until you realise they were cannonballs used in war centuries ago. Likewise, piles of Lego are seen as a source of unbridled creativity, though Ai Weiwei used them to make political artworks so Lego temporarily stopped selling the bricks to him, forcing him to crowdsource them. He takes the playful and makes it political, and challenges our assumptions of the world around us. It's what makes him arguably the most important artist alive today.

Ai Weiwei: Making Sense at the Design Museum. Until 30 July, £16.80. ★★★★ (open daily and late on Fridays)

Copyright RBKC. Photo: Jaron James.

GOLDEN LIGHT: The Pre-Raphaelites often bring to mind colourful scenes with redheads aplenty. So it's a revelation to see these delicate and beautiful gold drawings of angels and religious scenes by Evelyn de Morgan, shimmering in the gallery's low light. It's a stunning collection of works that need to be seen in person to appreciate their magnificence.

Evelyn De Morgan: The Gold Drawings at Leighton House. Until 1 October, free. ★★★★☆ (Wednesday-Monday)

HORRIFIC HISTORY: Todd Gray's photographs pull you in with beautiful landscapes and architecture, but the locations have a horrific history as slave forts. With images from his own career, including his stint as Michael Jackson's photographer, placed on top within frames sourced from flea markets in Black neighbourhoods, this is a powerful presentation of Black history.   

Todd Gray: On Point at Lehmann Maupin, Cromwell Place. Until 6 May, free. ★★★★☆ (Wednesday-Sunday)

Exhibitions in South London

Painted after the funeral of Morisot's husband Manet, this shows their daughter Julie in mourning. © Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris.

IMPRESSIVE IMPRESSIONISM: Berthe Morisot was one of the female founding members of Impressionism and this exhibition shows, over a century later, what she was made of. It definitely delivers, with expressive self-portraits and a haunting view of her daughter after her husband's funeral. Shown alongside her contemporaries in Britain at the time, this exhibition demonstrates how dated they appear in comparison. Having only seen individual works by her in the past, here's a chance to really appreciate what an impressive painter she was.

Berthe Morisot: Shaping Impressionism at Dulwich Picture Gallery. Until 10 September, £16.50. ★★★★ (Tuesday-Sunday)

Photo: Matt Chung

BLING-TASTIC: A rock crystal reliquary and a gold drinking horn are two of the spectacular treasures on display in this exhibition at the revivalist Gothic splendour that is Strawberry Hill House — a house that has the interiors to match the pieces it's showing. If you want to see how silver can turn half a coconut shell into an ornate object, this treasure trove is for you, inside a building that's always worth visiting.

Treasures from Faraway: Medieval and Renaissance Objects from The Schroder Collection at Strawberry Hill House. Until 19 July, £14.50, includes admission to the house. ★★★★☆ (Sunday-Wednesday)

Exhibitions in North London

© Patrick Quarm. Photo: Lucy Dawkins and courtesy Gagosian.

MIGRATION & MIRRORS: Bringing together 19 artists who have a history of migration, this is a powerful exhibition beginning with a neon artwork by Elsa James over the entrance to the main gallery, exclaiming 'I am here because you were there'. It's a fantastic collection of artists including Phoebe Boswell's underwater paintings and an impressive spiritual mirrored installation by Victor Ehikhamenor, where Amazing Grace in Edo reverberates around the space.

Rites of Passage at Gagosian, Brittania Street. Until 29 April, free. ★★★★☆ (Tuesday - Saturday)

Photography: Stephen Pocock

GOT MILK: Milk may seem like a strange topic for an exhibition, but Wellcome Collection does an excellent job with charting the history of it, including how formula was originally directed to poorer communities, with pasteurised initially only available to the middle classes. It also looks at how Neo-Nazis have used milk as a symbol of white supremacy, plus Danielle Dean's political artwork showing a landscape turning white draws attention to how natural fauna was wiped out to make new land for the milk industry in New Zealand. It ends spectacularly with Jess Dobkin's intense installation on how human breastmilk is now sold, how it's fetishised and used by bodybuilders.

Milk at Wellcome Collection. Until 10 September, free. ★★★★☆ (Tuesday-Sunday)

Exhibitions in Central London

La Danse by Andre Derain. © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2023

MASTERS OF ART: Blue bathers painted by Cezanne, a cubist portrait by Picasso, Edvard Munch's haunting painting of his sister's funeral and Van Gogh's swirling landscapes are only a handful of the stunning masterpieces in this show. The exhibition shows how art exploded after Impressionism, including female modernists like Kathe Kollwitz, whose sculpture of two lovers rival's Rodin's famous kiss — Rodin incidentally being another superstar artist in this show. The narrative is not the clearest, but who cares when you have so many brilliant artworks in one show.

After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art at The National Gallery. Until 13 August, £24-£26. ★★★★☆ (open daily)

© Photo: The National Gallery, London

UGLY DUCHESS: Known as the Ugly Duchess, Quinten Massys's painting of an elderly woman with a low-cut top is a captivating work from the National Gallery's collection, and here it's reunited with its companion piece of an elderly man who faces off with her — though it's unclear whether he's open to her advances or declining them. It's a one-room display focusing on this satire of the traditional flattering marriage portrait and a rare chance to step away from the usual beauty ideals seen in Old Master paintings.

The Ugly Duchess: Beauty and Satire in the Renaissance at The National Gallery. Until 11 June, free. ★★★★☆ (open daily)

Stars from paint cans by Thornton Dial. Photograph: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio/2023, Estate of Thornton Dial/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London 2023

INNOVATIVE ART: Works made from exploded paint cans, skulls and whatever material could be found are displayed in an exhibition celebrating Black artists from the Southern US. It's hugely important to showcase these artists but it's in the Royal Academy's smaller galleries, and a bigger space would have done them more justice — plus, the works feel alienated among white walls that don't suit the raw materials from which they were created.

Souls Grown Deep Like the Rivers: Black Artists from the American South at Royal Academy of Arts. Until 18 June, £15. ★★★☆ (open daily).

Photo: Marcus Leith

HISTORIC SOUNDS: What does British history sound like? By assembling vessels dating from the last 2,000 years, they can resonate with their sounds when visitors walk past them. It's a small installation that pairs neatly with the Roman artefacts that are permanently part of the London Mithraeum experience, and asks us to reflect on Britain's history, especially at a time when it seems to be in flux.

Oliver Beer's Albion Waves at London Mithraeum. Until 15 July, free. ★★★☆ (Tuesday - Sunday)

Photo © Jonathan Greet

BOOKS-PLOSION: Jukhee Kwon takes discarded books and gives them new life in these spectacular artworks. A waterfall of paper pours out of books near the ceiling, other books turn into paper cranes, and a birds' nest make you want to crawl inside and curl up with a good book — if only you were small enough.

Jukhee Kwon: Liberated at October Gallery. Until 22 April, free. ★★★★☆ (Tuesday - Saturday)

Copyright Sikelela Owen

FAMILY MATTERS: What makes a family? Is it blood, friendship or other social bonds? This small exhibition looking at family unites contemporary artists with the likes of William Hogarth and his painting of siblings. Gillian Wearing's self-portrait has her dressed and posed as her mother to blur lines between generations, and Caroline Walker has an intimate late night painting of a mother changing a baby. It all hangs together a bit loosely, but it's another impressive exhibition by this small museum that regularly punches above its weight

Finding Family at The Foundling Museum. Until 27 August, £9.50. ★★★☆(Tuesday-Sunday)

Exhibitions in East London

Artwork by Matthew Schreiber. Photo: Sandra Ciampone.

INTENSE IMMERSION: Thumping sounds, flashing lights, laser grids and waves of colour at a frequency designed to calm us. This East London warehouse has been turned into a truly ambitious and intense experience that's about as big and bombastic as immersive art gets. Prepare to be dazzled.

Thin Air at The Beams, Docklands. Until 4 June, £20-£25. ★★★★☆ (Wednesday-Monday)

Copyright Gilbert & George.

MAKE YOUR OWN MUSEUM: Rather than wait for museums to show your work, why not set up your own? That's what Gilbert & George have done just off Brick Lane, close to where they live. It launches with their large-scale floral and colourful Paradisical Pictures. This is paradise, G&G-style, with pictures of them, lots of sexual references and lurid colours. Best of all it's free to visit, and the plan is to keep showing different series of their works every six months or so.

The Gilbert & George Centre, The Paradisical Pictures. Free. ★★★★☆ (Friday-Sunday)

Exhibitions outside London

MINING ART: This exhibition brings together a great selection of contemporary artworks all related to excavating — such as in Robin Dale's photography of the area's industrial heritage, or through the recovered shoes of victims of violence in Colombia by Doris Salcedo. It's full of powerful works including Theaster Gates' piece made from red, white and blue fire hoses — the type used against civil rights protesters, showing us how a symbol of freedom can be used to suppress it. It's a show that makes a trip up North well worth it.

Deep Horizons at MIMA, Middlesbrough. Until 18 June, free. ★★★★☆ (Tuesday-Sunday)

Last Updated 06 August 2023