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 March.
Exhibitions in south London
CINEMATIC IMMERSION: Discover a photography dark room housed within a post-apocalyptic bunker, buried under tons of sand. Walk through a dilapidated building where rooms transport you from a travel agents to a Hong Kong ferry bar. Mike Nelson: Extinction Beckons is filled with references to film, politics and colonialism, yet it's up to us to draw our own narratives. This is an invitation to get lost in the worlds Nelson has created — a mind blowing mix of immersive and conceptual art. Unforgettable.
Mike Nelson: Extinction Beckons at Hayward Gallery. Until 7 May, £15-16 - concessions available. ★★★★★ (Wednesday-Sunday)
Exhibitions in east London
RACISTS IN SPACE: Ever heard of Louis Agassiz? He was a Swiss-American biologist and geologist who has mountains, glaciers, a part of the Moon — and even a crater on Mars — named after him. He also held extremely racist views... that's right, racists have made it into space. This important exhibition follows Sasha Huber's campaign to have all the places bearing Agassiz's name to be rebranded. We see the artist's tireless correspondence and her textile works and photography designed to heal colonial and historic traumas. An important exhibition on the pressing topic of decolonisation.
Sasha Huber: YOU NAME IT at Autograph ABP. Until 25 March, free. ★★★★★ (Wednesday - Saturday)
FEMALE ABSTRACTION: Abstract art history often focusses on the male abstract expressionists of 1960s New York. This show opens up the multitude of female abstract painters throughout time. They hail from as far and wide as Brazil and Iran. They use materials as diverse as silver, sand and chalk. In this revelatory show, I fell in love with works by artists I hadn't heard of before.
Action, Gesture, Paint: Women Artists and Global Abstraction 1940-70 at Whitechapel Gallery. Until 7 May, £16.50 - concessions available. ★★★★☆ (Tuesday - Sunday)
POWERFUL PORTRAITS: A young child holds a rubber knife, unwittingly foreshadowing how he would grow up to be convicted of murder. A taxi driver poses regally as if a king, while pop art icon Andy Warhol is shown in all his vulnerability. Alice Neel could paint in a wide variety of styles, working themes of politics, protest and powerful narratives into her pictures. Hot Off The Griddle cements her status as one of the great portrait painters of the 20th century.
Alice Neel: Hot Off The Griddle at Barbican Art Gallery. Until 21 May, £18 - concessions available. ★★★★★ (Open daily)
Exhibitions in north London
LOST IN HOCKNEY: Digital immersive art experiences seem to be everywhere, and they aren't always of the highest quality. Lightroom London shows how it should be done by working hand-in-hand with the living legend and surrounding us with his paintings, while Hockney's voice takes us on a journey through his life via art. Hockney's no stranger to embracing new mediums, and this immersive approach suits his work perfectly. In fact it's the best example of this type of art experience I've seen to date.
David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (not smaller & further away) at Lightroom London. Until 1 October, £25-£37.50 - concessions available. ★★★★☆ (Open daily)
Exhibitions in west London
MASTER SCULPTOR: Sublime sculptures abound, with a life-sized marble David with Goliath's head at his feet, and subtle shallow relief sculptures aplenty — a technique Donatello himself perfected. Donatello: Sculpting the Renaissance is a fantastic tribute to the early Renaissance sculptor, and while only a third of the works are by the man himself (others being by his peers) it aptly demonstrates how hugely influential he was.
Donatello: Sculpting the Renaissance at V&A. Until 11 June, £20 - concessions available. ★★★★☆ (Open daily)
OFF THE STREETS: Saatchi gallery brings street art off the streets, and into well-heeled Chelsea. There's no doubting the ambition in some of the installations, including a fluorescent cavern by Kenny Scharf and Paul Insect's puppets moving inside a shop window. Elsewhere though, placing street art prints on pristine white walls makes for a jarring contrast. It's hard to follow a coherent narrative, resulting in a mix of the brilliant and the so-so.
Beyond the Streets London at Saatchi Gallery. Until 9 May, £25 - concessions available. ★★★☆☆ (Open daily)
ANTS & FUNGI: Using electronic equipment to approximate the frequency of 111Hz that's designed to make us feel calm and meditative, Haroon Mirza has created a 'gong bath' for visitors to relax into. With films referencing the spiritual awakenings people receive taking mushrooms, to a living ant colony, this impressive exhibition is packed with ideas on how we can learn to live more harmoniously by embracing nature.
Haroon Mirza: ||| at Lisson Gallery. Until 8 April, free. ★★★★☆ (Tuesday - Saturday)
Exhibitions in central London
SPANISH DIVERSITY: Celtic bracelets, Islamic ceramics, and mini sculptures of souls in heaven, purgatory and hell by an Ecuadorean artist featuring in this exhibition. Objects tell of a Spanish history that isn't just white and Catholic, but involved diverse communities interacting. Muslim potters' techniques, for example, were co-opted by Christian ceramicists. Art from both Spain, and the countries it colonised, come together in a welcome re-telling of Spanish art.
Spain and the Hispanic World: Treasures from the Hispanic Society Museum & Library at Royal Academy of Arts. Until 10 April, £22-£24.50 - concessions available. ★★★★☆ (Tuesday - Sunday)
DREAM WORLDS: Peter Doig is a painter's painter. His dream-like large scale works depict a ghostly vision of his daughter in a hammock against a vibrantly coloured backdrop; a woman bathing on a beach by moonlight. This small exhibition shows off Doig's diversity of styles, and although drawings in a separate gallery aren't as impactful as his larger paintings, this remains a masterclass in contemporary painting.
Peter Doig at The Courtauld. Until 29 May, £16 - includes entry to the gallery and concessions available. ★★★★☆ (Open daily)
STAR-CROSSED AVATARS: This intense 70-minute film is filled with extreme violence, obnoxious behaviour and crude computer-generated imagery, as it follows two children — one born into wealth, the other, poverty — whose lives collide as they grow up and play video games. It's Hogarth's Rake's Progress projected into cyberspace — a wild, intense ride that's compelling viewing for those who can stomach it.
Jon Rafman: Minor Daemon Vol 1 at 180 Strand. Until 25 March, £10 - concessions £5. ★★★★☆ (Wednesday - Sunday)
ENTER THE MATRIX: Walk through a forest of expired links imprinted on giant leaves. Gaze upon AI-generated images that come into focus when viewed at the right angle. Sit on a chair Matrix style as mesh figures hover, ready to 'plug you in'. This is a world imagined by artist duo Recycle Group, where AI plays God in a utopia where our consciousnesses are uploaded and survive beyond our bodies.
Recycle Group: Sapient at Gazelli Art House. Until 18 March, free. ★★★★☆ (Monday-Saturday)
INVESTIGATIVE PHOTOGRAPHY: The four finalists for this year's Deutsche Photography Prize are on show and it's Bieke Depoorter's film that's got my vote. It follows her attempt to track down a man named Michael she met years ago and who has subsequently disappeared. As the film evolves, we learn about Michael's obsessive personality mirrored by the artist's obsessive search for him — with the scrapbooks and pictures he gave to her covering the gallery walls. The other three artists in the exhibition cover important topics but it's Depoorter's work that gripped me the most. Worth visiting for this alone.
Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2023 at The Photographers' Gallery. Until 11 June, £6.50 - free on Friday evenings. ★★★☆☆ (Open daily)
PHOTOGRAPHS APLENTY: The Centre for British Photography is a new photography gallery for London and it opens not with one exhibition, but six displays across three floors. Heather Agyepong's work focuses on the work of Aida Overton Walker who challenged the problematic nature of Black performers, while Shirin Fathi's staged photographs of nose jobs are a critique of the obsession with cosmetic surgery in her native Iran. They are just two of the highlights among the many photographers whose works are on show. This centre will have a changing exhibition programme as it evolves, and it's a very welcome addition to London's art scene.
Centre for British Photography, 49 Jermyn Street - temporary exhibitions run until 23 April, free. ★★★★☆ (Wednesday-Sunday)