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 South London
BLACK BRILLIANCE: Mythology and science fiction can take us to other worlds, while making us think about how our own needs fixing. That's exactly what this exhibition at Hayward Gallery does, with 11 Black contemporary artists using spectacular works to highlight the climate crisis. One work features a floating island belching out fumes and another consists of bejewelled outfits that hide the wearer's gender, race and class to draw attention to how these social constructs still result in persecution and discrimination. Amazing art created by Black artists with a powerful theme makes for a five star combo.
In the Black Fantastic at Hayward Gallery. Until 18 September, £13.50. ★★★★★
SUMMER LOVING: Get your fill of summer vibes with deckchairs and paintings displaying idyllic scenes cribbed from travel websites and Airbnb — think everything from oysters to poolside views in Palm Springs. These were all fantasies painted in lockdown when we were dreaming of escaping, scenes like these became unobtainable and we were all armchair tourists.
Lydia Blakeley: The High Life at Southwark Park Galleries, Lake Gallery. Until 4 September, free. ★★★★☆
ON THE HIGH STREET: If Napoleon was right in referring to Britain as a "nation of shopkeepers", then it has its brilliant migrant communities to thank for it. Set up like a parade of shops, Migration Museum hosts a tribute to these amazing contributions to our high street, from an Italian migrant setting up the first Costa, to the many fried chicken shops that served as community hubs. Each contains lovely stories of how people felt welcome in them. A stroll down any high street bears the hallmarks of multicultural Britain and this is another fab exhibition from what's fast become one of our favourite museums.
Taking Care of Business: The Making of Modern Britain at Migration Museum, Lewisham Shopping Centre. Until March 2023, free. ★★★★★
LOOK, NO HUMANS: Resembling traditional Romantic landscape paintings, these detailed works feature imagined architectural structures that appear to have been abandoned by people. Nature encroaches on the structures with rising water levels and the ground beneath them crumbling away. It's a beautiful convergence that leans on art history but also reflects the precarious world we live in today.
Sholto Blissett: Ship of Fools at Hannah Barry Gallery. Until 13 August, free. ★★★★☆
MEMORY PALACE: Origami boats, planes and swans float in a yellow sea of ginkgo leaves, in an ethereal eye-catching installation at the centre of this photogenic exhibition. Artist JeeYoung Lee wants it to trigger our own associations with dreams, memories and emotions as we're whisked away by the work. Visitors are also encouraged to write down their own memories and fold them into an origami swan to become part of the exhibition
JeeYoung Lee: Maiden Voyage at Now Gallery. Until 25 September, free. ★★★★☆
Exhibitions in Central London
ICELY DONE: Large scale photographs and paintings have taken over the reverential space of a church in Marylebone. A video shows us that the large blocks of colour we see are actually huge chunks of ice that have been layered with pigments in a delicate and laborious process. When they melt they create the double-sided paintings that hang in the space. A meditative setting for prayer is the perfect location to display these meditative artworks.
Dawn Ng: Into Air, curated by Jen Ellis at St Cyprian's Church. Until 23 July, free. ★★★★☆
SHEDS & PLANES: Wander through a gallery filled with sheds crammed full of ephemera. Carefully climb inside, mind your head on the suspended teapot, and scale a ladder to see a work inside an attic. It's like walking into the artist's own mind, with so much to see inside a chaotic evolving wonderland. Downstairs is calmer but just as brilliant, as a surreal film shows model planes flying through an empty home. It's the kind of ambitious exhibition we love to see.
Hiraki Sawa: Flown at Parafin. Until 10 September, free. ★★★★★
FACELESS: Ghostly figures hang on the walls and from the ceiling in these paintings on textiles, with the faces deliberately blurred. These striking works reference both the artist's Nigerian heritage and the universal desire to reconnect with nature after lockdown, which many of us have embraced.
Nengi Omuku: Parables of Joy at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery. Until 30 July, free. ★★★★☆
PICASSO INSPIRED: An abstract portrait by Picasso and a true-to-life classically-styled portrait by 19th century painter Ingres feel complete opposites. But look closer and it's clear Picasso drew inspiration from Ingres, as the pose of the two women is identical. It's great to really study the details of this comparison in a one-room, free display at The National Gallery. We're big fans of the gallery's smaller free displays, and while this is not one of its strongest, it's still a fascinating juxtaposition.
Picasso Ingres: Face to Face at The National Gallery, Room 46. Until 9 October, free. ★★★☆☆
MORE THAN A SCREAM: Edvard Munch is best known for The Scream but this exhibition shows his wider work to be far more diverse. In one piece, with a little girl staring straight back at us, you can see similarities to The Scream, while a more nuanced portrayal of a woman abed getting ready is equally striking but completely different to what we expect of his work. This small exhibition give us a more rounded view of Norway's most famous artist.
Edvard Munch: Masterpieces from Bergen at The Courtauld Gallery. Until 5 September, £16-18 (includes gallery entry). ★★★★☆
ROTTEN GEMS: Decaying oversized fruits become something much more when you get closer and realise they are decorated with beads and gems, in a visually spectacular exhibition. Nearby, car bonnets are joined by jewelled spiderwebs in this merging of the natural and manufactured world in what feels like an oversized fantasy land.
Kathleen Ryan: Red Rose at Josh Lilley. Until 13 August, free. ★★★★☆
OTHER WORLDS: Our favourite stories often contain portals, whether it's to visit Narnia through a wardrobe, travelling down the rabbit hole, or the main theme of the video game Portal. Architectural practice Space Popular take us into new worlds through trippy virtual reality experiences, and a table charting the history of portals and artworks — all within a museum that also feels like a portal in time. It's a fun premise even if the show feels a little light — it would have been great to explore our fascination with portals further.
Space Popular: The Portal Galleries at Sir John Soane's Museum. Until 25 September, free. ★★★☆☆
FOR THE 'GRAM: Rolling empty video game landscapes, and the record breaking egg on Instagram are all part of this look at how photography has become more gamified as people chase 'likes'. There's also a worrying use of video game footage by governments to create fake news stories. Photography at its inception was about portraying the truth, and this is an excellent look at how it can now be used both as a more playful medium and also to portray fake news or for showing off a filtered view of our own lives to others.
How to Win at Photography: Image-Making at Play at The Photographers' Gallery. Until 25 September, £5. ★★★★☆
INDOOR WEATHER: The normal whisperings of the brutalist Senate House library have been filled with a soundtrack that responds to the weather outside for an hour a day, though visitors at other times can listen through headphones or localised speakers dotted throughout the library. It's a unique experience and while its message and concept don't quite come together for me, it's yet another great example of curatorial organisation Artangel pushing the boundaries of art experiences.
A Thousand Words for Weather at Senate House Library. Until 25 March 2023, £5. ★★★☆☆
Exhibitions in West London
FIGHTING CANCER: Did you know that cacti get cancer, and that naked mole rats have an immunity to it? This fascinating exhibition also has a very human face to it with powerful stories from cancer survivors, as well as information on how cancer has been treated both historically and the latest research that's improving modern day medicine. There's a wealth of information in this thorough and accessible exhibition, that's packed with facts and has some moving emotional stories too.
Cancer Revolution: Science, Innovation and Hope at Science Museum. Until January 2023, free (booking required). ★★★★★
GLEAMING: We're often cynical when we hear about an exhibition by a brand, but Tiffany & Co have done a great job of charting the company's history, providing miniatures of its famous window displays, and of course showcasing some of its most beautiful gems. There are elements designed to be photogenic, such as a chance to try on a Tiffany ring, but there are also surprising reveals around how the brand makes the NFL and other trophies. This won't win over non-jewellery fans but as far as these types of experiences go, they've done a sterling job and delivered a gleaming — and free to visit — show.
Vision and Virtuosity by Tiffany & Co at Saatchi Gallery. Until 19 August, free (booking required through app). ★★★★☆
SUGAR HIGH: Candy-coloured creations that have been made using actual candy take centre stage in a rainbow-coloured fantasy landscape by Australian artist Pip & Pop. It's quite literally eye candy and makes for a fab photo, even if it doesn't appear to have much to say beyond a stunning aesthetic that will blow up your Instagram feed.
Pip & Pop: When Flowers Dream at Kew Gardens, Shirley Sherwood Gallery. Until 5 March 2023, £19.50 (includes admission to gardens). ★★★☆☆
REFLECTIVE: This year's Serpentine Pavilion looks intimidating on the outside, reminiscent of the black obelisk from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but on the inside it's calming, with voices echo around it. Artist Theaster Gates has designed it to be a space for contemplation with references to churches both inside and outside the pavilion with a bell nearby, making for a memorable and successful iteration of this annual commission.
Serpentine Pavilion 2022 Black Chapel by Theaster Gates. Until 16 October, free. ★★★★☆