The Top 10 Exhibitions To See In London: April 2023

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 15 months ago

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Last Updated 17 April 2023

The Top 10 Exhibitions To See In London: April 2023

Looking for an awesome London exhibition this April? Here's our roundup of must-see shows in the capital.

Content warning: inclusion number 4 in this article contains mention of the tragic fire and loss of life at Grenfell Tower in 2017.

1. Eastern blooms: All the Flowers are for Me and Plants of the Qur'an at Kew Gardens

Courtesy Columbia Museum. Photo by Drew Baron.

A suspended steel cube with Islamic designs that scatters the light and creates shadows is one of two works Kew Gardens has commissioned from Anila Quayyam Agha, and it's a stunner. Her pieces are shown alongside botanical paintings of the various plants mentioned in the Qu'ran, including a look at the cultural value we place on certain plants today, such as date palms and pomegranates.

All the flowers are for Me and Plants of the Qur'an at Kew Gardens. 1 April-17 September, £17 for entry to the gardens, which includes the exhibitions.

2. Pre-Raphaelites: The Rossettis at Tate Britain

A painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti . Copyright Tate.

Famed Pre-Raphaelite painter of redheads Dante Gabriel Rossetti has an exhibition dedicated to his work and those of his multiple muses, Elizabeth Siddall, Jane Morris and Fanny Cornforth. Exploring their works, their influences on each other and the unconventional relationships between them, expect dramatically lit, intimate paintings, with red hair aplenty.

The Rossettis at Tate Britain. 6 April-24 September, £22.

3. Painting by bricks: Ai Weiwei at Design Museum

Image courtesy Ai Weiwei studio.

Arguably the world's most important artist, activist and conceptual artist, Ai Weiwei brings his works to Design Museum. He has recreated Monet's famous water lilies using 650,000 LEGO bricks, a remark on how what we think of as natural beauty is often manmade, as was the pond Monet painted. The world's rampant consumerism is often the target of his work, and this exhibition features his more design-focused pieces on this topic.

Ai Weiwei: Making Sense at Design Museum. 7 April-30 July, £15.

4. Haunting film: Grenfell by Steve McQueen at Serpentine Galleries

An image from Grenfell (2019), by Steve McQueen.

In 2017, Oscar and Turner Prize winner Steve McQueen recorded footage of the site of the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower, capturing it before it was covered up by a hoarding. The film is a straight recording of Grenfell, six months after the tragedy, without narrative or people. Filmed from above in a helicopter, McQueen's intention is for it to act as a memorial to the tragedy, and to keep it present in the national consciousness. Read our full preview here.

Grenfell by Steve McQueen at Serpentine South. 7 April-10 May, free, book in advance.

5. Powerful photos: Sony World Photography Awards

Copyright Fabio Bucciarelli.

Many of the world's top images and photographers are brought together in this annual spectacular exhibition at Somerset House. With topics ranging from portraiture to architecture there's snaps to please every fan of photography. Plus this year's Outstanding Contribution to Photography award goes to Rinko Kawauchi — and a display of her works highlights how she plays with the everyday and with lights to create glowing masterpieces.  

Sony World Photography Awards exhibition 2023 at Somerset House. 14 April-1 May, £15.

6. Homesick: No Place Like Home at Museum of the Home

What does home mean to you? The Museum of the Home is the perfect place to host an exhibition on the topic. The museum is located in the heart of London's Vietnamese community on Kingsland Road, so has brought together works by a group of artists from the Vietnamese diaspora. Works include an urban landscape made from traditional Vietnamese stools, and the chance to view pieces while sat on straw mats.

No Place Like Home (A Vietnamese Exhibition) Part II  at Museum of the Home. 19 April-11 July, free.

7. Between the lines: Hilma af Klint & Piet Mondrian at Tate Modern

Courtesy the Hilma af Klint foundation.

Two abstract powerhouses, Swedish painter Hilma af Klint and Dutch artist Piet Mondrian, are united at Tate Modern. While they never met, and af Klint's work may seem more expressive than Mondrian's more structured pieces, they shared a common interest in new ideas in spirituality, scientific discovery and philosophy — both creating their own abstract art in response to nature. Af Klint was also a medium, and the show includes works she believed were commissioned by higher powers.

Hilma Af Klint & Piet Mondrian: Forms of Life at Tate Modern. 20 April-3 September, £20.

8. Displaced persons: Tewodros Hagos at Kristin Hjellegjerde

Copyright Tewodros Hagos.

Women in golden headscarves gaze into the distance while mothers pass by with babies strapped to their backs, and sacks of provisions slung over their shoulders. Ethiopian artist Tewodros Hagos has created a series of portraits of displaced persons within Africa, forced to move with their families and belongings — whether due to conflicts or drought. In the past, he's powerfully captured migrants crossing oceans but this time he wants to draw attention to those migrating within countries and the African continent, a humanitarian crisis that often gets less attention in the media.

Tewodros Hagos: Fragile at Kristin Hjellegjerde, London Bridge. 20 April-20 May, free.

9. Back to nature: Animals at The British Library

Field sketch of a red panda by an unknown artist.

We love animals and we love finding out all about their lives. Now the British Library is enlightening and entertaining us with the history of documenting animals, including some slip-ups such as assumptions that the first reports of a duck-billed platypus were a hoax, and initial thoughts that bats must be a type of bird. Featuring art, science and sound recordings, this one's a really wild show.

Animals: Art, Science and Sound at The British Library. 21 April-28 August, £16.

10. Picture perfect: Picture This at Waddington Custot

Image courtesy Waddington Custot.

Paintings so real that they look like photographs, whether that be paintings of cars, a pinball machine or simply condiments on a table. It's a movement that had a big moment around 50 years ago but has been neglected more recently. It's having a comeback lately, as the concept of the works were often about questioning what's real, something that feels extremely relevant today in a world of ChatGPT and deep fakes. It's such a large collection of works that it's being held in two exhibitions running back to back.

Picture This: Photorealism 1966-1985, Part 1 & 2 at Waddington Custot. 21 April-20 May & 31 May-1 July, free.

Short run event

Peek-a-boo. Photo by Ben Peter Catchpole

If independent and experimental gaming is your vibe then Now Play This at Somerset House (1-9 April, £9) is the place to be. This year the theme is love, so expect games that deal with the themes of family, friendship, romance, self-care, consent and grief. Don't expect any high budget Call of Duty style shoot 'em ups, this one's for those who like to think outside of the console.