Looking for an awesome London exhibition this February? Here's our roundup of must-see shows in the capital, plus one cheeky addition from outside London.
1. Photos of war: Ukraine - photographs from the frontline at IWM London
With the horrific war in Ukraine showing no signs of ending soon, this collection of 17 photographs by photojournalist Anastasia Taylor-Lind depicts the harsh reality of living amidst conflict. Her shots cover the period between 2014 and 2022 — from the invasion of the Crimea to today. This important exhibition also looks at the people whose lives have been uprooted and irrevocably changed by the war.
Ukraine: Photographs from the Frontline at IWM London. 3 February-7 May, free.
2. Flowery: Orchids at Kew Gardens
This annual festival is back in bloom, this time inspired by the beauty and biodiversity of Cameroon. Just like previous years, the orchids are spread throughout the various zones of the Princess of Wales conservatory and accompanied by sculptures that are just as colourful and vibrant as the flowers on display.
Orchids at Kew Gardens. 4 February-5 March, £16.50 - includes entrance to the gardens.
3. Tapestries of life: Grayson Perry at Victoria Miro
Grayson Perry's social commentary through art, alongside his documentaries, have made him a household name, and modern day Hogarth. While he's best known for his vases, this exhibition is a selection of his tapestries, all made across the last eight years. As usual, they blend together art history and political commentary on the world we live in today.
Grayson Perry: Posh Cloths at Victoria Miro. 3 February-25 March, free.
4. Architectural: Vanishing Points at ROCA London
While we like to think of architecture existing purely in the real world, emerging designers and architects are using platforms like Instagram to create structures in the virtual world. This collection of works, which range from the pragmatic to the fantastical, are all by architects who have amassed significant social media followings.
Vanishing Points: Architectural Imagination in the Digital Universe at ROCA London. 8 February-31 July, free.
5. Ephemeral: Transience at James Freeman Gallery
Paintings by Juliette Losq show civilisations dissolving back into nature, Richard Stone's ceramic sculptures look like wavy pieces of fabric and Michael Boffey uses bronze to take on the floral themes we see so often in art history. These three artists may all have very different techniques, but they are linked by the fact that they capture the changeable elements of the world around us.
Transience at James Freeman Gallery. 9 February - 4 March, free.
6. Female abstraction: Action, Gesture, Paint at Whitechapel Gallery
Art history has often shined a light on the men of Abstract Expressionism: think Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. Well now's the time to let the most important women of the movement take the limelight in an exhibition that includes works by American artists such as Lee Krasner and Helen Frankenthaler, but spreads the net wider to include the female abstract artists from Europe, Asia and the wider world, with whom most of us will be unfamiliar.
Action, Gesture, Paint: Women Artists and Global Abstraction 1940-70 at Whitechapel Gallery. 9 February-7 May, £16.50 - concessions available.
7. Lego-saurus: Brick Dinos at Horniman Museum
Everyone loves Lego and everyone loves dinosaurs, so why not bring them together? That's exactly what's happened at the Horniman Museum, which plays host to the brick creations of Warren Elsmore. Whether it be fearsome creatures on land, in swamps or in the air, Elsmore has re-created scale versions of dinosaurs to be displayed alongside specimens from the Horniman's collection.
Brick Dinos at Horniman Museum. 10 February-29 October, £9 for adults / £4.50 for children.
8. Painter's painter: Peter Doig at The Courtauld
Peter Doig is one of the world's most highly regarded painters, critically acclaimed and having sold for record amounts at auction. This exhibition of his latest paintings and drawings is inspired from the many places he has lived — the UK, Canada and Trinidad; as well as from album covers, films and art history. Time to lose ourselves within his large-scale landscape paintings.
Peter Doig at The Courtauld. 10 February-29 May, £16.
9. Master Sculptor: Donatello at V&A
Donatello was one hell of a sculptor... and gave his name to a certain purple bandana-d turtle. Unlike his other green namesakes there hasn't been a major UK exhibition of his works, so this is a chance to gawp at his fantastic creations in bronze, marble, wood and terracotta — over 130 works in total by the Italian master. Charting his life and how he influenced subsequent generations, it's a major exhibition that we've been looking forward to since it was announced a few years ago.
Donatello: Sculpting the Renaissance at V&A. 11 February-11 June, £20.
10. Political films: David Blandy and Bani Abidi at John Hansard Gallery, Southampton
David Blandy has created four new films that look at history, the legacy of Empire and the climate crisis — all connected by the core story of Blandy's grandfather who was a Japanese prisoner of war during the Second World War. Also at the gallery, Bani Abidi's film follows a fictional elderly man who arrives in a European city, exploring what it means to be displaced.
David Blandy: Atomic Light and Bani Abidi: The Song at John Hansard Gallery, Southampton. 11 February-6 May, free.
11. Powerful portraits: Alice Neel at Barbican
The largest UK exhibition to date of American painter Alice Neel's work will bring together her figurative pieces from across her 60 year career. Neel went against the popular grain by painting figures when abstract works were all the rage, and she painted subjects other artists ignored — pregnant women, labour leaders, Black and Puerto Rican children, eccentrics, civil rights activists and queer performers. It's high time we had a major show of her work in London, and the Barbican has duly provided.
Alice Neel: Hot Off The Griddle at Barbican Art Gallery. 16 February-21 May, £18.
12. Street Art: Beyond the Streets at Saatchi Gallery
Taking street art off the streets, Saatchi gallery hosts works by over 150 artists in an immersive exhibition. Expect references to punk, street wear and social activism, plus a lot of graffiti and vivid colours in an intense show. It's a welcome transformation from the usual white walls of the gallery into something altogether more gritty and anarchic.
Beyond the Streets London at Saatchi Gallery. 17 February-9 May, £25.
13. Intense immersion: Mike Nelson at Hayward Gallery
We have fond memories of Mike Nelson's Tate Britain installation from 2019, so it's a treat to have a full exhibition of his large-scale immersive installations at Hayward Gallery. Intense environments and towering sculptures are what visitors can expect as they venture into his fictional worlds.
Mike Nelson: Extinction Beckons at Hayward Gallery. 22 February-7 May, £15.
14. Projecting painting: David Hockney at Lightroom
Immersive experiences using projections are popping up all over London with the works of Van Gogh, Gustav Klimt and Frida Kahlo having already taken place. But it's never been in collaboration with a living artist until now, with David Hockney once again proving he's willing to embrace new tech, allowing us to immerse ourselves in 60 years of his paintings. We've not been a fan of most of these experiences but this could be the one to win us over.
David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (not smaller and further away) at Lightroom, King's Cross. 22 February-4 June, £25.