15 Must-See London Exhibitions To Look Forward To In 2023

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 15 months ago

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15 Must-See London Exhibitions To Look Forward To In 2023

Want to know what the must-see exhibitions in London are in 2023? Read on, as we pick our highlights.

1. The Spanish exhibition: Spain and the Hispanic World at Royal Academy of Arts

Ceramic figures showing Death, and souls in hell, purgatory and heaven from 18th century Ecuador. Image courtesy The Hispanic Society of America.

Celebrating all things Spanish, this exhibition pulls together 400 years of the history of Spain's cultural evolution as well as that of Colonial Latin America. Looking at the how these cultures drew from Celtic tradition as well as the religious influence of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the exhibition includes ceramics, maps, drawings and paintings by the likes of Goya and Velazquez.

Spain and the Hispanic World: Treasures from the Hispanic Society Museum & Library at Royal Academy of Arts. 21 January-10 April, £22-24.50

2. Photos of war: Ukraine - photographs from the frontline at IWM London

© Anastasia Taylor-Lind

With the horrific war in Ukraine showing no signs of ending, this collection of 17 photographs by photojournalist Anastasia Taylor-Lind depict 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 will also look 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.

3. Female abstraction: Action, Gesture, Paint at Whitechapel Gallery

© Wook-kyung Choi Estate and courtesy to Arte Collectum

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 who most of us won't be familiar with.

Action, Gesture, Paint: Women Artists and Global Abstraction 1940-70 at Whitechapel Gallery. 9 February-7 May, £16.50 - concessions available.

4. Master Sculptor: Donatello at V&A

Courtesy of Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Firenze Su concessione del Ministero della Cultura. Photo Bruno Bruchi

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.

5. Street Art: Beyond the Streets at Saatchi Gallery

A work by Kenny Scharf, who is represented at the show. Photo: Charles White of JW Pictures

Taking street art off the streets, Saatchi gallery will host 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.

6. Last impressions: After Impressionism at The National Gallery

Paul Cezanne's Bathers. © National Gallery, London

Everyone loves the waterlilies and landscapes of Monet and his peers. They are beautiful works in their own right. But what Impressionism did was light a fire for art to transform into something more expressive, bequeathing the likes of Cézanne and Van Gogh who came shortly after, and then on to Cubism and Abstraction, which took things one step further. The National Gallery has charted this evolution by bringing together dozen of works that tell us about arguably the most important period of art history.

After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art at The National Gallery. 25 March-13 August, £tba

7. Return of the Portraits: National Portrait Gallery re-opens

An architect's impression of the new entrance. Image courtesy Jamie Fobert architects.

After a lengthy three year refurbishment, the National Portrait Gallery is back with a brand new and bigger entrance, a new wing, more learning resources and a re-hang of their extensive display of portraits and photographs. Whether it's Elizabeth I and Shakespeare you're here to see, or more contemporary famous faces such as Malala Yousafzai or the late Queen — this is the place for it.

National Portrait Gallery. Re-opens 22 June, free.

8. Clash of the Titan: Titanosaur at Natural History Museum

When is a dinosaur more than just a dinosaur? When it's the biggest creature to have ever walked the Earth, that's when. A cast of Patagotitan will allow us to imagine a remarkable creature that would have dwarfed our beloved Dippy. The exhibition also includes information on how this giant lived, what it ate, and a recreation of its skull that visitors can touch. My inner seven year old has never been so excited.

Titanosaur: Life as the Biggest Dinosaur at Natural History Museum. 31 March-7 January 2024, £16 (£9 children).  

9. Female Impressionist: Berthe Morisot at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight by Berthe Morisot, 1885. © Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris.

Talk about Impressionists and most people think of male painters. In fact, one of the founders of the Impressionist movement was a woman, Berthe Morisot. Bringing together 40 of her works depicting everyday life, fashion, interiors and intimate scenes. It's a rare chance to admire the artworks of this hugely talented painter and learn about her life.

Berthe Morisot at Dulwich Picture Gallery. 31 March - 10 September, £16.50.

10. 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 Jane Siddall, Jane Morris and Fanny Cornforth. Exploring their works, their influences on each other and the unconventional relationships between them, expect dramatically lit and intimate paintings, with red hair aplenty.

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

11. Glittering gold: Luxury and Power at The British Museum

Panagyurishte Treasure. Copyright Todor Dimitrov, National Museum of History, Bulgaria

Luxurious items have always been symbols of power, and they played a massive part in the Persian Empire with tents filled with gold and silver items. This blinging exhibition tells the story of Persian luxury and how it merged with Western tastes when Alexander the Great defeated the Persians. Beautifully crafted objects in gold, silver and glass abound.

Luxury and Power: Persia to Greece at The British Museum. 4 May-13 August, £12.

12. Change of clothes: The Offbeat Sari at Design Museum

Seen as everyday wear by some, and only as wedding attire by others, the sari has long been a fixture of life on the Indian sub-continent. Now, contemporary designers are taking this traditional clothing in bold new directions. This exhibition brings together the full range of saris as well as looking at how the garment has been used as a tool for social activism and a metaphor for India's stratified society.

The Offbeat Sari at Design Museum. 19 May - 17 September, £tba

13. Potent performance: Marina Abramovíc at Royal Academy of Arts

Courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives. © Marina Abramović.

Following a lengthy delay due to the pandemic we finally have the chance to see a major exhibition by the 'grandmother of performance art' Marina Abramović. Including works from across her 50 year career, the show looks back at moments that have pushed her body to the limit — such as having a gun pointed at her head, slicing into her own body and a more recent piece where visitors could sit and stare at her in silence, with emotional results.

Marina Abramovic at Royal Academy of Arts. 23 September-10 December, £tba

14. Troubled times: Philip Guston at Tate Modern

© The Estate of Philip Guston

After a controversial delay, we finally get the chance to see this much anticipated retrospective of an artist whose career cast an eye across the anxious and turbulent times he lived through in America, including racism and the social and political change that came about in the 1960s. A time of turmoil that was reflected in his intense, often pink hued, paintings.

Philip Guston at Tate Modern. 5 October - 25 February, £tba

15. Fairy tales: Fantasy at British Library

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Copyright British Library.

The history of literature is full of tales that help us escape from reality, while also reflecting on the society in which we live. The British Library is charting this history from the ancient tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight through to Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Filled with examples from across the world it's a deep dive into all the realities that story tellers have crafted through the centuries.

Fantasy at British Library. 27 October-25 February 2024, £tba

Last Updated 26 January 2023