Looking for an awesome London exhibition this November? Here's our roundup of must-see shows in the capital — plus a bonus one from further afield.
1. Creativity in confinement: Koestler Arts at Royal Festival Hall
This annual exhibition of artworks by people in prisons and young offenders institutions is a reminder of the creative power of art, and how it can be a positive outlet for those within the criminal justice system. Curated this year by poet Joelle Taylor, from over 8,000 works, it showcases the imagination and talents of those outside the traditional gallery system. Always an inspiring visit.
Koestler Arts: In case of Emergency at Royal Festival Hall, 2 November - 17 December 2023, free.
2. Hockney's back: David Hockney at National Portrait Gallery
After David Hockney's excellent Drawing from Life exhibition was cut short by the pandemic, it's back for another run. Hockney captures so much of his sitters' personalities — whether in simple sketches or large scale paintings. The show's had a bit of an update, given Hockney's prolific output, and will feature new works including that divisive portrait he created of Harry Styles/Harry Styles's cardigan. There's more than just Hockney at the newly refurbed NPG; they're also showcasing some top-notch portrait photography in the annual Taylor Wessing photo portrait prize section.
David Hockney: Drawing from Life at National Portrait Gallery. 2 November 2023 - 21 January 2024, £21.
Taylor Wessing Photo Portrait Prize 2023 at National Portrait Gallery. 9 November 2023 - 25 February 2024, £8.50.
3. Time travel: Unreal at James Freeman Gallery
Starting with photography, three artists take us back and forwards through time. Emily Allchurch takes architectural styles from different countries and historic periods to create her own take on the Tower of Babel, while Liane Lang looks back at statues dedicated to women — but painting onto the images to give them a surreal and symbolic element. Suzanne Moxhay takes us into a future where nature has taken back buildings, in her eerie and unsettling works. It's a powerful combination of three artists whose works we've always admired.
Unreal at James Freeman Gallery. 2 - 25 November 2023, free.
4. Asian history: Burma to Myanmar at The British Museum
From influential superpower to repressive regime, this major exhibition charts the history of Myanmar — also known as Burma — through the last 1,500 years. Using art and artefacts it tells the story of this country's important place in Asian trade routes, through to its annexation by the British in the 19th century. The country has made the headlines recently for the horrific treatment of minority ethnic groups; here's a chance to see the history of this country and how it evolved into what we see today.
Burma to Myanmar at The British Museum. 2 November 2023 - 11 February 2024, £16.
5. Feminist art: Women in revolt at Tate Britain
Works by over 100 women artists have been brought together to showcase the full breadth of works created in Britain between 1970 and 1990. It covers the likes of the women's liberation movement, domesticity, punk, and visibility of Black and South Asian Women Artists. Given representation of women in art collections across the world still lags behind those of men, it's a welcome exhibition that's a celebration of British women artists.
Women in revolt! Art and activism in the UK 1970-1990 at Tate Britain. 8 November 2023 - 7 April 2024, £17.
6. Art & war: Blavatnik galleries at IWM London
Want to know how artists respond to conflict? There's no better place to find out than the vast new galleries at the Imperial War Museum, featuring over 500 works created between 1914 and today. Ranging from past greats such as Henry Moore and Paul Nash, through to contemporary artists like Steve McQueen and kennardphillips, it's an impressive collection — and best of all it's another free offering from the museum.
Blavatnik art, film and photography galleries at IWM London. Opens from 10 November 2023, free.
7. It's a wrap: Christo and Jeanne-Claude at Saatchi Gallery
Partners in life and art, Christo and Jeanne-Claude became famous for creating monumental artworks such as wrapping the Reichstag in plastic or building a pyramid of barrels to float on the Serpentine. Saatchi Gallery takes us inside these challenging projects to see how they were pulled off, alongside works by some artist contemporaries. At the same time, the gallery is hosting a show of works by figurative painter extraordinaire Andrew Salgado and If Not Now, When? — a collection of works by 29 female sculptors.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Boundless at Saatchi Gallery. 15 November 2023 - 22 January 2024, £12.
Andrew Salgado: Tomorrow I'll be Perfect. 16 November 2023 - 7 January 2024, free.
If Not Now, When? 15 November 2023 - 22 2024 January, £10.
8. Metal men: Antony Gormley at White Cube, Bermondsey
Gormley is the master of taking the simple concept of a figurative sculpture and making us pause to think about what it represents — whether it's out at sea, suspended from the ceiling or standing on a rooftop. (You can find many of them in London.) White Cube in Bermondsey is presenting over 250 of Gormley's latest works that include body forms in different poses and concrete 'bunkers for one' that have been cast to leave the human form inside, and inviting us to take a peek into the darkness within.
Antony Gormley: Body Politic at White Cube, Bermondsey. 22 November 2023 - 28 January 2024, free.
9. Dancers and flowers: Impressionists on paper at Royal Academy of Arts
Who doesn't love Impressionism? That's a rhetorical question — after all it's arguably the most loved genre of painting. The likes of Degas, Cezanne, Morisot and Van Gogh are best known for their paintings, but this collection of 77 works on paper draws our attention to smaller scale, intimate works, highlighting lesser-known masterpieces.
Impressionists on paper: Degas to Toulouse-Lautrec at Royal Academy of Arts. 25 November 2023 - 10 March 2024, £19.
10. Mechanical creatures: Tim Lewis at Flowers Gallery
Tim Lewis uses discarded objects to create kinetic animal/human hybrid sculptures that move in ways that are both humorous and disturbing. In this instance he's created an echidna out of Christmas trees, a metallic snake that pulls apart and then reforms, and a lemur-like creature that's all skeleton apart from its head. His past works have included a bear that draws itself and an emu with an opera glove for a head. They are all delightfully uncanny.
Tim Lewis: The forest visits at Flowers, Cork Street. 30 November 2023 - 6 January 2024, free.
11. Epic film: John Akomfrah at The Box, Plymouth
John Akomfrah makes the type of epic films that leave you reeling — beautifully shot and politically charged as they are. For his latest film Arcadia, the artist explores the widespread transfer of plants, animals, precious metals, commodities, populations, technology, diseases and ideas between the Americas, Afro-Eurasia and Europe from the 1400s onwards. It's a huge topic captured through stunning scenic and underwater footage. It's across five screens and is making its UK premiere in Plymouth.
John Akomfrah: Arcadia at The Box, Plymouth. 30 November - 2 June, free.
Short run events
London may feel like a glass and concrete jungle at times, but it's filled with green space and nature finding a way — and that's what painter Lucy Pickford captures in her paintings that celebrate the natural side in London. She has a show of her paintings at B.T. Batsford Gallery in Hackney (9-12 November 2023, free), organised by Bobcat Gallery.
If you want a chance to get inside an artist studios and see where the magic happens then head to Delta House studios in south west London where they will be hosting a secret studio show (24-26 November 2023, free) where you can chat to over 100 creatives under one roof and even buy some works if they take your fancy.
Kicking off December at Oxo Bargehouse, Shifting Landscapes presented by Emergence magazine (1-10 December, free) has nine international artists taking over multiple floors with sensory installations, soundscapes, large-scale photographic works and film — all on the theme of the climate emergency and how we are rapidly losing our natural habitats and species.