A roundup of July and August's must-see shows in London, plus one cheeky addition from outside the M25.
1. African style: Africa Fashion at V&A
The fashionable outfits of over 45 designers from over 20 countries showcase the brilliant creative stylings of contemporary fashion designers across Africa within one exhibition. Using photographs, artworks and of course a whole host of killer outfits, we have here a diverse range of radical and classic outfits that borrow both from the rich history of the continent and the Western influences that have been co-opted by African designers.
Africa Fashion at V&A. 2 July-16 Apr 2023, £16.
2. Family matters: Lucian Freud at Freud Museum
Not everyone knows that painter Lucian Freud was the grandson of philosophy great Sigmund Freud. Given this fact it's only right that the Freud Museum, Sigmund's former home in Hampstead, should play host to an exhibition about his talented son that features his childhood drawings, personal family photographs and, of course, some of his fantastic paintings.
Lucian Freud: The Painter and his Family at Freud Museum London. 6 July-29 January 2023, £14 (includes admission to the museum)
3. A plant paradise: The Secret Garden at Garden Museum
The garden is where we go to relax, meditate, sunbathe and barbecue — our own secret hideaway from the world. And where better to have an exhibition about secret gardens than the Garden Museum. Based around Frances Hodgson Burnett's book of the same title, in which a young girl discovers a secret garden, this exhibition includes illustrations from the book, plus contemporary interpretations by artists including a three-dimensional walk-in paper landscape by Juliette Losq. Plus plenty of interactive activities for children (who can visit for free) to get hands-on with.
The Secret Garden at Garden Museum. 6 July-4 September, £14 (includes admission the the museum)
4. Outdoor immersion: Nourish at Wakehurst, Sussex
Close your eyes and be surrounded by the sounds of animals and native music of Mexico, or watch as a towering sculpture releases collected rainwater. Wakehurst, Kew Gardens' sister site in Sussex, has five immersive structures that explore our relationship with plants, and how they sustain us. Plus there are opportunities to visit after hours when African drummers and dancers will add some more energy to the grounds.
Nourish at Wakehurst. 8 July-18 September, £14.95 (includes full access to the grounds)
5. Colour and more colour: Milton Avery at Royal Academy of Arts
Focusing on colour as much as form, the striking portraits and landscapes of Milton Avery are a dazzling feast of colours. It was his take on colour that would inspire the Abstract Expressionists like Mark Rothko to ditch realism all together and focus purely on colour. Taking around 70 paintings made in the 1930s-1960s it's time to shine a light on this influential figure. At the same time, the work of his daughter March Avery will also be on show at an exhibition around the corner at Mayfair gallery Waddington Custot.
Milton Avery: American Colourist at Royal Academy of Arts. 15 July-16 October, £17.
March Avery: In the Studio. 6 July-17 September, free.
6. Getting Old: The Future of Ageing at Design Museum
We all have to get old, a fact that regularly haunts us through tweaks as we rise from the sofa, perhaps a receding hairline, or a loss of skin elasticity. That's the bad news. The good news is many designers are working on making that transition easier with futuristic looking chairs on wheels, assistance robots and helping bridge intergenerational gaps through communal gardens. This free display at Design Museum is all about enabling all of us to age gracefully.
The Future of Ageing at Design Museum. 20 July-11 September, free.
7. Going dotty: Yayoi Kusama at Tate Modern
We've all gone gaga for Kusama's Infinity Rooms at Tate Modern, well now one of her other fun interactive spaces has arrived at Tate Modern — The Obliteration Room, where we all get to decorate an empty white room with colourful dots and recreate the infinity room effect ourselves. It's a playful installation and perfectly timed to coincide with the summer holidays. Kids will love it.
Yayoi Kusama: The Obliteration Room at Tate Modern, Turbine Hall. 23 July-29 August, free.
East London's one-night-only event Nocturnal Creatures (23 July, 6-11pm, free) returns this year with film, music, art, performances, DJs and a bouncy castle. Hosted and centred at The Whitechapel Gallery, the event takes place across nine venues plus Sculpture in the City will also have its own programme as part of the evening festivities.
Heading South Dulwich Picture Gallery will host a one day festival of happiness (30 July, 10.30am-7pm) devised by conceptual artist Stuart Semple. As the name suggests the focus is on joy and recovery, and who can't help but smile at Semple's happy clouds — smiley faces floating through the air.
If exhibitions are what you're looking for then James Mylne is showing his hyper-real drawings (7-17 July, free), made with just a biro, and there will be political works on the farce that is Partygate as well as other original works, prints and lightbox pieces.
Over in Deptford Kadie Salmon and Caroline Jane Harris have an exhibition at APT gallery (5-7 August, free) on light and how it affects how we see the world around us in Salmon's ghostly images and Harris' carefully hand-cut photographs.
If you want to go wider than just visual art, free outdoor performing arts spectacular Greenwich and Docklands International Festival (26 August-11 September, free) returns, for two weeks of theatre, art, dance and circus in outdoor locations. A highlight will undoubtedly be a rainbow island of foam taking over Greenwich Peninsula.