Looking for an awesome London exhibition this June? Here's our roundup of must-see shows in the capital.
1. Delightful designs: London Design Biennale at Somerset House
Dozens of countries put forward their top designers to take a section of Somerset House and make it their own at London Design Biennale. The last edition in 2018 was spectacular, and this time around, over 40 designers invite us to do things including weave a tapestry, bake bread, watch an AI robot design things, get inside a space pod, find inner peace and visit a virtual garden. Never a dull moment, then.
London Design Biennale and Eureka 2023 at Somerset House. 1-25 June, £23.
2. Human impact: Civilization at Saatchi Gallery
Humans have completely changed the way the planet looks, from great achievements to ravaging the Earth of its natural resources, and everything in between. This ambitiously epic exhibition brings together over 150 photographers across eight themes that include where we live, how we relax, and what the future looks like.
Civilization: The way we live now at Saatchi Gallery. 2 June-17 September, £16.
3. Monumental: Anselm Kiefer at White Cube, Bermondsey
Anselm Kiefer doesn't create exhibitions; he transforms entire gallery spaces with monumental sculpture, paintings and photography that overwhelm in their scale and also contain symbols referencing human history. He's arguably one of the world's most important living artists and this time he's drawing inspiration from Finnegan's Wake — the challenging literary masterpiece by James Joyce.
Anselm Kiefer: Finnegan's Wake at White Cube, Bermondsey. 7 June-20 August, free.
4. In bloom: Yuki Aruga at Maddox Gallery
Yuki Aruga blends her mixed English and Japanese heritages into hyperreal still lifes that blend Eastern philosophy with the Old Master vanitas paintings of Western Europe... with a touch of the surreal for good measure. The rose may be seen as a quintessentially English flower but it originated in Asia and therefore is the perfect muse given the artist's background.
Yuki Aruga: Without end at Maddox Gallery, Mayfair. 9 June-16 July, free.
5. Pavilion in the park: Serpentine Pavilion 2023
Now a standard Summer fixture, it's always fascinating to see what architectural feat has been achieved for the Serpentine Gallery's annual pavilion — and this time it's the turn of French-Lebanese architect Lina Ghotmeh. She has based her design on a round table where food is shared and discussions are had — so visitors will be able to sit at a table that acts as a trigger for conversations... let's see if this artworks's powerful enough to break down our British reserve.
Serpentine Pavilion 2023 by Lina Ghotmeh at Serpentine Gallery. 9 June - 29 October, free.
6. Summer art-ing: Summer Exhibition at Royal Academy of Arts
You know the drill by now. Over a thousand artworks are stacked floor to ceiling in the grand galleries of the Royal Academy. It's wildly esoteric, and you won't love everything — it's about winkling out the gems that mean something to you (as well as spotting the works by big name artists like Tracey Emin and Grayson Perry). The annual art bonanza has been going for over 250 years and if you're feeling particularly flush, know that most of the works are for sale, with some of the proceeds going towards the Royal Academy schools programme.
Summer Exhibition 2023 at Royal Academy of Arts. 13 June-20 August, £22-£24.50.
7. Art evolution: Capturing the moment at Tate Modern
Painting and photography are two art forms that have evolved in reaction to one another from the advent of the latter onwards. By capturing real life as it was, photography challenged painting to evolve beyond its traditional boundaries, expand in styles and venture into the surreal and adventurous. This exhibition pulls together heavy hitters from both mediums, so we get the likes of Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon, alongside photographers such as Andreas Gursky, to chart how both painting and photography have evolved side-by-side and continue to do so.
Capturing the Moment at Tate Modern. 14 June-28 January, £20.
8. Migratory: Life is more important than art at Whitechapel Gallery
Life is more important than art, but it's life that can serve as the inspiration for art and that's at the centre of Whitechapel Gallery's exhibition on migration and difference. The show focuses on how migration and different communities have shaped London — in particular, the East End.
Life is More Important Than Art at The Whitechapel Gallery. 14 June-17 September, free.
9. Sustainable: Dear Earth at Hayward Gallery
The climate crisis is one of the biggest issues affecting our planet right now and Hayward Gallery has assembled over 15 international artists to show how artists are reflecting this in their artworks. Dear Earth aims to inspire joy and empathy — as well as promote a sense of political and social activism.
Dear Earth: Art and Hope in a Time of Crisis at Hayward Gallery. 21 June-3 September, £15-£16.
10. Return of the Portraits: National Portrait Gallery re-opens
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. The relaunch also opens with two paying photography exhibitions on music legend Paul McCartney and Yevonde, a pioneering female photographer who was one of the first to use colour.
National Portrait Gallery. Re-opens 22 June, free (exhibitions are ticketed).
11. Sculpture among skyscrapers: Sculpture in the City
Sculpture in the City returns for its 12th edition — once more scattering the Square Mile with thought-provoking outdoor sculptures to admire among the skyscrapers. Like last year, they've kept some of the sculptures as carry overs from the previous edition and introduced news ones so we get to discover fresh finds while re-acquainting ourselves with Jocelyn McGregor's barmy snails with legs.
Sculpture in the City. 27 June-Spring 2024, free.
12. Fabulous: DIVA at V&A
Being called a diva is normally a negative but the V&A is celebrating the power and creativity of those that have been referred to as such — from Marilyn Monroe to Lizzo. Including flamboyant outfits and beautiful photographs, DIVA looks at how the term has been embraced and subverted over time, as well as how divas have intersected with society and driven social and political change through their platform on topics such as global civil rights and feminism.
DIVA at V&A. 24 June-7 April, £20.
Short run events
June kicks off with a monumental weekender of art as over 150 galleries stay open over the weekend for London Gallery Weekend (2-4 June, free) alongside a programme of performances curate by UP Projects*.
It's also the month where students graduating from fine art degrees get to show us all what they've been working on — giving us a chance to see the star artists of tomorrow. All these graduate shows are free to visit:
- Royal Academy schools - 8-25 June
- Camberwell College of Arts - 9-17 June
- Wimbledon College of Art - 10-17 June
- London College of Communication - Design and Screen - 14-17 June
- Central Saint Martins - 15-18 June & 28 June - 2 July
- The Art Academy - 23-25 June
- Goldsmiths - 23-26 June
- City and Guilds London Art School** - 24-30 June
- Royal College of Art - 30 June - 3 July
If you're looking for a mix of art indoors and outdoors then Mayfair Art Weekend (29 June-1 July) may be the perfect fit as the weekend of galleries remaining open coincides with the annual sculpture trail (12 June-9 July) that peppers Mayfair with big sculptural interventions.
Sculptures continue heading westwards as Kensington and Chelsea Art Week (22 June-2 July) sees a whole host of art events and exhibitions across the borough, accompanied by a summer-long art trail (unveiled 16 June) that will get visitors exploring.
The tucked away art studios of Delta House have invited us inside for an open studios (17-18 June) so we can see where the creative magic happens, talk to artists about their work, and maybe even buy something.
If high-end art and antiques are your vibe, head to the Royal Hospital Chelsea for The Treasure House Fair (22-26 June, £25) to be wowed by spectacular sculpture, tapestry, ceramics, silver, jewellery and design — along with furniture, clocks, watches and rare books.
* The author of this piece is a critical friend of UP projects
** The author of this piece is a trustee of City and Guilds London Art School