Looking for an awesome London exhibition this September? Here's our roundup of must-see shows in the capital, plus one cheeky addition from outside the M25.
1. The Lost King: Imagining Richard III at The Wallace Collection
Richard III — whose remains were discovered beneath a Leicester car park in 2012 — has often been portrayed in films and literature as a villainous murderer. This exhibition explores such depictions, coinciding with the release of a new film about the famous discovery, The Lost King (from which replica armour is on show). Historical artefacts suggest the maligned monarch may have been miscast; there's evidence to say he was competent and compassionate. Here's a chance for us to review and decide for ourselves.
The Lost King: Imagining Richard III at The Wallace Collection. 7 September 2022 - 8 January 2023, free.
2. American history: Winslow Homer at The National Gallery
Not as well known here in the UK, Winslow Homer is one of the US's great painters, capturing the turbulent time he lived through including the American civil war, slavery and its abolition — and humanity's expansion at the cost of the natural world. Featuring over 50 paintings across 40 years of Homer's career — including his renowned depictions of stormy seas — this is a show dripping with atmosphere.
Winslow Homer: Force of Nature at The National Gallery. 10 September 2022 - 8 January 2023, £12.
3. Colonialism re-visited: Antelope at The Fourth Plinth
The new fourth plinth sculpture is called Antelope; the work of Malawi-born sculptor Samson Kambalu, it shows preacher and pan-Africanist John Chilembwe alongside his white friend John Chorley. Chilembwe's figure wears a hat — a direct challenge to the British colonial rule, which forbade this in the presence of white people. Chilembwe — today a hero of independence in Malawi — is also depicted in the sculpture as larger than life. It's a powerful political work, re-visiting history and highlighting how London remains a global hub of ideas.
Samson Kambalu: Antelope at The Fourth Plinth, Trafalgar Square. 14 September 2022 - 2024, free.
4. Sculpture park: Frieze Sculpture at Regent's Park
Ahead of Frieze London and Frieze Masters, comes Frieze Sculpture — placing works throughout Regent's Park for us to be wowed, puzzled and inspired by. This year's offerings touch on spirituality, politics, mythology and playfulness. The sculpture exhibition has also teamed up with Sculpture in the City and the Fourth Plinth, to launch Sculpture Week London — getting us more engaged with outdoor art.
Frieze Sculpture 2022 at Regent's Park. 14 September - 13 November 2022, free.
5. Colourful: Yinka Ilori at Design Museum
Artist and designer Yinka Ilori has been all over London in the last few years, bringing his colourful pieces, inspired by African fabrics, to a pavilion outside Dulwich Picture Gallery, a mural in Tottenham, a basketball court in Canary Wharf and pedestrian crossings on Tottenham Court Road. It's time for a well-deserved celebration of the full breadth of his practice, with this exhibition of his works at Design Museum.
Yinka Ilori at Design Museum. 15 September 2022 - 25 June 2023, free.
6. Stellar: Astronomy Photographer of the Year at National Maritime Museum
There's nothing like photos of nebulae and planets to make us realise how small we are in the grand scheme of things — and this collection of awe-inspiring images is back for another stellar year. It's the 14th edition, and another circuit around the sun has provided us with some stunners to leave us with stars in our eyes.
Astronomy Photographer of the Year at National Maritime Museum. 17 September - 6 November 2022, £10.
7. Life and death: LuYang at Zabludowicz Collection
The past and the future, humans and machines, life and death — Chinese artist LuYang doesn't shy away from tackling the big topics, which she does again by taking over the magnificent Zabludowicz Collection space, housed in an old church. These major themes are approached through the cultures of anime, science fiction and video games. If that's not enough to get you intrigued there's also a cinema room showing LuYang's films and a playroom where visitors can try their hand at a video game version of the exhibition — this trailer gives a feel for what to expect.
LuYang NetiNeti at Zabludowicz Collection. 22 September 2022 - 12 February 2023, free.
8. Burn, baby burn: Damien Hirst at Newport Street Gallery
Damien Hirst ventured into the world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) earlier this year, promising to burn the physical copy of any 'spot painting' sold in NFT form. Now's our chance to see this happen: the doomed works will be exhibited at Newport Street Gallery, before being set alight here. Whether you love or hate Hirst's work, this savvy piece of showmanship is a win-win.
Damien Hirst: The Currency at Newport Street Gallery. 23 September - 30 October 2022, free.
9. Portals: Marina Abramovic at Modern Art, Oxford
Often referred to as the grandmother of performance art, Marina Abramovic had big plans for the UK until the pandemic pushed her Royal Academy show back three years to 2023. Those patiently waiting can head up to Oxford to get a slice of her work, where visitors will be grouped up to make their way through gates and portals that make us aware of our own bodies. Abramovic's work pack an emotional and spiritual punch — worth a trip to Oxford to experience it.
Marina Abramovic: Gates and Portals at Modern Art Oxford. 24 September 2022 - 5 March 2023, free - pre-booking essential.
10. Gangnam style: Hallyu! The Korean Wave at V&A
Parasite, Squid Game, BTS, Blackpink, Samsung smartphones and of course Gangnam Style by Psy. A wave of Korean culture has been hitting our shores over the last couple of decades, and V&A charts the story of how this came to be, including the support of the Korean government in propagating K-culture globally, and how it's been embraced by fans across social media. 'Hallyu' translates as Korean wave, and plenty of fans here in the UK will be ready to dive into this trove of artefacts and outfits.
Hallyu! The Korean Wave at V&A. 24 September 2022 - 25 June 2023, £20.
11. Powerful and political: William Kentridge at Royal Academy
Theatrical sets and animations involving marching figures is what I remember best from William Kentridge's work, which focuses in particular on the legacy of colonialism in Africa. Through drawings, sculpture, tapestries, film and performance, this show looks back across 40 years of the career of the South African artist — and it doesn't hold back on referencing the litany of atrocities committed against African peoples.
William Kentridge at Royal Academy of Arts. 24 September - 11 December 2022, £20-22.
12. Children's stories: Tiny Traces at The Foundling Museum
Asian and African children also passed through the famous central London orphange, the Foundling Hospital, but why were they there, what happened to their parents and what are the hospital's ties with Empire and colonialism? All of these question are answered in an exhibition that contains personal notes, hospital records and contemporary artworks reflecting on the experiences of these children.
Tiny Traces: African and Asian Children at London's Foundling Hospital at The Foundling Museum. 30 September - 19 February 2023, £9.50 (includes admission to the museum).
13. Call of duty: War Games at IWM London
Wolfenstein, Medal of Honor, Command and Conquer: it's safe to say warfare has proved a popular genre within video games, whether the hyper-real graphics of shoot-em-up Call of Duty, or the cartoon style of Worms. IWM takes us beyond the pixels in a look at how games have evolved to reflect the theatre of war — particularly when compared to those who have actually experienced it. Pairing gaming experts with the historic artefacts of those who have been injured or fled from war, this is a battle-hardened look at a popular, and at times controversial, genre.
War Games: Real Conflicts, Virtual Worlds, Extreme Entertainment at IWM London. 30 September 2022 - 28 May 2023, free.
Short run events
London Design Festival (17-25 September) returns to London with over 300 exhibitions and events across 12 districts in London, including indoor exhibitions, outdoor art trails and design fairs, such as Material Matters at Oxo Bargehouse. Understandably this year features a strong focus on sustainability and how design and designers can help fight climate change.
Sticking with that theme, Es Devlin has created a structure outside Tate Modern (16-25 September, free), which draws attention to endangered species including those on the decline in London. It's a sound and light installation where visitors can step inside, learn about and draw the species at risk.
If you prefer a bit of local art then head to Crouch End open studios (17-18 September, free) where artists open their doors so visitors can see where and how the magic happens, including an exhibition of their works (10-19 September, free). Down south, you can enjoy Deptford X (16-25 September), an annual festival of art, music and performance that aims to champion new voices and bring the local community together.