What’s On At The Best Art Galleries In London
Last updated: 3rd March 2020 | Main image: Cao Fei at the Serpentine Gallery
Ever since cavemen graffitied their bedrooms, art has played a key role in our culture. But with so much of it about, it’s hard to know what to look for. One man’s trash is, literally, another’s Turner award-winning installation. Luckily, the capital curates some of the finest collections on earth, and with this comprehensive guide you’ll be surveying Cezannes and pointing out Picassos like a pro.
It’s time to brush up…
JUMP TO: CENTRAL | NORTH | SOUTH | EAST | WEST
CENTRAL LONDON ART GALLERIES
A temporary home for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts while their grand pile gets done up next door, BAFTA Piccadilly is hosting a free exhibition showcasing costumes, sketches, notes and other memorabilia from some of the most iconic winners of BAFTA awards over the years. You’ll see Villanelle’s voluminous pink dress from Killing Eve; initial concept drawings for the indie puzzle game Monument Kingdom; hair and make up designs from The Favourite; and notes made by Chiwetel Ejiofor as research for his award-winning performance in 12 Years A Slave.
Address: BAFTA Piccadilly, 194 Piccadilly, W1J 9LN | Opening Hours: Weekdays 8am-6pm, weekends 12-6pm | Entry: Free
A recently established twin to the Berlin gallery of the same name, shining a light on 20th century and postwar artists through a rotating series of solo exhibitions.
Hans Hofmann: Fury – Painting After The War | Until 23rd May
Hofmann was a German-born American artist whose style encompassed some of the 20th century’s major art movements, from the unsettled, angry abstraction of postwar uncertainty to the more fluid beginnings of Abstract Expressionism. This exhibition, spanning 1942-1946, focusses on his more representational art in the immediate aftermath of WWII.
Address: 8 Davies Street, London W1K 3DW | Opening Hours: Tues-Sat, 10am-6pm | Entry: Free
A Brutalist and, quite frankly, brutal concrete metropolis is home to the Hayward Gallery; an exhibition space designed to receive touring work and host major modern collections. Sat within the cultural playground that is the Southbank Centre, there’s a dazzling array of art on offer within its walls, and that of its neighbours. Its visual policy is painted with broad brush strokes, and previous exhibits have included everything from Van Gogh to Gormley – but recently it’s the recent which has taken centre stage.
Fanfare | Until 13th April | Free
A small display of recent artworks by the playful German artist Nevin Aladağ, combining music with video and sculpture.
Among The Trees | Until 17th May
38 artists go back to their roots in this multimedia exhibition celebrating trees, transporting you from Japanese islands to Israeli olive groves.
Address: Southbank Centre, 337-338 Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX | Opening Hours: Wed-Mon 11am-7pm, Thursdays until 9pm | Entry: Free / Exhibitions from £14.50
The errant, wayward child of the RA, the ICA was established as a space for artists and scientists to discuss ideas freely and without limitation. An avid promoter of the avant-garde, it’s been an epicentre of experimental work ever since. With galleries, a theatre, and two cinemas you’re bound to find something, in some medium, that suits your fancy. Even if it’s just the second Rochelle Canteen restaurant. READ MORE
Cameron Rowland | Until 12th April
New York-based artist Cameron Rowland works with longform text, sculpture and installation to unearth histories for people of colour. This new work at the ICA – looking at how Britain profited from enslaved people in the 17th-19th centuries – is his first solo exhibition in the UK.
Check out screenings, talks and more HERE
Address: The Mall, St James’s, SW1Y 5AH | Opening Hours: Tue-Thurs 12pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 12pm-12am, Sun 12pm-11pm | Entry: £1/£5 for exhibitions
A little green house on Pall Mall goes for £100, and a big red hotel will set you back £1000. Unfortunately, the work on offer here will cost a little bit more. Home to the Federation of British Artists, this Regency-style gallery has art for browsing, and for buying, with a real variety gracing its walls.
Royal Society of Portrait Painters: The Show Goes On | Until 29th March
For nearly 130 years, this artist association has been giving good face. This exhibition showcases over 200 portraits of various showbiz figures, from actors and musicians to burlesque artists and comedians – and they’re even ready to accept commissions, if you see yourself in oils.
Address: The Mall, St. James’s, SW1Y 5AH | Opening Hours: Tue-Sun 10am-5pm (closes 1pm last day of exhibitions) | Entry: Free / Exhibitions £4/£6 with a catalogue
A Mayfair gem founded in 1946 by a pair of Austrian émigrés who met as soldiers in the British Army. Originally specialising in Old Masters and Impressionist paintings, this modern gallery now shines a spotlight on boundary-pushing contemporary artists.
Lars Fisk: Wattle & Daub | Until 14th March
Lars Fisk – Lederhosenball (2019)/Image credit: Luke Walker
This New York-based sculptor is known for his entirely spherical artwork, reconstructing everyday objects out of their usual materials. Which, for his first solo UK exhibition, includes lederhosen, ice cream trucks, houseboats and trees.
Address: 6 Albemarle Street, W1S 4BY | Opening Hours: Weekdays 10am-5.30pm, Saturdays 11am-6pm | Entry: Free
Pride of place in London’s art scene, presiding over the four lions of Trafalgar Square, is the National Gallery. Amongst the most visited art museums in the world, the National Gallery has a premier league roll call of great works. Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire and Da Vinci’s The Virgin of the Rocks all adorn its walls. Most major artists are represented in some way or another here, making it an absolute mecca for Art History bingo. READ MORE
Titian: Love, Desire, Death | Opens 14th March
The six paintings that Prince Philip of Spain commissioned from Titian are reunited from across the globe for the first time in four centuries. Inspired by the classical Greek myths included in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, they’re epic, sensuous paintings that are full of emotion.
Address: Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN | Opening Hours: Sat-Thurs 10am-6pm, Fri 10am-9pm | Entry: Free / Exhibitions from £10
A nosy, mouthy, (and eye-y) neighbour of the National Gallery, the NPG has been serving up strong face in every corner of its four storey building ever since 1896. It’s fairly commonplace to feel like you’re being watched with over 195,000 faces looking out from within frames or atop busts. The most celebrated visage is that of William Shakespeare, but the entire gallery is a veritable who’s who of history and makes the perfect spot to come face to face with England’s ancestors.
David Hockney: Drawing From Life | Until 28th June
© David Hockney
If you missed the huge Hockney exhibition back in 2017, this is a great opportunity to see some of his lesser-seen works. It features around 150 different drawings the artist made of himself, his muses, friends and family, drawn from both private collections around the world and his own personal stash.
Address: St. Martin’s Place, WC2H 0HE | Opening Hours: Sat-Thur 10am-6pm, Fri 10am-9pm | Entry: Free / Exhibitions from £14
After snapping up a tea bar in Covent Garden, founder and director Sue Davies quickly developed it into the UK’s first dedicated space for photography and photographers. It’s now moved into an old textiles factory, but continues to act as a centre of excellence, and research, into the 20th century’s iconic medium. READ MORE
Jan Svoboda: Against The Light | Until 7th June
Starting out as a stage designer, Jan Svoboda became one of the most prominent avant-garde photographers of the mid-late 20th century. He was interested in pushing the boundaries of photography as a medium and the physical image – so expect lots of beautiful, mysterious monochromatic still lifes and photographs presented as a form of sculpture.
Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2020 | Until 7th June
The four shortlisted projects for this annual prize are each displayed in their own room, and push boundaries in different ways. One photograph makes use of augmented reality to reveal an invisible crowd, while another room maps photographs onto paintings via an encoded telephone message.
Address: 16-18 Ramillies Street, W1F 7LW | Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 10am-6pm, Thursday lates 5-8pm | Entry: Free / Exhibitions £4 – free daily after 5pm
Once upon a time an exclusively royal affair but these days awash with the unwashed, the Queen’s Gallery is the dictionary definition of a fine art gallery – “a place that houses work created primarily for aesthetic and intellectual purposes”. The collection is, unsurprisingly, fit for a king (or queen) and contains a revolving exhibit of works owned by the royals to ensure their protection for, and presumably from, the Great British public.
George IVth: Art and Spectacle | Until 3rd May
Sir Thomas Lawrence – George IVth
Gouty, womanising, and shockingly bad with money, George IVth is the most easily caricatured of the historic English royals. But as this exhibition shows, he was also a highly influential tastemaker in art, design and fashion – and was one of the most conscientious art collectors of the entire royal lineage.
Address: Buckingham Palace, Buckingham Palace Road, SW1A 1AA | Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 9:30am-5:30pm | Entry: £12
Perhaps in a moment of his famed “madness”, King George III dipped into his own pocket to establish the RA in order to raise the professional status of artists and foster a national school of art. Off his rocker or not, it proved a big success and lives on to this day as a privately funded institution training, and promoting, artists and art appreciation. The RA has moved with the ebbs and flows of artistic taste, and its annual summer exhibition showcases the best new art on the scene. Its exhibitions have ranged from Hogarth to Hockney, whilst its permanent collection samples something from throughout Art History.
Picasso and Paper | Until 13th April
A staggering 300 pieces of artwork from across the artist’s 80 year career, demonstrating the relentless creativity and playfulness that drove his work. Guy must have had a lot of paper-cuts.
Léon Spilliaert | Until 25th May
The Belgian artist receives his first ever solo show in the UK, bringing together 80 spellbinding drawings, from his enigmatic self-portraits to wispy, magical snapshots of his hometown, Ostend.
Address: Burlington House, Piccadilly, Mayfair, W1J 0BD | Opening Hours: Sat-Thurs 10am-6pm, Sun 10am-10pm | Entry: Free / Exhibitions from £14
Originally the tudor crib to end all cribs, this imposing residence on the river Thames became a Stuart royal palace, a brief home of the Royal Academy, and now holds the offices of over a hundred creative organisations and artists, alongside numerous exhibition spaces for a range of different media. The Duke of Somerset, despite being executed before it was completed, would no doubt lose his head over how brilliant it’s become.
NOTE: The Courtauld Gallery is currently closed for major renovation works until Spring 2021. Watch this space.
Mushrooms: The Art, Design & Future of Fungi | Until 26th April
Seana Gavin – Mindful Mushroom
Yeah! Mushrooms! Over 40 artists are displayed in this fungally focussed collection, from Beatrix Potter to contemporary designers creating sustainable mushroom shoes. And yes, there’s a mushroom-themed shop at the end.
Address: Strand, WC2R 1LA | Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 8am-11pm | Entry: Free/£14+ for exhibitions
The epicurean, slightly dotty uncle of the Tate Modern is concerned with one thing only – The Land of Hope and Glory (and the artists who come from within it). It’s quite the line up, so expect all the big names from 1500 to the present day; Turner, Constable, Bacon, Blake, and Emin. Quite the knees-up.
British Baroque: Power and Illusion | Until 19th April
Surprisingly for the Tate Britain, this is the first show to specifically explore Britain’s Baroque art movement of the late 17th century. Expect Stuart portraits, trompe l’oeil paintings, and epic murals with lots of clouds and swooshy fabrics, used to inspire both religious and political devotion.
Aubrey Beardsley | Until 25th May
Aubrey Beardsley was something of a bohemian prodigy, whose life and career were tragically cut short when he died of tuberculosis at 25. But in the six short years of his professional career, he created beautiful and arresting illustrations spanning the erotic, the decadent and the grotesque, which won him no end of opprobrium from his Victorian contemporaries.
Address: Millbank, SW1P 4RG | Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 10am-6pm | Entry: Free / Exhibitions from £16
Some people think modern art is just a load of Pollocks. And they’d be right. But he’s not the only artist you’ll find in this behemoth of modern and contemporary works. It holds the British Collection of pieces from 1900 to the present day, and is one of the largest modern art museums in the world. Housed within the old Bankside power station, it has become an iconic landmark on the Thames’ riverscape. The old turbine hall dwarfs its visitors and holds specially commissioned, larger-than-life exhibits. READ MORE
Dora Maar | Until 15th March
A stunning collection of photographs taken in the 1930s, from candid shots to surrealist photomontages, and touching on Maar’s artistic influence both on and from Picasso during their relationship.
Steve McQueen | Until 11th May
Artist, director, screenwriter: Steve McQueen is one seriously talented man. And yet somehow this is his first major show in the UK in two decades. 14 of his most intriguing works of art are exhibited in this awe-inspiring exhibition, from a short film following workers down a gold mine shaft to a 42-hour loop of FBI documents detailing the surveillance of civil rights activist Paul Robeson. READ MORE
Dóra Maurer | Until 5th July | Free
A year-long, free exhibition of the works of Hungarian artist Dóra Maurer, who was a teacher and artist in the underground bohemian community growing up during socialist Hungary.
Andy Warhol | 12th March – 6th September | £22
A major exhibition on one of the most legendary artists of the 20th century. Expect to see iconic pieces like his classic pop art paintings of Marilyn Monroe and Campbell’s soup cans; rarely seen work like his portrait series of drag queens and trans women; and the sheer playfulness of his Silver Clouds installation and multimedia extravaganza, Exploding Plastic Inevitable. READ MORE
Address: Bankside, SE1 9TG | Opening Hours: Fri-Sat 10am-10pm, Sun-Thurs 10am-6pm Entry: Free / Exhibitions from £16
A collecting hobby that got a little out of hand is now a major collection of 18th and 19th century works collected by subsequent Marquesses of Hertford, and bequeathed to the public. Housed within a imposing regency townhouse, the Wallace is famed for its triumphant collection of French decorative arts; the grandest one outside of Gaul. It’s a fancy family’s fancy private collection, so expect gilded frames, suits of armour, and offensive levels of wealth to dominate your surroundings on your sojourn through the wings.
Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting For The East India Company | Until 19th April
Family of Ghulam Ali Khan – Six Recruits
A striking collection of botanical and animal paintings commissioned for the East India Company, showcasing the rarely credited talents of local Indian artists in compiling the company’s comprehensive studies in natural history.
Address: Hertford House, Manchester Square, W1U 3BN | Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 10am-5pm | Entry: Free
NORTH LONDON ART GALLERIES
Founded over 100 years ago in the formerly Jewish area of Whitechapel by Russian immigrant Lazar Berson, this art museum has always focused on the lives, careers, and works of refugee artists. True to its heritage, the gallery packed its bags and migrated to St John’s Wood, where now its 1300 works – covering 30 separate mediums – continue to showcase the artistic output of immigrant communities, as well as housing an extensive art library with resources on Jewish artists.
New Acquisitions and Long Term Loans | Until 27th March
As you might’ve guessed from the title, the Ben Uri Gallery has recently come into some new artwork. Take a look at the newbies in this exhibition, including a new David Bomberg (whose work is also currently on show at the National Gallery).
Address: 108A Boundary Road, NW8 0RH | Opening Hours: Weekdays 10am-5.30pm (8pm Wednesdays) | Entry: Free
What began as a local Arts scheme providing the Hampstead community with classes in everything from painting to pottery, grew, over the past 50 years, into an internationally acclaimed centre for the arts. Housed on the leafier side of Swiss Cottage this enclave of ever rotating, multi disciplinary artistry is a small and quaint affair with an onsite bookshop, cafe, and garden to boot.
Vivian Suter: Tintin’s Sofa | Until 5th April
Vivian Suter leaves her canvases outside in the jungle. Suitably marked by rain, falling leaves, and her three dogs (Bonzo, Nina and Tintin), she then recovers them to paint broad, vivid images. Suspended from the ceiling, this exhibition is like walking through a rainforest of canvas.
Athanasios Argianas: Hollowed Water | Until 5th April
Argianas isn’t just a sculptor. He’s also a talented composer. This exhibition displays works where visual and audio arts overlap, drawing on influences from Ancient Greece to Art Deco.
Address: Arkwright Road
London NW3 6DG | Opening Hours: Tues-Sun 10am-6pm (9pm Wednesdays) | Entry: Free
The frontage exudes the class and posture of Georgian England, but step inside and you’ll tumble down into the kaleidoscopic world of Italian Futurist Art. Futurism was one of Italy’s most significant contributions to the 20th century and this museum is Britain’s only one dedicated to the movement. Expect sculptures, paintings, landscapes, and the downright bizarre – all from a young nation looking to find la dolce vita.
Tullio Crali: A Futurist Life | Until 11th April
Another key figure of the Futurist artistic movement gets a sprawling retrospective here, focussing on his striking paintings inspired by flight and space, with multiple simultaneous viewpoints, dynamic perspectives and vibrant colours.
Address: 39A Canonbury Square, N1 2AN | Opening Hours: Wed-Sat 11am-6pm, Sun 12pm-5pm | Entry: £6.50/£4.50 (Concession)
London’s only public gallery dedicated to graphic art was founded by a man who undoubtedly etched his creations onto your childhood, Sir Quentin Blake. As Dahl’s illustrator, his work has found itself onto almost every bookshelf in Britain and a small collection of his drawings are on permanent display here in the House of Illustration, alongside visiting exhibitions. Set within the old granary buildings just north of Kings Cross, this museum is a dais to doodles – proving that even sketches have their place up on the wall. READ MORE
George Him: A Polish Designer for Mid-Century Britain | Until 10th May
If you haven’t heard of George Him, it’s time you got familiar with him. He was one of the many Jewish emigrés who had a huge impact on visual arts in postwar England, and this exhibition displays some of his most visually striking work, from propaganda posters to iconic adverts for Schweppes.
Tom of Finland: Love and Liberation | 6th March – 28th June
The UK’s first solo retrospective on gay cultural icon Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen), whose drawings influenced the aesthetics of Queen and the Village People even while working in a country where homosexuality was illegal.
Address: 2 Granary Square, King’s Cross, N1C 4BH | Opening Hours: Tue-Sun 10am-6pm | Entry: £7.50/£5.50 (Concession)
Dedicated totally to the three dimensional, the Pangolin details the historic development of British sculpture as well as showcasing the, ahem, cutting-edge of modern contemporary work.
Geoffrey Clarke: Intuitionism | Until 9th April
Geoffrey Clarke – Adoration of Nature (1951)
A rare exhibition of Geoffrey Clarke’s striking abstract prints, often overshadowed by his primary work as a sculptor.
Address: Kings Place, 90 York Way, N1 9AG | Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 10am-6pm | Entry: Free
Representing 40 established and emerging artists, Victoria Miro is one of the largest commercial spaces in London – and a great place to wile away the afternoon pretending you can afford to buy even one item. The Wharf Road gallery is a converted furniture factory and now houses Grayson Perry’s 15m Walthamstow Tapestry amongst numerous other works including the garden itself, landscaped personally for the gallery.
Stan Douglas: Doppelgänger | Until 14th March
A video artwork simultaneously depicting two alternate realities, as two astronauts set off at the same time from parallel worlds, and return to find everything reversed. Also displayed are some of the artist’s photographs from his Scenes from the Blackout series, imagining the individual response to a city-wide loss of electricity in NYC.
Address: 16 Wharf Road, N1 7RW | Opening Hours: Tue-Sat 10am-6pm | Entry: Free
The original hipster, Morris eschewed Victorian trends in favour of more “retro” Medieval vibes – before going on to propagate the socialist movement in Britain and then sow the seeds of fantasy literature by translating Icelandic epic poetry. His life was as intricate and interconnected as his infamous wallpaper designs, and this delightful museum celebrates every facet of his fascinating existence.
Kehinde Wiley: The Yellow Wallpaper | Until 25th May
You’ll recognise Wiley as the artist who painted Barack Obama’s portrait for the Smithsonian. And now he’s getting his own exhibition here, showcasing his vibrant series of paintings that work Morris’ iconic designs into vivid portraits of women he met on the streets of Dalston.
Address: Lloyd Park, Forest Road, E17 4PP | Opening Hours: Tues-Sun 10am-5pm | Entry: Free
Housed in a Victorian Methodist chapel-turned drama school-turned exhibition space, the Zabludowicz Collection is one of North London’s most varied contemporary art galleries. Driven by philanthropic endeavours, their aim is to bring emerging artists to a wide audience, and frequently commission works by rising talent around the globe. They’re also the first London gallery with a dedicated room for 360° VR artwork.
Hot With Excess | 12th – 27th March
A season of performative art, showcasing the intersection between live opera and contemporary art. Expect 24-hour film footage accompanied by live opera, debates, and newly commissioned pieces of music.
Address: 176 Prince of Wales Road, NW5 3PT | Opening Hours: Thurs-Sun 12-6pm | Entry: Free
SOUTH LONDON ART GALLERIES
An unusual little gem in Bermondsey, where work from emerging artists is displayed inside a whitewashed house, complete with fireplaces and radiators. Here you’ll find contemporary art at the cutting edge; from mixed-media portraits to site-specific installations.
Feeling For Murmuration | 6th-28th March
A seven-strong artists’ collective come together to convince us that maybe the world isn’t entirely doomed after all.
Address: 45 Grange Road, SE1 3BH | Opening Hours: Thurs-Sun 3-7pm | Entry: Free
The oldest public art gallery in England, this imposing Regency triumph stands proud in well-to-do Dulwich. Home to an impressive collection of historical works, this is a classic gallery experience. Expect Dutch paintings of cows on bridges, splendid nudity in reenactments of Greco Roman mythology, and a handful of Italian masters. READ MORE
British Surrealism | Until 17th May
Marion Adnams – L’infante égarée
Faceless mannequins, impossible landscapes and weird-looking figures – born out of postwar uncertainty, Surrealism was one of the most radical movements in British art. Here, the Dulwich Picture Gallery brings together over 100 pieces from big names and lesser-known artists in a setting that’s as eccentric as its subject.
Address: Gallery Road, SE21 7AD | Opening Hours: Tue-Sun 10am-5pm | Entry: £16.50/£8 (concessions)
Fashion & Textile Museum
A Bermondsey treasure specialising in contemporary fashion design, founded by the legendary Dame Zandra Rhodes. Rather than house a permanent collection, they stage exhibitions on particular designers, printmakers, or fashion periods and trends, gathering items from around the globe.
Out of the Blue: Fifty Years of Designers’ Guild | Until 14th June
One of the UK’s most influential home design companies gets its own dedicated retrospective, filled with rare archival prints and never-before-displayed artwork that demonstrates the changing tastes in interiors over the past five decades.
Address: 83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF | Opening Hours: Tue-Sat 11am-6pm (Thurs until 8pm), Sun 11am-5pm | Entry: £9.90/£7/£8.80 (students/concessions) – free for under 12s
Formaldehyde-bathed bovines and spin-painted pictures, sharks sliced in half, and a golden hooved calf, mountains of artwork all tied up with string, these are a few of Damien Hirst’s favourite things. As one of the richest living artists and most enthusiastic collectors, Hirst is no stranger to the contemporary scene and his personal collection, on show at the Newport Street Gallery, contains over 3,000 works from Bacon, Banksy, Emin and even Picasso.
Currently closed, first exhibition of 2020 TBA.
Address: Newport Street, SE11 6AJ | Opening Hours: Tue-Sun 10am-6pm | Entry: Free
Something in Greenwich Peninsula that isn’t the O2! NOW Gallery is, unsurprisingly, all about cutting-edge, contemporary art; but it’s also art that’s accessible and unpretentious, often taking the form of large-scale, walk-through installations.
Emmanuelle Moureaux: Slices of Time | Until 19th April
Stunning, kaleidoscopic installations of suspended numbers fill this exhibition, inspired by the nearby Meridian line (which sets our GMT time zone). Plus, you can contribute to the window display by adding your own significant dates. READ MORE
Address: The Gateway Pavilions, Peninsula Square, London SE10 0SQ | Opening Hours: Weekdays 10am-7pm, Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 11am-4pm | Entry: Free
Camberwell’s contemporary art gallery has always been at the forefront of the South London art scene. Originally the gallery of a local working men’s college, it has always sought to celebrate current artists. That trend continued and, in 1995, it was the first venue to showcase Emin’s infamous “tent”. Now spread across two listed buildings, the SLG houses a number of permanent exhibits with revolving temporary installations.
Sophie Cundale: The Near Room | 6th March – 19th April
Sophie Cundale – The Near Room (2020)
A fascinating new film by artist Sophie Cundale, in which a boxer recovering from a near-fatal knock-out finds his hallucinations entangled with a queen suffering from Cotard Delusion, a rare disorder that reproduces the sensation of death.
NOTE: The South London Gallery has taken the decision to close until further notice.
Address: 65-67 Peckham Road, SE5 8UH | Opening Hours: Tue 11am-6pm, Wed 11am-9pm, Thurs-Sun 11am-6pm | Entry: Free
Europe’s biggest commercial gallery has come under its fair share of criticism. Owned and run by an old Etonian and known for displaying works in a cold and clinical manner, it’s easy to see why. But representing the likes of Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, you can guarantee that the stars of British contemporary art will shine bright on any visit. The whitewashed walls, and strip lighting, can make it feel like a bit like a trip to the hospital (or asylum depending on your view of the work), but this institution of the ever fractious art scene is well worth a wander.
Cerith Wyn Evans: No Realm of Thought… No Field of Vision | Until 19th April
Cerith Wyn Evans: f-o-u-n-t-a-i-n, 2020
A series of beautiful, minimalist, monochromatic structures inspired by ‘transcendence, translation and temporality’. Also, more illuminated curtains of digits.
EAST / THE CITY GALLERIES
One of the city’s Brutalist icons, the Barbican isn’t just home to theatre, cinemas, concert halls (and an unexpected urban jungle). It also boasts a two-storey gallery space that has hosted exhibitions on everything from AI to Japanese architecture, and a retrospective of the radical street artist Basquiat. READ MORE
Masculinities: Liberation Through Photography | Until 17th May
Adi Nes – Soldiers, 1999
A sweeping investigation into the way photography has depicted, reinforced and challenged stereotypes of masculinity since the 1960s, touching on themes of patriarchy, queer identity and hypermasculinity.
Address: Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS | Opening Hours: Mon-Tues 12-6pm, Wed-Fri 12-9pm, Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 10am-6pm | Entry: Free/Exhibitions from £15
Sat inside a 1930s veneer factory, Chisenhale Gallery produces and commissions contemporary art in the heart of the East End. Its focus is on emerging and under-represented artists so expect the new and the different in this champion of the people.
Imran Perretta: the destructors | Until 15th March
A short film commissioned by the Chisenhale that explores the experience of young British Muslim men growing up in the wake of 9/11, and the sense of trust they are denied by the state.
Address: 64 Chisenhale Road, E3 5QZ | Opening Hours: Wed-Sun 12am-6pm | Entry: Free
Established in 1886 as ‘a collection of art treasures worthy of the capital city’, the Guildhall Gallery is exactly that – a sumptuous assembly of art that you’d expect the captains of industry from centuries past to have amassed. Big sexy frames, portraits of gentlemen with enormous wigs, and an impressive number of Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces are the mainstay of their throng which seeks to show off in telling the story of London town.
Currently permanent gallery only, The Enchanted Interior opens 13th March.
Address: Guildhall Yard, EC2V 5AE | Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12pm-4pm | Entry: Free
Paley was a bit of a pioneer in the contemporary art scene, being the first to exhibit in London’s East End. Now representing over 40 individuals, her gallery showcases their work and makes for a varied stroll through some of the UK’s most exciting and decorated contemporary artists. There are two Turner prize winners and even more nominees on show. Which should turn heads.
No current exhibitions.
Address: 21 Herald Street, London E2 6JT | Opening Hours: Wed-Sun 11am-6pm | Entry: Free
A gallery running frequent exhibitions – frequently running three displays at a time – it’s a beautifully minimalist space that plays host to all kinds of abstract and provocative contemporary art, supporting a roster of emerging sculptors, photographers and painters.
Tim Stoner: ‘Al-Andalus’ | Until 25th April
Vast, abstract paintings inspired by the landscape of Andalucía, where Stoner lives and works. He views his paintings as ‘palimpsests’ – works that he repeatedly returns to, partially destroys and remakes over several years. Which means that you can go around the gallery using the word ‘palimpsest’.
Address: 50 – 58 Vyner Street, E2 9DQ | Opening Hours: Wed-Sat 11am-6pm | Entry: Free
An eclectic East London venue dedicated to showcasing the work of local artists, and incubating new talent through residencies and workshops. Surrounded by artists’ studios, it’s set in an old 19th century convent, and has an excellent café for mulling over the exhibits with an Allpress coffee.
Haidée Drew: Rhythm | Until 29th March
A series of abstract sculptures and (literally) reflective artworks designed to inspire a sense of calm and presence as you observe, all inspired by ‘the day’s natural rhythm.’
Lightboxes & Lettering | Until 29th March
An exhibition celebrating the history of printing in the East End, with fascinating photographs, oral histories from print workers, and of course some beautiful handprinted posters, signs and leaflets.
Address: 181 Bow Road, E3 2SJ | Opening Hours: Tues-Sun, 10am-4pm | Entry: Free
Founded in 1901, this gallery set out to give great art to the masses. Since then it’s had some pretty impressive mates round for tea. Picasso’s Guernica popped by; Pollock, Hockney, and Lucian Freud all logged stays; and currently it displays a mix of modern and contemporary masters.
Radical Figures | Until 10th May
Michael Armitage – Kampala Suburb
Contemporary artists from around the world display their powerful paintings covering visceral, politically charged subject matter, from the migrant crisis to ‘polymorphous nudes’.
Address: 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, E1 7QX | Opening Hours: Tue-Sun 11am-6pm (9pm Thursdays) | Entry: Free
WEST LONDON ART GALLERIES
Nominated for European Museum of the Year in 2018, the Design Museum is, as you’d expect, very well put together. In the bustling cultural quarter of Kensington, its three floors and two basements serve up permanent exhibitions, learning centres, glass-walled design studios and temporary gallery spaces. The permanent gallery is the only one in the UK to be dedicated completely to contemporary design. READ MORE
Beazley Designs of the Year | Until 31st March
Award-winning works of design across the categories of fashion, furniture, architecture and more.
Address: 224-238 Kensington High Street, W8 6AG | Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 10am-6pm | Entry: Free/~£16 temporary exhibitions
Street art off the street is the focus of this gritty and urban gallery. Derived from the Italian to scratch, this ancient form of expression has taken on a new lease of life in our modern times. Whether it’s a growing art form or just an aberration on our city streets, it certainly packs a punch and this collection gives you a vast overview of the city’s strongest pieces – without ever making you step outside.
WHAT’S ON: Currently main gallery only.
Address: 284 Portobello Road, W10 5TE | Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 11am-6pm | Entry: Free
When a noted painter and lord of the realm commissions you to design his house, you’d better bring your A-game. Well, George Aitchison did just that and his creation is now a Grade II listed building, widely revered for its Orientalist and aesthetic interiors – and the home of the Leighton House Museum. The permanent gallery, predictably, contains numerous works from Leighton himself; so expect to cast your eye over lavish oil panoramas of Greek myths, lords and ladies, and ecclesiastical scenes. READ MORE
WHAT’S ON: Currently main gallery only.
Check out talks, events and workshops HERE.
Address: 12 Holland Park Road, W14 8LZ | Opening Hours: Weekends 10am-5:30pm | Entry: £9/£7 (Concessions)
A controversial centre headed by a controversial curator, the Saatchi Gallery has always sought to challenge. Thankfully, viewing its collection is no such thing – it’s the only completely free contemporary art gallery of its size in the world. Its guiding principle has always been to operate as the quirkier B-side to places like the Tate Modern – so expect to find new and unknown works from artists all hoping to be the Hockney of tomorrow. READ MORE
Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh | Until 3rd May 2020
An opportunity to pore over 150 stunning objects from the boy king’s tomb, 60 of which are travelling outside of Egypt for the first time.
Address: Duke of York’s HQ, Kings Road, SW3 4RY | Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 10am-6pm | Entry: Free/Exhibitions from £24.50
These two contemporary galleries connect thanks to a snaking bridge that crests the Serpentine – hence the name. In celebration of their idyllic, Eden-esque setting, every summer the gallery commissions a temporary outdoor pavilion: this year’s honours go to Japanese architect Junya Ishigama who’s sculpted 61 tonnes ofCumbrian slate into a huge, wave-like roof.
Cao Fei: Blueprints | Until 17th May
The first solo UK show of artist Cao Fei, spanning new and existing works inspired by the march of technology and the hyper-urban landscapes of her native Beijing. Surreal and dystopian, her artwork spans video and photography to virtual and augmented reality, which you can experience in a model of her studio kitchen.
Address: Kensington Gardens, W2 3XA | Opening Hours: Tues-Sun 10am-6pm | Entry: Free
Like the Queen whose name it bears, the V&A is imposing, vast, and spans decades. With 145 galleries and over 5,000 years of art in its collection, it really is an encyclopaedia of design. Since its inception in 1852, the museum has always adopted a policy of “wide art”; attempting to inspire, dazzle, and entertain with its eclectic collection. Today is no different and you can travel the world and back without ever leaving the building (except to look at the courtyard). READ MORE
Tim Walker: Wonderful Things | Until 8th March
Vibrant, surreal and deeply creative images from the renowned fashion photographer, alongside new commissions inspired by the V&A’s permanent collection.
Cars: Accelerating The Modern World | Until 19th April
Cars. Lots of cars: beautiful, streamlined numbers from the 30s, to imagined cars of the future, and the various impacts of driving on humans, cities, and the planet.
Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk | Until 21st June
A stunning exhibition celebrating the kimono, where you’ll see beautiful hand-stitched garments from Japan’s Edo Period alongside the many contemporary garments it’s influenced, from catwalk designs to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s costume in Star Wars.
Address: Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL | Opening Hours: Sat-Thurs 10am-5:45pm, Fri 10am-10pm | Entry: Free / Exhibitions from £12
Looking for more inspiration? Peruse our recommendations of the best things to do in London