London Exhibitions Guide 2022 | Last Updated 26.1.22
Rumour has it you’re keen to get out of the house.
Well, fortunately – given that you happen to live in the cultural capital of the world – you currently have many excellent excuses to do just that, chief amongst them being a ton of excellent museum exhibitions showcasing jewellery from a shipwreck, Peruvian warrior pots and vintage yoga films.
Not all in the same place, obviously.
Of course, you can also see the permanent collections at most of these museums for free – take a look at our guide to the best museums in London, or for something a little different, the most unusual museums in London.
LAST CHANCE TO SEE:
Hokusai: The Great Picture Book of Everything | British Museum
Katsushika Hokusai is one of Japan’s best-known artists, famous for his woodblock print Under the Wave off Kanagawa, a.k.a The Great Wave. But what you might not know is that he also drew… everything. Recently a haul of 103 long-forgotten drawings were rediscovered, which he had made for a book called ‘The Great Picture Book of Everything’. For some reason, it never got published, meaning that the drawings were preserved instead of destroyed during the process of woodblock crafting – and now you can see them in the flesh.
Details: Hokusai: The Great Picture Book of Everything runs at the British Museum (closest tube station Russell Square) until 30th January 2022. Tickets cost from £9, and can be booked here.
America in Crisis | Saatchi Gallery
The latest exhibition to drop at the Saatchi Gallery brings together a staggering 120 different works by 40 photographers to chart social change in America in the late 60s, and today. It’s named after a Magnum Photos project from 1969, seeking to document the forces and movements in the preceding years that had led up to Nixon’s election. Their photographs are presented here in dialogue with snaps taken five decades later, addressing still-relevant themes of racial inequality, poverty and polarisation. It all winds up with an interactive installation exploring ‘contemporary image consumption’, mimicking a giant news feed. Ironically, you’re probably going to want to instagram it.
Details: America in Crisis is on at the Saatchi Gallery until 3rd April. Tickets cost £5/8, and you can book HERE.
Francis Bacon: Man and Beast | The Royal Academy of Arts
Francis Bacon thought we were nothing but animals. And after walking round the RA’s latest exhibition, you might be inclined to agree. His bodies are twisted and contorted with raw, primal instinct, juxtaposed with the trappings of civilised society. It’s haunting, untamed, and totally compelling… READ MORE
Details: Francis Bacon: Man and Beast runs at the Royal Academy from 29th January – 17th April. Tickets cost £22-24.50, and you can book HERE.
The Museum of Youth Culture Pop Up | Shaftesbury Avenue
© Museum of Youth Culture
In a couple of years, the Museum of Youth Culture will grow up and get a place of its own. But in the meantime, it’s crashing at other venues – and this month it’s popping up on Shaftesbury Avenue. You’ll be able to pore over old photos and souvenirs of youth movements, from 60’s mods to 80’s punk and the 90’s rave scene. There’ll also be a load of unusual and retro gifts on sale in their Subculture Bookstore, as well as a programme of speakers and events set to take place over the next three months.
Details: The Museum of Youth Culture is popping up at 154-156 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2H 8HL until around February 2022. Entry is free, and you can just turn up – find out more HERE.
Helen Levitt: In The Street | The Photographers’ Gallery
This retrospective will give you a fascinating glimpse into life on the streets of New York over a fifty year period, through the candid portraiture and artistic eye of Helen Levitt. She spent her life documenting the communities of Spanish Harlem, The Bronx and the Lower East Side, and the pictures here are absolutely captivating.
Details: Helen Levitt: In The Street is showing at The Photographers’ Gallery until 13th February 2022. Tickets are included with admission (£5) – you can book ahead here.
Peru: A Journey in Time | British Museum
Spanning from antiquity up to the conquistadors of the 16th century, this exhibition delves into ancient Andean civilizations – not just the Incas, but the Nasca and Chavín people too – and their mysterious, fascinating cultures. You’ll learn of folkloric art and instruments, battles, human sacrifice and the conquering power of the Incas, all underscored by hallucinogenic-driven ritual.
Details: Peru: A Journey in Time runs at the British Museum (closest tube station Russell Square) until 20th February 2022. Tickets cost £15-20, which you can book here.
On Happiness | The Wellcome Collection | Euston
This should put a smile on your face: the Wellcome Institute’s staging a pair of exhibitions focussed on Joy and Tranquillity. They’ve brought together artists, neuroscientists, philosophers and spiritualists to share installations, objects and ideas, amongst which you’ll find vintage projections of yoga practice; a 15th century medical handbook linking the body and the cosmos; and a stunning Sri Lankan print of Buddha on the path to enlightenment.
Details: On Happiness is showing at the Wellcome Collection until 27th February 2022. It’s completely free to view, but you’ll need to book ahead.
Beano: The Art of Breaking The Rules | Somerset House
You know an exhibition’s going to be good when it has an official shortbread partner.* But this celebration of the iconic kids’ comics has enough to commend itself regardless – you’ll be able to pore over original drawings and sketches from the Beano archives, read about its creation, and see new pieces from contemporary artists like Phyllida Barlow, Martin Creed, and Simeon Barclay created in response to the comic’s spirit of rebellion.
Details: The Beano exhibition runs at Somerset House until 6th March 2022. Tickets cost £16 and can be booked here.
Beautiful People | Fashion & Textile Museum
This one’s dedicated to the bright young things of the 60s and the psychedelic fashions of Chelsea’s counterculture boutiques. There’s about a hundred outfits on show – some of which were worn by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones – all showcased in recreations of classic stores like Biba, Dandie Fashions and Granny Takes A Trip.
Details: Beautiful People runs at the Fashion & Textile Museum in Bermondsey until 13th March 2022 (closed Sun/Mon). Tickets cost £12.65/£10.45/£11.55 (students/concessions) and can be booked here.
Zadok Ben-David: Natural Reserve | Kew Gardens
Want to know what’s so special about Zadok Ben-David’s art? Well, for starters, this isn’t a painting. It’s a mere fragment of his incredible new installation, comprising 17,000 etched and hand-painted 2D flower sculptures. You’ll find it, rather fittingly, at Kew Gardens, where you can admire 108,663 living plants afterwards.
Details: Natural Reserve runs at Kew Gardens until 27th March 2022. Entry is included with your tickets to Kew (£17.50), which you can book here.
Life Between Islands | Tate Britain
Denzil Forrester, Jah Shaka (1983)
The Tate Britain’s latest exhibition has opened to rave reviews. It looks back on the past 70 years of British-Caribbean art, showcasing works by around 50 artists across all kinds of media, from painting and sculpture to reportage photography, film and fashion. The result is a breathtaking survey of both the joyous and fraught experiences of Caribbean-descended communities in Britain.
Details: Life Between Islands runs at the Tate Britain (closest tube station Pimlico) until 3rd April 2022. Tickets cost £16, which you can book here.
Amy: Beyond The Stage | Design Museum
A tribute to the talent of the late singer and musician Amy Winehouse, with original outfits she wore on stage, handwritten lyrics, photographs, and her blue Daphne Fender Stratocaster guitar. READ MORE
Details: Amy: Beyond The Stage runs at The Design Museum until 10th April 2022. Tickets cost £14.50 and can be booked here.
Kehinde Wiley: The Prelude | National Gallery
Kehinde Wiley is best known for his portraits, placing people of colour in the settings or typical poses of Old Master paintings. Most famously, he painted Obama’s official presidential portrait for the Smithsonian (becoming the first Black artist to do so). For his latest work, however, he’s shifted his attentions to the tradition of landscape painting – and it’s all going on show for free at the National Gallery.
Details: Kehinde Wiley: The Prelude is at The National Gallery until 18th April 2022. Tickets are free; you can either just turn up or book an entry slot here.
Fabergé in London | V&A Museum
The Russian goldsmith Carl Fabergé really cracked the world of luxury crafts. His famous eggs are just one part of what he created, and here you can see luxurious cigar boxes, jewellery and trinkets, whose world renown meant the firm were able to open a London branch in 1903.
Details: Fabergé in London runs at the V&A until 8th May 2022. Tickets cost £18 and can be booked here.
Kurdistan in the 1940s | Courtauld Gallery
Some 42,000 prints and negatives taken by the photographer Anthony Kersting were bequeathed to the Courtauld on his death in 2008. You won’t be able to see them all here, but you will find a fascinating collection of images taken on his travels throughout the Middle East in the 1940s and 50s, where he set out to make a record of the buildings and people of the region.
Details: Kurdistan in the 1940s is showing at the Courtauld Gallery until 30th May 2022. Tickets are included in admission to the Courtauld, which costs £9-13 – you can book here.
Our Broken Planet: How We Got Here and Ways to Fix It | Natural History Museum
This free display showcases the myriad ways humans have managed to trash the planet, from mowing down down rainforests to feed our sugar addiction, to mining lithium for our phone batteries. Be prepared to walk out feeling like everything you’re wearing, eating and carrying is somehow damaging the environment. But it’s not all doom and gloom – you’ll also see loads of inspirational examples of how scientists around the world are working together to fix our mistakes. READ MORE
Details: Our Broken Planet runs at the Natural History Museum (closest tube station South Kensington) until summer 2022. It’s free to visit, but you’ll need to book a timed entry ticket here.
While you’re there…
Wildlife Photographer of the Year
The Natural History Museum’s 57th annual exhibition of photographed fauna boasts 100 incredible images capturing wildlife across the globe. The shots this year emphasise the pressures we’re putting on the natural world, and the steps we need to take to protect it – and also that spiders are creepy AF.
Details: Wildlife Photographer of the Year runs at the Natural History Museum until 5th June 2022. Tickets cost £15.50 and can be booked here.
Our Future Planet | Science Museum
Many of the world’s scientists aren’t thinking about slowing, or even stopping climate change – they’re thinking about reversing it. This exhibition is an exploration of the science of Carbon Capture and how agriculture, technology, and plain old trees can help. You’ll see everything from ‘air vodka’ made from sequestered carbon, to CO2-sucking mechanical trees…
Details: Our Future Planet is on at the Science Museum until September 2022. It’s completely free, but you must pre-book your entry to the museum itself, which you can do here.
The 1920s: Beyond the Roar | National Archives
It’s almost impossible to imagine how things might have been 100 years ago. Just look at this photograph. So the National Archives – a vast repository of old photographs, forms, letters, and other intriguing artefacts – has put together a huge exhibition themed around the 1920s. They’re hoping to shed light on what life was like for ordinary people, as well as some of the era’s most dramatic social and political movements, with lonely hearts ads on display alongside international peace treaties. And to keep things modern, they’ve made it somewhat immersive, with the exhibition set in a life-sized recreation of a typical 20s street, winding up in Soho’s famous night club, The 43.
Details: The 1920s: Beyond the Roar is on display at The National Archives in Kew for the foreseeable future. Admission is free, just turn up.
Titanic: The Exhibition | Dock X London, Canada Water
This Titanic exhibition is… well, pretty big. It sets out to bring you the human stories behind that ill-fated maiden voyage, with over 200 objects on display, from handwritten letters to personal belongings salvaged from the shipwreck. There are photographs projected onto the walls to set the scene, as well as full-sized recreated sets of first class suites and steerage cabins. As a touring exhibition, there isn’t much information in print – it’s mainly delivered through the free audioguides, which can occasionally get a little schmaltzy with the film’s soundtrack swelling in the background. For the most part though, it’s an illuminating and affecting look at the tragedy.
Details: Titanic: The Exhibition is at Dock X London (closest tube station Canada Water) for the foreseeable future. Tickets start at £22.90, which you can book here.
Main image: Hokusai at the British Museum
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