London Exhibitions Guide 2023
They’re always making an exhibition of themselves.
And in London we’re lucky to have an amazing array of museums and art galleries staging an ever-evolving roster of retrospectives, new commissions and fascinating deep dives into the world of art, history, and sometimes both at the same time…
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:
Seeing Auschwitz | South Kensington
Seeing Auchwitz attempts to see the horrors of the world’s most infamous concentration camp from all perspectives – the victims, the perpetrators, and the liberators – via over 100 original images captured by all those involved. The idea is not only to gain some insight into the evil that was allowed to flourish there, but also into the utterly extraordinary humanity and resilience that shone through despite it all. It been co-curated by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, and part of the revenue will go towards supporting them in turn.
Details: Seeing Auschwitz is currently on until 29th January, at a temporary space in South Kensington. Tickets start at £10 for adults, and can be purchased here.
Beyond The Streets | Saatchi Gallery
The writing has been on the wall for some time now.
Graffiti is an art-form.
And it’s an art form that’s long been eschewed by the art gallery crowd, mostly because art galleries tend to be indoors. But now, the most creative form of vandalism is getting its very own indoor art show, thanks to BEYOND THE STREETS, which will be by far the most comprehensive street art exhibition to ever open in the UK…
Details: BEYOND THE STREETS will run from February 17th to May 9th 2023 at The Saatchi Gallery. Tickets are available right now (from £15) at the website right here.
In Plain Sight | The Wellcome Collection
Sight is the king of the senses. It’s the one that we shape our culture around, and it’s the one that we collectively seem to value the most. But is that entirely justified? Well, the Wellcome Collection seems to think it’s a question worth asking. Through four themes – symbolism of the eye, bias in visual perception, eyewear and identity, and the interconnection between senses – you’ll get to see how our understanding of the world is shaped through historical and contemporary artworks and objects. Featuring works by artists like Alexandra Zsigmond and Fayen d’Evie, this exhibition will take you back to the 1600s and forward to the future.
Details: In Plain Sight is on at The Wellcome Collection until February 12th, and is completely free. You can find out more right here.
LuYang NetiNeti | Zabludowicz Collection
Mutlimedia artist LuYang grew up on a diet of anime, videogames and sci-fi, and now he’s pouring all of that neon-hued techno-culture into his first UK show. You’ll find it in Chalk Farm, and it involves a roomful of weirdly surreal games arcades, a giant yin yang, and some CGI avatars… but it’s more than that. The show explores the implications of identity that videogames have on the average player, who is now free to choose their own face, name, and even gander…
Details: LuYang NetiNeti is showing at the Zabludowicz Collection in Chalk Farm until 12 February 2023. Admission is completely free. You can find out more here.
Making Modernism | Royal Academy of Arts
Making Modernism is the first major UK exhibition dedicated to the pioneering women of early 1900s Germany: Paula Modersohn-Becker, Käthe Kollwitz, Gabriele Münter, and Marianne Werefkin. They might not have been as well known as their male contemporaries (everyone’s heard of Kandinsky), but they were no less impactful in their native countries, and on the art world at large. The exhibition highlights the individuality of each artist while also exploring the strong affinities between them, through the showing of 65 impressive, bold, and intimately-scaled works.
Details: Making Modernism is on at the Royal Academy of Arts until February 12th, 2023. Tickets cost £17 (or £15 without a donation) and you can find out more here.
Dan Flavin: colored fluorescent light | David Zwirner Gallery
Dan Flavin, quite literally, had bright & shining career as an artist. He made sculptures & installations out of fluorescent bulbs, although he called them ‘situations’. Not to be weird and arty, but rather because he considered the lights to be only part of the piece – each one would light up a three dimensional space in a unique way, and bring the room itself into the artwork. Thus, no two exhibits and no two shows would ever be the same. And the David Zwirner Gallery is now proving it with its own unique showcase of his work. It’s got two floors-worth of colourful neon drawn from Flavin’s 1976 shows at New York’s Leo Castelli Gallery & Cologne’s Galerie Heiner Friedrich, and it’s quite mesmerising…
Details: Dan Flavin: colored fluorescent light is showing at the David Zwirner Gallery until February 18th 2023, and is completely free. You can find out more at the website right here.
Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt | The British Museum
Egyptian hieroglyphs were, in many ways, the world’s first emojis. Of course, in many more ways they were not. At all. But it’s still nevertheless a fascinating journey to see the path of pictoral language as it developed in Ancient Egypt, then how we both lost & regained the ability to read it over the course of centuries. You’ll see over 240 artifacts, including those crucial in deciphering the language of the Egyptians – and yes, they have the bad boy of them all, the Rosetta Stone.
Details: Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt is showing at The British Museum until February 19th 2023. You can find out more, and get ticket (£18) right here.
The Horror Show! A Twisted Tale of Modern Britain | Somerset House
David Shrigley – I’m Dead, 2007. © David Shrigley
Modern politics is often described as one kind of show or another… but this new exhibition at Somerset House is focused on horror – that is, how artists have responded to themes and incidents in modern Britain (from the 2008 financial crash to the gradual atomisation of society) with creative rebellion. Expect taxidermied cats, heads made of cake, and more…
Details: The Horror Show! runs at Somerset House until 19th February 2023. Tickets cost £16.50; you can book here.
Chris Killip, retrospective | The Photographer’s Gallery
Bever, Skinningrove, N. Yorkshire, 1983 © Chris Killip Photography Trust/Magnum Photos
Chris Killip became Harvard university’s imagery professor for two decades after having immersed himself into the underclasses of the North East of England, and emerging with one of the finest, most moving, striking, and bold collections of modern photography on earth. This show takes it all in, and it’s utterly gorgeous.
Details: Chris Killip’s retrospective is on at the Photographer’s Gallery until the 19th February 2023. You can find out more, and get a ticket (£8) at the site right here.
Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today | The Design Museum
© Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí.
‘Keep it real’ would have been terrible advice for Salvador Dali.
But as the century’s most influential surrealist, the Design Museum are most certainly keeping it real, and including a great deal of his designs in their new exhibition on the mind-bending art movement. You’ll also see objects from the likes of classic artists including Dora Maar, Man Ray, and Lee Miller, all the way through to contemporary artists and designs, such as Schiaparelli, Dior, Björk.
Details: Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today runs at the Design Museum until 19th February 2023. Tickets cost £16.80 and area available here.
Japan: Courts and Culture | Queen’s Gallery
Copyright: The Queen’s Gallery
Relations between Japan and England have had their ups and downs over the centuries, but the royal families have apparently been quite genial to each other the entire time – so now The Royal Collection is presenting highlights from its outstanding collection of Japanese art and design for the first time in an exhibition exploring 300 years of diplomatic, artistic, and cultural exchange between the British and Japanese royals. See rare porcelain and lacquer pieces, samurai armor, embroidered screens, and diplomatic gifts from James I to Queen Elizabeth II.
Details: Japan: Courts and Culture is showing at the Queen’s Gallery until February 26th 2023. Tickets cost £17, and you can find out more right here
Pip & Pop | Kew Gardens
To say Pip & Pop – a.k.a. award-winning Aussie artist Tanya Schultz – likes colour is an understatement. For the next ten months, she’s filling an exhibition space at Kew Gardens with her mind-meltingly psychedelic ‘fantasy food landscapes’, filled with rainbow hues, pompoms and glitter…
Details: Pip & Pop’s display is part of Food Forever at Kew Gardens, open until 5th March 2023. Entry is included with admission to Kew (£15), and you can book here.
M.K. Čiurlionis: Between Worlds | Dulwich Picture Gallery
Widely regarded as Lithuania’s greatest artist, Čiurlionis painted an insane number of ethereal images in his short career at the turn of the century, and many of them are on show here in the UK for the first time. Spanning mythology and reality, they’re regarded as major precursors to the European abstract movement.
Details: M. K. Čiurlionis is on show at Dulwich Picture Gallery until 12th March 2023. Tickets cost £16.50, and you can book HERE.
Cezanne | Tate Modern
“Painting from nature is not copying the object; it is realizing one’s sensations.” Paul Cezanne was amongst the first painters to actively try to paint what he felt rather than what he saw. And that made him a modern artist, which is why he’s got a new show at The Tate Modern. It’s a show dedicated to the majesty of everyday life, in which a simple apple or an orange can evoke feelings considerably more intense than any real fruit ought to be able to convey. “With an apple, I will astonish Paris” he said. And he did.
Details: Cezanne is on display at Tate Modern until 12th March 2023. Tickets cost £22, and can be booked HERE.
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Rooms | Tate Modern
The Tate Modern is celebrating its 20th birthday with a two-year exhibition dedicated to Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, known for her obsessive fascination with, er, polka dots. The exhibition includes two of Kusama’s world famous Infinity Rooms: The Chandelier of Grief is a mirrored room filled with rotating chandeliers that give the feeling of being in a vast, glittering universe, and The Infinity Mirrored Room is filled with hundreds of colored LEDs that create a feeling of floating in a boundless stretch of star-studded space.
Details: Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Rooms is showing at the Tate Modern until April 2nd 2023. Tickets (£10) are hard to come by, so you’ll need to keep a hawk-like eye on the site right here, or sign up for ticket notifications here.
Weird Sensation Feels Good | Design Museum
It may help to imagine reading the following in a very breathy, intimate voice punctuated by chewing gum: The Design Museum is about to host an exhibition all about ASMR, with acoustic installations set up in a huge, comforting space. There’ll be contributions by classic ASMR creators like HairCut Harry, as well as big names like Björk, Bob Ross, and, er – Ikea.
Details: Weird Sensation Feels Good runs at the Design Museum until 10th April 2023. Tickets cost £10.50-12, and you can book HERE.
Executions | Museum of London Docklands
The Museum of London Docklands latest exhibition is particularly well executed. Sorry, gallows humour. It explores the 700 year history of public executions in our fair city – from 1196 to 1868, London was the centre of capital punishment in the country. Explore the tragic stories of those involved and see artifacts such as King Charles I’s execution vest and Elizabeth Fry’s personal belongings. And you’ll even get to step through the doors of the infamous Newgate prison, and read the emotional final letters of those who lost their lives for their crimes. It’s hanging around until April.
Details: Executions is showing at the Museum of London Docklands until April 16th. Tickets cost £16 and are available right here.
Maria Bartuszová | Tate Modern
The innovative Slovak artist revolutionised sculpture with her approach of hand-made plaster casting, using balloons to create natural-looking forms resembling nests, hives and bubbles. Which is lovely to look at – though people must have felt like walking on eggshells in her studio.
Details: Maria Bartuszová is on display at Tate Modern until 16th April 2023. Tickets cost £16, and can be booked HERE.
Africa Fashion | The V&A
Over at the V&A, it’s African fashion under the spotlight as photographs, designs and jaw-dropping garms go on display. Drawn from across the continent, they range from Moroccan avant-garde haute couture to century-old textiles and revived traditional dress, giving a whistlestop overview of the varied and wide-reaching influence on fashions around the world.
Details: Africa Fashion runs at the V&A until 16th April 2023. Tickets cost £16 and can be booked here.
Magdalena Abakanowicz: Every Tangle of Thread and Rope | Tate Modern
Magdalena Abakanowicz Abakan Red 1969 Tate Presented anonymously 2009 © Fundacja Marty Magdaleny Abakanowicz Kosmowskiej i Jana Kosmowskiego
Magdalena Abakanowicz is a sculptor who worked in a rather unique medium: wool. And not only are they made from thread, they’re huge. Like, twenty or thirty feet high, huge. She created them in 1950s, 60s, and 70s Poland, at a time when communism reigned, and when free speech – even in the form of woven statues – was not particularly well-tolerated. Well, the Tate Modern’s new exhibition shows off all the imposingly large textile delights you could ask for…
Details: Magdalena Abakanowicz: Every Tangle of Thread and Rope is showing at the Tate Modern until 21st May 2023. You can find out more and book tickets (£16) right here.
Science Fiction: Voyage to the Edge of Imagination | Science Museum
The Science Museum just launched the most ambitious show in their long and storied history. So naturally, we went to take a look. And what we found was a long way off the old ‘stand around and stare at stuff’ type exhibition, and more like a ‘step aboard a spaceship’ type exhibition. You’ll get to see props from movies, and then see how those films inspired real-world scientific ideas, which then, in turn, inspired more inventive sci-fi…
Details: Science Fiction: Voyage to the Edge of Imagination is showing at The Science Museum until 24th May 2023. Adult tickets cost £20 and are available here.
Hallyu! The Korean Wave | V&A
This blockbuster exhibition attempts to condense some of the vast cultural output of South Korea from the last seven decades into one show, and explore why K-Pop, K-Beauty and K-dystopian TV series have such global appeal. And it does a pretty good job of such a colossal task, with outfits worn by BTS and costumes from Squid Game, high-fashion interpretations of the traditional hanbok, dazzling sculptures, film clips, and more.
Details: Hallyu! The Korean Wave is on at the V&A until 25th June 2023. Tickets cost £20, and you can book HERE.
Yinka Ilori: Parables For Happiness | Design Museum
Even if you’ve not seen his name attached to it, you’ve probably already seen Yinka Ilori’s art. The British-Nigerian artist has been responsible for injecting joy into all kinds of public spaces over the past few years – from street crossings and pavements to laundrettes made out of Lego – and this free display at the Design Museum explores why his bold, colourful style is so irresistible, and the process behind his work, with over 100 vibrant exhibits to check out.
Details: Yinka Ilori: Parables For Happiness is on display at the Design Museum until 25th June 2023. It’s free, just turn up.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year | Natural History Museum
Treefrog pool party by Brandon Güell
It seems like the last year was enough to cause the world’s wildlife photographers to snap. And the best of those snaps will be on show at the World Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards. Now in its 58th year (!), the judges have trawled through tens of thousands of entries from 100+ countries before landing on the winning images, which will be displayed on special lightboxes (alongside dozens of runner-up shots) throughout the Natural History Museum’s gallery when the show opens this month…
Details: Wildlife Photographer of the Year is showing at The Natural History Museum until 2nd July 2023. Tickets are £17, and you can get them here.
Taking Care of Business | The Migration Museum
The Migration Museum’s latest exhibition shines a light on how migrant entrepreneurs have shaped the UK and created iconic brands and products, from Soreen fruit loaf to Morley’s chicken. They’ve recreated an entire high street inside, where you can hear the personal stories behind the household names. Don’t forget to exit through the gift shop – it takes the form of a pop-up marketplace for local businesses with migrant roots.
Details: Taking Care of Business runs at The Migration Museum in Lewisham for the near future. Admission is free; just turn up.
Like culture? Like being indoors? Check out our guide to the best films showing now.
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