© Yinka Shonibare CBE


Hattie Lloyd 15/04/24

The 27 Best London Exhibitions Right Now

The Best Exhibitions In London | April 2024

London is full of exhibitionists.

In fact, we have some of the finest in the world.

And right now, they’re doing what they do best: showcasing some utterly fascinating topics at the amazing array of museums and art galleries in London. Currently, you can see everything from work by the legendary Yoko Ono to painted Edwardians with exceptional style; the latest generation of artists from the African diaspora; neon rollercoasters; Victorian photography and the closest you can (currently) get to landing on the moon’s surface

But first, one to book ahead…

Anthony McCall: Solid Light | Tate Modern

anthony mccall exhibition

Face To Face. Photo by Jason Wyche

Anthony McCall was making three-dimensional art with light and tech waaay before immersive exhibitions became ‘a thing’. So this upcoming exhibition at Tate Modern is a chance to see the master at work, with installations from the 1970s up to the modern day on show. Each creates a kind of sculpture in thin air using beams of light, and they all shift and morph depending on how viewers interact with them. And after the insane popularity of the Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms at the gallery, this has ‘sell-out show’ written all over it…

Details: Anthony McCall: Solid Light opens at Tate Modern on 27th June. Tickets cost £10, and you can book here.



1) When Forms Come Alive | Hayward Gallery

The latest show at the Hayward Gallery is a teeming, bubbling collection of sculptures where artists have wrangled cold and rigid materials into breathing, organic forms. There are sheets of scaffolding ejecting plumes of foam, neon rollercoasters, and Tara Donovan’s enormous spheres that seem to be self-replicating and about to froth over. It’s fun, and doesn’t feel like it’s trying to impose any kind of complex artistic narrative – like the artwork, it just goes with the flow.

Details: When Forms Come Alive runs at the Hayward Gallery until 6th May. Tickets cost £18; you can book here.

2) Suspended States | Serpentine Galleries

yinka shonibare exhibition london

© Yinka Shonibare CBE

This highly anticipated exhibition is the first solo London show from artist Yinka Shonibare CBE in over 20 years – so it’s fair to say that Suspended States has already created a heavy dose of suspense. Expect large-scale installations, quilts, hand-painted sculptures and more, all probing Britain’s colonial history and the influence of African art on global culture.

Details: Suspended States is on at the Serpentine South Gallery until 1st September. Entry is free – find out more here.

3) Sargent and Fashion | Tate Britain

Pulling in both 1* and 5* reviews from the broadsheets, this could be the most divisive exhibition in London right now. Yes, there are issues with the staging of this show – the lighting, the quotes, even the carefully sourced historical clothing paired with the paintings frequently get in the way of the main event: Sargent’s arresting, dynamically rendered portraits. But if you’re in the mood to meet some charismatic painted characters (whether you agree that their clothing is the focus or not), this is a rare opportunity to soak up Sargent’s figurative work, with several high-profile pieces loaned from galleries abroad.

Details: Sargent and Fashion runs at Tate Britain until 7th July. Tickets cost £22 (or £5 for 16-25 year olds signed up to Tate Collective) – you can book here.

4) Fashion City | Museum of London Docklands

fashion city exhibition

© Rowland, Nigel, and Michael Gee

This beautifully-staged exhibition traces the history of Jewish fashion design in the 20th century, from the tailor’s shops of the East End to the boutiques of Carnaby Street in the swinging 60s. There’s glamour in the coat designed for Princess Diana by David Sassoon and the psychedelic styles of Mr Fish (who dressed the likes of Bowie and Hendrix), but you’ll also hear about the thousands of seamstresses and makers who put together styles for high street shops like M&S and Moss Bros.

Details: The Fashion City exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands has been extended until 7th July 2024. Tickets cost £13+, and you can get them here.

5) ‘Some May Work as Symbols’ | Raven Row

Art in Brazil went through some radical changes in the mid 20th century, when Modernism came swaggering in and basically told everyone that it was in charge now. The artworks that came out of that seismic shift were quite spectacular, and they’re on show here. There’s abstract geometry, Afro-Brazilian symbology, concrete figuration, you name it, it’s on the walls at Raven Row, and it’s beautiful.

Details: ‘Some May Work as Symbols’ is showing at Raven Row until 5th May 2024. It’s free, and there are no tickets. You can find out more right here.

6) Entangled Pasts, 1768 – Now | The Royal Academy

Entangled Pasts

The idea behind this exhibition is simple – typing the past of colonialism to the present. Thus you’ll see Empire-era works from the likes of J.M.W. Turner and Joshua Reynolds juxtaposed with those of modern artists who hail from the African, Caribbean and South Asian diasporas, including Lubaina Himid and Issac Julien. There are over 100 works on show in total, from classical paintings to immersive video installations, photography, and floating armadas of sculpted boats.

Details: Entangled Pasts, 1768 – Now is showing at The Royal Academy until 28th April. Tickets cost £22 and are available right here.

7) Tropical Modernism | The V&A

Tropical Modernism emerged in the mid-20th century from West Africa, spreading across colonial & post-colonial tropics, particularly in countries like Sri Lanka, Brazil, and parts of Africa. Its history is a story of adaptation and innovation, rooted in the quest to create buildings that are both modern and responsive to the unique environmental challenges and cultural contexts of the tropics. Heat, history, and style all combine to create this unique & beautiful art form, and this show at the V&A has absolutely done it justice…

Details: Tropical Modernism is showing at the V&A until 22nd September 2024. Tickets cost £14, and you can get them here.

8) The Time is Always Now: Artists Reframe The Black Figure | National Portrait Gallery

the time is always now exhibition

The Marchioness – Toyin Ojih Odutola, 2016

Following his 2022 blockbuster at the Hayward, In The Black Fantastic, Ekow Eshun has curated another stellar survey of contemporary Black art, this time honing in on the way Black lives are depicted in figurative sculpture and portraiture. There are artists who make the everyday monumental, like Thomas J Price’s bronze, athleisure-clad statue of a woman paused in thought. There are artists who redress historic imbalances by cleverly referencing and inverting Western art traditions, like the graphite portraits of Barbara Walker in which Black figures now take centre stage, the white figures fading out of view as embossed outlines. And there are those who take experimental approaches, like the dynamic, morphing portraits of Nathaniel Mary Quinn. Each featured artist has something different, and deeply personal, to say – it’s a captivating show from start to finish.

Details: The Time Is Always Now is on at the National Portrait Gallery until 19th May. Tickets cost £16-18 and can be booked here.

9) Pasquarosa: From Muse To Painter | Estorick Collection

Islington’s stylish Italian gallery is currently showcasing the influential work of Pasquarosa Marcelli, who was christened a “phenomenon” when she became one of the first Italian artists to exhibit solo in London, despite never having had any formal training. And if you feel like creating some phenomenal art yourself, they’re running monthly life drawing nights in the gallery itself.

Details: Pasquarosa: From Muse to Painter runs at the Estorick Collection until 28th April. Entry costs £7.50.

10) Nick Waplington: ‘Living Room’ | Hamiltons Gallery

Nick Waplington is a bit like an anti-Martin Parr. He’s a photographer who captures raw, unfiltered snapshots of British life in the ’90s, only he manages to bring out the beauty in its blend of gritty intimacy and chaotic colour. It may feel like a you’re engaging in voyeuristic poverty tourism on the way in, but you’ll feel strangely, pleasantly nostalgic on the way out.

Details: Nick Waplington: ‘Living Room’ is showing at Hamiltons Gallery until 25th May 2024. It’s free, and there are no tickets. You can find out more right here.

11) Francesca Woodman & Julia Margaret Cameron: Portraits to Dream in | National Portrait Gallery

Julia Margaret Cameron & Francesca Woodman may have been separated by thousands of miles and almost a century, but their works remain quite uncannily similar in both their influence and their form. Both of them were pioneering female photographers who captured soft-focus portraits that convey a sense of ethereal beauty and emotional depth. Both pushed technical boundaries in their work, both explored themes of femininity, self-perception, and both left an indelible mark on the medium’s history. And this show finally brings them together.

Details: Francesca Woodman & Julia Margaret Cameron: Portraits to Dream in is showing at the National Portrait Gallery until 16th June 2024. Tickets are £8.50, and you can get them right here.

12) Japan: Myths to Manga | The Young V&A

japan myths to manga exhibition

© David Parry. Courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Japan: Myths to Manga has set itself the fairly ambitious brief of exploring the influence of Japanese spiritual beliefs, traditions and folk stories on contemporary culture. And to do it, the team have brought together over 150 objects from the 15th century right up to the modern day. Being the Young V&A, the show’s mainly targeted at families – but with cult references like Studio Ghibli films, Tamagotchi, and the globally renowned artwork of Hokusai, there’s going to be more than enough for adults to pore over too…

Details: Japan: Myths to Manga runs at the the Young V&A until 8th September 2024. Tickets cost £10, and can be booked here.

13) Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art | Barbican Art Gallery

barbican exhibition unravel

Credit: Jo Underhill

The Barbican’s new group show shows how politics and social issues can be woven into art – quite literally. The pieces from the 50 or so artists exhibiting here are all bound together by their chosen material: fabric. In both large scale sculptures and modest, hand-crafted pieces, it’s used as a tool to explore repression, resilience and reformation – and it’s rightly been a hit with the critics.

Details: Unravel is on at the Barbican Art Gallery until 26th May. Tickets cost £18, but Thursday evenings (5-8pm) are Pay What You Can. You can find out more, and book, here.

14) BURTYNSKY: Extraction/Abstraction | Saatchi Gallery

saatchi gallery burtynsky exhibition

Credit: Matt Chung Photography

Edward Burtynsky’s work documenting the impact of human industry on nature was already ‘urgent’ when he started doing it over four decades ago. Now, it’s pretty much essential viewing. His large-scale, birds-eye photographs are seriously powerful: you’ll see the goldmines pouring cyanide into groundwater in South Africa; oil spills, quarries and farms rendered into abstract forms; and occasionally the workers they threaten with pollution, while providing them with a livelihood. For all the unease it brings, Burtynsky’s work is artistically awe-inspiring; all the more important for the messages it sends.

Details: BURTYNSKY: Extraction/Abstraction runs at the Saatchi Gallery until 6th May. Tickets start at £10 – you can book here.

15) Zineb Sedira: Dreams Have No Titles | Whitechapel Gallery

Credit: Thierry Bal

French-Algerian artist Zineb Sedira has recreated film sets as immersive installations, and it’s really quite magical. You’ll walk through the ballroom from 1983’s Le Bal, as well as the artist’s own living room in Brixton. And upstairs, she’s converted galleries into a full-scale cinema, where you can watch her video piece that features the sets as backdrops to her own performance.

Details: Zineb Sedira: Dreams Have No Titles runs at the Whitechapel Gallery until 12th May. Tickets cost £12.50, and can be booked here.

16) Frank Auerbach: ‘The Charcoal Heads’ | The Courtauld Gallery

The charcoal heads

Frank Auerbach escaped to England from Germany during WW2 after his parents were sent to a concentration camp, so it’s understandable that his work isn’t particularly bubbly and bright. Over the years, however, has has managed to channel that despair into something truly beautiful – assembled together as a group for the first time, his Charcoal Heads are works of survival & courage, and some of the sitters have their own artworks displayed next to their portraits here, too.

Details: Frank Auerbach: ‘The Charcoal Heads’ is showing at The Courtauld Gallery until the 27th of May. Tickets are £14 and you can book them right here.

17) Soulscapes | Dulwich Picture Gallery


The word ‘landscapes’ typically evokes visions of endless rolling hills, stoic castles, and scenes so dry it’s no surprise the paint is cracking. Not here. In Soulscapes, the Dulwich Picture Gallery is showcasing 30 inspiring works by artists from the African diaspora, across several media (painting, photography, textile, etc) from the likes of Issac Julien and Michael Armitage.

Details: Soulscapes is showing at the Dulwich Picture Gallery until 2nd June. Tickets are £17.50, and you can book them right here.

18) Skateboard | The Design Museum

skateboard exhibition at the design museum

© Felix Speller

Since its first boom period in the 1950s, skateboarding has really kicked off. And to acknowledge this, The Design Museum’s major exhibition, simply titled ‘Skateboard’, pays homage to how the boards – as objects of design – have grown out of their homemade-in-the-garage early days to high-tech performance models you get today, to keep the pace with what’s become a multibillion dollar industry and now a legitimate, properly-recognised sport.

Details: Skateboard runs until 2nd June at the Design Museum. Tickets cost £16 and can be booked here.

19) The Cult of Beauty | Wellcome Collection

cult of beauty exhibition

Juno Calypso – courtesy the artist, Cult of Beauty

They’ve tackled Milk, Sight, Air, and Joy, and now it’s time for the Wellcome to tackle another big hitter: Beauty. This vast exhibition corrals over 200 objects to explore how ideals of beauty have evolved over the centuries, and the lengths people will go to to attain them. There are 4,000 year old cosmetics palettes from Ancient Egypt and grim footage of modern-day facelifts, and the exhibits are absolutely fascinating – though there’s a definite subjectivity to the exhibition’s narrative, and not a lot of digging into why we buy into these bizarre notions. But the show’s proclaimed ambition is to provoke a dialogue, so bring a friend, discuss it afterwards… and hope it doesn’t turn ugly.

Details: The Cult of Beauty runs at the Wellcome Collection until 28th April. It’s free to visit; find out more here.

20) Wildlife Photographer of the Year | Natural History Museum

These guys shoot a lot of wild animals.

And the best of those shots are put onto the shortlist for The Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Natural History Museum. Now in its 59th 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 October.

Details: Wildlife Photographer of the Year runs until 30th June 2024 at the Natural History Museum. Tickets cost £15 and can be booked here.

21) Yoko Ono: Music Of The Mind | Tate Modern

Yoko Ono

For some people, putting the words ‘Yoko Ono’ and ‘music’ in the same sentence is not a pleasant notion. But the fact is that she’s responsible for some hugely impactful works over the decades (seven now), and the Tate have assembled more of them than we’ve ever seen in this country before. You’ll get to see over 200 of her most influential and celebrated pieces, spanning years from 1950 right through to the present, including pieces from the show where she met her future husband…

Details: Yoko Ono: Music Of The Mind is on at the Tate Modern until September 1st. Tickets cost £22 and you can get them right here.

22) The Biba Story, 1964-1975 | Fashion and Textile Museum

This hugely influential British fashion label started out as a mail order catalogue in 1963, and had blossomed into an entire lifestyle brand by the time ‘Big Biba’ closed in 1975. The Fashion and Textile museum’s dazzling exhibition brings together multiple wardrobes’ worth of clothes to swoon over, as well as designs, photographs, archive footage and other curios collected by the founder herself, Barbara Hulanicki.

Details: The Biba Story runs at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey until 8th September. Tickets cost £12.65, and you can book here.

23) Ranjani Shettar | Barbican Conservatory

Hidden amongst the brutalist Barbican Centre and estate, the Barbican conservatory is a glass-bound rainforest boasting over 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees, several exotic fish, and the works of one Indian sculptor. Because right now it’s host to installations from Ranjani Shettar, who has filled the space with her signature large-scale suspended sculptures. And you can even see them after hours in special late-night openings on weekends.

Details: Ranjani Shettar’s work is on show in the Barbican Conservatory until 5th May. Tickets are free, but you’ll need to book ahead here.

24) The Moonwalkers | Lightroom

moonwalkers exhibition

The Moonwalkers exhibition is out of this world. Really. It’s essentially like walking into a documentary, with vintage footage from the first moon landings and panoramic snaps of the lunar surface drenching the four storey-high, state-of-the-art gallery space where every surface is a screen. And then there’s the fact that it’s narrated – quite appropriately – by a star named Tom Hanks…

Details: The Moonwalkers runs until 13th October at Lightroom, King’s Cross. Tickets cost £25 and can be booked here.

25) Women Of The RNLI | National Maritime Museum

© Jack Lowe / National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is putting on a free exhibition showcasing the vital roles women play in the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. The show features not just striking portrait photography (using an old fashioned ‘ambrotype’ camera from the 1850s), but also film and personal testimony too. Just remember, no buoys allowed…

Details: Women Of The RNLI is showing at the National Maritime Museum until 1st December 2024. It’s completely free, and you can find out more here.

Like culture? Like being indoors? Check out our guide to London’s best cinemas.