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The Best UK Art Exhibitions of 2021

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Galleries may be closed for now, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed the stellar 2021 art line-up can go ahead later this year – with hopes galleries will be able to open from May. Get excited with our guide to the best UK art exhibitions of 2021. Be aware all dates are subject to change.

10 Things To Look Forward To in 2021 / Best Virtual Art Exhibitions

Main image: Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms

The Best Art Exhibitions of 2021

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  • Fiona Rae, Abstract 01, 2020

    Masterpieces in Miniature: The 2021 Model Art Gallery

    Pallant House Gallery

    Damien Hirst, John Akomfrah and Michael Armitage are just some of the artists participating in a new miniature artworks gallery at Pallant House. The 2021 Model Art Gallery will feature new works created over the past year by 34 artists, spanning sculpture, ceramics, photography and painting – ranging from the size of a pound coin to 20cm. The exhibition will go on display alongside two earlier model galleries: The Thirty Four Gallery and The Model Art Gallery 2000. Together, the three will form a time capsule showcasing over 80 years in British art – from the surrealists to pop artists.

    26 June 2021 – spring 2022, pallant.org.uk

    Image: Fiona Rae, Abstract 01, 2020

  • Van Gogh Alive

    Kensington Gardens

    A multi-sensory experience designed to immerse you in the life of Vincent van Gogh is coming to Kensington Gardens this summer. Set to be unlike anything we’ve seen before, special technology will display the artist’s works in a kaleidoscope of colour, set to a classical score of music delivered via a high-fidelity 3D sound system. Sounds, visuals and aromas will transport visitors into Van Gogh’s world, giving the sensation of walking right into his paintings. Create your own souvenirs in a walk-in representation of his Bedroom in Arles painting and take a snap in the mirrored selfie room, an Instagrammer’s dream complete with hundreds of sunflowers.

    4 June – 26 September 2021, vangoghaliveuk.com

  • Sheila Legge, Phantoms of Surrealism

    Phantoms of Surrealism

    Whitechapel Gallery

    On a summer’s day in 1936, a mystery woman dressed in a wedding dress paraded around Trafalgar Square with her head covered in red roses as a tribute to Salvador Dali. It was later revealed as artist Sheila Legge, appearing as ‘the phantom of Surrealism’ to launch the London International Surrealist Exhibition. Now, Whitechapel Gallery is bringing together works, press cuttings and scrapbooks from the original exhibition in a new archive show. It features artists such as Eileen Agar, Ruth Adams, Claude Cahun and Sheila Legge herself.

    19 May – 12 December 2021, whitechapelgallery.org

    Image: Sheila Legge as Surrealist ‘Phantom’, 1936. Photographed by Claude Cahun.

  • Alison Milner, Walk in the Park

    Decorative Minimalist

    Yorkshire Sculpture Park

    Alison Milner’s new exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park explores the relationship between nature and the manmade – a key theme throughout her body of work. Titled Decorative Minimalist, the show includes a large-scale tile mural consisting of 160 ceramic tiles that capture the everyday life and soul of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, from families enjoying a stroll to iconic works by Henry Moore.

    ysp.org.uk, 27 March – 27 June 2021

    Image: Alison Milner, Walk in the Park, 2021. Photo by Steve Speller.

  • Forest for Change

    Forest For Change, The Global Goals Pavilion

    Somerset House

    This June, hundreds of trees will be appearing in the Somerset House courtyard as part of the exhibition programme for this year’s London Design Biennale. Designed by Es Devlin, artistic director of the Biennale, the forest will feature 23 varieties typical to those found across the UK and Northern Europe, creating a spectacular centrepiece to the iconic space. The project, titled Forest For Change, The Global Goals Pavilion, hopes to raise awareness of the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development – an ambitious plan to eradicate poverty, fight inequality and tackle the climate crisis. These goals will be highlighted in an installation in the central clearing of the forest.

    1 – 27 June 2021, somersethouse.org.uk

  • Beano exhibition, Somerset House

    Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules

    Somerset House

    Somerset House’s major 2021 autumn art exhibition will celebrate the world’s longest running comic, Beano, on its 70th anniversary. Launching this October, Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules is set to feature original comic drawings alongside works from leading artists and designers such as Heather Philippson, Bedwyr Williams and Hardeep Pandhal.

    21 October 2021 – 6 March 2022, somersethouse.org.uk

    Image: Bash Street Kids, 1982, courtesy of Beano

  • Lewis Carroll and Alice, Eileen Agar

    Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy

    Whitechapel Gallery

    Surrealist women came into the spotlight in 2020 – and it looks like momentum is set to continue into 2021, with Whitechapel Gallery poised to showcase the largest exhibition of Eileen Agar’s work to date.

    Dates TBC, whitechapelgallery.org

    Image: Eileen Agar, Alice with Lewis Carroll, 1961. Courtesy of a private collection.

  • Christ among the Doctors, Albrecht Dürer

    Dürer’s Journeys: Travels of a Renaissance Artist

    National Gallery

    This year The National Gallery presents the first major UK exhibition of German Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer in nearly 20 years. Through a series of paintings, drawings, prints and letters, the show explores how Dürer’s travels across Europe sparked an exchange of ideas with other artists, fuelling his curiosity.

    20 November 2021 – 27 February 2022, nationalgallery.org.uk

    Image: Christ among the Doctors, Albrecht Dürer. Courtesy of Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.

  • Alexander Calder Portable Sculpture Exhibition

    Portable Sculpture

    Henry Moore Institute

    While we tend to associate sculpture with large, immobile objects, the art form can also be agile and adaptable. This is explored in a new exhibition launching at the Henry Moore Institute this spring, which focuses on sculpture that is deliberately designed to move.

    Opening 17 May 2021, henry-moore.org

    Image: Alexander Calder, Chicago Black, 1949 

  • Lee Miller: Fashion in Wartime Britain

    Farleys House & Gallery

    Lee Miller was one of the most important artists in the surrealism movement, but her body of fashion photography has been somewhat under-recognised – until now. A new exhibition at Farleys House & Gallery will feature over 60 of the artist’s images for British Vogue from 1939 until early 1944, many of which have never been seen before. These give insight into the prevailing fashions of the wartime era, from factory wear to evening gowns and suits by famed designers.

    From May 2021, farleyshouseandgallery.co.uk

  • Art of Banksy

    The Art of Banksy

    50 Earlham Street

    Following tours everywhere from Tel Aviv to Miami, the world’s largest touring exhibition of Banksy artworks is coming to Covent Garden, featuring a vast array of prints, canvasses and sculptures from the mysterious political activist.

    Opening 20 May 2021, artofbanksy.co.uk

    Image: Art of Banksy London Ltd.

  • David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 artwork images

    David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020

    Royal Academy of Arts

    During the first lockdown, David Hockney created a series of artworks on his iPad at his home in Normandy. The 116 works – which Hockney ‘painted’ on the iPad then printed onto paper – chart the unfolding of spring from beginning to end, a celebration that nature continues to blossom in the darkest of times. Almost exactly a year later, the collection is being displayed as part of a new exhibition at The Royal Academy, standing as a reminder of the constant renewal and wonder of the natural world.

    23 May – 26 September 2021, royalacademy.org.uk

    Image: David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 artwork images.

  • Alice in Wonderland exhibition, V&A

    Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser

    The V&A

    After being postponed last summer, the V&A’s highly anticipated Alice in Wonderland-themed exhibition is set to debut this March. The immersive show will take visitors on a trip down the rabbit hole with an extravaganza of Alice-related fare – from the original concept art for Disney’s 1951 animated version to Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter outfit.

    Dates TBC, vam.ac.uk

    Image: Johan-Persson, 2011.

  • Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms

    Tate Modern

    Prepare to be dazzled at Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms, undoubtedly one of the most highly anticipated art exhibitions of 2021. Going on display at Tate Modern this May after being postponed from its original date last year, the exhibition will feature two spectacular installations. The first is Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled With The Brilliance of Life, which was showcased in the Tate’s Kusama retrospective back in 2012. The second is Chandelier of Grief, a room which creates the illusion of a boundless universe of rotating Swarovski crystal chandeliers. You can expect queues round the block for this one – but it’s on display for a year, so there’s time for everyone to experience the magic.

    Spring 2021, tate.org.uk

    Image: Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled With The Brilliance of Life, Yayoi Kusama.

  • The Making of Rodin, Tate Modern

    The EY Exhibition: The Making of Rodin

    Tate Modern

    French artist Auguste Rodin is best known for his bronze and marble sculptures, yet he was also an exceptional modeller. This major exhibition at Tate Modern highlights the crucial role of plaster in his practice, looking at lesser-known pieces and new aspects of his most famous works.

    29 April – 31 October 2021, tate.org.uk

    Image: Auguste Rodin, Main droite de Pierre et Jacques de Wissant 1885–86, Musée Rodin.

  • Barbara Hepworth Exhibition

    Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life

    The Hepworth Wakefield

    To mark The Hepworth Wakefield’s 10th anniversary, the gallery is launching the most expansive UK exhibition of Barbara Hepworth’s work since she died in 1975. This will include some of the artist’s most celebrated sculptures, including the modern abstract carving that launched her career in the 1920s and 1930s, plus some carved pieces from later in her career. There will also be works from private collections that have not been on public display since the 1970s, as well as rarely seen drawings, paintings and fabric designs.

    21 May 2021 – 27 February 2022. hepworthwakefield.org

    Image: Norman Taylor

  • Helen Frankenthaler, Freefall

    Helen Frankenthaler: Radical Beauty

    Dulwich Picture Gallery

    Opening ten years after her passing, a new exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery will showcase the woodcuts of abstract artist Helen Frankenthaler. Works range from her first woodcut East and Beyond (1973), created on multiple blocks to avoid negative space, and her later triptych Madame Butterfly (2000), which measures over two metres in length and will occupy an entire room in the exhibition.

    15 September 2021 – 17 April 2022, dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk

    Image: Helen Frankenthaler, Freefall, 1993. Courtesy of 2020 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / DACS / Tyler Graphics Ltd., Mount Kisco, NY.

  • Paula Rego, The Dance

    Paula Rego

    Tate Britain

    The first retrospective of Paula Rego’s work in 20 years will feature paintings, drawings and prints spanning her entire career, from her early works in the 50s to the acclaimed Dog Women and Abortion series. Across over 100 pieces, the exhibition will tell the story of the Portuguese artist’s extraordinary life, looking at the social-political context in which her works are rooted.

    7 July – 24 October 2021, tate.org.uk

    Image: Paula Rego, The Dance, 1988, courtesy of Paula Rego