Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Room

The Best UK Art Exhibitions of 2021

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13 shows you won't want to miss this year

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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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  • Francis Bacon: Man and Beast

    Francis Bacon: Man and Beast

    Royal Academy of Arts

    Born the son of a horse-breeder, Francis Bacon’s fascination with animals began at an early age and continued throughout his 50-year career. This is explored in a new exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, which looks at how Bacon’s interest in animals shaped his approach to the human body. Many of his works were inspired by trips to South Africa, when Bacon would observe animals in the wild. The exhibition was due to launch this month, but it has been postponed due to the current lockdown.

    Dates TBC, royalacademy.org.uk

    Image: Study for Bullfight No. 1, 1969, Francis Bacon. The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2020. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.

  • 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.

    Dates TBC, 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.

    27 March – 22 August 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.

    27 March – 31 December 2021, 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.

    29 March 2021 – 27 March 2022, 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.

    Spring 2021, dates TBC and subject to change, 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.

    16 June – 24 October 2021, tate.org.uk

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