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The Best Art Exhibitions in London

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From the Tates to the Royal Academy and the galleries of Mayfair and the Barbican, London is bursting with exciting art exhibitions at any time of year. Now that cultural institutions are gradually re-opening with safety measures in place, here are the shows not to be missed.

The Best Art Exhibitions in London


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  • Anne Rothenstein Solitude painting

    Anne Rothenstein: Spaces in Between

    Beaux Arts

    Rothenstein’s fourth exhibition with Beaux Arts gallery, London, is a relevant one for the times. From March (Covid-19 restrictions permitting) the artist will display a new collection of works from the last two years – many of them created when the Rothenstein was in isolation. ‘Rothenstein presents life that is distilled and distorted, sensual but stern, calm but agitated,’ commented Deborah Levy in the 2017 catalogue essay, ‘her unique skill is to capture the ways in which thought shapes the worlds she creates in the present tense.’

    Turning this lens to the ebb and flow of tension, ambivalence, and fluctuating undercurrent of emotions that has characterised the last few months, many will likely see a relatability and parallel to their own experience in Rothenstein’s subtle reflections on solitude. A complex interplay between the surreal and the pedestrian is created by the figures represented in the paintings – which range from singular, androgynous dog walkers, to pairs divided into separate entities, absorbed in the rural countryside, and interlinked figures haloed by the light of four suns.

    ‘I like other people to make up their minds when they look at my work,’ Rothenstein says. ‘My art takes on a life of its own.’

    3 March – 10 April 2021. beauxartslondon.uk

    Image: Solitude (2019-2020) by Anne Rothenstein

    Follow Anne Rothenstein on Instagram @annerothenstein; @beauxartsgallery

  • Tony Bevan: What is a Head?

    Frank Auerbach/Tony Bevan: What Is A Head?

    Ben Brown Fine Arts

    A new exhibition at Ben Brown Fine Arts in Mayfair features portraits by two of Britain’s leading figurative painters: Frank Auerbach and Tony Bevan. A generation apart, both artists share a fascination for the conceptual and painterly possibilities of reinventing heads – though there are notable differences between the two. As art historian Michael Peppiatt observes: “In Auerbach, who grew up during the war, one experiences palpable layers of excavation: the buried image rising through stratas of paint to resume its fragmented presence, a memory disinterred that might fade again into the flurry of brushstrokes as swiftly as Hamlet’s ghost. Bevan’s ‘Heads’ are also reconstructions, of a different order. More linear than painterly in his practice, Bevan approaches the head through its working parts, its muscles and sinews, exploring its inner structure as an unknown space, an experimental architecture that defies all known rules.” 7 December 2020 – 26 February 2021, benbrownfinearts.com

  • Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace

    Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace

    The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace

    This December, 65 paintings that usually hang in the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace will be brought together in a gallery exhibition, titled Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace. The collection includes renowned works from the likes of Titian, Rembrandt, Vermeer, van Dyck and Canaletto, with visitors being encouraged to consider the artists’ intentions and reflect on why we consider the pieces to be ‘masterpieces’. 4 December 2020 – January 2022, rct.uk

    Image Credit: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020

  • JMW Turner The Fighting Temeraire

    Turner’s Modern World

    Tate Britain

    While Turner’s luminous, hazy landscapes and historical paintings might seem tame by today’s standards, in his own lifetime the artist was seen as a controversial and anti-establishment figure for his unusual brush work and ‘modern’ subject matter. Whether you prefer his impressionistic works, his Napoleonic war depictions or his beautiful landscapes, there’s something for all Turner fans at Tate Britain’s new exhibition, which explores how the artist broke convention to paint changing times. 28 October 2020 – 7 March 2021, tate.org.uk

    Image Credit: Turner, The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838. Courtesy of The National Gallery.

  • Philip Colbert, Hunt Scene


    Saatchi Gallery

    Step into the future at Saatchi Gallery, where a robot will guide you around Philip Colbert’s new exhibition, Lobsteropolis, presented by Unit London. Explore the odyssey of unseen large-scale hyper-pop paintings and sculptures, based around Colbert’s famous cartoon lobster persona. 29 October – 29 November 2020, saatchigallery.com

    Image Credit: Philip Colbert, Hunt Scene, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Unit London.

  • Kiliii Yuyan Artic Culture and Climate

    Arctic, Culture and Climate

    The British Museum

    How has a civilisation managed to not just survive, but thrive in the Arctic? Asks a new exhibition at The British Museum, Arctic: Culture and Climate, by looking back across 30,000 years of history. 22 October 2020 – 21 February 2021, britishmuseum.org

    Image Credit: Kiliii Yuyan

  • Sergey Gorshkov, Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards

    Natural History Museum

    A photo of a Siberian Amur tiger hugging an ancient Mancurian fir tree has won the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year award. Run by the Natural History Museum, the competition is now in its 56th year. You can see the images on display at the museum now, with other winners including a profile of a young male proboscis monkey, a rare picture of a family of Pallas’ cats and a Manduriacu glass frog snacking on a spider. 16 October 2020 – 6 June 2021, nhm.ac.uk

    Image Credit: Sergey Gorshkov, Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London

  • Paradise Lost

    Paradise Lost by Jan Hendrix

    Kew Gardens

    Kamay Botany Bay in Sydney acquired its name from the huge number of plants recorded and collected there in 1770. Almost 250 years later, the landscape is almost recognisable. Dutch-born, Mexico-based artist Jan Hendrix conveys his response to this destruction of nature in a new exhibition at Kew Gardens, entitled Paradise Lost. 3 October 2020 ­– 14 March 2021, kew.org

    Image Credit: Mirror Pavilion III 2020 by Jan Hendrix

  • Absolutely Augmented Reality

    Absolutely Augmented Reality

    Hoxton 253 Art Project Space

    New York-based international artists Kuzma Vostrikov and Ajuan Song will stage their first major photography exhibition in Hoxton this season. Titled Absolutely Augmented Reality, the exhibition explores the intersection of fine art and photography through a series of theatrical and symbolic images, creating an exuberant, colourful dream world – the perfect antidote to this grey, exhaustive year. 10 November – 10 December 2020, hoxton253.com

  • Zümrütoğlu

    Zümrütoğlu: Atonal Drift

    JD Malat Gallery

    Renowned for his vibrant and colourful works of art, Turkish artist Zümrütoğlu, will showcase his new body of work exploring the theme of the ‘dissonant and disharmonious body’ at JD Malat Gallery this autumn. Zümrütoğlu’s second UK solo exhibition Atonal Drift will feature a diverse range of sculptures and paintings and the possibilities of figurative abstraction. 9 October – 14 November 2020, jdmalat.com  

    Image credit: Zümrütoğlu

  • Richard Learoyd, Large Poppies , 2019 © the Artist. Image courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

    Unearthed: Photography’s Roots

    Dulwich Picture Gallery

    Launching this November, Unearthed: Photography’s Roots will trace the history of photography – from its beginnings in 1840 to the present day. With a focus on botany and science throughout, the show will feature paper negatives from William Henry Fox Talbot, as well as pieces from Anna Atkins, one of the first women photographers. The exhibition will culminate with a series of contemporary works, shining the light on artists who are re-shaping the definition of photography through digital processes. 21 November ­2020 – 9 May 2021, dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk

    Image Credit: Richard Learoyd, Large Poppies, 2019. Image courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.

  • Andy Warhol

    Andy Warhol

    Tate Modern

    Delve into the fantastical world of Andy Warhol at the Tate Modern’s highly anticipated 2020 retrospective, thankfully extended until November. From his iconic pop images dedicated to Marilyn Monroe, to the Ladies and Gentlemen series (exhibited for the first time in 30 years) and an array of unseen pieces, this is an eclectic must-see showcase for Warhol enthusiasts world-wide. Until 15 November 2020, tate.org.uk

    Image Credit: Andy Warhol, Marilyn Diptych

  • RA Summer Exhibition 2020

    Royal Academy of Arts

    Missed the RA’s annual art extravaganza this summer? You’re certainly not alone. Luckily, and for the first time in history, the Summer Exhibition will now show in the autumn and winter, with the same eclectic, exciting line up of new and established artists and the option to take home a work you may have fallen for. Expect to see new work from Tracey Emin, Rebecca Horn and Ai Weiwei, as well as art by emerging artists and architects. 6 October 2020 – 3 January 2021, royalacademy.org.uk

  • Tracey Emin / Edvard Munch

    Tracey Emin / Edvard Munch

    Royal Academy of Arts

    “I’ve been in love with this man since I was eighteen” – so said Tracey Emin of Edvard Munch, the Norwegian expressionist painter most famous for The Scream. In a highly personal show, 25 of Emin’s paintings – some displayed for the first time – explore the loneliness of the soul, alongside a careful selection of watercolours and oil paintings of Munch’s drawn from Oslo’s Munch Museum, showing both the latter’s influence on Emin and how intersecting themes of loneliness, longing and grief inform the highly evocative work of both. 15 November 2020 — 28 February 2021, royalacedemy.org.uk

    Image: Tracey Emin, It – didnt stop – I didnt stop, 2019. Acrylic on canvas. 152 x 183.5 x 3.7 cm. Xavier Hufkens © Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2020.

  • Titian: Love, Desire, Death

    Titian: Love, Desire, Death

    National Gallery

    C&TH’s culture columnist Ed Vaizey marked this landmark exhibition as one of 2020’s unmissable shows – and it’s easy to see why. Six artworks by the Italian master –  a commission by Prince Phillip of Spain in 1551 – are exhibited together for the first time in over four centuries: they portray Titian’s sensuous interpretation of scenes from classical mythology, inspired mainly by Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Until 17 January 2021, nationalgallery.co.uk

    Image: Titian, The Death of Actaeon, 1559–1575. Courtesy of The National Gallery

  • Francis Bacon: Man and Beast

    Francis Bacon: Man and Beast

    Royal Academy of Arts

    Raised in Ireland as a horse-breeder’s son, Francis Bacon retained a fascination with animals for the duration of his career, creating visceral and at times disturbing images, not quite human or animal in their characterisation, which propelled him to the heights of the 20th century art world. Spanning the 50 years of Bacon’s career, the exhibition will feature some of his most recognisable artwork, including Head IV (one of the iconic screaming popes), his last-ever triptych and a trio of bullfight paintings, exhibited together for the first time. 30 January — 18 April 2021, royalacademy.org.uk

    Image: Francis Bacon, Study for Bullfight No. 1, 1969. Oil on canvas. 197.7 x 147.8 cm. Private collection © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2020. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.

  • Electronic at the Design Museum

    Electronic: From Kraftwerk to The Chemical Brothers

    Design Museum

    Tracing the history and cultural impact of the ever-evolving music genre, this exhibition promises to evoke the much-missed London club experience. From the underground to the mainstream, visitors will travel to dance floors from Detroit to Chicago, Paris, the UK and – of course – Berlin in a series of mesmerising installations and displays. Highlights include a 3D experience of pioneering German electronic band Kraftwerk, who famously popularised electronic music with hits like Das Model and Autobahn. Fans of the genre are in for a treat, with the likes of Detroit techno legend Jeff Mills, Ellen Allien, Jean-Michel Jarre and the seminal BBC Radiophonic Workshop all featuring. Until 14 February 2021, designmuseum.org

Featured image: Absolutely Augmented Reality


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