Looking for the best exhibitions in London right now? We’ve got you covered with this guide to the top exhibitions in the city, as well as cool exhibitions early next year that you should add to your diary.
Prepare to become totally cultured… The capital is jam-packed with exciting exhibitions for you to feast your eyes upon – from major exhibitions of Dutch master Frans Hals to the UK’s largest-ever retrospective of the raw power of Daido Moriyama and his camera, there’s heaps to see.
You can even learn about the history of tea at the Horniman Museum or espionage at the Imperial War Museum if you’d like a break from looking at London’s stunning art collections…
We’ve even been kind enough to put them all in calendar order for you (you’re welcome). Get your diaries at the ready: these are the best exhibitions in the capital right now, and in the coming months.
Must See Exhibitions in London Right Now
The National Lottery: Habitats of Hope
The Horniman Museum and Gardens
Until 10th December 2023
In time with the Cop 28 climate conference, The Horniman Museum and Gardens have opened an exhibition with an environmental bent. Habitats of Hope tracks some of the conservation work that’s been done by organisations supported by the National Lottery to save animals on the brink of extinction in the UK.
To do this they’ve got artist Georgia Tucker to illustrate the animals and curate an exhibition that tours them in their habitats – spaces that range right through from heathland and forest to marshland and the coast.
Royal Academy of Arts
Until 1st January 2024
The House with The Ocean View, 2002 | Performance; 12 days. Sean Kelly Gallery, New York. Courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives © Marina Abramović. Photo: Attilio Maranzano.
In announcing the first-ever UK exhibition to span the whole life of the enormously revered performance artist, the Royal Academy of Arts created quite a splash. Not least because it has also involved Marina Abramović in person, re-performing some of her most iconic works.
The live performances are over but if you want to catch the rest of the exhibit it’s on you still have a few weeks. If you don’t know, she’s largely famous for some very ground-breaking performance art that often involves audience participation.
Rhythm 0, probably her most famous work where she invited audiences to interact with her how they chose, ended up with someone pointing a loaded gun at her head. We do NOT recommend anyone trying to do that again.
Hiroshi Sugimoto: Time Machine
Until 7th January 2024
The Hayward Gallery has put together a major exhibition of the internationally renowned photographer and visual artist Hiroshi Sugimoto – the largest retrospective of the artist’s work to date.
Sugimoto’s work is often spectral, sometimes eerily so, but never anything less than profound. He works regularly with large-format photography and the black-and-white image with his subject matter largely being nature.
He’s had major shows at Centre Pompidou, MOMA in New York and the National Gallery here in London. In short: he’s a heavyweight.
Until 14th January 2024
Provocative uses of sex, class and gender abound in the Tate Britain as an exhibition of the boundary-pushing multimedia artist Sarah Lucas has opened at the gallery.
The exhibition features work from a range of her chosen mediums including photography, sculpture and installation, and is narrated by the woman herself, in her voice. The works are punches at our established norms, and often highly humorous.
The National Gallery
Until 21st January 2024
Great works from the great painter of the Dutch Golden age Frans Hals are currently on display at the National Gallery. It’s a paid exhibition, as opposed to the free stuff they have on display (also great).
Hals is most famous for his ‘Laughing Cavalier’, a work that will be on display here alongside about 50 of his most famous and influential paintings. The works have come from all over the world, including many from the Netherlands where the best of Hals’ painting is usually displayed.
The Art of Banksy
84-86 Regent Street
Until 21st Jan 2024
The Art of Banksy is the world’s largest exhibition of Banksy’s work. Yep, you read that right – the largest in the WORLD. The show features 110 pieces of original artwork by the hugely famous street artist, and is stopping in London as part of a tour of the globe.
Girl With Balloon, Flower Thrower and Rude Copper are all going to be hanging on the walls but unfortunately the mysterious artist isn’t there in person.
Instead what you will get are many of his close associates spilling the beans – with his/her permission we guess – on how many of the street art stunts were pulled off. This is probably not one you want to miss.
Until 11th February 2024
Ron Nagle is an artist like we’ve never seen before. His works are tiny, and unendingly curious ceramics. Pretty much everything he makes is smaller than 16cm in diameter. Compound this with the fact he often uses these miniature measurements to create scenes or representations of larger things and the show becomes even more fascinating.
We saw one of his exhibitions at Modern Art before and we have to say we were stunned. There are always plenty of quirky things to see in the galleries of London but this one takes top prize for us.
Daido Moriyama: A Retrospective
The Photographers’ Gallery
Until 11th February 2024
Legend of the street photography scene Daido Moriyama has a retrospective at The Photographers’ Gallery until February. It’s the first retrospective of the Japanese artist’s work the UK has seen and it’s definitely one to catch if you’re a photography lover.
Moriyama has been a pioneer in street photography for decades, stalking the streets of Tokyo snapping raw, visceral images of life in the underbelly of a society that’s at once deeply traditional and ultra-modern.
It’s rare that he’s exhibited on such a depth as this in the UK so we suggest you strike while the iron’s hot and go see what he’s all about.
Until 25th February 2024
The art of Canadian-born Philip Guston is typified by restless, sometimes disturbed images. They are a reflection of the anxious, turbulent world he saw around him, from the social and political upheavals of the late 1960s, to an understanding of racism as it is perpetrated in daily situations.
The unabashed look and characteristic imagery placed him as peer to the likes of Rothko and Pollock. This exhibition at the Tate Modern is the first major retrospective of Guston’s work in over 20 years.
Impressionists on Paper: Degas to Toulouse-Lautrec
The Royal Academy
Until 10th March 2023
We’re all aware of what the Impressionists achieved in paint, but we often overlook their achievements off the canvas. At the Royal Academy, you’ll be able to take a deep dive into the kind of work artists like Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh and Cézanne did on paper.
The exhibition features about 70 works by the masters of the age in many different paper-based mediums. Expect to be perusing pastels and watercolours as well as things like sketches by some of the biggest names in art history.
Among these are works by Post-Impressionists that illustrate the impact the Impressionists had on the art world.
Spies, Lies and Deception
The Imperial War Museum
Until 14th April 2024
The Imperial War Museum has an intriguing exhibition on at the moment. Intriguing because it’s quite literally an exhibition about intrigue. Spies, Lies and Deception is lifting the lid on how espionage works.
The exhibition looks at the art of spywork over the past 100 years and shows how the jobs done by agencies like MI5 and MI6 influence the outcome of conflicts and save the lives of the folk on the frontline.
It’s done by looking at over 150 objects (we’re hoping for some Bond-esque gadgets), film footage and photography – all for your eyes only.
Holbein at the Tudor Court
The Queen’s Gallery
Until 14th April 2024
London is never short of monumental exhibitions, and here’s one more for you. The Queen’s Gallery (that’s the gallery at Buckingham Palace by the way) has brought together the largest collection of work by Hans Holbein the Younger in 30 years.
Holbein is notable for painting the court of Henry VIII. His works illustrate the figures that would have been present from lords and ladies to royalty itself. The exhibition also tracks the artist’s career from the early days so you’ll get a sense of how someone goes from wandering painter to the King’s own artist – quite a story no doubt.
茶, चाय, Tea (Chá, Chai, Tea)
The Horniman Museum and Gardens
Until 7th July 2024
Tea. We Brits can’t get enough of the stuff. But long before we were mixing ours with milk and preparing a plate of biscuits for dunking, civilisations in Asia had been developing a deeply refined and complex culture around the beverage.
The Horniman Museum has put on a fascinating exhibition all about this. It details the many different ways people enjoy tea around the world in the modern age, how the plant that gives us the leaves is cultivated, and some fascinating ways the drink has been used as a form of or muse for artistic expression.
Women in Revolt!
Until April 7th 2024
The Tate Britain is hosting a one-of-a-kind exhibition, also a first of its kind. Women in Revolt! is a sweeping look at female artists working between the years of 1970 and 1990, using this as a backdrop to examine the social and political changes of the times.
It spans a large amount of artistic practises from painting to performance and everything in between. People alive and politically conscious through the years the exhibition examines will also recognise many of the movements explored.
Rock Against Racism Punk, and Greenham Common all make appearances, albeit against some of the era’s sadder moments, the AIDS epidemic being one.
New Galleries at the Imperial War Museum
The Blavatniks have been very busy of late. Not only have they funded a whole new wing of the National Portrait Gallery, but they’ve also been putting funds into an expansion of the Imperial War Museum.
What’s called the Blavatnik Art, Film and Photography Galleries are now open, showcasing the art of war correspondents over the years.
The IWM has around 23,000 hours of footage and over 11 million photographs in its archives. You can expect to see some of that being rotated, as well as temporary exhibitions coming through when they’ve got the facilities up and running.
Exhibitions to Have in Your Diary For the Future
Accidentally Wes Anderson: The Exhibition
81-85 Old Brompton Road, South Kensington
8th December 2023 – 17th February 2024
There’s been no shortage of people trying (to varying results) to mimic Wes Anderson’s quirky style on social media recently. No lies, we’ve seen enough on TikTok to start wanting to dress in pastel oranges and wearing fisherman’s beanies.
One account we really don’t mind looking at is AWA on Instagram. It’s the work of a photographer who travels the world popping snaps of places that look like they should be a Wes Anderson set.
They’re being displayed at a space in South Kensington for a few months and are full of the idiosyncratic style that you love about the films.
Camden Arts Centre
19th January – 31st March 2024
The annual New Contemporaries exhibition will be returning to Camden Arts Centre late in early 2024. The exhibition is a gathering of art from London’s up-and-coming talent. That mostly includes recent graduates from the city’s top art schools.
It’s not the same as hitting one of London’s major art institutions but that’s part of the charm of the show: You’re pretty much guaranteed to see something new and exciting.
It’s also a good opportunity to seek out the names that may well be moving on to bigger shows and brighter futures.
Yoko Ono Music of the Mind
The Tate Modern
15th February – 1st September 2024
Sometimes we’re not sure what Yoko Ono is more famous for, supposedly driving a wedge between The Beatles or her notable career as a performance artist. And a notable career it is, Yoko Ono has covered topics like love, peace and activism in a range of provocative performances, some of which were even banned.
The Tate Modern’s exhibition looks at this work in depth, including the years she was active in this very city – the place where she met John Lennon. Alongside all the work there’s an interactive ‘Peace Tree’ where visitors can pin their own hopes for world peace for others to read later.
Zineb Sedira: Dreams Have No Titles
The Whitechapel Gallery
15th February – 12th May 2024
The word immersive gets thrown about more than it should in London, and it’s no wonder if you’re as tired as we are of hearing it. That would be no reason to rule out anything that flashes ‘the I word’ at you – you might miss out on some truly cool experiences.
This exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery would be one good example. Dreams Have No Titles is the creation of Franco-Algerian video artist Zineb Sedira, a project originally conceived for the Venice Biennale in 2022 that’s now made its way to our fair city.
Sedira is going to turn the gallery into a collection of film sets and tell the story of her own life and that of avant-garde filmmaking through the lens of everything from photography and performance to sculpture.
It sounds mighty ambitious. Consider our interests piqued.
Expressionists: Kandinsky, Münter and The Blue Rider
The Tate Modern
25th April – 20th October 2024
Ever the subject of curatorial curiosity, The Expressionists are getting a major show at The Tate Modern in 2024. The show will gather the works of the key artists of the movement and explore them through the lens of friendship.
They’re using the painting ‘The Blue Rider’ as a jumping off point for all this as it was a work that brought some top painters together. Through 130 paintings you’ll get to see how each of the painters exhibited had an influence on each other. Expect thought-provoking narratives and plenty of works from the greats.
The World of Tim Burton
The Design Museum
25th October – 21st April 2024
Tim Burton is getting a full exhibition at the Design Museum in 2024. You probably know the man for the grotesque and often somewhat creepy style of his films, but this exhibition is looking elsewhere – namely at Burton’s collection of illustrations, paintings and photographs.
It’s a chance to see a new side to the director and his creative output. It’s also an interesting look at his creative process and one that we’re expecting will be pretty illuminating on the topic of his films in an indirect way.
The exhibition has been touring the world for the past decade and has picked London as its final stop before closing doors for good.