These are the biggest art exhibitions in London in 2021, plus a few more on the horizon.
For a full-on art attack, London has you covered. Below, we’ve rounded up all the current and upcoming art exhibitions from London’s major galleries and brilliant museums, from Tate Britain and Tate Modern to Somerset House, the V&A and the National Gallery. These amazing art exhibitions in London encompass everything from classic works to bleeding edge art, but all offer something for the curious.
Prices quoted for these art exhibitions are generally for adults in advance, walk-up tickets will be a few pounds more, while students and other concessionary fares may be less – there’s even a few free art exhibitions for the penny-pinching amongst you. Notably, under-25s can visit all Tate exhibitions for £5 when they join the free ‘Collective.’ One other thing to note: the National Portrait Gallery has now closed for three years of refurbishments, so if it’s on your bucket list, you’re facing a bit of a wait. Happy wandering!
Art exhibitions in London – open now
Let’s kick things off with the best art exhibitions you can see today, from hyped openings to smaller shows at more intimate galleries.
1. Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, Commercial 106
One of the most popular art exhibitions of the year has to be this incredible immersive installation dedicated to Vincent Van Gogh, where you can literally step into his paintings. Treat yourself to this all-encompassing, 360-degree display of the Dutchman’s work – which takes over all your surroundings with the use of several dozen projectors and hyper-realistic VR headsets. Tickets for this exhibition have been flying out faster than any swish of any paintbrush could manage, so grab yours here before they’re gone. Until February 2022. Price £19.90. Read our review of the experience here.
2. Conversations with God: Copenicus by Jan Matejko, National Gallery
Two of Poland’s greatest figures come together in one display, as Jan Matejko’s epic painting ‘Astronomer Copernicus’ depicts the famed Polish mathematician and astronomer. It also makes history as the first time the National Gallery has exhibited the work of a Polish artist, which feels more than a little overdue. Until August 22. Free! More info.
3. Journeys, Dulwich Picture Gallery
An extremely timely exhibition which looks at migration from the seventeenth century to present, Journeys has been curated by those with personal experience of moving countries. Until August 22. Price included with a gallery ticket. More info.
4. Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty, Barbican Centre
A celebration of French artist Jean Dubuffet’s “brutal” post-war pieces, this exhibition spans over four decades of his influential work. You’ll be treated to early portraits and fantastical statues, to butterfly assemblages and giant colourful canvases. Until August 22. Price £18. More info.
5. Jennifer Packer: The Eye Is Not Satisfied With Seeing, Serpentine South Gallery
Packer’s work depicts contemporary Black lives, turning intimate portraits into political statements about racism, violence, and oppression. A crucial exhibition for our times from the US artist. Until August 22. Free! More info.
6. Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy, Whitechapel Gallery
This eclectic, retrospective exhibition on Argentina-born Eileen Agar displays her ideas “in revolt of convention”. Whether it’s in the form of a painting, collage, photograph, sculpture, or even a ceremonial hat, Agar is certain to wow visitors with her unique meld of vivid abstraction and classical art imagery. Until August 29. Price £9.50. More info.
7. Turner’s English Coasts, JMW Turner’s House
A display of JMW Turner’s maritime watercolours and prints is opening on May 22 at the artist’s former residence in Twickenham. Turner’s English Coasts showcases the artist’s groundbreaking work on English marine and coastal subjects, from when he was living in his Sandycoombe Road residence between 1813-26. Until September 5. Price £8 More info.
8. Turner’s Modern World, Tate Britain
2020 was a big year for JMW Turner, as he took his place on the £20 note in the summer. He also netted himself the most-anticipated exhibition at Tate Britain, as Turner’s Modern World revealed the artist’s fascination with industry. Luckily, if you didn’t catch it pre-lockdown, you’ve got a little time left to see it. Until September 12. Price £22. More info.
9. Epic Iran, V&A Museum
With a modest goal of tackling 5000 years of art, culture, and history in one exhibition, it shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes to learn all about the breathtaking country of Iran – should it? Until September 12. Price £18. More info.
10. Ryoji Ikeda, 180 The Strand
Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda has brought another incredible, immersive display back to 180 The Stand, taking attendees through a maze of strobe lighting tunnels, large speaker sculptures, and a new and improved Test Pattern experience. It was recently extended due to its popularity, but has to end this September. Until September 18. Price £17. More info.
11. No Comply: Skate Culture and Community, Somerset House
In the summer that skateboarding made its debut as an Olympic sport, Somerset House host a show exploring the sport’s rise in the UK over the past 45 years, to create tight-knit communities of skaters. Until September 19. Free! More info.
12. Michael Armitage: Paradise Edict, Royal Academy of Arts
Michael Armitage only graduated from the Royal Academy Schools ten years ago, so to have his own show at the venerable gallery is quite the feather in the cap. His incredible work draws on Western painting traditions, blended with traditional East African folklore for a truly moving effect. Until September 19. Price £15. More info.
13. Naturally Brilliant Colour, Kew Gardens
Why wouldn’t you want to attend an exhibition that promises the brightest colours ever? The colours are literally created in a lab to boast that title, so chop chop! It’s open right now. Until September 26. Price included with entry to Kew Gardens. More info.
14. David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020, Royal Academy of Arts
After some – how shall we put it? – mixed opinions on his redesign of Piccadilly Circus tube station signs, David Hockney has got some more iPad designs to show you. 116 of them, in fact. They depict his doodles from spring 2020, during the start of the pandemic. Until September 26. Price £19. More info.
15. Van Gogh Alive, Kensington Gardens
Yep, there’s another Van Gogh show in town; this one is in residence at Kensington Gardens, illuminating the Dutch master’s work until late September. Until September 26. £24. More info.
16. JR: CHRONICLES, Saatchi Gallery
Marking renowned French artist JR’s largest solo exhibition to date, Saatchi Gallery plays host to an array of his most iconic work spanning over the past fifteen years. Pieces range from early documentation of Paris street artists to his architectural interventions in cities worldwide. Until October 3. Price £9 (£12 on weekends). More info.
17. Serpentine Pavilion 2021, Hyde Park
This year’s Hyde Park installation comes from South African design studio Counterspace, and directed by Sumayya Vally, the youngest ever person put in charge of the annual Serpentine Pavilion. It’s “based on past and present places of meeting, organising and belonging across London”, so it should be a hoot. Until October 17. Free! More info.
18. Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Tate Modern
Taeuber-Arp was abstracting things back before most modern artists had picked up their paintbrushes, working across a variety of fascinating disciplines. Until October 17. Price £16. More info.
19. James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective, The Serpentine
Follows the considerable six-decade spanning career of British-Ghanaian photographer James Barnor. His work as a portraitist, photojournalist and Black lifestyle photographer, in both London and Ghana, can be viewed in this captivating and thought-provoking collection of photographs. Until October 22. Free! More info.
20. Paula Rego, Tate Britain
Since the 1950s, Paula Rego has revolutionised the way women are depicted in art, making use of collage, paintings, drawings, sculpture, and etchings. This major retrospective is the best chance to see them. Until October 24. Price £18. More info.
21. Bellotto: The Königstein Views Reunited, National Gallery
Bernardo Bellotto liked Königstein so much, he painted it from five different angles. For the first time in 250 years, all five will be assembled in one spot, so you’ll be pretty familiar with the area after a visit here. Until October 31. Free! More info.
22. The Art Of Banksy, Covent Garden
Setting up shop in Covent Garden, The Art Of Banksy boasts the largest private collection of the elusive street artist’s works ever assembled, including the iconic balloon girl piece. Until November 21. Price £25. More info.
23. The EY Exhibition: Rodin, Tate Modern
Auguste Rodin was the recent subject of a show at the British Museum, and now Tate Modern are getting in on the revival with another delayed art exhibition. Lesser-known pieces rub shoulders with masterpieces at this show, which features many works that have never been seen outside of France before. Until November 21. Price £18. More info.
24. Phantoms of Surrealism, Whitechapel Gallery
Elucidating the pivotal role that female artists and organisers played in the rise of British Surrealism, this exhibition showcases the work of Shelia Legge, Diana Brinton Lee, and others. Until December 12. Free! More info.
25. Alice In Wonderland, V&A Museum
This truly stunning exhibition, dedicated to all things Alice, promises a vibrant tale of the world of Alice In Wonderland and the journey it has taken in the 150 years since it was first told. It’s one of the best art exhibitions of 2021, trust us. Until December 31. Price £20. More info.
26. Bags: Inside Out, V&A Museum
They’re not just for losing your house keys in, you know. Bags are a statement, an object of desire, and a craftsman’s challenge – and this V&A exhibit will explore them throughout history. Until January 16, 2022. Price £12. More info.
27. Tate Britain Commission – Heather Phillipson, Rupture No 1: Blowtorching The Bitten Peach, Tate Britain
Tate Britain’s annual immersive artwork has put Heather Phillipson in the driver’s seat, and things have gotten weird. The exhibition features “salvaged machines, colossal papier-mâché sculptures and hand-painted scenes”, along with aircraft fuel tanks and rotating anchors, using video and sound to heighten the trippiness. Until January 23, 2022. Free! More info.
28. Sculpture In The City, City of London
The tenth edition of this popular exhibition has set up shop in the City of London, boasting work from Alice Channer, Almuth Tebbenhoff, Bram Ellens, Elisa Artesero, Eva Rothschild and many more. Who said these art exhibitions had to be indoors? Until spring 2022. Free! More info.
29. Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Rooms, Tate Modern
The mesmerising mirrored rooms of Yayoi Kusama delight whenever and wherever they appear, and that includes Tate Modern, where a pair of delightfully trippy installations have appeared. Until June 2022. Price £10. Read all about it here.
30. A Year in Art: Australia 1992, Tate Modern
Expect to learn plenty at this show, which explores the relationship that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have with their lands, modern Australia, and the legacy of colonialism. Until spring 2022. Free! More info.
Art exhibitions in London – coming soon
There’s plenty more brilliant art on the horizon; here are the art exhibitions we’re looking forward to!
31. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition, Secret Location
Explore the stunning details of Michelangelo’s iconic work without having to travel to Italy, as LA-based SEE Global Entertainment (SEE™) use digital technology to bring one of mankind’s greatest artistic feats to life. Visitors will be able to experience the space from never-before-seen perspectives, making for a stunning spectacle. Opens October 15. Price £11. More info.
32. Museum of the Moon, Secret Location
Luke Jerram’s stunning ‘Museum of the Moon’ is a seven-metre globe detailed with NASA’s imagery of the moon’s surface and illuminated beautifully. It’s likely to be downright magical when seen outdoors after dark, as you’ll be able to do at this year’s Kensington + Chelsea Festival. August 2021, dates TBD. Free! More info.
33. Borealis, Greenwich & Woolwich
Borealis has appeared all over the world, and now artist Dan Acher will bring the Northern Lights back to London, as part of this year’s Greenwich+Docklands International Festival. Catch it for free in two London locations this summer: in Greenwich from August 27 to September 5 at 8.30pm, and in Woolwich from September 9 to 11 at 8.30pm. More info.
34. Royal Academy Summer Exhibition
2020 couldn’t break the RA’s uninterrupted streak of running their Summer Exhibition, which still stretches back to 1769. The world’s largest open submission art show is back in September, with RA member Yinka Shonibare in charge, and a theme of ‘Reclaiming Magic’. September 22, until January 2, 2022. Price £20. More info.
35. Hokusai: The Great Picture Book of Everything, British Museum
Under the Wave off Kanagawa will forever remain Katsushika Hokusai’s most revered work, but this collection of 103 drawings, part of an unprinted book, will enchant visitors just as much. September 30, 2021, until January 30, 2022. Price £9. More info.
36. Noguchi, Barbican Centre
Isamu Noguchi dabbled in dance, architecture, and sculpture during a career that spanned much of the twentieth century – and with a motto of “everything is sculpture”, there’s a lot to see here. September 30, 2021, until January 9, 2022. Price £18. More info.
37. Shilpa Gupta, Barbican Centre
Mumbai-based artist Shilpa Gupta will have a first London exhibition at the Barbican. You’ll find For, In Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit inside The Curve, featuring 100 microphones above 100 metal spikes, each impaling poetry from a person who was incarcerated for their work and beliefs. Powerful stuff. October 7, 2021, until February 6, 2022. Price TBD. More info.
38. Poussin and the Dance, National Gallery
Wine, women, and song all come to life in Poussin’s paintings of the classical world, but there’s a keen craftsman’s eye needed to depict flowing movements on canvas, and this exhibition will explore it all. October 9, 2021, until January 2, 2022. Price £12. More info.
39. Hyundai Commission: Anicka Yi, Tate Modern
The next artist to tackle the regular Hyundai Commission, Anicka Yi will get her chance to fill the cavernous Turbine Hall. An artist who plays with the sense, uses unorthodox materials in her art, and raises questions about migration, class, and gender should produce something well worth seeing, we reckon. October 12, 2021, until January 16, 2022. Free! More info.
40. BEANO: The Art Of Breaking The Rules, Somerset House
Somerset House will play host to an exhibition dedicated to the youthful mischief of the Beano, the world’s longest-running comic. All the usual suspects – from Dennis the Menace to Gnasher to Minnie the Minx to the Bash Street Kids – are ready to make an appearance. October 21, 2021, until March 6, 2022. Price £16. More info.
41. Light Lines: The Architectural Photographs of Hélène Binet, Royal Academy of Arts
Capturing the architectural works of Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, and others, Hélène Binet brings new life and intrigue to striking buildings from around the world. October 23, 2021 until January 23, 2022. Price £17. More info.
42. Late Constable, Royal Academy of Arts
In what is somehow the first RA retrospective of Constable’s work, the gallery is eschewing Flatford Mill and friends for a look into the artist’s later career, where his work became more experimental and expressive. October 30, 2021, until February 13, 2022. Price £19. More info.
43. Hogarth and Europe, Tate Britain
Whilst William Hogarth was charting the changing face of Britain in his works, contemporaries across Europe were doing the same in their countries. This exhibition brings them together for an insightful peek at the innovation and materialism of the 18th century. November 3, 2021, until March 20, 2022. Price TBD. More info.
44. The Credit Suisse Exhibition – Dürer’s Journeys: Travels of a Renaissance Artist, National Gallery
Your gap year photos can’t quite match the paintings, drawings, and prints created by Albrecht Dürer during his travels across Europe during the Renaissance. Sorry about that. November 20, 2021, until February 27, 2022. Price TBD. More info.
45. Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution, V&A Museum
Carl Fabergé rather set the gold standard in bling when he created those eponymous eggs, and plenty of other exquisite gold and bejewelled creations. Here’s your chance to see ’em all. Opens November 21. Price TBD. More info.
46. Lubaina Himid, Tate Modern
Turner Prize-winning artist Lubaina Himid started with a background in theatre before turning her hand to painting, so expect a fair bit of the ol’ razzle dazzle mixed in with important social commentary. November 25, 2021, until July 3, 2022. Price TBD. More info.
47. Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art, 50s-Now, Tate Britain
The rich artistic heritage shared between the Caribbean and the UK includes luminaries like Claudette Johnson, Aubrey Williams, and Donald Locke. This exhibit collects the works of some 40 artists to explore the impact they’ve had on British art and culture. December 1, 2021, until April 3, 2022. Price TBD. More info.
48. Kehinde Wiley, National Gallery
Kehinde Wiley was famed even before he was chosen to paint the Obamas, but there’s no denying those portraits sent him into the stratosphere. His representations of Black subjects in the style of Old Masters is well worth seeing, and here’s your chance. December 10, 2021, until April 18, 2022. Free! More info.
49. Gainsborough’s Blue Boy, National Gallery
100 years to the day since it sailed for California, Gainsborough’s Blue Boy will return to the National Gallery, where it was displayed for a mere three weeks in 1922. It’ll be sticking around a tad longer this time – almost four months, in fact. January 25, 2022, until May 15, 2022. Free! More info.
50. Francis Bacon: Man and Beast, Royal Academy of Arts
Yes, not Man or Beast, but an unsettling blending of the two, as Francis Bacon’s fascination with animals and their movement comes to the fore in this exhibition of paintings. Think faceswapping with your cat, but on a whole different level. January 29, 2022, until April 17, 2022. Price £22. More info.
51. Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature, V&A Museum
Original watercolours, drawings, manuscripts and more feature at this family-friendly show, where the likes of Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten, and Jemima Puddle-Duck all spring off the paper and into our hearts. Opens February 12, 2022. Price TBD. More info.
52. Surrealism Beyond Borders, Tate Modern
I’d argue the past year and a half has been plenty surreal enough for me, to be honest, but Tate Modern are daring to go a little further. Tracing surrealism across the world, this show will camp out the uncanny valley and be quite happy there, thank you very much. February 24, 2022, until August 29, 2022. Price TBD. More info.
53. The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Raphael, National Gallery
The National Gallery had this so nicely timed to coincide with the 500th year since Raphael’s death, but the best-laid plans have gone awry. Now scheduled for spring 2022, this show brings artworks from all over the world together to present the entire sweep of the painter’s prodigious career. April 9, 2022, until July 31, 2022. Price TBD. More info.
54. Walter Sickert, Tate Britain
News and popular culture combined to influence Walter Sickert’s art, and Tate Britain will give this British master a show to remember in 2022. April 28, 2022, until September 18, 2022. Price TBD. More info.
55. Cornelia Parker, Tate Britain
Cornelia Parker doesn’t really do small when it comes to art installations, so expect Tate Britain to find plenty of space to house her sculptures, often made with everyday objects. May 18, 2022, until October 16, 2022. Price TBD. More info.
56. Milton Avery, Royal Academy of Arts
An inspiration to Rothko, amongst others, Milton Avery’s striking works haven’t been exhibited on this side of the Atlantic before. The show will bring together around 70 works, which is plenty for an intro to his work. July 16, 2022, until October 16, 2022. Price TBD. More info.
57. The EY Exhibition: Cézanne, Tate Modern
The EY Exhibition is sticking with French legends going into the new year; once Rodin has cleared out, they’ll welcome a huge show dedicated to Paul Cézanne. He astonished Paris with an apple, so imagine what he’ll do to London with a whole bevy of paintings. October 6, 2022, until February 26, 2023. Price TBD. More info.
58. Magdalena Abakanowicz, Tate Modern
Part textiles, part sculptures; whatever Magdalena Abakanowicz’s ‘Abakans’ are, they’re certainly impressive. Filling Tate Modern’s Blavatnik Gallery, these imposing pieces will be hung from the ceiling. November 17, 2022, until May 21, 2023. Price TBD. More info.
59. Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly In League With The Night, Tate Britain
Portrait pro Lynette Yiadom-Boakye paints imagined characters in the style of classic European portraiture, and has been rewarded with her largest show yet. It was first exhibited in 2020, but since the pandemic ended the run early, Tate have planned another run from 2022. November 24, 2022, until February 26, 2023. Price TBC. More info.
60. Marina Abramović, Royal Academy of Arts
Time for a spot of performance art, as pioneering practitioner Marina Abramović once again tests her physical and mental limits in the first major UK exhibition of her work. Like many art exhibitions, however, this one was delayed by the pandemic. 2023, dates TBD. Price TBD. More info.
61. Maria Bartuszová, Tate Modern
This Tate show takes Slovakian artist Maria Bartuszová as its subject, exploring the abstract sculptures she composed out of white plaster. Dates TBD. Price TBD. More info.
Exhausted these art exhibitions but want more culture? See more in our London arts and culture guide.
Also published on Medium.