You can’t look at London and not see art. It is everywhere: in the streets, in the people, even in the air. But now we can get a little closer and discover some of the best art exhibitions in the city that will never let you down. Are you ready? Come with us!
Paula Rego | Tate Brittain, Millbank
The renowned artist’s Tate Britain exhibition British-Portuguese is far from her first solo show, but it is the largest of her 60-year career. A good retrospective should take you on a kind of “This is Your Life” journey through an artist’s work, and that’s exactly what you have here in this art exhibition, a huge show of more than 100 works grouped into very different Rego eras.
Christina Quarles: ‘In Likeness’ | South London Gallery
The American painter Quarles is the modern master of the body: the figures in these paintings all twist, stretch and morph in neon colors and fleshy hues. These are great, clever paintings that touch on ideas of intimacy, queerness, and the history of painting.
Ryoji Ikeda | 180 The Strand
Immersive art can be misunderstood. It’s dismissed as glittery lights and pretty colours to get Insta-likes. But there’s nothing glittery or pretty about Ryoji Ikeda ‘s art exhibition at 180 The Strand, and it’s truly immersive. Instead, the Japanese artist (shown here with his largest exhibition in Europe to date) has filled the labyrinthine, brutalist spaces of this former office building with stunning, brain-liquefying and ear-splitting light and sound installations.
Jean Dubuffet: ‘Brutal Beauty’ | Barbican Centre
Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) is not an artist for this time. He appropriated the art of the mentally ill, he painted women with an almost gleeful aggression, he tore the wings off butterflies, and he was a ceaselessly violent painter. The French artist is tricky but definitely worth a visit!
Matthew Barney: ‘Redoubt’ | Hayward Gallery, South Bank
Matthew Barney is a real onion of an artist: we’re talking layer upon layer upon layer of meaning and myth and narrative and concept and aesthetic, on and on.
See also: Best Design and Art Museums in London
David Hockney: ‘The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020’ | Royal Academy of Arts
Our most famous living painter designed probably the most casual roundel ever for Piccadilly Circus, a deliberately naive piece of superbly colourful playfulness on an iPad, and people were furious. Now he’s opened a whole art exhibition of iPad paintings at Royal Academy.
Mohamed Bourouissa | Goldsmith’s Centre of Contemporary Art
The centrepiece of this art exhibition is what Bourouissa calls a “contemporary American cowboy film,” a film about an inner-city Philadelphia stable. No Stetsons here, just brilliantly observed socio-political art in one of London’s best new galleries.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: ‘Fly in League with the Night’
The English painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye takes this idea – the enigmatic nature of the portrait – to extremes. In this major show, her first major institutional art exhibition in the UK, her figures smile and grin, frown and laugh, and we never know why.
‘James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective’ | Serpentine North Gallery
A major retrospective of the renowned photographer British-Ghanaian James Barnor . He founded Studio Ever Young in Accra in the 1950s before moving to London at the end of the decade to document the black diaspora in the capital. Barnor’s images include both studio portraits and more candid street shots, and this art exhibition looks great.
Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch | Royal Academy of Arts
This art exhibition of the great Norwegian artist’s paintings of nude women alongside Emin’s own nude self-portraits is dark, harrowing and almost physically painful. There’s not much to laugh at here, but a hell of a lot to feel.