London art exhibitions calendar

Our handy calendar of the must-see art shows coming to town this year

© Tokyo Gallery+BTAP
Ushio Shinohara, 'Doll Festival', 1966

Get your diary out for a new season of must-see exhibitions in 2015, which include Tate Modern's 'The Ey Exhibition: Sonia Delaunay', Hayward's 'Carsten Holler: Decision', Tate Britain's 'Barbara Hepworth' retrospective, Barbican's 30-day exhibition 'Station to Station', the National Gallery's 'Goya: The Portraits', Tate Modern's 'The World Goes Pop' and the Royal Academy's Ai Weiwei exhibition.

Art shows opening this June

Duane Hanson

Survey of the American artist’s lifelike and unsettling bronze sculptures that satirise Middle America. Caught in moments of contemplation, Hanson's hyperreal work of everyday people performing everyday activities will have you doing double takes. Bringing together pieces that confront the viewer with harsh realities such as homelessness to revealing the workers whose daily contributions are often overshadowed, here the mundane is amplified into funny yet cutting comments on society.

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Serpentine Sackler Gallery Until Sunday September 13 2015 Free

Agnes Martin

The simplicity of the late American artist’s abstract work is their evocative strength. Working in New York during the 1950 sand 60s, Martin became a prominent figure in the male-dominated field of abstraction but soon left the city in search of solitude. Settling in New Mexico, she would continue to create mesmerising paintings in muted and often pale hues for the next three decades. This extensive retrospective covers early experiments, stylistic developments and charts the constant inspiration of her spiritual connection to art. 

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Tate Modern Until Sunday October 11 2015

Fighting History

Think history painting was just a conventional method for artists to portray righteous narratives, think again. Tate Britain’s summer blockbuster covers not only the morally minded large-scale works of John Singleton Copley but also the socially conscious works of Richard Hamilton and Jeremy Deller. Once considered the zenith of an artist’s success, history painting doesn’t always look back, it also celebrates both heroic and tragic events and gives an artist the means to voice opinion on decisions of the state. Here, traditional and contemporary visions of historical events, classical periods and political dilemmas collide for our reflective contemplation. It’s a battle worth being a part of.

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Tate Britain Until Sunday September 13 2015

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

For the 247th Summer Exhibition, this year’s coordinator, British artist Michael Craig-Martin has devised a new colourful layout for the world's largest annual open-submission exhibition. A zany psychedelic commission by Jim Lambie on the Royal Academy’s grand staircase will guide you to the main galleries where over 1,200 works by established and unknown artists will be on display. Combining all media, including painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture and architecture, the exhibition is not only a worthwhile cause – funds raised go towards the Royal Academy Schools graduate programme – but also a fantastic environment to experience art in all its forms.

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Royal Academy of Arts Until Sunday August 16 2015

Carsten Höller

Let’s give one almighty holler for the Hayward’s final exhibition before they close for two years of renovation work. The Belgian artist, whose background in biology has informed and inspired his practice that challenges our perceptive boundaries, will have his first UK retrospective. He’s filled the Tate’s Turbine Hall with slides, placed giant replica mushrooms onto gallery ceilings and turned last year’s Gagosian Frieze stand into a children’s playground. Covering the last 20 years of the Stockholm-based artist’s work, which has truly put participation into art, we're expecting a rip-roaring presentation of fun-filled, hands-on exhibits.

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Hayward Gallery Until Monday September 7 2015

FreshFaced + WildEyed

With graduate season hotting up, this annual open submission provides a much-needed platform to nurture and showcase innovative photographic styles coming out of colleges across the UK. Chosen by an esteemed panel of judges including the Photographers' Gallery's director Brett Rogers, each of the 25 finalists demonstrate a diversity of techniques and subjects providing a comprehensive overview of photography today.

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Photographers' Gallery Until Sunday July 5 2015 Free

Christina Broom: Soldiers and Suffragettes

Considered the first female press photographer, Christina Broom took to the Edwardian London streets documenting daily routines and notable events. From suffragettes campaigning for women’s right to Oxford Street bustling with horse drawn carriages, Broom’s candid approach, captured pivotal moments of cultural history. Here, previously unseen photographs from private collections will be brought together with negative plates, postcards and personal memorabilia, giving this unsung hero of photography, her time in the spotlight.

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Museum of London Docklands Until Sunday November 1 2015 Free

Serpentine Galleries Pavilion

The task of transforming the lawn outside the Serpentine Gallery with a multi-purpose temporary Pavilion falls to the Spanish architectural duo SelgasCano. Their use of new technologies combined with nature conscious concepts will no doubt take inspiration from the gallery’s park location for the commission’s fifteenth anniversary.

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Serpentine Gallery Until Saturday October 17 2015 Free

Barbara Hepworth

The last time there was a major retrospective of Barbara Hepworth’s work in London, the First Lady of British modernism attended herself (we’re hoping she wore her fabulous fur coat). That was in 1968. Forty-odd years later, Tate Britain’s summer 2015 show looks to reassess the reputation of this sculptor of famously holey forms who, thanks in part to her beautifully preserved studio in St Ives, is forever associated with Cornwall, where she lived from 1939 until her death in 1975. The show includes carvings and sculptures in wood, stone and bronze, along with drawings, collages, textiles and experimental photogram works.

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Tate Britain Until Sunday October 25 2015

Station to Station: A 30 Day Happening

For it’s only European stop, Doug Aitken’s culturally explosive extravaganza of spontaneous artistic creation will take over the Barbican Centre for one month. Over 100 international and UK-based artists working in art, music, dance, graphic design and film will present a plethora of activities for audiences to explore including residencies, one-off performances, installations, workshops, rehearsals and interactive displays. So if you fancy sampling Ed Ruscha’s special cactus omelette, seeing Lawrence Weiner’s new commission and experiencing Olaf Breuning’s rainbow smoke installation, hop on board.

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Barbican Centre Until Sunday July 26 2015

Art shows opening this July

Isa Genzken: Basic Research Paintings

The German artist’s rarely-seen and experimental series, ‘Basic Research Paintings’ reveals the processes of painting. Made from laying primed canvases on the floor of her studio and applying pressure on the back with a printing squidgy, the canvas’s surface retains the floor's imprint with dirt and grim. The results are abstracted impressions that veer between the macro and micro.

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ICA Until Sunday September 6 2015 Free

Eloise Hawser: Medivance

Solo exhibition that presents modern and contemporary work by the artist which will include a pair of hand made loafers belonging to her father.

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ICA Until Sunday September 6 2015

Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon

The waiflike muse of Givenchy, not only captivated the fashion world but also the big screen. This summer the National Portrait Gallery celebrate the British actress, dancer and humanitarian worker with an exhibition of exquisite and rarely seen photographs. Chronicling the multi-award winning screen legend’s rise to fame are family snaps of Hepburn as a young ballerina, portraits by photographic greats including Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton and Norman Parkinson and behind-the-scenes images from the set of Sabrina by Mark Shaw.

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National Portrait Gallery Until Sunday October 18 2015

Time Out's guide to First Thursdays

With so many galleries located in east London, it can be hard to make sense of them all. That's where First Thursdays comes in. Organised by Whitechapel Gallery in partnership with Time Out, First Thursdays takes place on the first Thursday of every month (funnily enough), and sees over 130 galleries and museums stay open til 9pm. There are workshops to take part in, talks to hear and even the odd behind-the-scenes session at artists' studios. If you fancy more of a guided experience, get on board the hugely popular free Art Bus tour as it takes you to three of the month's top exhibitions. We can’t think of a better way to spend an east London evening.

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Nicholas Mangan: Ancient Lights

The Melbourne-based artist’s new film installation, which will be powered entirely by an on-site solar PV system, examines the physical and conceptual power of the sun.

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Chisenhale Gallery Until Sunday August 23 2015

Brown’s London Art Weekend

You don't need to flash the cash at this weekend of art fun in Mayfair. For its second year, Brown’s London Art Weekend has a veritable feast of truly enlightening art events planned. Over 100 galleries open all weekend, yes even on Sunday. Designers Paul Smith and Nicole Farhi are among the stars to devise art walks of the area and you can also sign up for talks to get the lowdown on topics including how to start your own collection. And on Saturday Burlington Gardens will be a car-free zone for the Burlington Gardens Festival, a day of free workshops, performances and music led by the likes of Bob & Roberta Smith and Yinka Shonibare. This is perfect chance to discover some hidden gems in one of London’s oldest arts districts.

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Various London locations Until Sunday July 5 2015

Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust

For a man who never really left his home in Queens, New York, Joseph Cornell conjured a sense of adventure and discovery in his brilliantly intricate shadow boxes. Considered a reclusive figure, the self-taught artist was an avid collector. Whether it was everyday knick-knacks, pebbles from the beach or maps and prints from second hand stores, Cornell amassed a vast array of ephemera that he used to create his intriguing assemblages. This show, the first London survey of this elusive artist in 35 years presents 80 works that feature his playful shadow boxes, rarely seen later collages and his extraordinary foray in filmmaking. Never wanting to be categorised by any art movement of the late twentieth century, Cornell truly thought out of the box as his mesmerising works prove.

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Royal Academy of Arts Saturday July 4 2015 - Sunday September 27 2015

Soundscapes: Listening to Paintings

The National Gallery's Sainbury Wing galleries will be transformed into a sonic experience by seven artists responding to paintings from the collection. Susan Philipsz, Jamie xx, Gabriel Yared, Nico Muhly, Chris Watson, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller have each created unique sound works to accompany their chosen paintings that will each be displayed in special soundproofed rooms.

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National Gallery Wednesday July 8 2015 - Sunday September 6 2015

Sculpture in the City

Critics' choice

Now in its fifth year, this public art initiative positions contemporary artists within the heart of the Square Mile, creating unexpected and humorous interactions within the urban environment. This year's line-up features Kris Martin, Laura Ford, Adam Chodzko, Folkert de Jong and Keita Miyazaki. you won’t fail to miss ‘Charity’, Damien Hirst’s giant sculpture of a collection box, but look out for Tomoaki Suzuki’s tiny figures, modelled after real Londoners. Both artists’ work is on display outside the Gherkin. In September a piece by Ai Weiwei will be added to coincide with his retrospective at the RA.  Find outdoor art all across London here.

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Square Mile Thursday July 9 2015 - Thursday June 30 2016 Free

The London Open

With a back catalogue that includes Grayson Perry, Anish Kapoor and Rachel Whiteread, this open-submission exhibition is a well-tested barometer of the scene that always picks up a few of tomorrow’s stars. Launched in 1932, the showcase promises to exhibit the most dynamic artists living and working in London today.

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Whitechapel Gallery Wednesday July 15 2015 - Sunday September 6 2015 Free

Art shows opening this August

Utopia

Art, theatre, music mash-up, 'Utopia' is the brainchild of British filmmaker, director and artist Penny Woolcock. She's been given full run of the Roundhouse's main space for 'Utopia', which is an installation created in collaboration with Block9 - regulars in creating crazy fantasy worlds at Glastonbury Festival. Staged in the Roundhouse's main space it takes Thomas More's 16th century book 'Utopia' as its inspiration and explores inequality, consumerism, housing, gentrification, education and social media. Alongside the show there is a series of live lates which include spoken word, cabaret and music events.

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Roundhouse Tuesday August 4 2015 - Saturday August 22 2015

Art shows opening this September

The World Goes Pop

The pop art phenomenon entranced artists all over the world from Latin America to Asia, throughout Europe and the Middle East. Although popular culture including advertising, movies, music and packaging gave artists the impetus to create visually stimulating and engaging works that celebrated consumer culture, it also gave them the means to critique the political and social climate. This exhibition of over 200 works created between the 1960s and 1970s reveals how artists from different countries put their individual spin on pop art.

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Tate Modern Thursday September 17 2015 - Sunday January 24 2016

Ai Weiwei

He may still not be allowed to travel out of China, but that doesn’t stop Beijing-based Ai Weiwei from exhibiting all over the world. Known for his openly critical opinion of the Chinese government, he remains one of the countries most important artistic exports and a voice for a generation disenchanted by oppressive political regimes. In 2011 the Royal Academy made him an Honorary Academician and will celebrate his visionary approach to art making with this, the first extensive British survey. Ai’s three-decade career will be mapped through his work that’s informed by personal experiences such as his 2011 detention and emphasises the importance of creative freedom.

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Royal Academy of Arts Saturday September 19 2015 - Sunday December 13 2015

Jumana Manna

Music and politics merge in the Berlin-based, Palestinian artist’s first UK solo show. Within a sculptural installation, Manna will screen her new film. Based on her research of broadcast radio during the British mandate in Palestine, Manna will use contemporary music to explore the cultural traditions of Jerusalem.

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Chisenhale Gallery Friday September 18 2015 - Sunday November 22 2015 Free

A Woman’s Hand

To mark the Saatchi Gallery’s thirtieth birthday, it will present its first exhibition of all-female artists. Over the last three decades, Charles Saatchi has been collecting the work of emerging and established artists including Jenny Saville, Paula Rego, Tracey Emin, Alice Anderson and Phoebe Unwin. Here, that extensive collection will celebrate the rich and diverse practices of female artists without making a feminist point.

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Saatchi Gallery Wednesday September 23 2015 - Sunday January 24 2016 Free

Art shows opening this October

Zhang Ding

In 1991, the UK’s hard rock and heavy metal festival, Monsters of Rock, showcased Pantera, Metallica, AC/DC and The Black Crowes in Moscow. Shanghai-based new media artist Zhang Ding got Chinese bands to recreate this important concert in 2014. Here, ‘Orbit of Rock’ will transform the ICA’s theatre into a music stage so historically significant London gigs can be recreated.

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ICA Tuesday October 6 2015 - Sunday November 1 2015

Goya: The Portraits

The first ever show to focus on the portraits by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Spain’s leading artist in the late eighteenth century and one of the most psychologically revealing painters of all time. Although his famously bleak ‘Black Paintings’ are far too fragile to travel, there are two masterful and deeply moving self-portraits among the important international loans that will make this show a highlight of autumn 2015.

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National Gallery Wednesday October 7 2015 - Sunday January 10 2016

Frank Auerbach

Considered Britain’s greatest living painter, the 83-year old artist has lived and worked in north London for the last sixty years, painting every day of the year but one. This survey of 70 paintings that span the over half a century you can experience his obsessive renderings of local scenes around Camden Town as well as portraits of close friends.

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Tate Britain Friday October 9 2015 - Sunday March 13 2016

Comments

4 comments
Luci S
Luci S

I would also REALLY appreciate such a thing. 

Mary G
Mary G

It would be really good if you could produce an easily printable listing of all the art events/galleries/shows that are on in London.  It is quite hard to get an overview from your listings as the listings seem to have been bundled into a short list under separate headings.  I would envisage a full list of both contemporary and traditional art - whether at museums, public or private galleries - etc.  Basically a fully comprehensive list - which can be printed off easily.  Any chance?