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 the National Gallery's 'Inventing Impressionism', Tate Britain's 'Barbara Hepworth' retrospective, Tate Modern's 'The World Goes Pop' and the Royal Academy's Ai Weiwei exhibition.

Art shows opening this May

Catlin Art Prize

After launching the sixth Catlin Art Guide earlier this year at the London Art Fair, the Catlin Art Prize has now announced the shortlisted artists for the ninth year of the coveted art prize. This year’s finalists are Jon Baker Felicity Hammond, Oliver Hickmet, Nicholas Johnson, Paul Schneider, Lexi Strauss, Dominic Watson and Zhu Tian. Each artist will create new works for the three-week long show in east London.

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Londonewcastle Project Space Saturday May 30 2015 Free

Peter Kennard: Unofficial War Artist

A look at the work of one of Britain's most important political artists, this exhibition is the first major retrospective of Peter Kennard's 50-year career. Learn more about the motivations and methods behind his iconic artworks and how key images are reworked and reinterpreted to become representations of the protest movement. 

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Imperial War Museum Until Monday May 30 2016 Free

Max Mara Art Prize for Women: Corin Sworn

Following her six-month residency in Italy, Max Mara Art Prize winner Corin Sworn presents a new large-scale installation inspired by Commedia dell’Arte. Drawing on the rich theatrical history of the improvising troupe of masked actors, the Glasgow-based artist will create an engaging, immersive and dramatic environment filled with props, costumes, sound and video to investigate literary devices such as mistaken identity.

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Whitechapel Gallery Until Sunday July 19 2015 Free

Beneath the Surface

Somerset House’s riverfront position is the inspiration for this, er, immersive exhibition of rarely-seen photographs from the V&A’s collection. Among the 200 works on show, you’ll see William Strudwick’s shots along the Thames from the 1860s and David Kronig’s Whistler-esque images of the river, taken almost a century later, as well as more recent works by Stephen Gill and installation artists Ackroyd & Harvey. 

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Somerset House Until Monday August 24 2015

The Line

Walk The Line between the O2 and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to see sculptures by Damien Hirst, Martin Creed and Gary Hume. Launching on Sat May 23, London's new sculpture trail will lead walkers along three miles of waterways including London's Royal Docks and along the River Lea. The ten works installed this year will be on loan for two years, with new pieces proposed to coincide with Frieze later in the year. 

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Various London locations Until Thursday December 31 2015 Free
See art shows opening in June

Art shows opening this June

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 Wednesday June 3 2015 - 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 Tuesday June 9 2015 - 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 Monday June 8 2015 - 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 Wednesday June 10 2015 - Monday September 7 2015

Vauxhall Art Car Boot Fair

Gavin Turk, Tracey Emin, Pam Hogg, Bob and Roberta Smith and Polly Morgan will be amongst the artists offering limited edition and one off creations from the boots of classic and vintage cars at this unique event. There’ll also be brand new entertainment with Dog in a Boot Show, Vauxhall Art Car Bonnets and Daylight Cabaret. With works starting at £10 and reaching £1,000, the fair attracts over a thousand people so we suggest you try to get there early.

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Brick Lane Yard Sunday June 14 2015

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 Friday June 19 2015 - 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 Tuesday June 23 2015 - 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 Wednesday June 24 2015 - 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, hope on board. 

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Barbican Centre Saturday June 27 2015 - Sunday July 26 2015

Art shows opening this July

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 Wednesday July 1 2015 - 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 Thursday July 2 2015 - Sunday October 18 2015

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