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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 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

Eloise Hawser's exhibited an x-ray of a truck that was scanned at a border control, she’s compressed old radiators and she’s cast her father’s loafers in rubber and resin. For 'Lives on Wire', she’ll fill the ICA's lower gallery with a site-specific installation that utilizes the gallery’s lighting system to explore the cinema organ invented by the British telephone engineer Robert Hope Jones in the early twentieth century.

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ICA Tuesday August 4 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 Until Sunday October 18 2015

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 Wednesday August 5 2015 - Sunday August 23 2015 Free

Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust

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 amassing a vast array of ephemera that he used to create his intriguing assemblages. This show, the first London survey of Cornell in 35 years, presents 80 works that feature his playful shadow boxes, rarely seen later collages and his extraordinary dabbling in filmmaking. 

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Royal Academy of Arts Until 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 Until 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 of 14 works includes Damien Hirst’s ‘Charity’, a giant sculpture of a collection box that you won’t fail to miss, and Tomoaki Suzuki’s tiny figures (pictured), modelled after real Londoners, which you might. Joining them in September will be a piece by Ai Weiwei to coincide with his retrospective at the Royal Academy of Arts. 

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Square Mile Until 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 Tuesday August 4 2015 - Sunday September 6 2015 Free

Travel Photographer of the Year

An exhibition featuring images from the 2014 Travel Photographer of the Year awards, including a showcase of work by the overall winner, the British photographer Philip Lee Harvey; and a display of the amateur and professional photographers from over 100 countries who competed.

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Royal Geographical Society Until Saturday September 5 2015 Free

Art shows opening this August

Vivian Maier

Incorrigibly private, Vivian Maier’s secret life as a photographer wasn’t discovered until boxes of over 100,000 negatives and undeveloped film rolls were bought at auction two years before her death. Thanks in part to the documentary film ‘Finding Vivian Maier’, she is no longer an unknown photographic talent and joins the ranks of Brassai, Cartier-Bresson and Walker Evans. It was Maier’s day job as a nanny that enabled her, either on her days off or with the children in tow, to trawl the streets of Chicago and New York for unsuspecting subjects who she captured with her Rolliflex. Here, Maier’s curious eye is revealed in many previously unseen captivating black-and-white images that pay as much attention to the downtrodden as to the well-heeled.

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Beetles & Huxley Tuesday August 4 2015 - Saturday September 5 2015 Free


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

Thomas Ruff: Nature Morte

In the age of digital photography, the influential German artist’s new photograms of floral subjects herald the importance of the film negative.

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Gagosian Davies St Thursday August 6 2015 - Saturday September 26 2015 Free

Celina Teague: I think therefore I #

For all their bright flare, Teague’s latest paintings actually have a dark undertone as they respond to the global atrocities reported via social media. Consumed by the proliferation of news stories about abductions, beheadings, uprisings and riots abound on the Internet, Teague began interpreting the growing number of hashtags used to alert more people to the unbelievable events to question what happens once the hashtag has lost its potency.

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Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery Thursday August 6 2015 - Saturday September 5 2015 Free

Safari Festival

A curated collection of cartoonists and publishers present a huge range of innovative work at this one-day free festival of contemporary comics and art. Expect to find silly, witty, striking and colourful stories and prints of all sorts, the majority of which will be on sale.

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Protein Saturday August 22 2015 Free

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

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 13 2015 - Sunday October 25 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

The World of Charles and Ray Eames

You may well have sat in one of Charles and Ray Eameses iconic stack chairs and if not then your derriere has certainly sampled one of the thousand copies produced in their troves. The Eameses pioneering designs are known the world over and have been a guiding light for new generations of designers and certainly a go to for any interior decorator. This major retrospective focuses on their extraordinary laboratory, the Eames Office that produced more than just furniture but sought to address the demands of modern living through new approaches to architecture or arts education. Bringing together their innovative projects, we’ll be able to revisit their legacy whilst also getting tips on how best to redecorate the living room.

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Barbican Centre Wednesday October 21 2015 - Sunday February 14 2016


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?