Top 10 art exhibitions in London

Check out our critics' pick of the art currently on show in the capital

© Peter Macdiarmid

Fancy seeing an art show this weekend but no idea where to go? Well look no further. You can't go wrong if you head down to one of our ten favourite art exhibitions taking place in the capital right now.

1

Richard Diebenkorn

If you thought Monet, Renoir and co had the whole ‘sunshine on canvas’ thing sewn up, then grab your shades and get yourself to the RA where, thanks to this sparkling survey of US painter Richard Diebenkorn, a warm Californian breeze wafts through the Sackler Galleries. Considered a modern master in the States, with auction prices to match, Diebenkorn (1922-93) is barely known outside of art circles over here. 

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Royal Academy of Arts Until Sunday June 7 2015
2

Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album

Superstition, madness, monstrous cruelty… but enough of the news. Let’s see what was going on 200 years ago in Spain, when Francisco de Goya began work on the extraordinary ink drawings in his ‘Album D’. Oh, it was pretty much the same. That’s the incredible thing about Goya: even when he’s commenting on, say, the ulcerous 1807-14 Peninsular War, or the interminable shadow of the Spanish Inquisition, he does it in a way that’s supremely relatable to today; to Ukraine or Syria or… take your pick. Of course, by extension, that’s also the fairly shit thing about the world. 

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Courtauld Gallery Until Monday May 25 2015
3

Inventing Impressionism

Museums generally shy away from the grubby subject of buying and selling art, even though we’re all fascinated by who bagged what and how much they coughed up (especially if scandal’s involved). So what’s the National Gallery doing recreating the vulgar front room-cum-salesroom of Parisian art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel and, in so doing, reminding us that the stuff on the walls came not, unsullied, from the hands of geniuses but from a glorified shop? Re-imagining that sure-bet crowd-puller, the impressionism exhibition, that’s what. On one level, pursuing a mercantile line of enquiry about this most bankable band of artists makes perfect sense. 

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National Gallery Until Sunday May 31 2015
4

Leon Golub: Bite Your Tongue

You couldn’t think of a more appropriate time for mounting a retrospective of Leon Golub (1922-2004). What with the recent reports of CIA torture, and the brutalities of America’s increasingly militarised police forces, the late US painter’s angry, politically-charged work suddenly feels incredibly urgent again – particularly his most iconic and malevolent paintings, the ‘Interrogation’ and ‘Mercenaries’ series from the ’80s. 

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Serpentine Gallery Until Sunday May 17 2015 Free
5

Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector

Critics' choice

There are moments in this exhibition when you forget you’re in an exhibition at all – when looking through the personal collections of 14 artists feels more like being in some fantastic bazaar. In Peter Blake’s part of the show alone you’ll find creepy Edwardian dolls and puppets, faked taxidermies of mythological animals and gorgeous old tin signs. Elsewhere, the cornucopia includes glass eyeballs owned by photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, Soviet space dog memorabilia from Martin Parr, and psychedelic, cod-surrealist paintings sourced by American artist Jim Shaw from thrift stores around the world. 

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Barbican Centre Until Monday May 25 2015
6

History is Now

Uncannily familiar and disconcertingly strange, this show is like a distorting fairground mirror held up to our fair isle. A bloody big mirror. One minute you’ll be shaking your fists at the sky (probably the bit of the sky that the business end of the surface-to-air missile on the gallery roof is aimed at), the next you’ll be tittering at a line-up of well-stuffed swimming trunks. With the general election just a few months away and ideas of ‘Britishness’ a major part of the political bunfight, seven artists have been asked to look at aspects of our history from the end of WWII to now. They reveal a land of picnics and bunting, mad cows and Mrs Thatcher. There’s insane beauty and depressing social injustice. And David Beckham, blissfully, beautifully, dozing through it all.  

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Hayward Gallery Until Sunday April 26 2015
7

Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden

Marlene Dumas paints celebrities, nonentities, supermodels, porn models, terrorists, tyrants, dead people, fictional people, children, herself, history’s ghouls and spectres – and Phil Spector, twice capturing the jailed former record producer with and without his fright wig. All succumb to her dissolving, fluid style, as if being carried along a Styx-like river of dark undercurrents.

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Tate Modern Until Sunday May 10 2015
8

Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915-2015

Fun fact of the year, and it’s only January: under the military junta in Argentina in the 1970s, Venn diagrams were banned, since they illustrated collaboration and collective action. This is just one of the unexpected turns taken by this show tracing the course of geometric abstraction across the last century.

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Whitechapel Gallery Until Sunday April 5 2015
9

Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840-1860

Another week, another photography show about death. It’s not officially about death, mind you; it’s officially about the years 1840 to 1860, when photographers made their images on paper sensitised with silver salts. The process was quickly superseded, but the pictures created this way have a beautiful artistic softness and subtlety of tone, quite apart from the fact that every single new photograph that succeeded represented a huge leap forward in the development of the medium. You see these early practitioners start to grasp the scope of what might be possible. Their subjects change, from ivy-covered walls and carefully posed family groups to more exotic landscapes and subjects: Egypt, India, the poor, war. By the time you get to Roger Fenton’s portrait ‘Captain Lord Balgonie, Grenadier Guards’ of 1855 you have an inkling of how photography is changing how we understand life, for ever. 

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Tate Britain Until Monday May 25 2015
10

Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends

Walking into this exhibition is like being a fly on the wall at a late nineteenth-century soirée of the in-crowd. John Singer Sargent, the Transatlantic portraitist who was born in Florence to American parents, trained in Paris under society painter Carolus-Duran before moving to London in 1887. Along the way he made the acquaintance of many influential and colourful characters from the worlds of art, literature, music and theatre. 

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National Portrait Gallery Until Monday May 25 2015
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Comments

12 comments
D H
D H

Please please please please. This website is near useless now. You can't search for anything. We're dependent on Editors making a list anything outside of those lists essentially is impossible to find. It seems given the tonnes of comments to this effect something akin to commercial suicide is happening at T.O towers. We still love you. Don't give up!

Segun L
Segun L

Oh for heavens sake, where are the listings? Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Time Out is, by definition, a listings magazine, is it not? So, where are they? Ohhhh.... Now, I've seen all the other comments for the last six months. You obviously don't care anymore about user experience. Is this obliqueness an advertiser requirement or just sheer editorial bloodymindedness?

Nicky Z
Nicky Z

I agree with all these comments - this is all pre-digested for us. Can we not also decide what we want to see for ourselves? Where are the listings?

Daryoush
Daryoush

Agree with all the commentators the new listing system is really hard to understand.

mark de novellis
mark de novellis

One of the bext exhibitions of 2013 is the Madge Gill: Medium & Visionary exhibition at Orleans House Gallery. This free retrospective brings together over a hundred stunning works by the UK's leading outsider artist - many of which have never been shown to the public before. There is still time to see it - it ends on 26 January 2014.

David I
David I

Totally agree with the comments here. London no longer has a proper listings magazine, which is a major loss, and the website is terrible. Cluttered, utterly confusing to navigate, I am frequently defeated just trying to find out what's on in the major galleries or where a particular film is showing. It's totally unfit for purpose. Bring back the magazine with listings.

Lamaline
Lamaline

Couldn't agree more. No more top 10. The essential and that's it!

robspackman
robspackman

A little of me died when i first saw the gutted form of the Timeout I love on my return to London after two years in South Africa. At least I thought I could still find the listings online. I was wrong. What have you done with them? Sitting with a pencil planning what to do in this wonderful but at times bewildering city was once one of the highlights of my week. No more. Why?

Liz Eyres
Liz Eyres

I agree with Nik Wood totally. I was so upset when Time Out in its old form (IE you could buy it from newsagents) ceased to be as it was the art listings that I mainly bought it for. Not only is it almost impossible for me to get a copy of it now as I am never in central London when it is distributed, but it lacks the straightforward and comprehensive listings that were in the old incarnation of the magazine. Please can you reintroduce them.

Nik Wood
Nik Wood

Why don't you do a list of what's on any more? I don't want "Top 10". I don''t want "Critics' Choices". I don't want "Opening today". I just want a comprehensive list of what shows are running now so that I can make up my own mind which to go to.