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Top ten museum exhibitions in London

Check out our pick of the city's best cultural offerings at the top ten museum exhibitions in London

Get your diary at the ready: London's top museums are set to showcase an abundance of cracking museum exhibitions throughout the events calendar. There's always an exciting show to delve into, on subjects as varied as history, fashion, art and the natural world. Check out our guide to free museums in London if you fancy seeing more of the capital's museums.
 
RECOMMENDED: our full guide to exhibitions in London

The best museum exhibitions in London

1

Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear

The V&A is a victim of its own success. Ever since the Alexander McQueen exhibition ‘Savage Beauty’, with its drama, tragedy and preposterous gorgeousness, the bar for their fashion exhibitions has been set impossibly high. While this is not another ‘Savage Beauty’, it is a thoughtful and interesting show. ‘Undressed’ tells the story of undies from the eighteenth century to more recent times. It reveals the ingenuity of underwear, from the missing bones at the back of crinolines which allowed women to sit, to corsets designed for horseriding – forerunners to the sports bra. 

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V&A , Brompton Until Sunday March 12 2017
2

This Is a Voice

Walk through the soundproofed corridor that opens the Wellcome Collection’s latest show and you hear a surprising sound: birdsong. What place does this twittering have in an exhibition about the human voice? It’s astonishing to enter Marcus Coates’s installation ‘Dawn Chorus’ and see footage of people singing like wrens and robins. Coates recorded birds individually, then slowed their songs down to be imitated by singers. He filmed the humans in their natural habitat – in bed, on the couch, in the bath – then sped his footage up until their voices were indistinguishable from the birds they mimicked. 

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Wellcome Collection , Bloomsbury Until Sunday July 31 2016
3

Shakespeare in Ten Acts

To generalise wildly, most of us can imagine what a Shakespeare play looked like 400 years ago – breeches, ruffs, dudes dressed as chicks. And anybody who goes to the theatre in 2016 knows what one looks like now. But in between? This smart new exhibition at the British Library aims to shed some light on the reality of Shakespeare’s four century-plus hold on our imagination, which it notionally does by focusing on ten key performances over the years. It doesn’t achieve its goal particularly literally – there’s very little specific documentation of individual theatre productions until the twentieth century.

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British Library , Euston Until Tuesday September 6 2016
4

Clangers, Bagpuss & Co

Hopefully you were first introduced to the wonderfully weird worlds of Smallfilms, the production company of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firman, at an early enough age that this small but beautifully put together exhibition will be like a magician revealing his secrets. See the paper pieces that became Noggin the Nog, find out which '60s model was the fashion inspiration for the Clangers, learn how Bagpuss ended up pink and make your very own stop-frame animation starring Ivor the Engine. With lots of beautiful artefacts to admire – including Bagpuss himself – you'll feel even more fond of the shows than you were to start with.

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V&A Museum of Childhood , Bethnal Green Until Sunday October 9 2016
5

The Rolling Stones: Exhibitionism

When Time Out interviewed Mick Jagger in advance of the opening of Exhibitionism – a massive touring retrospective of stuff dedicated to the history of The Rolling Stones – he told us: 'What I didn’t want was for it to all be on screens. People live their lives on screens so much that if people don’t see a screen for a second, they think they’re not alive.’  It’s odd then that’s exactly how Exhibitionism has ended up: on many, many screens. 

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Saatchi Gallery , Chelsea Until Sunday September 4 2016
6

Cycle Revolution

The bicycle is the pinnacle of simple but effective human design. It has evolved from nineteenth-century push-along hobby horses through patently ridiculous penny farthing ‘ordinaries’ to the ubiquitous epitome of functionality it is today. So how do you improve on perfection? And why would you want to? This new exhibition at the Design Museum doesn’t answer those questions, but gives us plenty to think about.  It’s not just a display of cool bikes, although obsessives can get within touching distance of some of the most iconic machines of the last 100 years. 

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Design Museum , Bermondsey Until Thursday June 30 2016
7

Light, Time, Legacy: Francis Towne’s Watercolours of Rome

I love this show, though maybe not for the reasons the curators expect. In 1780, Francis Towne (1739-1816) took a trip to Rome in search of pictorial scenes. He was an established painter, albeit a provincial one. Rome opened his eyes: he painted it conscientiously and – at times – spiritedly. His compositions grew bolder and more stylised. They stopped looking like the Lake District on an unusually sunny day.

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British Museum , Bloomsbury Until Sunday August 14 2016
8

Curtain Up: Celebrating 40 Years of Theatre in London and New York

This glam little exhibition makes the V&A's permanent 'Theatre and Performance' collection look positively drab with its flashing lights, sequins and showstoppers. It's a collection of posters, costumes, artefacts and recordings that represent the biggest shows in West End and Broadway history. It celebrates 40 years of the Olivier awards, and you won't forget it – most of the exhibit label space is taking up with listing exactly who won which gongs and when. 

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V&A , Brompton Until Wednesday August 31 2016
9

Pre-Raphaelites on Paper: Victorian Drawings from the Lanigan Collection

Victorian painting is generally thought of as a pretty stilted, academic affair. The problem is that a lot of it looks like it wants to be more like drawing – particularly those paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood who, in harking back to some fantasy of pre-Renaissance purity, created a style that emphasised crisp outlines and fussy detail over traditional painterly effects. If that’s the case, then surely an exhibition of their actual drawings should be a doozy, right? Well, sort of. 

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Leighton House Museum , Kensington Until Sunday May 29 2016
10

Otherworlds: Visions of our Solar System

Space. To go, boldly or otherwise, isn’t really an option for most of us, despite the advent of contactless TfL payment . But we have sent countless craft, probes and bits of hardware, as well as the odd mammal, into the heavens. And they have returned with or beamed back screeds of technical information – now held in the archives of various space agencies. It’s this data that artist and writer Michael Benson sifts through, taking individual frames of often grainy black-and-white footage to come up with the seamless colour montages of celestial goings-on in this show. 

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Natural History Museum , Brompton Until Sunday May 15 2016

Find the best bits of London museums

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By: Phoebe Trimingham

Comments

7 comments
Surat K
Surat K

Go and See the first exhibition on trans and gender nonconforming people of faith in the UK - now open at Islington Museum for LGBT History Month - stunning portrait photography by Christa Holka!  'After-dark event with audio installation tomorrow Thu 11/02  more info www.twilightpeople,com

Lynn
Lynn

I must be missing something - i only see 9! And i don't see the Bowie at the V&A and that simply MUST be on there!

David
David

And the Roy Lichtenstein exhibition opening on Monday is'nt even mentioned !

ian
ian

yes and what can i do TODAY please!