Free exhibitions in London
Soaking up some culture in the capital needn't cost the earth
- Jake & Dinos Chapman: Come and See
- The Lady from the Sea
- A History of Photography
- Sculpture in the City
London is awash with free exhibitions catering to every taste. Save your pounds for the gift shop and find out what you can see without paying an entrance fee, from major museum shows to niche exhibitions in specialist galleries.
Yes 3D printing is slow, and yes, it’s incredibly expensive, but it’s also one of the most revolutionary inventions of our lifetimes. But is it really going to democratise the means of production and overhaul global capitalism? Or is it just overhyped Lego for the twenty-first century? Neither, says the Science Museum in this new exhibition which showcases some 600 objects that have been painstakingly printed using 3D technology. Apparently, the idea that the invention will replace mass production anytime soon is a gross exaggeration. But it has, in a few short years, found a stupefying array of playful, useful and even lifesaving applications. Among the pieces on display here, expect to see human organs printed with living cells, fuel- saving aeroplane parts and even artworks (pictured). Sound overwhelming? It is until you consider the exhibition houses just a tiny fraction of the estimated 5.2 million objects that were 3D printed in the UK last year alone.
The serene, elliptical pool in the John Madejski Garden – the huge interior courtyard at the V&A – has been transformed by Chinese artist Xu Bing to become an ethereal fantasy garden, inspired by a fifth-century Chinese fable called ‘Tao Hua Yuan’ (‘The Peach Blossom Spring’). ‘Mountains’ (actually, big chunks of rock from different regions of China) surround the pool. Ceramic animals roam the peaks, fish frolic in the shallow water and among the slopes are miniature houses. There are also tiny TV screens and other unexpected elements to discover. The dream-like installation is especially magical after dark, and it has appeal for both children and adults. In the museum's TT Tsui Gallery, there will also be an exhibition of Xu Bing's work – including examples of his large-scale calligraphy – called 'Travelling to the Wonderland: Sketches, Calligraphy and Paintings by Xu Bing' for the duration of the installation.
The bad news for the space-obsessed is that the National Maritime Museum’s blockbuster ‘Visions of the Universe’ exhibition has now closed. The good news is the neighbouring Royal Observatory is exhibiting some spacey visions of its own. Back for the fifth year running, ‘Astronomy Photographer of the Year’ features dozens of professional and amateur images whittled down from more than 1,200 entries. Awe-inspiring photos, fall into four categories: ‘Earth and Space’, ‘Our Solar System’, ‘Deep Space’ and ‘Young Astronomer’ for under-16s. The overall winner this year is Mark Gee for his mesmerising image Guiding Light to the Stars. But other favourites include ‘A Flawless Point’ by Rogelio Bernal Andreo, in which the Milky Way blankets California’s Yosemite Valley, and Paul Haese’s ‘Solar Max’ – a textured close-up of the sun we could happily stare at until our eyes went funny.
For autumn 2013 the Danish/Norwegian duo Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset (of boy-on-a-rocking-horse Fourth Plinth fame) are creating a site-specific installation in the V&A's former Textile Galleries. The exhibition is an elaborate installation of a grand domestic setting belonging to a fictional architect. Objects from the V&A's collection will be presented alongside artworks, furniture and every day items to create an unexpected encounter for the museum visitor – which is nothing less than we'd expect from artists who, previously, have installed a replica Prada store in the middle of a Texan desert and a life-size concrete housing estate in a German museum. Watch our exclusive interview.
- Critics choice
Work by the winners of the UK Picture Editors’ Guild Awards is displayed in this exhibition at the Museum of London. The show offers a great opportunity to see some of the most beautiful press shots taken during the year in the way that the photography should be viewed and to give the large- format, finely printed works the unhurried attention they deserve. There are images in categories including war photography, fashion, sport and business, as well as a new category for the BT Citizen Photographer of the Year.
‘To Sarah,’ the note begins. ‘Do you like me?’ Underneath, a box marked ‘yes’ lies empty. The ‘no’ box is ticked. Then, ‘Why don’t you like me Sarah?’ We’ll never know, because before Sarah could answer the note was confiscated by a teacher and plunged into a desk drawer, forgotten in a mess of trading cards and tennis balls – until teacher and artist Guy Tarrant came along. Now it’s among more than 250 objects on display at the V&A Museum of Childhood’s ‘Confiscation Cabinets’, a fascinating new exhibition chronicling 30 years of diversion and deviancy at state schools throughout London. ‘I’m hoping people will stop to think about why so many pupils are disengaged in education,’ says Tarrant, who recovered the items from more than 150 primary and secondary schools over a period of 16 years. ‘Are London schools truly happy places?’ The answer to that question is probably ‘no’. For every adorable keepsake or toy – Sarah’s letter, a headless Mr T action figure – there’s also a shank or an air pistol. And despite the presence of some comforting classics – chatterboxes! Game Boy! – the exhibition has a sinister edge. Maybe it’s the sharpened glue spreader or the homemade bomb (a tennis ball filled with 200 match heads). Or perhaps it’s the Zippo-lighter/breath-freshener combination flamethrower. But some of ‘Confiscation Cabinets’ seems better suited to The Clink Prison Museum. Nick Aveling
An installation of extravagant and profane furniture by the artist Alannah Currie, aka Miss Pokeno (and ex member of ’80s pop group the Thompson Twins). The pieces – gold leaf-emblazoned armchairs, a table soldered with slanderous terms against women – furnish the headquarters of the militant feminist group the Sisters of Perpetual Resistance. Further curios for sale and weapons for the cause, inspired by the suffragettes, Pussy Riot and Femen, come in the form of gold paint-filled emu eggs, lipstick-red wrecking bars and giant muffs with secret pockets – puns very much intended. The exhibition is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays from 10am-5pm or by appointment (contact email@example.com).
The annual jewellery showcase in the run-up to Christmas (and beyond) features a huge selection of pieces for sale by designers from 22 diferent countries. Dazzle is the oldest and largest exhibition of contemporary jewellery in Europe, and as one of its key aims is to discover and promote new talent, you can be sure of discovering fresh approaches to the medium among the thousands of pieces on display. This year's exhibition is set up in the Oxo Tower, which houses numerous fashion, homeware and lighting boutiques, and includes over 3,000 pieces of unique jewellery for sale. There will be work by Jane Adam, who started out as a graduate designer for Dazzle 25 years ago, as well as silversmith Josef Koppmann and newbie Kelly Munro, who utilises wood, rubber and metal to create pieces inspired by the Scottish coastline.
One of London's prettiest attractions, tucked into a cleverly converted alms-house building, the Geffrye Museum in east London traces changes in middle-class taste in interior design from 1600 to the present day through a series of period room settings. At this time of year, a few carefully researched festive touches are added to each space: a spray of greenery here, a bauble there; nothing very flashy. In fact, nothing much at all until the Victorian room where the Christmas tree and Christmas cards make an appearance. There are numerous schools of thought about the point at which it's appropriate to start planning Christmas. For department stores, it's the first week in July; at the other extreme there's a happy band of people who favour 4pm on December 24 (and tend to do their Christmas shopping at petrol station supermarkets). Others take their cue from this annual show. Modest though it is, there's something rather magical about 'Christmas Past'. Fans of this gem of a museum tend to make an annual pilgrimage to stock up on great Christmas cards from the museum shop and savour the show's seasonal charm. Running alongside the festive exhibiton, is a series of family-friendly events, including 'An Edwardian Christmas' (December 5 5-8pm), at which all ages are invited to enjoy a talk by candlelight, with a greenery demonstration, decoration-making session and sing-a-long. December 7 will be given over to a family day, with workshops for childredn aged two-plus involving caro
An exhibtion exploring the state of global health, featuring work by resident artists from medical research centres in the UK, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Thailand and Vietnam. The display is a mixed media one, made up of photographs, paintings, sculpture and films.
Biennial prize for contemporary artists and designers inspired by Islamic traditions of craft and design. The exhibition showcases the work of the ten artists and designers shortlisted for the £25,000 prize. Around 270 nominations were received from countries including Algeria, Brazil, Kosovo, Norway and Russia. Shortlisted artists include Faig Ahmed, who will show two works, 'Hollow' and 'Pixelate Tradition' from his series of works inspired by traditional Azerbaijani rug making, Rahul Jain, a textile designer and historian who will show works made on traditional Indian drawlooms, and Waqas Khan, who conjures visual infinity through dots, marks and lines executed on a large scale. The winner is announced on December 10.
How do you picture Peter Pan? Disney-style, all neat and nimble? How about Willy Wonka? Or Paddington Bear? This British Library exhibition takes a look at how we identify with characters through illustration by presenting drawings based on ten classic children’s titles. ‘The Iron Man’, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, ‘The Wind in the Willows’, ‘Paddington Bear’ and ‘The Secret Garden’ are among the books explored, and illustrations by Quentin Blake, Michael Foreman, Rudyard Kipling and JRR Tolkien show how differently artists can interpret the same story and how a character can grow over time in the hands of different illustrators.
This year's theme for the annual temporary exhibition in the Images of Nature gallery showcases Indian botanical and zoological watercolours of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, featuring the local widlife and plantlife as depicted by Indian artists of the time.
A commission by artist Yinka Shonibare, produced by Up Projects for the Royal Opera House. Titled 'Globe Head Ballerina', the work is inspired by a famous photograph of ballerina Margot Fonteyn. Shonibare's sculpture depicts a life-size ballerina, modelled on Melissa Hamilton, a soloist with the Royal Ballet. Encased in a giant 'snow globe', the figure, whose head is a replica Victorian globe, rotates slowly. Her tutu is made of fabrics that are synonymous with Shonibare's work and his exploration of the ambiguities of heritage and identity; originally manufactured by the Dutch for sale in the Indonesian market, the fabrics have become a symbol of African identity, having eventually been sold to the colonies in West Africa. The work is displayed on the exterior of the building overlooking Russell Street and will remain in place for five years.
An exhibition of cartoons, caricatures, satirical excerpts from diarists and records from the National Theatre's archive that date back to the 1900s and reveal the history of the National.
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- 3D: Printing the Future
- Travelling to the Wonderland: Xu Bing installation at the V&A
- Hello, My name is Paul Smith
- Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013
- Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr
- Elmgreen & Dragset: Tomorrow
- UK Picture Editors’ Guild Awards Exhibition
- Turner and the Sea
- Confiscation Cabinets
Get your diary out – here are the ten best museum exhibitions taking place in the capital this year.
We're here to help you stay updated with the dizzying array of new and recently opened exhibitions in the capital.
Save your pounds for the gift shop and find out what exhibitions you can see without paying an entrance fee.
What's not to like about checking out a new exhibition after hours, wirh a drink in hand?