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Art reviews and listings for London's best museum exhibitions and art galleries

You can do virtual tours of almost every major London museum and gallery
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You can do virtual tours of almost every major London museum and gallery

Life without art and museums is just a whole lot of Netflix and cheap lager, that’s what self-isolation has taught me so far. Good heavens, I miss museums. The smell, the light, the people, the ART. I really miss art. But it’s good to know that way before everything went crazy, most of London’s museums digitised their collections and even created virtual tours of their spaces. From Tate Modern through to the Natural History Museum, here are our favourite virtual tours of our most beloved London cultural institutions. Tate Modern Photograph: Facebook/Tate   The Tate’s collection is staggering: Monet, Picasso, Rothko, all the big names. In this tour, Tate Modern’s director Frances Morris takes you on a tour of one of the Tate’s new buildings, showing you works by Louise Bourgeois, Carl Andre and plenty of others. For some reason, Nick Grimshaw’s there too. I don’t know why. I don’t like it. The Courtauld Gallery of Art Photograph: Courtauld   This is a virtual tour of a museum that was shut even before the current crisis. The Courtauld’s been closed for refurbishment for ages, but cleverly created this digital tour for posterity’s sake. It’s room by room, so start at the beginning with Cranach the Elder’s ‘Adam and Eve’, scoot through the portraits of old dead people in room four and then head straight for the Impressionist and modernist delights of rooms six and seven. Van Gogh, Manet, Kandinsky? Yes please! The National Portrait Gallery Photograph: National Portrait Gall

London art magazines to get you through self-isolation
Art

London art magazines to get you through self-isolation

Missing the galleries? Desperate for some arty eye-fuel? Here are some great London-based art magazines to see you through these weird times

Here are five paintings that perfectly express the boredom of isolation
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Here are five paintings that perfectly express the boredom of isolation

Art is full of bored-looking people. Take a walk through any museum or gallery around the world (when they re-open, obviously) and you’ll see hundreds of faces expressing nothing more than ennui. That’s because sitting for portraits is a tedious business, what with spending all those hours sat still doing absolutely nothing. Sound familiar?

This Banksy is on sale for around £100, and it might look a little familiar
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This Banksy is on sale for around £100, and it might look a little familiar

Back in 2010, we got everyone’s favourite anti-establishment maverick-with-a-spray-can – none other than Mr Banksy himself – to do a Time Out cover. It was, as you can no doubt imagine, hugely popular. Time Out wasn’t free back then, you actually had to PAY to read all of our brilliant content. I know, incredible. Out in the shops you’d get the Banksy cover with all of our cover lines on it, but subscribers got a special edition that was just the image and our logo. Here are the two covers side by side: Banksy Now, London auction house Tate Ward is hosting an online sale, and our Banksy subscriber cover (it could be one of our cover posters, but we think it’s the subscriber version of the magazine cover) is one of the lots. It currently has an estimate of £100-£200 – for something that would have cost just £2.99 in the shops. Even considering inflation, that's a pretty good return on investment. So there you go, reading Time out could make you rich in the future. It’s just another thing we do for you. You’re welcome. Bid on the Time Out Banksy cover here. And then when you’re done with that, find more art here.   

Covid-19 closed this widow’s exhibition of her husband’s art after just one day, so we put it online
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Covid-19 closed this widow’s exhibition of her husband’s art after just one day, so we put it online

On the morning of March 16, 90-year-old Diana Cohen travelled from Norfolk to Bush House in London for the opening of ‘Alfred Cohen: An American Artist in Europe’, a retrospective of her late husband’s work and the first public exhibition of it since 2001, the year he died. But by that evening the show had been formally closed to the public as part of London’s coronavirus lockdown. The product of 20 years work, and a labour of love on the part of Diana Cohen and Max Saunders (the artist’s stepson and co-curator of the show), it had been open less than 24 hours. Alfred Cohen was born in Chicago in 1920, the son of Latvian immigrants to the United States. His American art education preached the virtue of all things French and, not long after the Second World War, he moved to Paris, the first step in a new life that ended with his permanently relocating to Britain. His paintings – many of which are landscapes – are a pool of different influences swirling together. There are river views bearing the wispy imprint of Impressionism; a patchwork of blocky, boldly coloured rooftops in a borderline abstract manner; and a parade of joyfully creepy carnivalesque characters completed along the wobbly, whimsical lines of Marc Chagall.  Best of all, he painted countless images of London and the Thames, filled with nods to Whistler and Monet, but imbued with something more modern and melancholy. They’re empty, quiet vistas – and they feel weirdly appropriate for right now. The exhibition is

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Cecil Beaton's Bright Young Things
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Cecil Beaton's Bright Young Things

If the name Cecil Beaton means anything to you, it might well be from a Claire Foy-era episode of ‘The Crown’. ‘Dear Cecil’, as they lovingly refer to him, is a favourite for his frou-frou portraits of the young monarch, his sugar plum conservatism contrasting with the sexy modernity of Lord Snowdon, husband to Princess Margaret and a very different type of society portraitist. This exhibition, however, presents a different side to the photographer and costume designer. 

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Titian: Love, Desire, Death
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Titian: Love, Desire, Death

Bodies flailing through the air, mythical creatures rushing by in a blur, golden rays of light and mounds and mounds of flesh: Titian’s poesie series is wild, dramatic, violent and very, very sensual. The Renaissance master’s works are reunited in full here for the first time since the 1500s. 

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Edmund de Waal: Library of Exile
Museums

Edmund de Waal: Library of Exile

It stings the heart, this installation by Edmund de Waal. The ceramicist and author has lined the walls of his room within a room in the British Museum with books by writers in exile. Albert Camus’s ‘Exile and the Kingdom’, Jean Rhys’s ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’, Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’. Shelf after shelf of stories written by people far from home, thinking of home. 

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Andy Warhol
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Andy Warhol

Sometimes, when you stand in front of a painting, it’s like being in the presence of a celebrity. Some works – the ‘Mona Lisa’, ‘Starry Night’, ‘Luncheon on the Grass’ – are so famous, so ubiquitous, so a part of our world’s cultural fabric that actually seeing them feels unreal, uneasy, magical. This show is full of those celebrities. 

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
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Must-see art exhibitions in London

Edmund de Waal: Library of Exile
Museums

Edmund de Waal: Library of Exile

It stings the heart, this installation by Edmund de Waal. The ceramicist and author has lined the walls of his room within a room in the British Museum with books by writers in exile. Albert Camus’s ‘Exile and the Kingdom’, Jean Rhys’s ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’, Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’. Shelf after shelf of stories written by people far from home, thinking of home.

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
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Artemisia
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Artemisia

In July 2018, the National Gallery acquired ‘Self Portrait as St Catherine of Alexandria’ by Artemisia Gentileschi. It is the first painting they've owned by the Baroque artist and it very slightly boosted their collection of works by female artists (shamefully, the gallery only owns 20 artworks by female artists in a collection totalling 2,300). They’re now re-doubling their efforts to promote Artemisia’s talents with this major solo show. Along with the 'St Catherine' image, the exhibition will feature major loans from private and public collections, including several paintings only recently attributed to the artist. It's art not to miss-isa. Sorry.

Titian: Love, Desire, Death
Art

Titian: Love, Desire, Death

For the first time in more than 400 years, Titian’s six mythological paintings are going to be reunited. Based on the Greek myths recorded by Ovid, the exhibited artworks include ‘Diana and Actaeon’ and ‘Diana and Callisto’, both favourites of the artist Lucian Freud (he once described Diana's "amazing toes" and re-painted one of his own nudes after seeing how Titian tackled a belly button). When they were painted, Titian called them "Poesie", which means they're the visual art version of poetry. Whatever word you want to use, the simple fact is this: they're stunning. Don't miss. 

Zanele Muholi
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Zanele Muholi

This mid-career survey of South Aftrican visual activist Zanele Muholi captures the breadth and power of an extensive body of work dedicated to presenting a multifaceted view of black LGBTQI+ individuals. Muholi’s long-running projects include a substantial collection of self-portraits, many of which were made on trips abroad. The artist’s experiences of racial profiling at airports and hotels inspired a phenomenal series of images referencing and commemorating episodes in their personal history and the political landscape of South Africa. Also included in the show are examples of Muholi’s portraiture, many of which show black lesbians or trans people. 

See more upcoming art exhibitions

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The 40 best photos of London ever taken
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The 40 best photos of London ever taken

Our (almost) definitive list of the best photographs ever taken of the capital

Free art in London
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Free art in London

See all London's free art exhibitions this week

Latest art interviews
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Latest art interviews

We speak to the biggest names and emerging talent in the art world

The 100 best paintings in London
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The 100 best paintings in London

Our expert guide to the best paintings in the capital

Read the latest Time Out art features

What's on at

Barbican Centre
Cinemas

Barbican Centre

The Barbican Centre, a vast concrete estate of 2,000 flats and a leading arts complex, is a prime example of brutalist architecture, softened a little by time and rectangular ponds of friendly resident ducks. The lakeside terrace and adjoining café are good spots to take a rest from visiting the art gallery, cinema, theatre, concert hall or library within the complex. The art gallery on the third floor stages exhibitions on design, architecture and pop culture, while on the ground floor, the Curve is a free exhibition space for specially commissioned works and contemporary art. At the core of the music roster, performing 90 concerts a year, is the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). The annual BITE season (Barbican International Theatre Events) continues to cherry-pick exciting and eclectic theatre companies from around the globe. The Barbican regularly attracts and nurtures experimental dance, and the Pit Theatre is a perfectly intimate space.

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
National Gallery
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National Gallery

Founded in 1824 to display a collection of just 36 paintings, today the National Gallery is home to more than 2,000 works. There are masterpieces from virtually every European school of art. The modern Sainsbury Wing extension contains the gallery’s earliest works: Italian paintings by early masters like Giotto and Piero della Francesca. The basement of the Sainsbury Wing is also the setting for temporary exhibitions. In the West Wing are Italian Renaissance masterpieces by Correggio, Titian and Raphael; in the North Wing, seventeenth-century Dutch, Flemish, Italian and Spanish Old Masters. In the East Wing (reached via the street-level entrance in Trafalgar Square) are some of the gallery’s most popular paintings: works by the French Impressionists and post-Impressionists, including on of Monet’s water lily paintings and one of Van Gogh’s sunflowers series. You can’t see everything in one visit to the National Gallery, but the free guided tours and audio guides will help you make the most of your time. There’s also a wonderfully atmospheric café stocked with Oliver Peyton goodies, and a fine-dining restaurant, the National Dining Rooms.

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery

Portraits don't have to be stuffy. The National Portrait Gallery has everything from oil paintings of stiff-backed royals to photos of soccer stars and gloriously unflattering political caricatures. The portraits of musicians, scientists, artists, philanthropists and celebrities are arranged in chronological order from the top to the bottom of the building. At the top of the escalator up from the main foyer are the earliest works, portraits of Tudor and Stuart royals and notables. On the same floor, the eighteenth-century collection features Georgian writers and artists, with one room devoted to the influential Kit-Cat Club of Whig (leftish) intellectuals, Congreve and Dryden among them. More famous names here include Wren and Swift. The Duveen Extension contains Regency greats, military men such as Wellington and Nelson, as well as Byron, Wordsworth and other Romantics. The first floor is devoted to the Victorians (Dickens, Brunel, Darwin) and, in the Duveen Extension, the twentieth century. One of the NPG's most popular highlights is the annual BP Portrait Award where the best entrants for the prestigious prize are exhibited.

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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Tate Britain

Tate Britain

Tate Modern gets all the attention, but the original Tate Gallery, founded by sugar magnate Sir Henry Tate, has a broader and more inclusive brief. Housed in a stately Portland stone building on the riverside, Tate Britain is second only to the National Gallery when it comes to British art. The historical collection includes work by Hogarth, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Constable (who gets three rooms to himself) and Turner (whose works are displayed in the grand Clore Gallery). Many contemporary works were shifted to Tate Modern when it opened in 2000, but Stanley Spencer, Lucian Freud, David Hockney and Francis Bacon are well represented here, and the Art Now installations showcase up-and-coming British artists. The gallery also hosts the controversy-courting Turner Prize exhibition (Oct-Jan). The gallery has a good restaurant and a well-stocked gift shop, and the handy Tate-to-Tate boat service zips along the Thames to Tate Modern.

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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Tate Modern

Tate Modern

The permanent collection draws from the Tate’s collections of modern art (international works from 1900) and features heavy hitters such as Matisse, Rothko and Beuys – a genuinely world-class collection, expertly curated. There are vertiginous views down inside the building from outside the galleries, which group artworks according to movement (Surrealism, Minimalism, Post-war abstraction) rather than by theme.

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
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Whitechapel Gallery
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Whitechapel Gallery

This East End stalwart reopened in 2009 following a major redesign and expansion that saw the Grade II listed building transformed into a vibrant, holistic centre of art complete with a research centre, archives room and café. Since 1901, Whitechapel Art Gallery has built on its reputation as a pioneering contemporary institution and is well remembered for premiering the talents of exhibitions by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Frida Kahlo among others. Expect the rolling shows to be challenging and risqué.

Users say
3 out of 5 stars