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

London Art Fairs 2019
Art

London Art Fairs 2019

It’s that beautiful time of the year where the art world heads out of galleries and into some really big tents. In time for Frieze, here’s our round-up of the London art fairs

Nine autumn art exhibitions to get really excited about
Art

Nine autumn art exhibitions to get really excited about

After a long summer break, the art world is waking up with a vengeance. Here are the autumn exhibition you can't afford to miss. 

Five London galleries in weird spaces
Art

Five London galleries in weird spaces

Forget the hallowed white-walls of most London galleries and head to these unusual spaces dotted around the city for a totally different art experience instead

The UK’s ultimate art destinations
Art

The UK’s ultimate art destinations

Swap beaches for Babs Hepworth and swimming pools for sculpture parks with our guide to the UK's top destinations for art lovers to visit this summer

Frieze Sculpture is back in Regent’s Park and it’s looking great
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Frieze Sculpture is back in Regent’s Park and it’s looking great

The annual transformation of Regent's Park into an outdoor sculpture park is back again. Here's a taste of what to see

The latest art reviews

Damien Hirst: Mandalas
Art

Damien Hirst: Mandalas

Like a naughty, petulant toddler, the best thing to do when Damien Hirst starts acting up is ignore him. This time he’s acting up by ripping the wings off thousands of butterflies and arranging them into mandala shapes. Sigh. But people were queuing around the block for this opening of show of massive new works, so ignoring it isn’t an option and we might as well tackle it head on. 

Time Out says
1 out of 5 stars
Co Westerik: Body and Landscape
Art

Co Westerik: Body and Landscape

Grasping hands, bleeding feet and a lot of dirt: Dutch artist Co Westerik’s paintings are weird, uncomfortable, close-cropped things. The first work you see in this late painter’s (1924-2018) show of late paintings is a view from behind of a man shaving. It’s an incredible painting. 

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
On Edge: Living in an Age of Anxiety
Art

On Edge: Living in an Age of Anxiety

Anxiety sucks. It’s pointless, debilitating and, often, very boring. This multi-artist exhibition is about the condition in all its nail-biting, bile-rising, dizzying forms. 

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Mona Hatoum
Art

Mona Hatoum

Mona Hatoum’s world is filled with cages and concrete, charred homes and inescapable prisons. It’s not just her world that’s like that, obviously, it’s all of ours. Because written through the Palestinian artist’s work is all the conflict, oppression, violence and degradation that’s so rife in modern society.

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

Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life
Art

Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life

Olafur Eliasson does epic like few others. The Danish-Icelandic artist was last at Tate Modern in 2003 with 'The Weather Project', a monumental installation that transformed the Turbine Hall into a pulsating, hazy sunset. This time, they’re showing 40 works, including many large-scale installations, made throughout his career. 

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
William Blake
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William Blake

For a man who casts such a huge, dark shadow over the history of British art, William Blake’s drawings, paintings and etchings are quietly unobtrusive little things. The poet, artist and printmaker (1757-1827) spent his life huddled over, creating mesmerising, tiny works to illustrate poems and histories. His giant bearded man who haunts the entrance of the show is barely bigger than a rat in real life. His gods could fit in your palm, his angels are the size of swifts. It’s at this small, hypnotising scale that Blake drags you into his universe of rebel demons, invented mythologies and head-spinning dissident philosophies. He had an incredible way with line and composition. His figures, whether allegories for the American revolution or characters from the bible, are solid, dramatic constructions, all rippling muscles, tormented faces and fierce, piercing eyes. They’re all arranged in swooping curves and arcs, whipped up to heaven or dragged down to hell. Some are tiny, like the incredibly coloured, dramatic works from his Small Book of Designs, drawing you closer and closer. Others are grander, like the breath-taking room of watercolours with the crawling, shocking image of Nebuchadnezzar, his eyes wild and horrified.  Every work is thrillingly, uniquely Black, These are his visions of society, history, religion and science, and they couldn’t be anyone else’s. That’s probably why he was never rich, never able to achieve his more ambitious projects: he was too busy being

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Helene Schjerfbeck
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Helene Schjerfbeck

If you’re British, Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946) is a relatively unknown artist. If you’re Finnish, Helene Schjerfbeck is a very famous artist. This show of 60 paintings is the first chance London audiences have had to join the Schjerfbeck fan club. Separating her output into themed categories – including early work in France and Cornwall, pictures of contemplative women and sartorially focused poses – the exhibition repeatedly shows how her style morphed from French-influenced naturalism to looser, fuzzier modernism. Ignoring painting style for a moment, there’s a ‘modern’ aspect to many of Schjerfbeck’s images. Right from the off, the women in her portraits look alive, real and healthy in a way they almost never do in comparable early twentieth-century British art. Looking at the smiling girl painted in St Ives or the hazy-edged and self-possessed women with downcast eyes is a bit like seeing a contemporary actress in a period drama. It makes the past seem less… past. And wearing yards of lace around your neck seem perfectly normal. That said, the more her artwork slipped into modernism, the more interesting it became; the early works are often ‘lovely’ but not all that memorable. One of the very best paintings here is ‘The Sailor (Einar Reuter)’, a chalky ochre and denim-blue portrait that’s as sexy an image of a sailor as Jean-Paul Gautier ever dreamed up (a reference the fashion-loving Schjerfbeck would surely appreciate). The soft-edged depiction of his muscled nec

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing
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Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing

If you’ve ever seen Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’, then you know you’ve never really seen it. What you’ve really seen is a jostling crush of irritable tourists with their cameras obscuring your view of an enigmatically grumpy Renaissance woman somewhere in the distance. Leonardo is arguably the most important artist ever. He’s a superstar, a god, a legend who once walked among us. Only a handful of his paintings have survived the 500 years since his death – many in poor shape, like the crumbling ‘Last Supper’, and one of dubious provenance, ‘Salvator Mundi’. But forget those, because the Queen has 200 of his drawings in her collection, and they offer something far more intimate than his over-popular, unreachable paintings. Pulled from an album of drawings acquired by Charles II, the works here are as private as drawings get. There are figure studies, maps, engineering and weapon designs, anatomical explorations and architectural plans. It’s all of Leonardo, spread out and put on display. There are pages filled with the same repeated face, perfect drawings of hands cradling crudely sketched fingers, a sheet combining clouds, figure studies and engineering diagrams. Some moments are breathtaking. The head studies for ‘The Last Supper’, the shower of mortars landing on a fortress, the faceless bust of the Madonna, the series of botanical drawings, the staggering abstract deluges. Leonardo was obsessive, passionate, maniacal in his need to analyse and deconstruct, and her

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Mike Nelson: The Asset Strippers
Art

Mike Nelson: The Asset Strippers

Tate Britain is filled with the corpses of British industry, the long dead, rotting remains of this country itself. Strewn across the massive central Duveen Galleries are chunks of enormous abandoned machinery: presses, clamps, welders, cutters. Some have been left untouched, others have been piled on top of each other. Their wires are frayed, their oils have dried, their spindles have rusted. Nelson spent months collecting these objects from salvage yards and asset strippers. As our national industries waned, debt collectors waded in, seizing equipment and discarding the humans who used it. On the one hand, Nelson has repurposed these machines and turned them into sculptures, laying bare their aesthetic qualities, their twists and turns, shapes and shadows. But on the other, the narrative of these objects is inescapable. Even when he places a concrete ring on a bed of telephone poles, or an engine on a pile of sleeping bags, you’re still haunted by the pasts of the machines. Nelson makes it a claustrophobic experience. The works tower over you, threaten to crumple on your soft, fragile body. And it never ends, there are doors to push through, spaces that unfold, an unending trip through the misery of Britain. You can see it all as a metaphor for the death of Empire and British pride, for the impact of Brexit, for the dire sadness of modern life moving forward too quickly. Or you can see it as an ageing man who is finding a reflection of his own body and mind in the cru

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
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All future art exhibitions in London

Gauguin Portraits
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Gauguin Portraits

The art of Paul Gauguin isn't exactly unknown (to say the least), yet there's never been an exhibition exclusively of his portraiture - until now. See how the artist put his own twist on the traditional genre of painting as he walked away from impressionism and dove into the murky seas of symbolism. 

The Most Powerful Woman In The Universe
Art

The Most Powerful Woman In The Universe

Punk and pop-infused group show of contemporary female artists. See works by Nancy Fouts, Nina-Mae Fowler, Kelly-Anne Davitt, Salena Godden, Bex Massey, Hanne Jo Kemfor, Clancy Gebler Davies and Sara Pope. 

Pre-Raphaelite Sisters
Art

Pre-Raphaelite Sisters

If you're searching for a clue to how much women feature in the traditional narrative of Victorian art, look no further than the Pre-Raphaelites, a group of artists who literally self-identified as a 'brotherhood'. This major exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery is the first show exclusively dedicated to asserting the importance of twelve women to the artistic movement. Names to look out for include Elizabeth Siddal, Joanna Wells and Evelyn de Morgan. 

Harmony Hammond
Art

Harmony Hammond

Harmony Hammond was an important member of feminist art movements in 70s New York. This small exhibition at White Cube Bermondsey - the first European solo show for the artist - focuses on her thick, textured canvases perforated with splits, holes and gaps. The show also includes 'Bag VI' a work from the 70s made of painted recycled material.  

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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
Art

Latest art interviews

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

The 100 best paintings in London

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
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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
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