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11 blockbuster art exhibitions we can’t wait to see in 2020

When it comes to gallery shows in London this year, these are the biggies. Here’s our pick of the art exhibitions you can’t miss in 2020

Cao Fei ‘Asia One’ (2018). Image courtesy of the artist, Vitamin Creative Space and Sprüth Magers
By Eddy Frankel and Rosemary Waugh |

The National Gallery is (finally) getting on board with a Baroque queen of painting, Steve McQueen is taking over Tate Modern and David Hockney’s iPad drawings are going on display: London’s blockbuster shows of 2020 have it all. Here are the ones you need to know about to stay ahead of the art-loving crowd.

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Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen '7th Nov. 2001' Video still © Steve McQueen. Image courtesy of the artist, Thomas Dane Gallery and Marian Goodman Gallery

Steve McQueen

Tate Modern, Bankside

Turner Prize-winning artist, Oscar-winning film director: Steve McQueen is good. But over the past few years, his art has taken a backseat to his filmmaking, so this is a chance to turn the spotlight back on his experimental, pioneering and deeply moving output. This show will bring together immersive video installations made over the past few decades, and it overlaps with his brilliant exhibition of primary school classes in Tate Britain’s Duveen Galleries.

David Hockney 'Self Portrait March 14 2012' © David Hockney

David Hockney: ‘Drawing From Life’

National Portrait Gallery, Charing Cross Road

This show includes coloured pencil portraits, iPad drawings and composite Polaroid portraits by England’s Greatest Living Artist™, David Hockney. Focusing on his drawing, it also features some of the self-portraits he completed as part of a two-month-long project in which he drew a new one every day. It’s a more intimate view of Our Dave than we’ve ever seen.

Cao Fei 'Nova' (2019) Video. Image courtesy of the artist and Vitamin Creative Space

Cao Fei: ‘Blueprints’

Serpentine Gallery, Hyde Park

Fei’s multimedia artworks relish the dissociative weirdness of her native China’s overwhelming urban environments. This immersive, site-specific installation at the Serpentine is going to be a trippy ride through the darkest, weirdest recesses of city living.

Andy Warhol 'Marilyn Diptych' (1962) Tate © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London

Andy Warhol

Tate Modern, Bankside

Warhol's famous for Campbell's soup and Marylin Monroe, but there's a lot more to the artist than that. In between the product placement and the slebs, visitors to this show will be able to see his lesser-known portraits of black and Latinx drag queens and trans women. You can also get hair inspo from a display of Warhol’s own amazing wigs. The pop master remains as popular as ever.

Titian 'Rape of Europa' (1562) © Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.

Titian: ‘Love, Desire, Death’

National Gallery, Trafalgar Square

For the first time in more than 400 years, Titian’s six mythological paintings are going to be reunited. Based on Greek myths in the work of the Roman poet Ovid, the works include ‘Diana and Actaeon’ and ‘Diana and Callisto’, both favourites of the artist Lucian Freud. 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 bloody gorgeous.

Introductions: Early Embodiment from A Countervailing Theory, (2019) © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Image courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Toyin Ojih Odutola: ‘A Countervailing Theory’

Barbican Centre, Barbican

Drawing, for Nigerian-American artist Toyin Ojih Odutola, is a form of storytelling. These new works, exhibited around the 90-metre sweep of the Barbican Curve, form part of an epic series relaying an imagined ancient myth. The artist uses pencil, pastel, ballpoint pen and charcoal to create mega-sized portraits that are as delicate as they are beautiful.

Artemisia Gentileschi 'Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria' (about 1615-17) © The National Gallery, London


National Gallery, Trafalgar Square

In 2018, the National Gallery acquired its first painting by Artemisia Gentileschi, very slightly boosting its collection of works by female artists (shamefully, it only has 20 in a collection totalling 2,300). It’ now redoubling its efforts to promote the Baroque artist with this stunning, major solo show.

Zanele Muholi 'Ntozakhe II, Parktown' (2016) Image courtesy of the artist and Stevenson Gallery © Zanele Muholi

Zanele Muholi

Tate Modern, Bankside

This mid-career survey of Zanele Muholi’s work captures the breadth and power of an artist dedicated to presenting a multifaceted view of black LGBTQ+ individuals. Muholi's experience of racial profiling inspires a series of images referencing their personal history and the political landscape of South Africa.

Zimoun (2017).Courtesy the artist. Installation view, Le Centquatre Paris, France. Photography by Zimoun
Art, Contemporary art

‘Reverb: Sound Into Art’

Hayward Gallery, South Bank

If you think art is just pretty paintings and ornate sculptures, this show might just blow your mind (and eardrums). The Hayward Gallery, you see, is dedicating its summer show to artists who work with sound as their primary medium. No paintbrushes or chisels here, old art fans, just stacks of speakers spilling out brain-wobbling sound by an incredible selection of names, including Oliver Beer, Allora & Calzadilla, Kahlil Joseph, Christine Sun Kim and a bunch of others. Sounds great.

Marina Abramović ‘Artist Portrait with a Candle (C)’, from the series 'Places of Power' (2013) Brazil. Image courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives © Marina Abramović

Marina Abramović: ‘After Life’

Royal Academy of Arts, Mayfair

Every celebrity's favourite performance artist, Marina Abramović, is back  with a major exhibition spanning her groundbreaking career. The show includes ‘Imponderabilia’, where visitors squeeze between a naked man and a naked woman in a doorway. Sounds unhygienic, inconvenient and uncomfortable, but that’s performance art for you.

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Find more great art shows to see in London right now

c. The Trustees of the British Museum

Edmund de Waal: Library of Exile

British Museum, Bloomsbury
5 out of 5 stars

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.


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