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Free art in London

See great free art in London without splashing the cash on an admission fee

By Time Out London Art |
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Looking at great art needn't cost the same as buying great art. With a shed-load of free art exhibitions in London, wandering through sculptures, being blinded by neon or admiring some of the best photography in London needn't cost a penny. Here's our pick of the best free art exhibitions this week and beyond.

RECOMMENDED: explore our full guide to free London

Free art exhibitions in London

Installation view, Peter Fischli David Weiss, 'Should I paint a pirate ship on my car with an armed figure on it holding a decapitated head by the hair?', Sprüth Magers, London, 16 January - 14 March, 2020 Courtesy Sprüth Magers Photography: Stephen W
Art

Peter Fischli David Weiss

Sprüth Magers, Mayfair
3 out of 5 stars

Théodore Gericault’s ‘The Raft of the Medusa’ (1918-19) is a masterpiece. It shows the brutal, gory truth of death and destruction in a turbulent world, on a raft. Swiss duo Peter Fischli & David Weiss’s (Fischli is still around, though Weiss died in 2012) raft sculpture plays on similarly apocalyptic themes, but squidged through a lens of sci-fi dystopia, Cold War paranoia and contemporary fear.

Gordon Cheung
Gordon Cheung 'Megalopolis' (2020) © Gordon Cheung. Image courtesy of Edel Assanti
Art

Gordon Cheung: Tears of Paradise

Edel Assanti, Fitzrovia
4 out of 5 stars

Gordon Cheung’s landscapes are vast. Massive craggy mountains dominate the skyline, mega cities consume the plains, great swathes of ocean bite into the coastline. There are representations of giant bridges, world-conquering shipping routes, recordbreaking railways and passages of superhighway. 

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Alex Israel 'Always On My Mind' installation view. 2020. © the artist. Photo: Lucy Dawkins. Image courtesy of Gagosian
Art

Alex Israel: Always On My Mind

Gagosian Gallery, Mayfair
2 out of 5 stars

Alex Israel isn’t an artist, he’s a brand. He’s the conclusion of all those artist-as-celebrity, art-as-business ideas we’ve been wading through since Warhol. He’s a selling point, a personality, an assemblage of symbols and signifiers to be sold and traded. The problem is, he’s not that great at it. 

Art, Contemporary art

Dominic Hawgood: Casting Out the Self V3.1

TJ Boulting, Fitzrovia
4 out of 5 stars

Parents never let you get close to the TV, but Dominic Hawgood insists on it. He wants you to get nose-to-pixel, eye-to-static and skin-to-screen. It’s an exercise in psychedelic meditation. Three screens flicker in the basement of the English artist’s installation, strobing between eye-searing bright white and abyssal black in rapid stutters. 

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Andy Holden, still from ‘Laws of Motion In a Cartoon Landscape’ (2011-15) © the artist
Art

Ridiculous! Twenty Artists Who Are Not Afraid To Look Stupid

Elephant West, White City
3 out of 5 stars

Just act normal, alright? The world of art has always been filled with pretentious twerps who take themselves, and their own output, a bit too seriously. Which is what makes the idea behind this group show at Elephant West particularly attractive: eighteen contemporary artists who all like to look a little bit silly. 

Vivian Suter with Elisabeth Wild: 'La Canícula'. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto (2018). Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.
Art

Vivian Suter: Tin Tin’s Sofa

Camden Arts Centre, Finchley Road
3 out of 5 stars

Vivian Suter’s canvases swarm across the lofty, swimming-pooly spaces of Camden Arts Centre. They hang from the ceiling in swathes, and overlap each other on the walls. In one corner, a dozen or more are suspended in a row, like plates drying in a rack: as a result, you can’t see most of them, but you know they’re there. Suter is a refugee. Not from conflict or oppression, but from the Western art world. 

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Valie Export 'Einkreisung' (1976) © the artist / Bildrecht Wien 2019. Image courtesy of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
Art

Valie Export

4 out of 5 stars

There’s one colour that matters in Valie Export’s art: red. It’s the red of menstruation, childbirth and the fluid of Christ sipped at Eucharist. But it’s not a rich, winey shade. It’s at the orange end of the scale, like a thin trail of blood through bathwater. 

© 2019 Photo: Hugo Glenndinning
Art

Patrick Staff: On Venus

Serpentine Sackler Gallery, Hyde Park
4 out of 5 stars

Life is a mess of toxic, corrosive, acidic substances and ideas in Patrick Staff’s work. The young English artist has filled the Serpentine with barrels collecting steady drips of acid from leaking overhead pipes. The ground is a perfectly reflective sickly green, dragging you into a mirror world of grim gunge. And things only get nastier. 

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© Tate photography (Matt Greenwood)
Art, Contemporary art

Kara Walker: Fons Americanus

Tate Modern, Bankside
4 out of 5 stars

London’s streets are haunted by vile ghosts. Everywhere you walk, there are statues of Britons who conquered the world and pillaged its nations looming over you. And in front of Buckingham Palace stands the Victoria Memorial, an ornate, lavish celebration of Queen Vic and her imperial achievements. Now a version of it haunts the Turbine Hall. 

David Bomberg 'In the Hold' (about 1913-14) Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery, 1967 © Tate
Art

Young Bomberg and the Old Masters

National Gallery, Trafalgar Square
4 out of 5 stars

There are a lot of limbs in David Bomberg’s paintings. Bent, angled, twisted body parts jut out at awkward angles as sweaty figures clamber over each other on the wrestling mat, in the tight hold of a ship or on the sticky floor of a sauna. These are paintings with the raw, bloody, masculine attention to sweat and skin seen in Francis Bacon or Lucian Freud, although Bomberg was painting at an earlier date than either (everything here’s from the 1910s) and his images are more geometric and abstract. 

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