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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

© Isa Genzken / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Galerie Buchholz Cologne / Berlin / New York
Art

Isa Genzken: Window

Hauser & Wirth, Mayfair
4 out of 5 stars

Between ‘here’ and ‘there’, there’s a whole lot of in-between. And German punk minimalism supremo Isa Genzken’s installation at Hauser & Wirth revels in those transition spaces and moments. 

photo by ben westoby, Image courtesy of the Artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York and Esther Schipper, Berlin Image CC 4.0 Hito Steyerl
Art, Contemporary art

Harun Farocki and Hito Steyerl: Life Captured Still

Thaddaeus Ropac, Mayfair
4 out of 5 stars

In the words of Blink 182, ‘Work sucks, I know.’ Harun Farocki and Hito Steyerl know too. These two German artists (Farocki died in 2014, but Steyerl’s still with us) are united by a drive to make art about labour, capitalist inequality and unjust financial and political systems. 

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Credit line: © James Turrell, courtesy Pace Gallery
Art, Contemporary art

James Turrell

Pace Burlington Gardens, Mayfair
3 out of 5 stars

Time has been a bitch to James Turrell. When he started making his legendary light sculptures in the 1960s, the world had seen nothing like it. Now, his influence is so pervasive that you see little hints of him everywhere: music videos, fashion shows, the interiors of fancy cars. The Turrell look – rooms of gentle undulating light – has become such a ‘thing’ that walking into this show feels like entering the lobby of a hotel you can’t afford to stay in. 

© Cerith Wyn Evans. Photo © White Cube (Ollie Hammick)
Art, Contemporary art

Cerith Wyn Evans: No Realm of Thought… No Field of Vision

White Cube Bermondsey, Bermondsey
3 out of 5 stars

Cerith Wyn Evans’s work looks impressive. His big, sprawling, humming white neons are real eye-pleasers. Their splintered, chaotic composition sits somewhere between hectic randomness and studied composition. You search them for patterns as they thrum and vibrate and fill the room. And they’re not just pretty shapes. Written into their lines and curves are early twentieth-century designs for helicopters by Paul Cornu and the shadows cast by Marcel Duchamp’s famous bicycle-wheel sculpture at MoMA. Movement and the play of light, all frozen in a discombobulating moment. A neon curtain made of Japanese kanji is a translation of a Proust description of a fountain (another Duchamp nod); a series of glass panels scream with screeching improvised sounds opposite crystal flutes hanging from the ceiling that emit clashing but gentle notes. There’s inspiration taken from experimental classical music and Japanese Noh theatre here, but it’s Marcel Duchamp who looms largest. He’s the inspiration for the room of shattered folding screens and windshields as well as those neons. Don’t get me wrong, all of these works are nice, but Evans is dealing with the same concerns that artists were dealing with back in the 1950s and ’60s. It feels a little old hat. Movement, light, Duchamp, improvisation – this could’ve been made half a century ago. If you’re being generous, you’d say that these are eye-tingling works that play with shape and form. But if you’re being a bit harsher, you might say

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Copyright Melvin Edwards. Courtesy the artist ; Stephen Friedman Gallery, London ; and Alexander G r ay Associates, New York.
Art

Melvin Edwards

Stephen Friedman, Mayfair
4 out of 5 stars

Melvin Edwards’s art is heavy-duty. The African-American artist, born in 1937 and still very much practising, morphs the accoutrements of industry – clamps, pegs, crowbars, screwdrivers, metal plates – into twisted, layered sculptures, arranging the rough, weighty materials with the intricacy of a lace pattern. 

Jack Hems
Art, Contemporary art

Jordan Wolfson: Artists Friends Racists

Sadie Coles HQ, Soho
4 out of 5 stars

In possibly the most Jordan Wolfson move ever, the American artist has made a new work that might physically injure you if you get too close. Made up of spinning LED filaments – halfway between a cooling fan and a weed whacker – the whirling strands in front of you spit out endless holographic images, but they could slice off your hand too if you’re not careful. 

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Hedda Sterne 'Horizon XVIII' © The Hedda Sterne Foundation Inc, ARS, NY and DACS, London (2019). Image courtesy of Van Doren Waxter and Victoria Miro
Art

Hedda Sterne

Victoria Miro Mayfair, Mayfair
4 out of 5 stars

All semi- or totally abstract paintings involving horizontal bands of naturalistic colours look like the sea. That’s the rule, right? You stare at the alternating thin and thick strips of blues/whites/beigey-yellows, take a calming breath, and go, ‘Ah yes, the sea – how lovely!’ Hedda Sterne’s paintings of horizontal stripes – completed in the early 1960s and shown as a group in this small exhibition alongside a set of works on paper – look like the sea. Sort of. 

Seana Gavin 'Mindful Mushroom'. Image courtesy of the artist
Museums

Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi

Somerset House, Aldwych
3 out of 5 stars

Mushrooms have had bad PR for decades. They’re either the grey coagulated slop in cheap supermarket soup or dream fuel for all the dreadlocked white guys you tried to avoid at university. But perceptions are changing, sometimes literally. Mycophilia is the love of mushrooms, and it’s blooming. 

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© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein Courtesy Gagosian
Art, Contemporary art

American Pastoral

Gagosian Britannia St, King’s Cross
3 out of 5 stars

The American dream is always on the verge of collapse. That’s the point of it, it’s a dream: something far away, unreachable. Try to grasp it and it’ll slip through your fingers. Artists have tangled with it ever since the country’s foundation, and this neat little show looks at the ones who pull at its countless threads of hope and optimism to reveal the truth beneath. 

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.

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