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Portrait of Marina Abramovic. 2021 preview
Portrait of Marina Abramovic. Photo © Marco Anelli

Nine art exhibitions we can’t wait to see in 2021

Bacon, Dürer, Barney and Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Infinity Rooms’. Hopefully.

Written by
Eddy Frankel

Despite everything else that happened in 2020, the year of doom still had some great exhibitions: you just had to catch them between lockdowns. But if all goes well this year, we’ll be back to being able to see art whenever we want – not just in government-approved 20-second bursts – and there’s a lot to look forward to in London. From mirror rooms to science experiments, 2021 could be a year to remember, instead of one to try and forget. We’ve only included vague dates, because fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Check the websites for details, but in the meantime, get excited.

2021's most anticipated London art exhibitions

‘Francis Bacon: Man and Beast’ at the Royal Academy of Art
Francis Bacon, Head VI, 1949 © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2020. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd

‘Francis Bacon: Man and Beast’ at the Royal Academy of Art

Old Frankie B, everyone’s favourite painter of violence and torment, gets the Royal Academy treatment with a show looking at his fascination with animals. Pain, sadness and some nice horsies and baboons – something for everyone. 
Early 2021 at the Royal Academy of Art.

'Matthew Barney: Redoubt' at the Hayward Gallery

The elusive, mysterious, ultra-ambitious American artist is coming back to London for his first major institutional show in the UK since ‘Drawing Restraint’ at the Serpentine in 2007. Intensely conceptual, and often ultra-hard to grasp, Barney’s art is some of the most absorbing and deeply weird work of the modern era. Genuinely can’t wait. 
March 2021 at the Hayward Gallery.


‘Christina Quarles: In Likeness’ at South London Gallery

Distended, twisted, hyper-colour bodies get pulled and contorted into all sorts of shapes in the paintings of this brilliant American artist, here with her first big UK show. 
Early 2021 at the South London Gallery.

‘Dürer's Journeys: Travels of a Renaissance Artist’ at the National Gallery

Probably the greatest of the old German masters, Albrecht Dürer was also an avid traveller, and this show is all about his journeys around Europe and their impact on his art. Highlights include a loan of his amazing ‘Madonna and Child’ from the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
Early 2021 at the National Gallery.

‘Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms’ at Tate Modern
Yayoi Kusama: 'Chandelier of Grief', 2016. © Yayoi Kusama, courtesy Kusama Enterprise, Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore and Victoria Miro, London

‘Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms’ at Tate Modern

Deep breaths, people. Yayoi Kusama is coming back to the Tate for a show of her Infinity Mirror Rooms. Yes, the art you can take selfies in. Tickets haven’t been released yet, but as soon as they are we’ll let you know. Please, calm down, it’s just art. 
Early 2021 at Tate Modern.

James Barnor at the Serpentine Gallery

Over six decades the British-Ghanaian photographer James Barnor charted the changing faces of London and Accra. The result is a fascinating look back across two cultures through the eyes of a man who straddled both. Beautiful stuff.
Spring 2021 at the Serpentine Gallery.


‘Helen Frankenthaler: Radical Beauty’ at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Frankenthaler’s work is rightly celebrated as some of the most important painting of the twentieth century, all big, swooping, bold colours and shapes. She was one of the most important Abstract Expressionists out there, and this show of her woodcuts promises to be a calming, lovely little look at a totally different side to her work.
Spring 2021 at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Anicka Yi at Tate Modern

The Turbine Hall is a daunting space, and plenty of artists in recent years have failed to do anything very good with it. But Korean artist Anicka Yi might just have what it takes: her art is part science experiment, part conceptual installation. Even if all she does is a big version of her weird dripping biological alien cocoons from the Venice Biennale a few years back, it’ll still be one of the highlights of 2021.
Autumn 2021 at Tate Modern.

‘Marina Abramovic: After Life’ at the Royal Academy of Art
Portrait of Marina Abramovic. Photo © Marco Anelli

‘Marina Abramovic: After Life’ at the Royal Academy of Art

It feels like we’ve been waiting forever for this – it was originally meant to happen in 2020 – but we’re assured that this time it’s really happening: the world’s most famous performance artist is really coming to the RA in late 2021. Really, honestly, definitely, it’s happening. Probably. 
Autumn 2021 at the Royal Academy of Art.

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