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Top ten art exhibitions in London

Check out our critics' pick of the best art currently on show in the capital at some of the world's best art galleries

Courtesy The Whitworth, University of Manchester © Trustees of the Paolozzi Foundation, licensed by DACS

Shortcut it straight to the good stuff by heading to one of the very best art exhibitions taking place in the capital right now. From modern and fancy, to classical and serene, we've got your next art outing sorted. Or, if you're skint until pay day, how about trying one of London's many free exhibitions instead?

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The ten best art exhibitions in London


Taryn Simon: An Occupation of Loss

5 out of 5 stars

Deep in the bowels of an empty underground concrete cavern in Islington, a dozen-odd professional mourners are singing their lamentations. If watching that sounds like a weak way to spend a gorgeous spring evening, I feel you. But forget the weather and the friends and the beer, Simon’s work is everything art should be, and it’s the best show of the year by far. 

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Islington Green , Islington Until Saturday April 28 2018

Anthea Hamilton

5 out of 5 stars

Imagine you’re a squash – as in, a butternut squash. Now imagine what kind of art you would most like, based on your squashy-brained characteristics. For her 2018 Tate Britain Commission for the Duveen Galleries, Anthea Hamilton has created a squash-human hybrid, performed each day by an individual dressed in one of seven outfits inspired by various strains of curcubita (that’s for you, ‘Gardeners’ World’ fans). 

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Tate Britain , Westminster Until Sunday October 7 2018

Mark Dion: Theatre of the Natural World

4 out of 5 stars

‘Wunderkammer’ is a neat little German word. It means a ‘room of wonder’, filled with incredible, awe-inspiring objects and trinkets. Now imagine if that wonder was replaced with something much darker: the truth of humanity’s legacy. US artist Mark Dion has been replacing wonder with ecological misery for his whole career. 

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Whitechapel Gallery , Whitechapel Until Sunday May 13 2018

Monet and Architecture

4 out of 5 stars

How much can anyone be bothered to say, let alone bloody listen to, about Claude Monet any more? The impressionist master is one of the great names of art history, a revolutionary, a game-changer, yada, yada, yada. He’s the defining nineteenth-century French artist, a man who has had so much written about him and whose art we have seen so many times that most sane people must be pretty bored of him by now. 

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National Gallery , Trafalgar Square Until Saturday July 28 2018

Rachel Howard: Repetition is Truth – Via Dolorosa

4 out of 5 stars

Humanity's capacity for atrocity was laid bare during the Iraq war when images emerged of the humiliating treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. One showed Ali Shallal al-Qaisi stood on a box, a hood pulled over his head, arms spread wide, with wires attached to his fingers and genitals.  A painting of that horrifying act opens Rachel Howard’s show at Newport Street Gallery. Brutal, painful, degrading. 

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Newport Street Gallery , Lambeth Until Monday May 28 2018

Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins

5 out of 5 stars

From its earliest days, photography has probed the hidden: from porn to politics, it’s been there and brought back the evidence. Beyond that, though, is a shadowy place where photographers become so tangled up in what they’re chronicling that roles become blurred. These are not just the margins of society, they’re the margins of creativity. That’s what ‘Another Kind of Life’ is about. 

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Barbican Centre , Barbican Until Sunday May 27 2018

Surface Work

4 out of 5 stars

The history of art is full of old dead white blokes. We’ve had centuries of western men dominating the stuff we put in our eyes. Modern and contemporary abstract art is no different – it’s all Kandinsky and Pollock and Rothko, as if a woman never picked up a paintbrush and did some squiggles on a canvas. But – guess what, bozos – they did. 

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Victoria Miro , Hoxton Until Saturday June 16 2018

David Milne: Modern Painting

4 out of 5 stars

The title of this show might at first seem impossibly broad, but by the end it makes perfect sense: this is the story of one man struggling to figure out what the ‘modern’ world is about, and what possible place painting might have in it. 

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Dulwich Picture Gallery , Dulwich Village Until Monday May 7 2018

Marianna Simnett

4 out of 5 stars

You’re going to flinch and you’re going to squirm. And that’s exactly what Marianna Simnett wants. She uses her art to send jolts through the viewer: in her surreal, morosely fantastical, gore-filled films, the (usually female) body is seen as a thing that can be manipulated, controlled and owned.

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Zabludowicz Collection , Chalk Farm Thursday April 26 2018 - Sunday July 8 2018

Richard Serra: Rifts

4 out of 5 stars

You almost don’t want to like it. Great minimalist impresario Richard Serra’s ‘Rift’ drawings are just massive sheets of monochrome black with little white arrows splitting apart the visual plane. That’s it. Big, black monochromes with a bit of white. Simple, repetitive nothingness; monumental dude-art, the drawing equivalent of some macho old guy trying too hard to make up for something. But, annoyingly, they’re great. 

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Gagosian Gallery , Mayfair Until Friday May 25 2018

Next up: the best photography shows

Photography in London

Addicted to Instagram or permanently attached to your SLR? Even if your camera roll is totally empty, you'll find a way to appreciate London photography; we have the widest variety of styles in some of the best exhibitions at the most beautiful galleries. Find them in a flash with our guide to photography in London.

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By: Time Out London Art

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Caroline L

I totally agree with the comments made below. I would also like to see a listing of a wider range of galleries not just the critics choice. Time out in the past was my life line for information on new spaces and galleries. The days of Sarah Kent are well gone !! Please if the magazine is now free include more gallery listings, not just the critics choice

e c

as a gallery owner and someone who found many artistic wonders over the years thanks to timeout the current incarnation makes me very sad - noone from Timeout ever even comes to my gallery which is one of the largest in the east end because there is no endeavour to find the new any more - there is a cost to giving away magazines for free - the magazine is guilty but so are we all

Liz D moderator Staff Writer

@e c Hi there, please send any upcoming exhibition info to art@timeout.com

Claire M

Agree with all the postings below.  Used to love the many pages of listings which I found led me to all sorts of unexpected delights.  I read the broadsheets to get the reviews of a few big shows, & thought of Time Out as the way to explore & find out what's going on.  The nearest things now are the weekend Guardian Guide - can others suggest good alternatives?

Robert F

Totally agree with other recent posts. Listings should be centre stage - the backbone of TO's offering.

Jan G

Non less than the World are expecting listings from TO. It made us find our way through the most incredible Metropolis over decades. All over now?

Jan from Germany

k f

I don't usually add comments to any sites, but I feel compelled to voice my agreement with all the comments below. I want to see the wide range of art events that are on in London not just the ones the critics are telling me I should see. Time out used to be the first point of call - I won't use it any more.


45 isn't old or is it? I find the Internet has all the visual charm and clarity of those dreadful jelly sweet game apps that even intelligent people seem to become hooked on. The layout of the web seems to have become an explosion of headlines and adverts mashed into an impenetrable visual splash of confusion. With the galleries own websites - the simple question of what's on seems unanswerable. One is met with a deluge of screen filling design and information jumping around the simple need to know what, when and where. So with Timeout the desire of the user to know what's on and further more the added all important opinion of what's on seems impossible to find in a editorially controlled manner i.e the simple top 10 list. A world influenced by the majestic mess of Facebook. Is this our lot?


Please please please please. This website is near useless now. You can't search for anything. We're dependent on Editors making a list anything outside of those lists essentially is impossible to find. It seems given the tonnes of comments to this effect something akin to commercial suicide is happening at T.O towers. We still love you. Don't give up!

Segun L

Oh for heavens sake, where are the listings? Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Time Out is, by definition, a listings magazine, is it not? So, where are they? Ohhhh.... Now, I've seen all the other comments for the last six months. You obviously don't care anymore about user experience. Is this obliqueness an advertiser requirement or just sheer editorial bloodymindedness?