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Top ten art exhibitions in London

Check out our critics’ picks of the best art currently on show in the capital at some of the world's best art galleries
By Time Out London Art |
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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

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Emma Kunz 'Work No. 013' © Emma Kunz Zentrum
Art

Emma Kunz: Visionary Drawings

icon-location-pin Serpentine Gallery, Knightsbridge
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Emma Kunz was a visionary of the old-fashioned kind. Not a ‘visionary’ in the way we now bandy around the term to mean an artist who’s particularly good at being an artist, but a visionary whose brain filtered, systematised and comprehended the world in a fundamentally different way to those around her. 

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Photo: Tate (Matt Greenwood)
Art

Mike Nelson: The Asset Strippers

icon-location-pin Tate Britain, Westminster
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Tate Britain is filled with the corpses of British industry, the long dead, rotting remains of this country itself. Strewn across the massive central Duveen Galleries are chunks of enormous abandoned machinery: presses, clamps, welders, cutters. Some have been left untouched, others have been piled on top of each other. T

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Gladys Nilsson, A Cold Mouth, 1968 © the artist. Courtesy the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York
Art

How Chicago! Imagists 1960s & 70s

icon-location-pin Goldsmiths CCA, New Cross
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While the world was patting New York, LA and London on the back for inventing pop art and conceptualism back in the late ’60s, a group of artists in Chicago were too busy having the time of their lives to care. The Chicago Imagists are criminally under-known – a bunch of friends turning acid trips and comic strips into vivid, hilarious, ridiculous painting – but this exhibition should go some way towards changing that. 

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Diane Arbus 'Jack Dracula at a bar, New London, Conn. 1961'. Promised Gift of Doon Arbus and Amy Arbus, 2007 Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York/ Copyright © The Estate of Diane Arbus, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Art

Diane Arbus: In the Beginning

icon-location-pin Hayward Gallery, South Bank
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Diane Arbus was the original people-watcher. Some lads larking around by the coast, a glamorous receptionist at her desk, two women shooting evils at the universe: nothing escaped her notice. The Hayward Gallery’s exhibition of photographs from the first seven years of her career (1956-1962) is sleekly arranged with each small print attached to one side of a tall white rectangle. 

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Nicholas Hilliard 'Man Among Flames'. Image courtesy of National Portrait Gallery
Art

Elizabethan Treasures: Miniatures by Hilliard and Oliver

icon-location-pin National Portrait Gallery, Leicester Square
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Big isn’t always better. Not here, anyway, because this is a show full of tiny, tiny, tiny paintings, and they are gorgeous; achingly small and stunningly intricate portraits of Elizabethan royals, courtiers and poshos by the masters of the form, Isaac Oliver and Nicholas Hilliard. 

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Hito Steyerl Installation view. Design by Ayham Ghraowi, Developed by Ivaylo Getov Courtesy of the Artist, Andrew Kreps Gallery (New York) and Esther Schipper Gallery (Berlin) Photograph: © 2019 readsreads.info
Art

Hito Steyerl: Power Plants

icon-location-pin Serpentine Gallery, Knightsbridge
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Art can be a weapon. And what at first seems like some unintelligibly complicated and dense neutron bomb in this exhibition by German artist Hito Steyerl eventually reveals itself to be as powerfully direct and brutally effective as a club to the head. 

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Copyright joan cornella, courtesy Public Gallery
Art

Joan Cornellà: I’m Good Thanks

icon-location-pin PUBLIC Gallery, Shacklewell
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In a world of mindful affirmations and positive reinforcement, Spanish artist Joan Cornellá is the negative kick in the shins we deserve, and probably need. This little show finds him flexing his art muscles, rather than the cartoon strips he’s known for, with a series of drawings, paintings and a ridiculous sculpture. 

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Agnolo Bronzino, 'St. Sebastian' (c.1533) © Museo Nacional Thyssen- Bornemisza, Madrid
Art

The Renaissance Nude

icon-location-pin Royal Academy of Arts, Mayfair
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Before smartphones, sending a nude was seriously hard work. There were no quick pics in the bathroom mirror in renaissance Europe; instead, they had to rely on good old-fashioned pen and ink. This neat little show – dedicated largely to drawings, engravings and woodcuts from the time – explores the different ways that the nude was used back in the middle of the last millennium. 

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© Pierre Bonnard, 'Coffee' (1915), Tate.
Art

Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory

icon-location-pin Tate Modern, South Bank
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Some paintings seem to shimmer with light, but Pierre Bonnard’s breath-taking images of landscapes, domestic scenes, crowds and bathing women absolutely shake with it. And not just light. They hum with sexuality, vibrate with tension, pulsate with melancholy and almost strobe with colour, colour, colour.

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10
© Franz West Privatstiftung
Art

Franz West

icon-location-pin Tate Modern, South Bank
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Franz West took all the stuffy, conservative formality of the art world and told everyone where to shove it. The austere reverence of the gallery, the contemplative deification of the artist: West just couldn’t be arsed with it. Instead, the anarchic Austrian artist (1947-2012) created a body of work that’s playful and ludicrous, that feels like one drink too many in a Viennese bar, the art equivalent of a hangover you somehow don’t regret. 

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