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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 |

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

Titian 'Rape of Europa' (1562) © Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.

Titian: Love, Desire, Death

National Gallery, Trafalgar Square
5 out of 5 stars

Bodies flailing through the air, mythical creatures rushing by in a blur, golden rays of light and mounds and mounds of flesh: Titian’s poesie series is wild, dramatic, violent and very, very sensual. The Renaissance master’s works are reunited in full here for the first time since the 1500s. 

c. The Trustees of the British Museum

Edmund de Waal: Library of Exile

British Museum, Bloomsbury
5 out of 5 stars

It stings the heart, this installation by Edmund de Waal. The ceramicist and author has lined the walls of his room within a room in the British Museum with books by writers in exile. Albert Camus’s ‘Exile and the Kingdom’, Jean Rhys’s ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’, Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’. Shelf after shelf of stories written by people far from home, thinking of home.

Donna Huanca
'Egeria' (2019) © the artist. Image courtesy of the artist and Simon Lee Gallery, London

Donna Huanca: Wet Slit

Simon Lee, Mayfair
4 out of 5 stars

Donna Huanca’s art drips, melts, trickles and slithers through the gallery. It coats and covers every inch of this brightly lit space. Plastic sheeting lines the walls like the space is being prepared for something very, very messy. 

Cao Fei 'Nova' (2019) Video. Image courtesy of the artist and Vitamin Creative Space

Cao Fei: Blueprints

Serpentine Gallery, Hyde Park
4 out of 5 stars

Cao Fei is teleporting you from one constantly changing city to another. Step through the doors of this London show and suddenly you’re in her Beijing studio, walking through the foyer of the former cinema and theatre it’s housed in. 

Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen '7th Nov. 2001' Video still © Steve McQueen. Image courtesy of the artist, Thomas Dane Gallery and Marian Goodman Gallery

Steve McQueen

Tate Modern, Bankside
5 out of 5 stars

This is heavy art. The deeper you go into Steve McQueen’s exhibition, the more each work seems to weigh down on your shoulders. Which won’t surprise anyone who’s seen the English artist’s Oscar-winning films. Whether dealing with sexual addiction in ‘Shame’ or the brutal history of slavery in ‘12 Years a Slave’, he likes to drop a titanic, hulking weight on you and force you to confront it. 

Pablo Picasso, 'Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe' after Manet I (1962) Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Marine Beck-Coppola © Succession Picasso/DACS 2019

Picasso and Paper

Royal Academy of Arts, Mayfair
4 out of 5 stars

Of all the things the world needs in 2020, another effing Picasso show is not one of them. There have been countless major Pablo exhibitions in London over the past decade. Hell, I’m tired of typing the word Picasso, let alone looking at the bloke’s art. But the British public seems to have the same appetite for Pablo as it does for binge drinking and vomiting on the high street on a Saturday night, and British art institutions just can’t seem to stop pulling the Picasso pints. 

Bhawani Das 'A Great Indian Fruit Bat'. Image courtesy of Private Collection

Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company

Wallace Collection, Marylebone
4 out of 5 stars

Colonialism didn’t just come for the minerals, spices and priceless artefacts, colonialism came for the art too. As the East India Company tightened its grip on the Indian subcontinent in the nineteenth century, it also grabbed at the arts of the places it was occupying. This gorgeous show brings together botanical, portrait and everyday scene paintings commissioned by wealthy European patrons.

© 2019 Kehinde Wiley. Image courtesy of Stephen Friedman Gallery. Photograph by Nicola Tree.

Kehinde Wiley: The Yellow Wallpaper

William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow
4 out of 5 stars

Going from the White House to Walthamstow may seem like a bit of a step down, but it’s a move which makes a lot of sense to American artist Kehinde Wiley. He painted the official portrait of Barack Obama, and now he’s painted portraits of women and girls from the streets of Dalston and hung them in a big listed building in east London. In both of these endeavours, he’s had to the same intention: to celebrate, elevate and explore black identity. 

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