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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Tracey Emin 'It was all too Much' (2018) © Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2017. Photo © White Cube (Theo Christelis)
Art

Tracey Emin: A Fortnight of Tears

icon-location-pin White Cube Bermondsey, The Borough
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You are inches from Tracey Emin’s face. You’re right there on the pillow next to her, watching her desperately wait for sleep to finally come. Emin suffers from insomnia, and takes selfies as she helplessly wrestles with it. She’s printed them two metres high and pasted them across the walls here. On the one hand, they’re terrifying, ridiculous, even a little stupid. But on the other, they’re… really good.

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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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© Peanuts
Art

Good Grief, Charlie Brown!

icon-location-pin Somerset House, Temple
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Anxiety, despair, dread, depression, fear, misery, alienation: a pretty standard Friday night, but an unusual recipe for a kids’ comic strip. ‘Peanuts’ is special, though. Over his tens of thousands of strips – syndicated the world over and read by millions of adoring fans – Charles M Schulz combined simple line drawings and emotional non-sequiturs into little bundles of pure, heart-wrenching modern truth. 

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Daria Martin 'Tonight the World' (2018) © Daria Martin. Image courtesy of Maureen Paley, London
Art

Daria Martin: Tonight the World

icon-location-pin Barbican Centre, Barbican
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New installation in the Barbican's Curve by video artist Daria Martin. The installation is inspired by dream diaries kept by the artist's grandmother, a survivor of the Holocaust. 

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© Burne-Jones 'The Rose Bower'. Image courtesy of The Faringdon Collection Trust
Art

Edward Burne-Jones

icon-location-pin Tate Britain, Westminster
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Hello, my name is Rosemary Waugh and I like the Pre-Raphaelites. No, wait! Don’t leave! I wanted to buy you coffee… I like the Pre-Raphaelites the same way I like pumpkin spice lattes despite 85% of people telling me they’re repulsive. Because these medieval-loving Victorians are the pumpkin spice lattes of British art. They’re syrupy sweet gloop often tinted a strange orange colour and always topped with unnecessary frothy swirls. The story of nineteenth-century western art is the same as for fashion, food and sex: the French did it better. Tate’s latest attempt at reclaiming the pale-faced Brits is a retrospective of oil paintings, watercolours, sketches, stained glass and tapestries by Edward Burne-Jones, a Pre-Raph so thoroughly Pre-Raph he’s like a venti-sized PSL with a caramel shortbread on the side. Some of the paintings are undeniably naff, the reunited ‘Perseus’ series in particular is very New Age gift shop. His big-eyed proto-Tim Burton portraits are much more interesting, especially when compared to the frothy society portraiture of John Singer Sargent being painted at the same time, and ‘The Briar Rose’ series is just supremely pretty. But the real revelation is in the first two rooms. Preliminary sketches and drawings are normally the filler bit of a big exhibition, but here they’re the most interesting part. Ethereal, ghostly figures vaporise at the edges, including a mermaid head with Mona Lisa smile and candy floss hair. Elsewhere, there’s meticulously

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Hanna Moon 'Me and Tyrone for A Nice Magazine Issue 2' (2015) © Hanna Moon
Art

Hanna Moon & Joyce Ng: English as a Second Language

icon-location-pin Somerset House, Temple
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Learning a language is hard, especially it’s got as many exceptions to the rule as actual rules (hello, English). And when it comes to learning a new culture, ‘language’ means more than irregular verbs. Colours, items, gestures… everything has a ‘meaning’. This joint exhibition of photographers Hanna Moon and Joyce Ng is partly inspired by the Asian-born Londoners’ feeling of being ‘lost in translation’, in their new home and in the fashion industry. I

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Miroslaw Balka 'Random Access Memory' (installation image) © Miroslaw Balka. Image courtesy of White Cube (Theo Christelis)
Art

Miroslaw Balka: Random Access Memory

icon-location-pin White Cube Mason's Yard, St James'
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On first impression, it might look like Polish conceptual art behemoth Miroslaw Balka has made a couple of massive radiators. And on second impression too. And third. That’s because he sort of has. Both spaces of White Cube’s central London gallery have been sliced in two by enormous sheets of heated corrugated iron. You can’t walk around them or see over the one-metre gaps at the top. You’re penned in. Or maybe being kept out. 

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© Don McCullin
Art

Don McCullin

icon-location-pin Tate Britain, Westminster
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Heads up: this is a difficult show. It documents in crisp detail some of the most shameful aspects of humanity over the last 60-odd years. But almost every picture here is beautifully composed, lit and shot. 

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Copyright Jenny Holzer and Tate
Art, Contemporary art

Artist Rooms: Jenny Holzer

icon-location-pin Tate Modern, South Bank
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American artist Jenny Holzer’s work is decades’ worth of statements, aphorisms, quotes and poetry. She takes words and sentences and plasters them over the streets, prints them on cups and condoms, engraves them into marble, and sends them stuttering at lightspeed along LED columns. 

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