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Ryoji Ikeda, spectra III, ©Jack Hems, 180 The Strand, 2021.
Ryoji Ikeda, spectra III, ©Jack Hems, 180 The Strand, 2021.

Top 10 art exhibitions in London

Check out our critics’ picks of the ten best art shows coming up in the capital at some of the world’s best art galleries

By Time Out London Art and Eddy Frankel
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London’s major galleries and museums are allowed to reopen from May 17. Check on the galleries’ websites before visiting, you may need to book a slot in advance.

For London’s museums and galleries it’s time to open up again. The city’s independents are already back in business, but from May 17 it’s the turn of their big brothers: the Tates, National Galleries and Haywards. Some galleries may now require booking for shows you used to be able to just rock up to, and others may have drastically reduced visitor numbers so you may have to queue, and almost all of them have changed their opening hours. Still, it’s great to be able to go and stand and gaze at some unbelievable art again. Here’s your next art outing sorted. 

The ten best art exhibitions in London

Christina Quarles, For a Flaw / For a Fall / For the End, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Pilar Corrias, London. Photo: Damian Griffiths
Christina Quarles, For a Flaw / For a Fall / For the End, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Pilar Corrias, London. Photo: Damian Griffiths

1. Christina Quarles: 'In Likeness'

American painter Quarles is the modern master of the body: the figures in these images all twist and distend and morph in neons and fleshy colours. It's gorgeous, clever stuff, touching on ideas of intimacy, queerness and the history of painting.

At the South London Gallery until Aug 29. Details here

Ryoji Ikeda, spectra III, ©Jack Hems, 180 The Strand, 2021.
Ryoji Ikeda, spectra III, ©Jack Hems, 180 The Strand, 2021.

2. Ryoji Ikeda

Art Contemporary art 180 The Strand, Strand

Immersive art gets a bad rap, dismissed as twinkly lights and pretty colours designed to get Insta likes. But there's nothing twinkly or pretty about Ryoji Ikeda's exhibition at 180 The Strand, and it is seriously immersive. Instead, the Japanese artist (here with his biggest ever European show) has filled the labyrinthine brutalist spaces of this former office block with eye-searing, brain-liquifying, ear-shredding light and sound installations.

At 180 The Strand, until Aug 1.

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Jean Dubuffet 'Paysage aux argus (Landscape with Argus)' (1955) © Fondation Dubuffet, Paris / DACS, London, 2019. Image courtesy of Fondation Dubuffet, Paris

3. Jean Dubuffet: 'Brutal Beauty'

Art Painting Barbican Centre, Barbican

Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) is not an artist for these times. He appropriated the art of mental patients, he painted women with an almost gleeful aggression, he tore the wings off butterflies and he was a ceaselessly violent painter. The French artist is...problematic.

Installation view of Matthew Barney: Re ... tthew Barney, 2021. Photo: Mark Blower.jpg
Mark Blower

4. Matthew Barney: 'Redoubt'

Art Contemporary art Hayward Gallery, South Bank

Matthew Barney’s a real onion of an artist: we’re talking layer after layer after layer of meaning and myth and narrative and concept and aesthetics, on and on forever and ever. So your chances of fully grasping what this show’s about - even if it didn’t include a two hour film - are pretty slim. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a go.

Hayward Gallery, until Jul 25.

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© Royal Academy of Arts , London / David Parry. All works: © David Hockney
David Parry

5. David Hockney: ‘The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020’

Art Painting Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly

Big Dave’s been getting right up people’s noses lately. Just last week, our most celebrated living painter designed possibly the most slapdash roundel ever for Piccadilly Circus, a knowingly naive bit of super colourful playfulness done on an iPad, and people were livid. Now, he’s opened a whole show of iPad paintings at the Royal Academy. 83 years old, and absolutely hellbent on trolling everyone who has ever liked his art.

 

Royal Academy of Arts, May 23-Aug 1.

Mohamed Bourouissa, Horse Day, 2014 - 2015 video dyptic (color sound) 13’32’’ Production MOBILES, with PMU support © ADAGP, Paris 2018 Courtesy the artist and kamel mennour, Paris/London.
Mohamed Bourouissa, Horse Day, 2014 - 2015 video dyptic (color sound) 13’32’’ Production MOBILES, with PMU support © ADAGP, Paris 2018 Courtesy the artist and kamel mennour, Paris/London.

6. Mohamed Bourouissa

The centrepiece of this show is what Bourouissa calls a 'contemporary American cowboy movie', a film about an inner-city urban stables in Philadelphia. No stetsons here, just brillantly observed socio-political art in one of London's best new galleries.

Goldsmith's Centre of Contemporary Art, until Aug 1. Book here

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Lynette Yiadom-Boakye 'Elephant' (2014) © Lynette Yiadom -Boakye

7. Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: ‘Fly in League with the Night’

Art

A cheeky smile can get you pretty far in life, and even further in art. Just ask Mona Lisa, her semi-smirk has helped make her the most famous painting ever. That’s because that smile is enigmatic: we don’t know why it’s there or what it represents. English painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye pushes that idea – the enigma of the portrait – to an extreme. In this huge show, her first major institutional exhibition in the UK, her figures smile and grin and frown and laugh, and we never, ever know why.

 

Rodin in his studio
Rodin in his studio. Image: Tate

8. ‘The Making of Rodin’

Opens May 18.

By now, we’ve all seen Auguste Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’, but you might be less familiar with his 1898 sculpture ‘Balzac’, a monument to the French novelist that may or may not depict him fondling his penis beneath his coat. The artist was influenced by the sculptures of ancient Greece, but as this Tate Modern exhibition seeks to show, Rodin was a true modern radical.

Tate Modern, May 18-Nov 21.

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Tracey Emin 'It - didnt stop - I didnt stop' (2019) © HV-studio Courtesy the Artist and Xavier Hufkens, Brussels

9. Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch

Art Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly

Tracey Emin lies nude on a bed, weeping and bleeding. Her splintered body is spattered with red, caked in dripping bodily fluids. Opposite, Edvard Munch’s women mirror Emin’s poses in soft watercolours, all staring emptily into the distance. This exhibition of the great Norwegian artist’s paintings of nude women alongside Emin’s own naked self-portraits is dark, harrowing and almost physically painful. Not a lot of laughs here, but a hell of a lot of feelings.

Royal Academy of Arts, May 23-Aug 1.

James Barnor, ‘Sick Hagemeyer shop assistant, Accra’
James Barnor, ‘Sick Hagemeyer shop assistant, Accra’, c1957. Image: Autograph

10. ‘James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective’

Opens May 19.

A major retrospective of renowned British-Ghanaian photographer James Barnor. He established the Ever Young studio in Accra in the ’50s before moving to London at the end of the decade and documenting the Black diaspora in the capital. Barnor’s images span studio portraits and more candid street shots, and this show looks great.

Serpentine North Gallery, May 19-Oct 22.

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