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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

1
© Cindy Sherman. Image courtesy of National Portrait Gallery.
Art

Cindy Sherman

icon-location-pin National Portrait Gallery, Charing Cross Road
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There’s this great Cindy Sherman quote that goes ‘I’m disgusted with how people get themselves to look beautiful.’ Disgust, anger, cynicism and mockery: those are the American artist’s fiercest tools. Her now almost iconic photography – mostly an exercise in extreme self-portraiture – might look like someone playing dress-up for decades, but Sherman has targets, and she is merciless. 

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2
Lee Krasner 'Icarus' (1964) Thomson Family Collection, New York City. © The Pollock-Krasner Foundation. Image courtesy of Kasmin Gallery, New York. Photo: Diego Flores
Art

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

icon-location-pin Barbican Centre, Barbican
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Lee Krasner (1908-1984) spent her life fighting for the right to be herself. She couldn’t be Lena Krasner, she had to become the androgynous Lee. She couldn’t be a realist or a cubist, she had to rip her work to shreds and collage it into new, unique forms. And she could never just be her, she always had to be the wife of Jackson Pollock. 

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3
Faith Ringgold, ‘The Flag is Bleeding #2 (American Collection #6)’, 1997 Courtesy Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London © 2018 Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Art

Faith Ringgold

icon-location-pin Serpentine Gallery, Hyde Park
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Art is a weapon. I mean, not always. Sometimes it’s just something pretty for rich people’s walls. But in the hands of octogenarian American artist and activist Faith Ringgold, art is a weapon. Art is a way of fighting back. 

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4
Michael Rakowitz 'The invisible enemy should not exist (NW Palace of Nimrud)' (2018) Image courtesy of the artist. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman
Art

Michael Rakowitz

icon-location-pin Whitechapel Gallery, Whitechapel
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You might know Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz from his current Fourth Plinth commission ‘The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist’. It’s a recreation of a huge winged statue from the ancient city of Nineveh, destroyed by Daesh in 2015. Rakowitz’s version, though, is no monolith: it’s made of Middle Eastern wrapping paper and packaging materials, like a school papier-mâché project gone mad. 

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5
'A portrait of Leonardo', attributed to Francesco Melzi, (c.1515-18) Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019
Art

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing

icon-location-pin The Queen's Gallery, Victoria
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If you’ve ever seen Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’, then you know you’ve never really seen it. What you’ve really seen is a jostling crush of irritable tourists with their cameras obscuring your view of an enigmatically grumpy Renaissance woman somewhere in the distance. 

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6
Photo: Tate (Matt Greenwood)
Art

Mike Nelson: The Asset Strippers

icon-location-pin Tate Britain, Millbank
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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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7
Francis Bacon 'Two Figures with a Monkey' (1973) © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage (2019) Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd. Image courtesy of Gagosian
Art

Francis Bacon: Couplings

icon-location-pin Gagosian Gallery, Mayfair
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You can’t imagine that having sex with Francis Bacon was very pleasant. And if this jaw-dropping little collection of paintings of male bodies pre-, during and post-intimacy is anything to go by, it definitely wasn’t gentle. The figures Bacon depicted in these works – some of which haven’t been seen since the 1970s – are writhing fleshy masses, their teeth bared, muscles taught. 

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8
Lil Marvel. Image courtesy of Hayward Gallery
Art

Kiss My Genders

icon-location-pin Hayward Gallery, South Bank
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Gender identity has only recently become a hot topic in mainstream society. I know, it’s hard to imagine what the tabloids wrote about before they could announce that gender-neutral toilets would be the downfall of humanity. But in art, the fluidity of gender has been a subject for centuries. From 

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9
Oscar Murillo 'Untitled (news)' (2016 - 19) © Oscar Murillo. Image courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner
Art

Oscar Murillo

icon-location-pin David Zwirner, Mayfair
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Oscar Murillo is hyped. Or he was. Straight out of art school, people were buying the Colombia-born artist’s abstract paintings for huge amounts of money. He was touted as the next big thing, the future of abstraction, the saviour of painting, yadda, yadda, yadda. It was all bullshit, obviously. He was just a very good painter who probably got pedestalled too quickly.

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10
Wong Ping, stills from ‘Dear, can I give you a hand?’ (2018) Image courtesy of the artist.
Art

Wong Ping: Heart Digger

icon-location-pin Camden Arts Centre, Finchley Road
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Wong Ping creates brutal, grim, sexually violent modern fairy tales. But there’s no Red Riding Hood or any cute little pigs here. Instead, the Hong Kong artist tears and rips at ideas of societal dynamics through a world of throbbing cocks, aborted foetuses and mistreated OAPs. 

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