Top ten art exhibitions in London

Check out our critics’ pick 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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Frida Kahlo, 'Le Venadita' (1946). Photo Nathan Keay. © MCA Chicago.jpg
Art, Mixed media

Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde

icon-location-pin Barbican
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Think modern love is complicated? Wait until you see this exhibition. Here’s half a century’s worth of explosive couples, transgressive throuples, affairs, gaslighting fuckboys and, mercifully, some great art to contend with. ‘Modern Couples’ wants to show how intimate relationships between artists influenced their works, but it does something even better. 

Time Out says
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Giovanni Bellini, 'The Dead Christ'. Copyright Gemäldegalerie der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz. Photo: Jörg P. Anders.
Art, Painting

Mantegna and Bellini

icon-location-pin Trafalgar Square
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Usually when you say an art show is ‘challenging’, you mean it’s got a stuff in it you don’t want to look at. And, yeah, ‘Mantegna and Bellini’ contains scenes of torture, execution, religious fanaticism, totalitarian regimes, disturbing hybrid animals and child nudity. That’s the Bible for you. But this survey of the work and relationship of two giants of the Italian Renaissance is challenging in another way. 

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Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Andy Keate.
Art, Contemporary art

Lawrence Abu Hamdan

icon-location-pin Mile End
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There’s crap everywhere in this show. There’s a bin full of plastic tubing and a cricket bat, a stepladder, metal shelves covered with popcorn, teacups and trainers, watermelons on the floor, big bottles of fizzy drink, a paddling pool. Just a bunch of junk hastily and messily laid out. Feeling dismissive is a legit reaction – until it dawns on you what this all means. 

Time Out says
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Jusepe de Ribera, 'St Sebastian Tended by the Holy Women'. Copyright Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa-Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao. Photo: The Bilbao Fine Arts Museum.
Art

Ribera: Art of Violence

icon-location-pin Dulwich Village
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Flayed skin and dislocated shoulders are two recurring themes of Jusepe de Ribera’s art. The first, normally inflicted on Christian saints as part of their martyrdoms, and the second, the result of a foul seventeenth-century torture device known as the ‘strappado’. 

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02 Installation view of Richard Wilson_ 20_50, (1987) at Space Shifters, Hayward Gallery 2018. Photo_ Mark Blower
Art

Space Shifters

icon-location-pin South Bank
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If I had a penny for every time I heard about the importance of light in art I’d have a shitload of pennies. From Caravaggio’s dramatic chiaroscuro to Turner’s swirling dusky seascapes and Monet’s shimmering waterlilies, light has been a necessary obsession in art for centuries. This show of art that teases and toys with light and space is an eye-bending journey into the brightest recesses of minimalism.

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Elmgreen & Dragset The Whitechapel Pool (2018) © Whitechapel Gallery / Jack Hems
Art

Elmgreen & Dragset: This Is How We Bite Our Tongue

icon-location-pin Whitechapel
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The Whitechapel Gallery is being turned into a luxury hotel. Sorry about that. Its galleries will be turned into suites for the moneyed hipster elite to huff designer drugs in, and its pool will become an opulent spa. You probably didn’t know the Whitechapel had a pool, but it does. 

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; © Vb 7525; Museum der Kulturen Basel; photo: Derek Li Wan Po; 2013; all rights reserved
Art

Oceania

icon-location-pin Mayfair
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Oceania is vast. Hundreds of islands spread out across thousands of square miles of ocean, each filled with countless cultures that lap and overlap. Trying to sum up the whole artistic production of a single culture, let alone multiple, is a stupid, insurmountable task. But here we are, doing just that at the Royal Academy. 

Time Out says
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Image courtesy of the artist and Goldsmiths CCA.
Art, Contemporary art

Mika Rottenberg

icon-location-pin New Cross
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Argentinian artist Mika Rottenberg knows all about stuff, capitalism, consumerism and all that business. Her show here at the brand new Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art is rammed full of videos and installations that needle, twist and poke at economics, consumerism and commodities. 

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David LaChapelle 'An illuminating path' (1998) Courtesy of the artist
Art

Michael Jackson: On the Wall

icon-location-pin Leicester Square
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HIs every crotch grab sent jolts of ecstasy across the globe, his every spasmodic hip thrust left the world reeling. That’s an inhuman level of power for one human to have. It ended up being too much for Michael Jackson, and maybe too much for the rest of us too, which may explain how the National Portrait Gallery can put together a whole show of art inspired by MJ and without it being mega-cheesy or ultra-dull. 

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Copyright Martine Syms, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London Photography: Robert Glowacki
Art

Martine Syms: Grand Calme

icon-location-pin Soho
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Life is hard, work is exhausting and love is confusing. It’s the same for all of us. If you’re looking for art as some sort of escape from the ceaseless neurotic mundanities of your terrible life, Martine Syms’s new show isn’t it. 

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