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

1
Copyright the artist, courtesy Carlos/Ishikawa
Art, Contemporary art

Korakrit Arunanondchai

icon-location-pin Carlos/Ishikawa, Stepney
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A glowing rock garden throbs and pulsates with green light, shooting lasers across the room. Surrounding the rockery, three screens show images of a retirement home, those Thai boys rescued from that cave and a bunch of wackos engaging in some kind of laser rave séance as an androgynous nude cyborg shoots light out of its mouth. It’s a little nuts, a little ridiculous, but very, very good. 

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2
© 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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3
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 National Gallery, 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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4
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 Centre, 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. 

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5
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 Picture Gallery, 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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6
02 Installation view of Richard Wilson_ 20_50, (1987) at Space Shifters, Hayward Gallery 2018. Photo_ Mark Blower
Art

Space Shifters

icon-location-pin Hayward Gallery, 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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7
Elmgreen & Dragset The Whitechapel Pool (2018) © Whitechapel Gallery / Jack Hems
Art

Elmgreen & Dragset: This Is How We Bite Our Tongue

icon-location-pin Whitechapel Gallery, 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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8
Egon Schiele, 'Seated Female Nude, Elbows Resting on Right Knee'. Courtesy the Albertina Museum, Vienna.
Art, Painting

Klimt/Schiele

icon-location-pin Royal Academy of Arts, Mayfair
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The history of art is just the history of men with paintbrushes and erections, and no one had more boners than Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. There must have been something in the air in turn-of-the-century Vienna, because think of these two and you think of non-stop, boobs-out, full-frontal erotic action. And this show of rarely seen and truly stunning drawings that have been dug out from the attic of Vienna’s Albertina Museum isn’t going to prove any of that wrong.

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9
© 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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10
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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