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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

Courtesy The Whitworth, University of Manchester © Trustees of the Paolozzi Foundation, licensed by DACS

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

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power

The work of black artists is too often hidden behind the plaster of whitewashed gallery walls. Things are improving, sure – most London galleries now trip over themselves to share the ‘percentage’ of artists of colour in their collection. But numbers don’t tell the story: big, blockbuster displays of diversity are what’s needed if we are to see any significant movement. Finally, the plates are shifting with ‘Soul of a Nation’, a sonorous and sensitively curated group show dedicated to African American artists, and the work they produced in the turbulent period between 1963 and 1983. The voice of Martin Luther King greets you at the door, and leads you into the visual aftermath of his assassination. These are the creations of Spiral, a collective of African American artists formed at the pinnacle of the civil rights movement. Among them are the ritualistic collages of Romare Bearden, and haunting monochrome paint strokes of Norman Lewis. On the fringes, 1960s archive copies of the The Black Panther newspapers are preserved, framing the unapologetic political prints of Emory Douglas who said: ‘the ghetto itself is a gallery.’ An awakening comes with Dana C Chandler’s luminous green monument ‘Fred Hampton’s Door 2’, a recreation of the bullet-riddled front door of a young Black Panther revolutionary killed by Chicago police. Equally devastating is Betye Saar’s sculpture ‘Sambo’s Banjo’, a mockery of the racist ‘black entertainer’ caricature where a vintage banjo case houses th

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Tate Modern , South Bank Until Sunday October 22 2017
2

Lisa Yuskavage

Blushing is ok. Especially if you’re British, because American painter Lisa Yuskavage’s work is sure to play havoc with your gentle sensibilities. It’s all massive swinging knockers, hairy bushes and soft-focus romping. Ooh, matron, etc. 

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David Zwirner , Mayfair Friday July 28 2017
3

Chris Ofili: Weaving Magic

There’s something special about a tapestry, something traditional, a tangible aura of history. It’s as if the act of creating an image by slowly and meticulously weaving countless threads together is somehow more permanent, more holy, than just slapping a bunch of paint on a canvas. 

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National Gallery , Trafalgar Square Until Monday August 28 2017
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6

Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!

‘With great power comes great responsibility,’ said a wise uncle to his superhero nephew once. It’s a sentiment that hovers around Grayson Perry’s exhibition. Granted, Perry’s own alter ego wears lipstick and gingham rather than a mask and spandex, but the artist/transvestite/unlikely national treasure feels just as much the reluctant hero. This show is intended as a meditation on the role of popularity in art, but if it does anything, it highlights there’s little difference between one ‘P’ word and the other. It was Perry’s ceramic pots that threw him into the mainstream's limelight, but here you’ll also find tapestries, woodcuts, assemblages and custom-made motorbikes and skateboards. Those who deride him for glibly milking the zeitgeist (middle-aged broadsheet critics for the most part) won’t be converted here. Nationalist politics, art-world bickering, the class divide, austerity Britain – Perry casts his net far and wide, with a wry frown and his tongue in cheek. Curiously, it’s the bleaker moments that resonate most. Those who’ve read his book ‘The Descent of Man’ will know he views traditional masculinity as a ticking time bomb of rising suicide rates, domestic abuse and online misogyny; in one woodcut, it’s depicted as a snarling beast with humongous bollocks whose innards are labelled with words like ‘logical’, ‘rational’ and ‘important.’ Another piece, a savage takedown of the institution of marriage, features two miserable-looking wooden spouses encased in an ai

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Serpentine Gallery , Knightsbridge Until Thursday September 7 2017
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8

Alberto Giacometti

If you’ve heard of Alberto Giacometti, you’re probably thinking: ‘Oh yes, that bloke who did the spindly stick people.’ So much has already been written and said about the Swiss artist; luckily, this show doesn’t attempt anything too spurious. 

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Tate Modern , South Bank Until Sunday September 10 2017
9

Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave

Most of us don’t get any better with age. After our twenties we just get uglier, fatter and more useless. But Katsushika Hokusai was like a seriously fine wine. He was in his early seventies when he created ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ – a work that would become one of the most iconic images in all of history, and he just got better. 

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British Museum , Bloomsbury Until Sunday August 13 2017
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10

The Place is Here

The title of this excellent show is taken from a work called ‘We Will Be’ (1983) by current Turner Prize nominee Lubaina Himid. It’s a plywood cutout of a woman with arms folded, her skirt variously decorated with images of black cultural and historical figures, scrawled-over pictures of revolting-looking examples of British cuisine and a poem-cum-manifesto. 

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South London Gallery , Camberwell Until Sunday September 10 2017

Next up: the best photography shows

Photography in London

Addicted to Instagram or permanently attached to your SLR? Even if your camera roll is totally empty, you'll find a way to appreciate London photography; we have the widest variety of styles in some of the best exhibitions at the most beautiful galleries. Find them in a flash with our guide to photography in London.

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By: Time Out London Art

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Comments

13 comments
Caroline L
Caroline L

I totally agree with the comments made below. I would also like to see a listing of a wider range of galleries not just the critics choice. Time out in the past was my life line for information on new spaces and galleries. The days of Sarah Kent are well gone !! Please if the magazine is now free include more gallery listings, not just the critics choice

e c
e c

as a gallery owner and someone who found many artistic wonders over the years thanks to timeout the current incarnation makes me very sad - noone from Timeout ever even comes to my gallery which is one of the largest in the east end because there is no endeavour to find the new any more - there is a cost to giving away magazines for free - the magazine is guilty but so are we all

Liz D
Liz D moderator Staff Writer

@e c Hi there, please send any upcoming exhibition info to art@timeout.com

Claire M
Claire M

Agree with all the postings below.  Used to love the many pages of listings which I found led me to all sorts of unexpected delights.  I read the broadsheets to get the reviews of a few big shows, & thought of Time Out as the way to explore & find out what's going on.  The nearest things now are the weekend Guardian Guide - can others suggest good alternatives?

Robert F
Robert F

Totally agree with other recent posts. Listings should be centre stage - the backbone of TO's offering.

Jan G
Jan G

Non less than the World are expecting listings from TO. It made us find our way through the most incredible Metropolis over decades. All over now?

Jan from Germany

k f
k f

I don't usually add comments to any sites, but I feel compelled to voice my agreement with all the comments below. I want to see the wide range of art events that are on in London not just the ones the critics are telling me I should see. Time out used to be the first point of call - I won't use it any more.

BenFlash
BenFlash

45 isn't old or is it? I find the Internet has all the visual charm and clarity of those dreadful jelly sweet game apps that even intelligent people seem to become hooked on. The layout of the web seems to have become an explosion of headlines and adverts mashed into an impenetrable visual splash of confusion. With the galleries own websites - the simple question of what's on seems unanswerable. One is met with a deluge of screen filling design and information jumping around the simple need to know what, when and where. So with Timeout the desire of the user to know what's on and further more the added all important opinion of what's on seems impossible to find in a editorially controlled manner i.e the simple top 10 list. A world influenced by the majestic mess of Facebook. Is this our lot?

D H
D H

Please please please please. This website is near useless now. You can't search for anything. We're dependent on Editors making a list anything outside of those lists essentially is impossible to find. It seems given the tonnes of comments to this effect something akin to commercial suicide is happening at T.O towers. We still love you. Don't give up!

Segun L
Segun L

Oh for heavens sake, where are the listings? Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Time Out is, by definition, a listings magazine, is it not? So, where are they? Ohhhh.... Now, I've seen all the other comments for the last six months. You obviously don't care anymore about user experience. Is this obliqueness an advertiser requirement or just sheer editorial bloodymindedness?