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Top ten museum exhibitions in London

Check out our pick of the city's best cultural offerings at the top ten museum exhibitions in London

Ayurvedic Man: Encounters with Indian Medicine
Wellcome Collection
By Time Out London editors |
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Get ready culture vultures: London’s best museums are home to some cracking exhibitions now, throughout 2018 and beyond. Whatever the day, week or season, there’s always an exciting show in London’s events calendar to delve into, on subjects as varied as ancient history, fashion and the natural world. Here’s our pick of the top ten museum exhibitions on in London right now.
Check out our pick of 7 must-visit London museums:
RECOMMENDED: our full guide to exhibitions in London

The best museum exhibitions in London

Photograph: Museum of Neoliberalism
Museums, History

Museum of Neoliberalism

Leegate Shopping Centre, Lee
4 out of 5 stars

Whatever you take away from the Museum of Neoliberalism, you definitely won’t forget the display ‘Bottle of Amazon employee urine’. According to the museum, it came from a worker in one of the company’s fulfilment centres who passed up a toilet break in order not to fall behind on work targets. It’s just one of the ways this place confronts you with how modern economic structures have trickled down into people’s everyday lives.  Tucked between a laundrette and a hairdressers in an unassuming post-war shopping centre in Lewisham, the museum explains its purpose in a window sign: ‘to look back on neoliberalism, what it has done to our world; and what might lie beyond it’. Turns out, it’s quite scary stuff.  The exhibition, which begins with a display setting out the main players of twentieth-century neoliberalism, has been created by satirical artist Darren Cullen and Gavin Grindon, a lecturer at the University of Essex who curated parts of Banksy’s Dismaland.  Like the suspects board of a detective on the edge, it’s covered in a criss-cross of red string connecting  images of Margaret Thatcher, George W Bush, Tony Blair, David Cameron and Boris Johnson.  You’re then exposed to the ways capitalism has seeped into our lives, from Scouts badges embroidered with oil company logos to a replica of the cladding and insulation at Grenfell Tower.  Regardless of your political persuasion, it’s hard not to be moved. The museum admits that it ‘may seem dispiriting’, but it’ll stoke a

Filippo Albacini (1777-1858), The Wounded Achilles, 1825, marble, Chatsworth House Photograph © The Devonshire Collections, Chatsworth. Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees
Museums, History

Troy: Myth and Reality

British Museum, Bloomsbury
5 out of 5 stars

Troy vey, this show is seriously big. I mean huge, grand, ambitious, sweeping, in-depth, enormous. But take a deep breath and set an afternoon aside because it’s more than worth your time. 

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© Duffy Archive
Museums

‘Cars: Accelerating the Modern World’

V&A, South Kensington
4 out of 5 stars

Coming out of this show, I was nearly run over on that weird road that runs past the V&A which looks pedestrianised, but all drivers treat like a regular street. There’s a metaphor there. For more than a century, the world has been in thrall to the car, and it’s still out to kill us. 

Folding book containing a sermon on the Abhidhamma in Shan language, Mueang Lakorn, Thailand, dated 1917 © British Library Board
Museums

Buddhism

British Library, Euston
4 out of 5 stars

It can be hard to see sometimes, but there are other ways to live. We’re all so focused on trudging through the swamp of our everyday lives – on our careers, families, stresses, hobbies and drinking habits – that it can feel like that’s all there is. But this in-depth, absorbing show about Buddhism at the British Library is here to smack you around the head a bit and make you see that there are other paths (eight of them, actually). 

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Museums

Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh

Saatchi Gallery, Chelsea
4 out of 5 stars

From its Discovery Channel-style intro to its blingy sort-of catalogue, this show of 150 artefacts from the tomb of Tutankhamun feels like it would be more at home in the Bellagio in Vegas than in the venerable British Museum. And that’s okay. There’s not a whole lot of new scholarship here: this is the greatest hits. 

Photograph: Moving to Mars
Museums

Moving to Mars

Design Museum, Kensington
3 out of 5 stars

Holland Park is pretty special right now. Pale pink cyclamens, deep red acers, crispy leaves just starting to fall. Hell, I even saw a peacock on its morning stroll. But Earth’s Edenic charms have never been enough for the human race. We want more: we want Mars. 

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© Tim Walker
Museums

Tim Walker: Wonderful Things

V&A, South Kensington
5 out of 5 stars

Fantastical. Fairytale. Magical. Lot of words are used to describe the photography of Tim Walker, but rarely this one: sex. Yet as this exuberant solo exhibition at the V&A proves, the British photographer’s special brand of surrealism, honed over decades working for fashion magazines, is far from saccharine innocence. 

Arts and Crafts at Somerford Grove Adventure Playground, London, Mark Neville, 2011
Museums

Play Well

Wellcome Collection, Euston
4 out of 5 stars

Remember when going out to play was a legitimate part of your day? Not just legit, but the best part? Well, the Wellcome Collection’s latest exhibition takes playing seriously. Not so seriously that it kicks the fun out of it, but seriously enough to make a strong case for why playing is – wait for it – fundamental to good child development (yeah, take that Protestant work ethic, up yours increased homework hours). 

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Specimen Florae Britanniae, by Justine Smith, 2019. Botanical sculpture. Image courtesy of the Bank of England Museum.
Museums

325 years, 325 objects

Bank of England Museum, Bank
4 out of 5 stars

In the era of Bitcoin speculation, and when a tweet can affect exchange rates, it’s easy to see banking as a kind of sinister virtual miasma swirling around us and settling in the hollows of society. It’s not the whole story, though. The Bank of England is celebrating its 325th birthday with a show of 325 actual physical objects, the result of a (legal) rifling of its own vaults.

Enigma M1070 - Detail © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum, GCHQ - 2
Museums

Top Secret: From Ciphers to Cyber Security

Science Museum, South Kensington
4 out of 5 stars

The Science Museum’s new show 'Top Secret: From Ciphers to Cyber Security' is so top secret it’s difficult to even find it in the building. That means one of three things: 1) This is a brilliant joke on the part of the museum who recreate that moment in wartime when Britain got rid of its signposts to confuse the Nazis.  2) The guy who makes their signage was on hols this week. Or 3) Based on how long it took me to locate said exhibition, I’m not GCHQ recruitment material.

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