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Among the trees at Hayward Gallery
Photograph: Linda Nylind

London’s museums are finally reopening: here are their can’t-miss exhibitions

You wait four months for a new exhibition and then, yeah, they’re like buses, obviously, we get it

Written by
Eddy Frankel

For some reason that very few people seem able to justify, our major museums and galleries have been forced to stay shut while all the pubs and shops and smaller art galleries around them got to open. You can go into a bookshop, but you can’t go into the Tate Turbine Hall. Silly. Thankfully, that’s all set to change on Monday as lockdown is eased again: the museums are finally opening back up. That means you can go swoon in front of the Monets at Tate Modern, peer at ‘The Ambassadors’ at the National Gallery and feel all dwarfed by the apocalyptic John Martins at Tate Britain. But if the return of permanent collections isn’t enough for you, all the major London institutions will also be opening big bold new temporary exhibitions too. Here’s our pick of the arty bunch. 

Michael Armitage at the Royal Academy of Art
The RA is reopening on May 18 with the continuation of the very good Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch exhibition from pre-lockdown. Then, a couple of days later, we’re also being treated to a new show of ultra-divisive David Hockney iPad drawings. But way more interesting is a major solo show of work by painter Michael Armitage, all done on traditional Kenyan lubugo bark. These are brutal, psychedelic, intense paintings, and they’re going to look great at the RA.
From May 22. Book here.

‘The Making of Rodin’ at Tate Modern
First of all, go book yourself in to see the lovely Lynette Yiadom-Boakye show (continued from pre-lockdown) at Tate Britain, and also the newly Turner Prize-nominated Cooking Sections show (which is free). Then immediately set your sights on Tate Modern’s spring/summer blockbuster: ‘The Making of Rodin’, a huge exhibition dedicated to Auguste Rodin, the French artist who helped shape modern sculpture. His radical approach to bodies and limbs and space and form totally changed the course of art, and seeing his work up close is always a special treat for the eyeballs.
From May 18. Book here.

‘Conversations with God: Jan Matejko’s “Copernicus”’ at the National Gallery
Here’s a true story: when I was really young I had to give a presentation at school about the astronomer Copernicus. My father convinced me that it would be super-funny and everyone would find me absolutely hilarious if I called him ‘Copper Knickers’ instead of Copernicus. ‘My presentation,’ I announced to the class, ‘is about Nicolaus COPPER KNICKERS.’ Literally zero laughter. Nothing. Anyway, this free one-room exhibition is dedicated to Polish painter Jan Matejko’s depiction of the equally Polish Copernicus. The National Gallery’s free one-room temporary shows are always understated, but often the best things they put on. No pomp, no BS, just simple, straight-ahead celebrations of under-celebrated paintings.
May 21. Book here

Matthew Barney: ‘Redoubt’ at the Hayward Gallery
Look, we’ve gone on about this one enough as it is, so let’s just make it extra clear: everyone is very excited about the return of Matthew Barney with his film about wolves and snow. It's going to be weird and complex and long and, obviously, very brilliant. 
From May 18. Book here.

‘Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty’ at the Barbican Art Gallery
‘Why order off the menu, when you can head straight for Dubuffet?’ is an advertising slogan I would have happily sold to the ultra-influential French painter if he hadn’t died the same year I was born. But he did, so my slogan goes unused, though that doesn’t mean we can’t all celebrate his radical, aggressive approach to painting, being rightly celebrated in this major Barbican exhibition. 
From May 18. Book here.

Want even more art? You should probably go see Yayoi Kusama at the Tate, then.

Or Banksy, maybe? Up to you, to be totally honest.

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