Whatever your taste, there'll be an exhibition to enthrall you in London, and with our guide you can even find your culture fix for free. From shows at some of the top ten museums in London to alternative exhibitions in the city's weird and wonderful museums, there's plenty of free art on offer when you delve into free London.
RECOMMENDED: More budget-friendly culture in our guide to cheap London.
Free exhibitions in London
2016 marks the 150th anniversary of celebrated children's author and illustrator Beatrix Potter, who was a frequent visitor to the museum where she would often sit and sketch. This exhibition celebrates the date with artworks, original sketches and her earliest published works on show.
If you’re hankering after a green fix to see you into spring, look no further than Greenwich Peninsula where NOW Gallery is positively blooming with the help of British artist Rebecca Louise Law’s latest flower-filled installation. 'The Iris' features 10,000 blue, purple, yellow and white irises floating from copper wire, which will waft gently from the ceiling for two months.
Two electric chairs are exhibited side by side in the Wellcome’s latest show. The first, a photograph, illustrates the revolutionary form of capital punishment introduced to New York’s Sing Sing Prison in 1890. The second, with two metal handles on its armrests, delivered a type of electrotherapy (not to be confused with still-used shock therapy) believed to cure illness in the late nineteenth century. Invented within a few years of each other, they sum up humankind’s contradictory relationship with electricity: a force never created, merely harnessed, both for good and ill, life and death. The first room ambles through pre-scientific beliefs about electricity – lightning being Zeus in a bad mood – before taking us into the experiments of eighteenth-century pioneers known rather sweetly as ‘electricians’. As usual, the Wellcome gets all intersectional, showing us how the fields of science and spectacle overlap. The Italian physician Luigi Galvani discovered that electricity occurred naturally in the body by zapping countless numbers of unfortunate frogs – but it was his nephew, Giovanni Aldini, who did the same to a convict’s corpse in front of a public audience in London in 1803. If the following rooms – which trace electricity’s pivotal role in the modern world – are less thrilling, that’s because it’s so hard to fully grasp the impact of something so vast and ubiquitous (photos of pylons being erected in the 1920s are a good case in point: we barely notice them any more
This one-of-a-kind exhibition highlights the importance of children’s rights and their slow but steady historical evolution. Held at London’s Central Family Court this collection of quotes, images and artefacts gives a powerful insight into the court’s work and proceedings. Children’s experiences are brought to the fore, from tying threads in a mill to firing guns on a battleship as well as the work of the progressive activists that brought them into the comparative safety of the Victorian school room and then the era of human rights.
Forget the Crown Jewels; get yourself down to 'Bloomin Jewels', an exhibition celebrating the long and esteemed tradition of depicting flowers and foliage in jewellery while spotlighting cutting-edge, imaginative and technically accomplished modern work incorporating floral motifs. Over 20 respected contemporary jewellers have been invited to offer work using the botanical as a starting point. The results will surprise anyone interested in contemporary jewellery, decorative arts, fashion, design and gardening. Throughout the exhibition there'll also be a series of talks and events, for a full programme and for prices see here.
The arts duo who created a series of anti-Brexit custard creams encased in resin last year, are back with a new pop-up art shop and event space. This year Pandora Vaughan and Siân Pattenden are bringing their exhibition ‘Truth Machine’ to Gospel Oak. They’ll be showing art as well as selling it and the exhibition will be accompanied by a real-life Truth Machine and a Truth Machine Hair Salon, film nights and other special events. The duo will be employ lie detectors and scanners on request and all visitors will have to tell the truth while there - so be careful who you take along with you. Join the launch party on Mar 24 from 5pm to 8pm.
The Royal Institution was founded in 1799 for ‘diffusing the knowledge… and application of science to the common purposes of life’; from behind its neoclassical façade, it’s been at the forefront of London’s scientific achievements ever since. In 2008, Sir Terry Farrell completed a £22m rebuild, inside and out, with the brief of improving accessibility and finding ways to lure people inside. The result is a more open frontage, a restaurant, a bar and a café. The Michael Faraday Laboratory, a complete replica of Faraday’s former workspace, is in the basement, alongside a working laboratory in which RI scientists can be observed researching their current projects. Some 1,000 of the RI’s 7,000-odd scientific objects are on display, including the world’s first electric transformer, a prototype Davy lamp and, from 1858, a print of the first transatlantic telegraph signal. The RI also holds a terrific rolling programme of talks and demonstrations in its lecture theatre, most famously at Christmas.