Cultural Wednesday’s Best London Exhibitions

Where to go? What to see? What are the best London Exhibitions? Are you tempted by textiles or mesmerised by mushrooms? Here are the art exhibitions in London that I consider most alluring this Spring.

Picasso sculpture of woman's head with gallery behind
Picasso and Paper at the Royal Academy

Best London Exhibitions Spring 2020

There are so many art exhibitions in London that sometimes it can be hard to choose where to go and what to see or even to find out what’s on. This Spring I have already had my opinion changed about Picasso, I can now see what everybody else has been raving about. British Baroque and Aubrey Beardsley at Tate Britain both appeal to long held loves of mine. Peeking inside Two Temple Place is a spring time treat that I look forward to every year. Here are what I think will be the best art shows in London this Spring, I hope that you do too.

Picasso on Paper

Picasso drew and painted on paper but he also ripped it, folded it, burnt it. Everything that the fertile imagination might consider doing with paper is on show. The Royal Academy plainly expect this to be popular with the exhibition more expensive in the first and last few weeks and at weekends. Plan your visit for a Monday in early March to get the cheapest tickets.

  • Royal Academy, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD
  • 25 January – 13 April
  • Open: Daily 10am – 6pm, Friday until 10pm
  • Admission: £22 for the first and last two weeks and then a sliding scale depending on the day of the week starting at £18, under 16 and friends free

Portraying Pregnancy: From Holbein to Social Media

For a woman to spend most of her adult life pregnant was not unusual before the last century and yet portraits rarely portray pregnant women. Now, however, displaying your pregnancy bump is all the rage on social media. The Foundling Museum has gathered together a selection from Tudor times to now including the Mark Quinn statue of Alison Lapper that once graced the Fourth Plinth.

  • Foundling Museum, 40 Brunswick Square WC1N 1AZ
  • 24 January – 26 April
  • Open: Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 5pm, Sunday 11am – 5pm
  • Admission: Adults £10.50, free for under 21 and Art Fund members

Unbound: Visionary Women Collecting Textiles

Two of my big passions in one place here …. the venue Two Temple Place is one of my favourite London and interiors and I am a woman who loves to collect textiles. Even better the Unbound is free.

  • Two Temple Place, WC2R 3BD
  • 25 January – 19 April
  • Open: Wednesday – Monday 10am – 4:30pm, until 9pm on Wednesday
  • Admission: Free

Filthy Lucre: Whistler’s Peacock Room Reimagined

Whistler created the Peacock room just a few hundred yards away from the V&A without the owner of the house knowing. The pair fell out over it. Now the room is safely installed in the Freer Gallery in Washington. This installation lovingly recreates room, adds a booming sound track and is fully immersive. Sounds a little left field? Don’t worry it is free and you might love it.

  • Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL
  • 25 January – May 3
  • Open: Daily 10am – 5.45pm, Friday until 10pm
  • Admission: Free

Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi

I love mushrooms. They look so incredible and taste delicious. This will not be an exhibition devoted purely to highly detailed depictions of mushroom gills, it will look at the new and exciting ways that fungi can be used. Did you know that shoes can be made of mushrooms? This promises to be one of those exhibitions that make you say, well I never knew that!

  • Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 1LA
  • 30 January – 26 April
  • Open: Daily 10am – 6pm, until 8pm Wednesday – Friday
  • Admission: Free

British Baroque: Power and Illusion

Baroque was the subject of one the first ever exhibitions that I saw at the V&A and I’ve been a big fan ever since. From the restoration of Charles II to the death of Queen Anne, the Stuarts knew how to put on a show. Glitz and glamour a world away from the staid world of the Puritans.

  • Tate Britain, Millbank, SW1P 4RG
  • 4 February – 19 April
  • Open: Daily 10am – 6pm
  • Admission: £16, children under 12 and friends free.

Radical Figures: Painting the New Millennium

Just about as far away from British Baroque as you can get is on show at the Whitechapel Gallery. In the 1980s painting was declared to be dead, the Whitechapel begs to differ with this show of modern painting.

  • Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High St, E1 7QX
  • 6 February – 10 May
  • Open: Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 6pm, 9pm on Thursday
  • Admission: £9.50, free for members

Meet Vincent Van Gogh

Who doesn’t love the vibrant colours of Vincent Van Gogh? The Van Gogh museum has recreated his work with 3D wizardry that will let you explore the rooms and fields. The Van Gogh experience is on a world tour and is going to spend four months on London’s Southbank, I can’t wait to wander in those fields. You will find Vincent between the back of the National Theatre and Waterloo Station.

  • 99 Upper Ground, SE1 9PP
  • 7 February 2020 – 21 May
  • Open: Sunday – Wednesday 10am – 6pm, Thursday – Saturday 10am – 10pm
  • Admission: £19 weekdays, £21 weekends buying a ticket online reduces the price by £1. Concessions are available.

Woburn Treasures

Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire contains a treasure trove of art the cream of the crop is coming to the Queen’s House in Greenwich for a change of scenery. On show will be a full length portrait of Anne of Denmark, the Queen for whom the Queen’s House was built. Best of all, as ever, the Queen’s House is free to visit.

  • Queen’s House, Romney Road, Greenwich, SE10 9NF
  • 13 February – 17 January 2021
  • Open: Daily 10am – 5pm
  • Admission: Free

Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen won the Turner Prize in 1999. Since then he has created works using film, sculpture and photography and won an Oscar for his film 12 Years a Slave. The Tate is gathering together 14 of his major works for this eponymously titled show.

  • Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG
  • 13 February – 11 May
  • Open: Sunday to Thursday 10am – 6pm, Friday to Saturday 10am– 10pm
  • Admission: £13, children under 12 and members free

Nicolaes Maes: Dutch Master of the Golden Age

Nicolaes Maes was one of Rembrandt’s most gifted pupils. He painted scenes ranging from a look at the saucy goings on below stairs to the still perfection of the upper class of the Dutch Golden Age. This is the first ever UK exhibition devoted to Nicolaes Maes and its free.

  • National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN
  • 22 February – 31 May 2020
  • Open: Daily 10am – 6pm until 9pm on Friday
  • Admission: Free

British Surrealism

One hundred years ago Surrealism was invented, to mark the centenary Dulwich has gathered together over 70 works from people like Dora Carrington and Henry Moore.

  • Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Road, SE21 7AD
  • 26 February – 17 May
  • Open: Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm
  • Admission: Adults £16.50, members go free

Léon Spilliaert

I first stumbled across Léon Spilliaert when we visited Ostend and vowed to find out more about him. How timely that the Royal Academy has decided to devote an exhibition to him and his moody dreamy depictions of Ostend.

  • Royal Academy, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD
  • 28 February – 25 May
  • Open: Daily 10am – 6pm, Friday until 10pm
  • Admission: £14, under 16 and friends free

Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk

Japanese women have been wearing the Kimono for centuries. This exhibition promises to be a sumptuous display of Kimonos from the 1660s right up to the present day. I cannot wait to see what they have on offer in the museum shop.

  • Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL
  • 29 February – 21 June
  • Open: Daily 10am – 5.45pm, Friday until 10pm
  • Admission: Adult £16, children under 12 and members free

Aubrey Beardsley

Aubrey Beardsley was very popular when I was in the sixth form. Somewhere in the depths of my garage I have a shoe box covered with his drawings that I cut out from magazines, filled with important memorabilia of my late teens. His drawings are elegant, humorous, decadent and erotic. What appealed most to me was that he was an illustrator for the Yellow Book magazine and yellow was (and still is) my favourite colour. Even if you don’t have a shoebox in the garage this still promises to be a great exhibition.

  • Tate Britain, Millbank, SW1P 4RG
  • 4 March – 25 May
  • Open: Daily 10am – 6pm
  • Admission: £16, children under 12 and friends free.

Andy Warhol

Soup Cans, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis …. Andy Warhol’s work is stuffed full of iconic images. We went to an Andy Warhol exhibition in San Francisco last summer and it was the room of silver helium filled balloons that they remember. The balloons will make an appearance in this show too, the teens will be clamouring to visit.

  • Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG
  • 12 March – 6 September
  • Open: Sunday to Thursday 10am – 6pm, Friday to Saturday 10am– 10pm
  • Admission: £22, children under 12 and members free

Cecil Beaton Bright Young Things

Cecil Beaton was one of the Bright Young Things of the Roaring Twenties, he took pictures of his beautiful friends. The show looks at the lives of the gilded fashionable rich as portrayed by Cecil Beaton and his friends. Can’t wait.

  • National Portrait Gallery,  St Martin’s Place, WC2H 0HE
  • 12 March – 7 June
  • Open: Daily 10am – 6pm, Friday until 9pm
  • Admission: £18, members go free. If you are under 25 and can prove it tickets cost £5 on Friday

Titian: Love, Desire, Death

Titian died 500 years ago this year aged only 37. To mark the occasion the National Gallery is having a bit of reunion. Prince Philip of Spain asked Titian to paint a series of six paintings of classical myths. These been scattered across the globe for at least 400 years. Grab your opportunity to see them all together.

  • National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN
  • 16 March – 14 June
  • Open: Daily 10am – 6pm until 9pm on Friday
  • Admission: Monday – Friday £8, Weekends £10, members go free

New Fourth Plinth Sculpture unveiled

Every two years the sculpture on top of the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square is changed. Thirteenth on the plinth is Heather Phillipson’s huge sculpture The End. It will look like a giant swirl of cream with a cherry on top and a huge fly enjoying the creamy goodness. Add to that a drone with a camera that will transmit live pictures of Trafalgar Square. There was a public vote to choose this art work and one of the teens cast his vote for this.

  • Trafalgar Square
  • from March 26
  • Open: All day, every day for the next two years
  • Admission: Free

Gauguin and the Impressionists

The Ordrupgaard Collection outside Copenhagen is closed for renovations. Why should you care? Well some of the very best painting in the collection have decided to take advantage of the gallery being shut and are taking a holiday in London. Monet, Degas, Corot and Gauguin will all be on display. It seems only polite to pay them a visit whilst they are in town.

  • Royal Academy, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD
  • 29 March – 14 June
  • Open: Daily 10am – 6pm, Friday until 10pm
  • Admission: £16, under 16 and friends free

Havering Hoard

The Havering Hoard, the largest ever Bronze Age hoard to be discovered in London was found in 2018. 450 bronze objects were discovered in a pit. Nobody knows how they came to be there. The objects are to go on display at the Museum of London Docklands along with various theories about how and why all the objects came to be there.

Artemesia

Artemisia Gentileschi was a rare thing. She was a female 17th-century painter. Not a drawing room dauber but a proper artist in demand from the most fashionable clients and who made a decent living. The National Gallery recently sent her self portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria off on a tour of the UK, she has hung in schools and doctors surgeries on her progress. Now there is to be an exhibition at the National Gallery devoted solely to her for the first time ever. I missed Artemisia on Tour and am looking forward to getting better acquainted.

  • National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN
  • 4 April – 26 July
  • Open: Open: Daily 10am – 6pm until 9pm on Friday
  • Admission: Adults £18 Monday – Friday, £20 weekends, members free

Turners at Turner’s House

Ordinarily there are no Turners at Turner’s House but this Spring the Tate has lent five Turner paintings to the house. He painted all of them whilst sat on his special painting in boat on the Thames just down from the house.

  • Turner’s House, Sandycombe Lane, Twickenham, TW1 2LR
  • 11 January – 29 March
  • Open: Wednesday – Sunday 12 – 3pm, guided tours Wednesday – Sunday 3pm
  • Admission: £8 adults

Long Running London Art Exhibitions

Most exhibitions at London museums run for about three months but some stay around for longer. Here are a few exhibitions on in London that have been open for some time but are will worth visiting if you haven’t already.

Tutankamum: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh at the Saatchi Gallery

I might even have squeaked when I heard that King Tut was coming to London. My mother queued for hours to see him in 1972, our house wash awash with books about him. Now the Boy King is on a final world to celebrate 100 years since his rediscovery. Tickets are expensive, but cheaper than a flight to Cairo. This is a magnificent show my only disappointment is that THE mask is not in the show. My advice ….. BOOK NOW

  • 2 November 2019 – 3 May 2020
  • Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road SW3 4RY
  • Open: Daily 10am – 6pm
  • Off Peak Tickets: Weekdays Adults £27.35, under 12 £19.35
  • Peak Tickets: Weekends and school holidays Adults £31.35, under 12 £22.35
  • You might see the tickets at lower prices but every ticket is subject to a booking fee and I have included this in the price
  • You get a time slot and tickets are not refundable

Troy: Myth and Reality at the British Museum

Even if you have never read the Iliad the tales of the Trojan War will be familiar. Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world. The Trojan horse which bought the war to an end. Achilles, Odysseus, Cassandra …. so many famous names. The story is such a good one that books, films and tv series continue to be made about them. Some of the objects on show are so old that it takes your breath away, others so new it makes you smile.

  • 21 November 2019 – 8 March 2020
  • British Museum, Great Russell Street, WC1B 3DG
  • Open: Daily 10am – 5.30, Friday until 8.30pm
  • Admission: Adult weekday £20, weekend £22, under 16 and members free

George IV: Art and Spectacle at the Queen’s Gallery

George IV was quite a showy man. He built the Brighton Pavillion. Not content with amazing houses he filled them with great art. Turns out he was a big fan of Jane Austen, keeping a set of her books in all his houses, a signed copy of Emma is on show next to far glitzier stuff more usually associated with George.

  • 15 November 2019 – 3 May 2020 
  • Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, SW1A 1AA
  • Open: Daily 10am – 5.30pm
  • Admission: Adult £13.50, under 5 free. Tickets are valid for a year at any of the exhibitions at the Queen’s Gallery.

ABBA: Super Troupers the Exhibiton

For all things Abba including the costumes that Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Anni Frid wore to sing Waterloo at the Eurovision Song Contest head to the O2.

  • ABBA: SUPER TROUPERS THE EXHIBITION at THE O2
  • Until Monday 31 August 2020
  • To get to the O2 take the Jubilee Line to North Greenwich or catch a Thames Clipper along the river
  • Open:
  • Admission: Adults £27, return ticket for upto 4 returns £59, family and child tickets available.
  • Booking tickets before is advisable call 0844 249 1000 (calls cost 7p/minute)

So that’s it my list of best London Exhibitions that I really want to to see this Spring. I have no doubt that more enticing shows will come to my attention, keep an eye on my twitter feed or pop back here for updates. If you fancy venturing further afield in search of culture check out my collection of exhibitions worth travelling for.

Whilst I am out and about stopping for refreshment at some of the excellent London Museum Cafés is always a pleasure. Membership or Friendship of most of the galleries and museums will get you into the exhibitions for free as often as you like, take a look at my guide to London Museum Membership for a full run down. Membership of the Art Fund will get you into many of these special exhibitions for half price.

Best London Exhibitions what to see at London Museum's and Art Galleries #London #LondonArt #Exhibitions
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16 Comments

  1. January 22, 2020 / 10:38 am

    I’ve been waiting for you to write this post to save me the trouble of looking everything up. Thank you. I’m forwarding it to my mum and a friend so we can meet up for our own cultural weekday.

    • Catherine
      Author
      January 22, 2020 / 12:45 pm

      Thank you, that makes me really happy 😊

  2. ifucanrememberituwerentthere
    January 23, 2020 / 9:40 am

    Great list – many thanks!

  3. January 23, 2020 / 3:13 pm

    What an excellent round-up! So many to look forward to (be still my beating heart). #farawayfiles

    • Catherine
      Author
      January 26, 2020 / 3:26 pm

      Looking forward to seeing you at many of them

  4. January 24, 2020 / 4:58 am

    Fantastic timing as I’m flying to the UK tonight. I think I’ll take my girls to see the free mushroom exhibit!
    #farawayfiles

    • Catherine
      Author
      January 26, 2020 / 3:25 pm

      I’m really curious to see the mushrooms

  5. January 24, 2020 / 8:38 am

    The Tutankamum and the Abba are both on my list! So many great exhibitions in London it’s hard to choose but there is surely something for everyone on this list! I’m off to read your review of the Abba Exhibition #FarawayFiles

    • Catherine
      Author
      January 26, 2020 / 3:25 pm

      Make sure you book if you plump for Tutankamun and Abba is a fans dream

  6. January 24, 2020 / 11:10 am

    Such a fantastic list. I definitely don’t want to miss British Baroque and Tutankhamen exhibitions. So much to see … #farawayfiles

  7. Trish Burgess
    January 24, 2020 / 3:24 pm

    Have pinned! Brilliant, as always. Now I’m a fan of all things Japanese, I fancy the kimono exhibition at the V&A. #farawayfiles

    • Catherine
      Author
      January 26, 2020 / 3:23 pm

      I would love to try a kimono on

  8. Clare Thomson
    January 24, 2020 / 3:48 pm

    Oh my goodness, what a lot of treats are in store for us this year! There’s so much I want to do and see. Only problem is paying for them all. When did art exhibitions start costing £20 and more for a ticket? Thanks for sharing on #farawayfiles. Definitely saving this one.

    • Catherine
      Author
      January 24, 2020 / 4:22 pm

      Some of them are very expensive but an Art Fund card will halve the cost of most of them

      • Clare Thomson
        January 24, 2020 / 6:03 pm

        That’s worth remembering.

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