Best London Exhibitions Summer 2018

We’ve got a day in London, where shall we go? Is a question that I am often asked.  Well that depends on what you like.  To help you decide here is my rundown of the Best London Exhibitions Summer 2018.


MONET & ARCHITECTURE at the National Gallery until 29 July 2018

Monet is so much more than lily ponds: he may be most famous for painting ponds but buildings caught his eye as well.  One of the things that fascinated him was how changing light could change the way we see things.  He painted the same scene over and over again, often having many canvases on the go at the same time, switching from one to the other as the light changed.  Monet stayed at the Savoy in London and painted the view from his room, grab the opportunity to see them hanging next to each other whilst you can!

National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN
Open: Daily 10am – 6pm (9pm on Fridays)
Admission: Adults £20 (Monday-Friday), £22 (weekends), concessions available

Claude Monet London views Monet and Architecture National Gallery London

EDWARD BAWDEN – Dulwich Picture Gallery until 9 September 2018

Edward Bawden was not a painter in the way that Rembrandt and Gainsborough were. In the main his work illustrated books and advertised things on the tube.  Thousands of people see his work every day without noticing it.  If you have ever been to Victoria Underground Station and seen the profile of Queen Victoria on the tiles, that is by Edward Bawden.  The Dulwich Picture Gallery, incidentally, the first purpose built art gallery in the world, has gathered together Edward Bawden’s work, so you can feast your eyes on the delicious illustrations for Aesop’s Fables and if you still have a yen for Gainsborough you can always visit the Dulwich Picture Gallery main collection afterwards.

Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Road, London SE21 7AD.
Open: Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm
Admission: Adults £16.50, concessions available.

TEETH – Wellcome Collection  until 16 September 2018

The Wellcome Collection always puts on fascinating exhibitions and the latest on Teeth is no exception.  Everything you could want to know about the last 300 years of dentistry back from when the local blacksmith would pull rotten teeth right up to today’s high tech cosmetic techniques.  Best of all, Napoleon’s toothbrush is on display perfect for those of us who are history geeks but also have a science degree.  Best of all it is FREE, as is entry to the excellent permanent collection.

Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London,  NW12BE
Open: Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 6pm (8pm on Thursday), Sunday 11am – 6pm
Admission: Free

Napoleon Bonaparte Toothbrush

HOPE TO NOPE: GRAPHICS AND POLITICS 2008-18 – Design Museum until 12 August 2018

2008 doesn’t seem that far away, but in the past decade social media has taken off changing the way that ideas are spread.  At the beginning of the decade political ideas were argued for by using words, posters and T-shirts.  Words, posters and T-shirts still play a part but the image that can be easily shared on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook is now every bit as important.  This fascinating exhibition takes us through the way that things have both changed and stayed the same.  Worth it, just to see this Donald Trump fortune telling machine.

Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High Street, London W8 6AG
Open: Daily 10am – 6pm
Admission: Adult £12, concessions available

Donald Trump Fortune Teller

250th SUMMER EXHIBITON – Royal Academy of Arts until 19 August 2018

Every summer for the past 250 years the Royal Academy has put on a Summer Exhibition.  Anybody can put forward artwork to be considered for inclusion, it is the world’s largest open submission art show.  This year things are a little different.  The Academy itself has newly enlarged premises and the show spreads out of the main galleries, some of it can be seen for free.  Add to that, the installation of more than 200 flags featuring art work fluttering in the surrounding streets.  Every year a different curator takes the helm, this year it is the turn of Grayson Perry.  Cue bright yellow walls, bears made out of rugs and a Banksy on sale for £350,000,000.

Royal Academy, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD
Open: Daily 10am – 6pm (10pm on Fridays)
Admission:  Summer Exhibiton – £18 adults, concessions available

BanksyVote Leave Summer Exhibition

THE GREAT SPECTACLE – Royal Academy of Arts until 19 August 2018

Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds were once cutting edge artists.  The Great Spectacle gathers together works of art that have all been shown at the Summer Exhibiton over the last 250 years.  It is a fascinating tour through how new ideas emerged and became part of what we all now take for granted.

Royal Academy, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD
Open: Daily 10am – 6pm (10pm on Fridays)
Admission:  The Great Spectacle – £16 adults, concessions available

JAMES COOK: THE VOYAGES – British Library until 28 August 2018

1768 must have been quite a year …. the Royal Academy put on its first summer exhibition and Captain James Cook set sail from Plymouth in the Endeavour.  When he returned it was with tales of new lands, what we know as New Zealand and Australia.  This fascinating show tells the story of the three voyages that he made.  On show are the original hand drawn maps made during the voyages, paintings and drawings including the first drawing made of a kangaroo by a European.  If you are fascinated by cartography this is the exhibition for you.  I was stunned that this tiny Kula bird found in Fiji remains so vivid and bright after 250 years.

British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB
Open: Monday – Saturday 9.30am – 6pm (Tuesday 8pm, Friday 5pm), Sunday 11am – 5pm
Admission: £14 adults, concessions available.

Kula bird Fiji

PICASSO 1932 – LOVE, FAME, TRAGEDY – Tate Modern until 9 Sept 2018

1932 was a big year for Picasso.  He was 50, he had just embarked on an affair with a young woman that would lead to the end of his marriage and he is at the peak of his fame.  Easy for him just to coast.  What he did instead was to embark on a frenzy of creativity.  Love, Fame, Tragedy acts almost like a diary with the works being shown as Picasso painted them from January through to December.  That he produced so many stunning and varied works in the course of just one year is amazing, that he did so whilst conducting a clandestine affair even more so.

Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG
Open: Daily 10am – 6pm (Friday and Saturday 10pm)
Admission: Adult £22, concessions available

Marie Therese asleep Picasso

ORLA KEILY, A LIFE IN PATTERN – Fashion and Textile Museum until 23 September 2018

You probably have some of Orly Keily’s work in your house.  It might be a handbag adorned with her famous stem design or (in my case) an embossed tin.  She is famous for colourful, graphic plant-based designs.  She took her inspiration from nature and Danish design.  Just how her designs came to been everything from hosiery to handbags is explored in this exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum.  The tiny Fashion and Textile Museum has an excellent shop and cafe if you happen to be passing.

Fashion and Textile Museum, 83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF
Open: Daily 11am – 6pm (Thursdays 8pm, Sundays 5pm)
Admission: £9.90 adults concessions available.

AFTERMATH: ART IN THE WAKE OF WORLD WAR ONE – Tate Britain until 23 September

Twisted metal, churned up mud, broken bodies.  Well what do you expect people to depict when they have lived through the horror of war. It is not only the British reaction to the First World War that is on display here but also that of French and German artists to.  It sounds grim and it is not a bundle of laughs, but it is essential viewing.  If you have teens studying the History of Warfare Through Time module for their GCSE History it will make interesting viewing.

Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG
Open: Daily 10am – 6pm
Admission: £18 adults concessions available

THE LONDON MASTABA 18 June – 23 September 2018

This summer there will be more than swans swimming in the Serpentine.  Christo has created the London Mastaba using 7,506 barrels stacked twenty metres high.  It is undeniably huge but viewed from different vantage points around the lake it changes both with the light and the angle it is viewed at.  Best of all it is free.

Open: Daily 5am – midnight
Admission: Free

Christo London Mastaba Serpentine Hyde Park

GREAT BRITISH SEASIDE – National Maritime Museum until 30 September 2018

Unable to leave London for a day at the seaside?  Then head over to Greenwich where the National Maritime Museum has a show of seaside snaps taken by three of the very best British seaside photographers.  You could even travel to Greenwich on a London river Bus to get into the nautical drama of mind.

National Maritime Museum, Park Row, Greenwich SE10 9NF
Open: Daily 10am – 5pm
Admission: Adult £11.50 concessions available

Seaside selfie Kiss Me Quick

SERPENTINE PAVILION– Serpentine Galleries until 7 October 2018

Every summer the Serpentine Galleries invite an architect to construct a temporary pavilion on its front lawn.  I love the way a whole new structure appears for a short time that alters the way you look at the park and the elegant Serpentine Gallery buildings.  This year the architect is the Mexican Frida Escobedo and she has produced a structure that plays with light, shade and reflection.  Best of all, you can buy a coffee and sit in the pavilion contemplating the world or just having a chat.  Even better it is FREE!

Serpentine Pavilion, West Carriage Drive, Kensington Gardens
Open: Daily 10am – 6pm
Admission: Free

Frida Escobedo Serpentine Pavilion

AZZEDINE ALAÏA: THE COUTURIER – Design Museum until 7 October 2018

Azzedine Alaïa was known as the King of Cling, he made frocks that looked like a second skin in a very sexy but somehow refined way.  Before he died he designed this exhibition and oversaw the recreation of some his best creations made to fit special mannequins.  These models are tall, I mean really tall in that I have never met a person that tall and very, very thin.  No living person could ever wear these dresses, they are not clothes but works of art.  As a dressmaker, I am in awe of his skill at manipulating fabric, all the objects on display are beautiful.

Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High Street, London W8 6AG
Open: Daily 10am – 6pm
Admission: Adult £16, concessions available

Azzedine Alaia

SPLENDOURS OF THE SUBCONTINENT – Queen’s Gallery until 14 October

You get two exhibitions for the price of one at the Queen’s Gallery this summer, both are themed round the Splendours of the Subcontinent.  The first showcases the amazing collection of South Asian Paintings and manuscripts in the Royal Collection ranging from exquisitely illuminated manuscripts from the Mughal court right up to twentieth century paintings acquired by Queen Mary.  The second part puts on display the gifts showered on Edward, Prince of Wales when he toured the subcontinent in 1875-6.  On his return the Prince made arrangements for his gifts to go on display in what is now the Victoria and Albert Museum, so popular where they that they went on a mini tour, when they were finally packed away over two million people had seen them.  I was particularly taken by this crown presented to Prince by the Taluqdars of Awadh.

Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, SW1 1AA
Open: Daily 9.30am – 5.30pm, NB check Palace website for one off closures.
Admission:  £12 adult, concessions available.  Make sure you have your ticket stamped when you leave and it will become an annual pass.

Crown Taluqdars of Awadh Royal Collection

MICHAEL JACKSON: ON THE WALL – National Portait Gallery 28 June – 21 October 2018

29 August 2018 would have been Michael Jackson’s 60th birthday, he not only created great art but inspired it too and many prominent artists from Andy Warhol onwards have depicted him.  Over forty images of him will be on display at the National Portrait Gallery.

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London WC2H 0HE
Open: Daily 10am – 6pm (9pm Friday)
Admission: £20 Adult concessions available, under 12s free, under 25’s £5 on Fridays

FRIDA KAHLO: MAKING HERSELF UP – Victoria and Albert Museum until 4 November 2018

Frida Kahlo is one of the best known artists of the twentieth century.  Usually that sentence reads …. Frida Kahlo is one of the best known female artists of the twentieth century.  Self portraits are what she is known for, showing her in her distinctive Mexican dress and her heavy mono-brow.  Her personal belongings were locked up in her house by her husband, Diego Rivera, after her death and stayed there for the next 50 years.  This is the first time that they travelled outside Mexico since their rediscovery.  On show are her amazing clothes, the full upper body casts that she had to wear for a spinal condition decorated to become part of her costume, her lipstick and nail varnish and the chicest prosthetic leg that you will ever see.  When I visited I kept on hearing other visitors saying “Oh Wow!” something that doesn’t happen often at press views!  Exiting through the gift shop is a joy, the merchandise that the V&A has sourced is immensely covetable.

Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL
Open: Daily 10am – 5.45pm (10pm Friday)
Admission: £15 adults concessions available

Frida Kahlo Making Herself Up Victoria and Albert Museum

SIR RICHARD WALLACE: COLLECTOR  – Wallace Collection until 6 January 2019

The Wallace Collection is a small but perfectly formed gallery just behind Selfridges.  The collection was gathered together by two men the 4th Marquess of Hertford and heir Sir Richard Wallace.  It was Sir Richard Wallace who gave the collection for public view, this year is the 200th anniversary of his birth and the Collection are pulling out all the stops to tell the story of the man behind the collection.

Wallace Collection Armour

Wallace Collection, Manchester Square, London, W1U 3BN
Open: Daily 10am – 5pm
Admission: Free

Members can get in free to most of the paid for exhibitions click on the blue words for my handy Guide to London Museum Membership.

That’s my list, what would you add to the list of Best London Summer Exhibitions 2018?


Best London Exhibitions Summer 2018


“HilarystyleWander Mum

Two Traveling Texans



  1. June 14, 2018 / 9:18 am

    Thank you SO MUCH Catherine! All the reviews in one place – now I just need to see how many I can fit in this Sunday … no rest for the cultural obsessive … x

    • Catherine
      June 19, 2018 / 10:16 pm

      And the tally was …..

  2. June 14, 2018 / 11:13 am

    Great post, so helpful. My top picks would be Azzedine Alaïa and Frida.

  3. June 14, 2018 / 11:46 am

    Wow what a wonderful selection of places to visit! (Not sure about Frida’s wardrobe but what would I know) On the other hand the Azzedine Alaia looks fabulous.

    • Catherine
      June 14, 2018 / 11:50 am

      I aspire to Frida’s wardrobe!

  4. June 14, 2018 / 12:49 pm

    I quite fancy theming a day trip to BL’s James Cook exhibition and the Maritime Museum’s seaside one…will just have to work out the best way of trekking across the city! To stick with the theme I think I’d need to go on the Thames Clipper! #FarawayFiles

    • Catherine
      June 14, 2018 / 1:06 pm

      Stroll over the road to St Pancras International, take a train to Blackfriars, get out at the southern end of the bridge, amble to the Bankside Pier and catch the River Bus to Greenwich ….. enjoy!

  5. June 14, 2018 / 2:51 pm

    A great list Catherine, I’m always on the look out for things to do in the summer hols. The RA Grayson Perry curated exhibition is top of my list, might put in an offer on the Banksy. #farawayfiles

  6. June 14, 2018 / 6:54 pm

    Some amazing choices here! I wish I was going to be in London this summer… I read that the Banksy was originally turned down for the show when submitted under a different name, but then he said it was his, and they accepted it! #farawayfiles

    • Catherine
      June 14, 2018 / 7:24 pm

      Grayson said that he asked him to submit and Banksy said yes but they no idea what to expect …. a stencilled rat in the courtyard that appeared overnight or something in the post.

      • June 14, 2018 / 8:26 pm

        So he knew it was him all along? We saw an article about it, but one can’t believe everything they read. 😘

        • Catherine
          June 14, 2018 / 8:27 pm

          He did or least that’s what he said on the curator tour

  7. June 15, 2018 / 6:11 am

    Great round-up of exhibitions, Catherine. I’ll be dragging Anais to a few of these, she’s looking forward to Frida and Michael most. Scarlett #culturedkids

    • Catherine
      June 19, 2018 / 10:17 pm

      Counting the hours down to Michael

  8. June 15, 2018 / 12:41 pm

    Wow, there’s just so much to see and do in London. It’s all so expensive though! 🙄 I would love to visit the Frida Kahlo exhibition. The ‘Teeth’ exhibition makes me feel a little squeamish! I bet the James Cook exhibition would be fascinating! Just imagine discovering a new world and how exciting that must have been! 😃

    • Catherine
      June 15, 2018 / 12:49 pm

      Some free stuff in there ….. how incredible would be to voyage off beyond your known world?!

  9. katherinefenech2017
    June 15, 2018 / 6:07 pm

    You had me with Monet and the James Cook exhibitions. I know that the Australian government were talking about commissioning a statue of Cook last month, which ruffled a few feathers in terms of the way Australia was colonised. But history’s always interesting and the idea of being an “explorer” is interesting since it feels like everything’s been discovered now. #CulturedKids

  10. Ladies what travel
    June 15, 2018 / 9:36 pm

    Great guide to London events this summer, cheers! #FarawayFiles

  11. June 16, 2018 / 9:34 am

    Ah I need to get to the National Gallery while the Monet & Architecture exhibit is still on. I also want to go to the Tate Modern for the Picasso exhibit! I feel like you can’t ever be bored in London. There’s always SO much going on.

  12. June 16, 2018 / 2:27 pm

    Great tips for foreign travellers as well who will be in London during the summer 🙂 If I was living in London during the summer, I would be spending my time at the National Gallery, Tate Museum and V&A Museum 🙂 #FarawayFiles

  13. June 17, 2018 / 8:57 pm

    So many great exhibitions this summer aren’t there. Can’t believe I didn’t know about the Orla Keily one. I love her! I’m already looking at my diary and seeing when I can go, thanks for alerting me to it #Farawayfiles

  14. June 18, 2018 / 3:18 am

    So many great shows! A friend of mine is traveling to London in a few weeks, so I am sending this to her :). Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

  15. June 18, 2018 / 12:58 pm

    It is quite difficult to choose a favourite but I am sure my whole family would enjoy the Teeth exhibition at Wellcome, which is somewhere I have been meaning to visit for ages. I’d also like to see the James Cook at the British Library. Surely that is a travel blogger’s preferred choice?! #CulturedKids

    • Catherine
      June 18, 2018 / 1:00 pm

      I confess that I did love the maps!

  16. June 19, 2018 / 8:26 am

    I want to see the kahlo exhibition by also fancy the Bawden one

    • Catherine
      June 19, 2018 / 9:02 am

      Both have great cafes for afterwards!

  17. June 19, 2018 / 2:26 pm

    Oh my goodness – so much good stuff on this summer in London. I am a huge Kahlo fan and would love to see that one. The Mastaba is definitely interesting and always cool to see what Christo will do next. I have a strange connection to James Cook as I’ve been to both his place of birth in Middlesborough AND his place of death in Hawaii – so would probably be drawn to that collection as well. Fab list – wish I could visit a few! Cheers from Copenhagen #CulturedKids

    • Catherine
      June 19, 2018 / 2:29 pm

      Not many people have both Middlesborough and Hawaii on their visited list!

      • June 19, 2018 / 2:31 pm

        I KNOW! Our friends in Middlesbrough made the connection after seeing us in Hawaii and then we had to see it when visiting them in UK.

  18. June 19, 2018 / 10:11 pm

    This is fantastic! I travel to London heaps so I’ll definitely be sure to try hit a couple of these exhibitions up!

    • Catherine
      June 21, 2018 / 11:59 am

      Enjoy …. this is a good year to mooch around Hyde Park

  19. June 20, 2018 / 5:44 pm

    Super useful thank you!!

  20. June 24, 2018 / 3:31 am

    This is a wonderful list! I so wish that I could go to them all…well, except the teeth one, I don’t think my nerves could handle that one, haha! I especially love the look of the Frida Kahlo exhibition, it looks amazing! #CulturedKids

  21. Anisa
    June 30, 2018 / 9:45 pm

    What a great list! I knew about the Picasso one, but had not heard about most of the others. I really want to see the Monet one and the art installation at Hyde Park. Oh and the Michael Jackson one looks interesting too. Pinning for future reference! Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  22. July 1, 2018 / 2:33 am

    Good roundup for the summer exhibitions in London. I’d love to be in the city this summer, but no chance. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Catherine
      July 1, 2018 / 9:20 am

      Shame! I trust that where you will be, will every bit as wonderful!

  23. July 1, 2018 / 8:13 pm

    Wow, so many great exhibitions. I’ve often walked past the Wellcome Gallery, I really must pop in, that exhibition is something I studied at university. Frida Kahlo and Michael Jackson sound good too. Thanks for this round up!

    • Catherine
      July 1, 2018 / 8:16 pm

      You studied teeth …. now I’m intrigued!

      • July 1, 2018 / 9:12 pm

        Eek! Got my exhibitions confused!! It was the art of Captain Cook’s Voyages I studied..!

        • Catherine
          July 1, 2018 / 9:17 pm

          I was wondering if at some point you had forsworn dentistry, in that case The Voyages is for you!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: