Best London Summer Exhibitions 2019

Where to go? What to see? Will it be a perennial favourite like the Summer Exhibition at the RA or something a bit different, like Manga at the British Museum? Here are the shows that Cultural Wednesday thinks will be the best London Summer Exhibitions 2019.


Cultural Wednesday’s Best London Summer Exhibitions

Two fixed points in my cultural summer are visits to the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy and the Pavillion at the Serpentine Gallery. Each year they both celebrate the sheer joyousness of creativity and to me herald the beginning of summer. Come with me and discover the shows that I have loved or are really, really looking forward to.

Beyond the Road at the Saatchi Gallery until 24 July

Beyond the Road. Beyond Art, Beyond Music, Beyond Film. To give this show its full name is extraordinary. It is less of a show and more of a fully immersive experience with sound, vision and smell all thrown into the mix. You walk through a series of rooms encountering waxen tables, Joanna Lumley and a deeply spiritual chapel to mention just a few things you encounter, whilst all the while music plays messing your emotions. Indescribable but incredible in a good way.

  • Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, SW3 4RY
  • Open: Daily 10am – 6pm
  • Admission: £20. Booking essential

SUMMER PAVILLION at the Serpentine Gallery until 6 August

Every year an architect whose work has not yet resulted in a permament building in the UK gets to design a temporary pavilion in the grounds of the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens. This year is the turn of Japanese architect Junya Ishigami entry is free. Do take time for a stroll in the park to check out this year’s design, there is always coffee on offer inside. To my mind the best cafe pop up of summer.

  • Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens W2 3XA
  • Open: Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 6pm
  • Admission: Free

Summer Exhibition 2019 Royal Academy until 12 August

I love the Summer Exhibition, I have visited every year (apart from the one when my twins were babies) since I moved to London. It is joyous. A celebration of the ability to create visual art. Everybody can be there. Royal Academicians have a right to have their work displayed but everyone else can put forward their work for consideration. Really famous artists hang next door to weekend hobby painters. Most of the work is for sale, proceeds go to the artists to help fund the Royal Academy Schools.

Seated woman looking a maritime themed paintings Royal Academy Summer Exhibition
Love this Polar Bear and Seagulls
  • Royal Academy, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD
  • Open: Daily 10am – 6.30pm (Friday until 10pm)
  • Admission: Adult £18, under 16 free and members free

MANGA at the British Museum until 26 August

Are you a Manga fanatic? Or do the words Anime and Cosplay mean nothing to you? Either way the British Museum’s exhibition about the Japanese phenomena unfurls the mystery of the graphic art form to uninitiated but offers great insight to aficionados.

  • British Museum, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG
  • Open: Daily 1-am – 5.30pm (Friday until 8.30pm)
  • Admission: Adults £19.50, under 16 and members free.

MANOLO BLAHNIK at the Wallace Collection until 1 September

Manolo Blahnik designs beautiful covetable shoes. Now he has selected his favourite designs and wandered round London’s Best Museum choosing art works that best compliment them. You can see the marriage of shoes and art for FREE in An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection. I never need an excuse to visit the Wallace but I suspect that I might stray in rather more often the usual this summer to see this!

  • Wallace Collection, Hertford House, Manchester Square, W1U 3BN
  • Open: Daily 10am – 5pm
  • Admission: FREE

LEONARDO’S NOTEBOOKS at the British Library until 8 September

OK, so this exhibition is actually called Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion, but it is all about his notebooks. The British Library has some in its collection and now is your chance to leaf through those notebooks and get a glimpse into the great mans mind.

  • The British Library, 96 Euston Road NW1 2DB
  • Open: Monday – Friday 9.30am – 6pm (8pm Tuesday), Saturday 9.30am – 5pm, Sunday 11am – 5pm
  • Admission: £7, Under 11 and members free

CUTTING EDGE: MODERNIST BRITISH PRINTMAKING at Dulwich Picture Gallery until 8 September

I cannot begin to say how much I loved this show. This collection of prints perfectly capture the energy of London. There was not a single one that I didn’t want hung on my wall. Add to that, that it is housed in John Soane’s delicious Dulwich Picture Gallery.

  • Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Road, SE21 7AD
  • Open: Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm
  • Admission: Adults £16.50 Members Free

THE COLOUR PALACE 2019 at Dulwich Picture Gallery until 22 September

This summer a multi coloured ten metre cube is taking up residence in the gardens of the Dulwich Picture Gallery. The Colour Palace designed by architects Pricegore and designer Yinka Ilori will be in place just for summer and free for all to visit.

Model for Colour Palace Pavillion Dulwich
Two for the price of one! Colour Palace model on show at the Summer Exhibition

LEONARDO at the Queen’s Gallery until 13 October

Leonardo da Vinci has been dead for 500 years, to mark his passing the Queen has dusted down her peerless collection of Leonardo drawings and sent them on tour. For the summer they are on show at the Queen’s Gallery next to Buckingham Palace click here to read more about Leonardo on Tour. Most exciting of all is that included in the list of activities swirling around the exhibition is an Escape Room to be held in the gallery with the Leonardos!

Leonardo da Vinci on tour Queens Gallery London

SECRET RIVERS at the Museum of London Docklands until 27 October

London has a mass of rivers that flow into the Thames. Most of them are no longer babbling brooks but constrained within sewers that run beneath our feet. Secret rivers unearths the hidden history of these now hidden rivers that have shaped the way that London is now. Did you know that Marylebone Lane is the only road that meanders north of Oxford Street, the rest all follow a strict grid pattern. That is because it follows the course of the River Tyburn. I used to live on Marylebone Lane and never knew that I lived on a river bank! In fact all the places I have lived in London turn out to be just a few steps from streams. I lived on the banks of the Ravensbourne, Falconbrook, Effra, New River and Hogsmill and only known about two of them!

Map showing London rivers
Do you live on the banks of a Secret River?

MUSEUM OF THE MOON at Natural History Museum until 1 January 2020

The Museum of the Moon amazing. It is just a very large, ver realistic representation of the moon hanging in a space but it is utterly awe inspiring. There are several versions of the moon touring the world to mark the 50th anniversary of man landing on the moon. If you can’t get to London it will also be in Dorset, Harrogate, Birmingham, Joderell Bank, Dorchester, Armagh, Derby, Wakefield, Gloucester and Ironbridge in the UK. Check out the Museum of the Moon website for full details.

I see the Moon!

THE MOON EXHIBITION at the National Maritime Museum until 5 January 2020

Man landed on the moon fifty years ago. I vividly remember watching the moon landings and the excitement that surrounded them. The Royal Maritime Museum in Greenwich has put on a show to celebrate all things moon.

  • National Maritime Museum, Park Row, Greenwich, SE10 9NF
  • Open: Daily 10am – 5pm
  • Admission: Adults £10, concessions available. Members free

Olafur Eliasson: In real life at Tate Modern until 5 January 2020

Interactive installations the make you think and laugh and take photos to post on Instagram. One to take the teens too.

  • Tate Modern, Bankside, SE1 9TG
  • Open: Daily 10am – 6pm (until 10pm on Friday and Saturday)
  • Admission: Adults £18, 12 – 18 £5, Members and under 12’s free

QUEEN VICTORIA at Kensington Palace

Queen Victoria is 200 this year. To mark the fact Kensington Palace has two fascinating exhibitions. Victoria: A Royal Childhood looks at her childhood, we discover that far from being lonely she actually had a pair of step siblings. On show is her dolls house and collection of dolls that she created elaborate costumes for. Victoria: Woman and Crown covers her long reign. All of this in the rooms in which she was born, grew up, met Albert and come to the throne! Check out my Queen Victoria’s London post to find out more about her life in London.

Dolls dressed and owned by Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria’s Dolls
  • Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens, W8 4PX
  • Open: Daily 10am – 6pm (March – October) 10am – 4pm winter
  • Admission: Adult £17.50, HRP and Art Fund members free


Going to see an exhibition in the middle of the long run is probably the best time of all to go to avoid the queues and bustle that you can get at the beginning and end of a run. If you haven’t seen these catch them whilst you can.

EDVARD MUNCH: LOVE AND ANGST at British Museum until 21 July 2019

The last time I saw Edvard Munch’s the scream it was up for auction at Sotheby’s and there were queues down Bond Street to see it. It is the only occasion on which I have ever witnessed a queue at Sotheby’s. Expect the British Musuem’s exploration of Munch to be extremely popular and book ahead!

  • British Museum, Great Russel Street, WC1B 3DG
  • Open: Daily 10am – 5.30pm, Friday 8.30pm
  • Admission: Adult £14, members go free

REMBRANT: THINKING ON PAPER at the British Museum until 4 August 2019

Did you know that the British Museum holds one of the most important collections of drawings and prints by Rembrandt? To mark the 350th anniversary of his death the British Museum has put on a free show of the collection. If you get the chance pop along to the Print Room as these light sensitive works are not often on display. You will be rewarded by exquisite self portraits and tender depictions of Rembrandt’s wife. A treat.

Rembrandt Self portrait
Rembrandt selfie
  • British Museum, Great Russel Street, WC1B 3DG
  • Open: Daily 10am – 5.30pm, Friday 8.30pm
  • Admission: FREE

VAN GOGH & BRITAIN at Tate Britain until 11 August

Did you know that Vincent van Gogh lived in London? No neither did I! Turns out that he did and that he much influenced by the artists that he came across whilst living here. This great exhibition show the artists that van Gogh found inspirational and British artists who have in turn been inspired by him. Fret not. there are enough van Gogh’s to keep you happy including Starry Night and the Sunflowers. Booking is advisable.

  • Tate Britain, Millbank, SW1P 4RG
  • Open: Daily 10am – 6pm
  • Admission: Adults £22, concessions available, members free.

ANISH KAPOOR at Pitzhanger Manor until 18 August

Feeling reflective

Pitzhanger Manor is celebrated her reopening with a fun reflective Anish Kapoor exhibition. I could not keep the grin off my face as I wandered round transfixed by the clever way they artworks distort and reflect the world around you.

  • Pitzhanger Manor and Gallery, Mattock Lane, London W5 5EQ
  • Open: Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 4.30 (Saturday 3pm)
  • Admission: £7.70 Members and under 18 free, Ealing residents free on Tuesday and Sunday mornings

CHRISTIAN DIOR: DESIGNER OF DREAMS at V&A until 1 September 2019

Dior Designer of Dreams
Dior: Designer of Dreams – I’ll have the coat on the right, please

J’dore Dior, there said it. It is not allowed to write about this exhibition unless you include J’dore Dior, preferably in the the title! If you love clothes, engineering or sparkly things this is the exhibition for you. It is simply beautiful. I’m a member of the V&A and will take full advantage of my membership by visiting this luscious exhibition as often as I can. Advance tickets have sold out, some tickets are available on the day but you need to arrive early and queue. The best way to secure entry if you don’t already tickets would be to become a member of the V&A, as members can go when they want.

  • Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL
  • Open: Daily 10am – 5.45pm, Friday until 10pm
  • Admission: Adults £20 – £24, members go free

MARY QUANT at V&A until 16 February 2020

Mary Quant again! This time she has an exhibition all to herself. Mini skirts, hot pants, coloured tights ….. they all started with Mary Quant. Over 200 garments will be on display including clothes from Mary’s own closet not seen in public before.

  • Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL
  • Open: Daily 10am – 5.45pm, Friday until 10pm
  • Admission: Adults £12, members go free
Best London Summer Exhibitions

So there you have it, the exhibitions I have either seen or really, really want to see this summer. What will you see and more importantly what have I missed off the list!

Most of these exhibitions are free to members and half price to holders of the Art Fund card, to find out more take a look at my post about London Museum Membership. Once I’ve finished seeing an exhibition I find that the tea room calls me, take a look at my guide to the Cultural Cafes of London.

Oregon Girl Around the World


  1. June 5, 2019 / 2:46 pm

    What a selection. I wish I lived closer when I read posts like this 🙂

  2. June 6, 2019 / 11:35 am

    I’m so pleased I’ve found your post, just before our London visit. I hardly know which ones to opt for. The Anish Kapoor exhibition looks like a colourful delight and I’m excited about the Serpentine installation. #farawayfiles

  3. June 6, 2019 / 4:25 pm

    Wow, so much going on! The rivers exhibition looks good and I would love to see the Van Gogh one. My sister in law sent me the catalogue from last year’s summer exhibition and it looked wonderful! #FarawayFiles

  4. June 8, 2019 / 7:28 am

    Phew, I’m exhausted by the possibilities! Manga and Secret Rivers have my approval, and I totally agree about Museum of the Moon. We saw the exhibition in Lincoln. It was mesmerising. #CulturedKids

    • Catherine
      June 8, 2019 / 8:10 am

      I would like to spend time alone with the Moon, it is amazing in a room of excited children but must be sublime in silence

      • June 8, 2019 / 8:12 am

        Ah, it was very quiet in Lincoln. Meditative. There’s a photo on my Instagram page. 😉

  5. June 8, 2019 / 9:30 am

    So much to look forward to, but what I am most excited about is Serpentine selfie time! 🤣

  6. June 9, 2019 / 7:23 pm

    There is never a shortage of amazing things to do in London! I look forward to travelling back there again one day.

    • Catherine
      June 9, 2019 / 7:37 pm

      We are very lucky in having a constant stream of incredible things to see and do

  7. June 10, 2019 / 6:31 pm

    What a varied mix. The moon naturally jumps out, simply because its so detailed and eye-catching. The Queen Victoria exhibitions would also interest me as she had such close ties to Aberdeenshire, but I know little about her childhood.

    • Catherine
      June 10, 2019 / 7:54 pm

      I’ve never visited Balmoral (can you visit?)

  8. June 11, 2019 / 7:33 pm

    thanks for the details, lots of exciting exhibitions #culturedkids

  9. Phoebe
    June 13, 2019 / 4:43 pm

    So much choice, not enough time! I’m going to be in London for 1 day this summer….what on earth to prioritise?

    • Catherine
      June 13, 2019 / 4:46 pm

      Manolo at the Wallace Collection!

  10. June 14, 2019 / 12:36 pm

    Just when I thought my visit wishlist couldn’t get any longer…so many great exhibitions listed here! I think I’ll be taking the Museum Kids to the Colour Palace at Dulwich Picture Gallery, Manga and Pitzhanger Manor this summer hols #CulturedKids

  11. June 15, 2019 / 9:25 pm

    I love London and it’s so much to see there always. Thanks for sharing this awesome selection of exibitions to visit.

  12. June 16, 2019 / 12:00 am

    What an amazing list of activities. The Moon exhibition is high on my list. I just think we Londoners are so lucky and spoilt for choices. Thank for this lovely post, #culturedkids

    • Catherine
      June 16, 2019 / 9:25 am

      Good choice, we are lucky to have so many things on our doorstep

  13. June 16, 2019 / 10:25 am

    Such a tempting post! If it wasn’t for the pile of work and the pouring rain I’d be hopping on the tube immediately. Thanks for a great summer to-do list. #culturedkids

    • Catherine
      June 17, 2019 / 11:50 am

      The rain will clear soon!

  14. June 18, 2019 / 5:59 pm

    London has plenty of options and we are spoilt with options.I would love to go to Manolo Wallace collection and my favourite is Moon exhibition. Thanks for this lovely collection. #culturedkids

    • Catherine
      June 18, 2019 / 6:11 pm

      The Manolo is fabulous, I will be popping in several times over the summer

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