Best London exhibitions 2020: Art, design and fashion must-sees coming soon

Zoe Paskett
·7-min read
AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

The art world is back up and running and raring to go.

We're more grateful than ever for London's museums and galleries, which are opening up a host of rescheduled exhibitions from the world's biggest artists.

If you like to get your arty plans in order or want to get excited now about the months ahead, then it’s time to grab your diaries and jot down some dates.

From Tracey Emin to Yayoi Kusama, these are the big exhibitions you can look forward to seeing in London soon.

Artemisia

Few painters can make a bloody decapitation look beautiful – but Artemisia Gentileschi hits the nail on the head. In one of the year’s most anticipated exhibitions, her “incredibly violent” works of art come to the National Gallery after a long postponement. The 17th century painter was the first woman to gain membership to the artists’ academy in Florence, and this exhibition is the first of its kind in the UK.

October 3-January 24, National Gallery, nationalgallery.org.uk

Summer Exhibition (in the Autumn)

In its two and a half century history, the Summer Exhibition has always taken place, well, in the summer. As the Royal Academy says, “summer is a state of mind”, so this year, it moves to the autumn but keeps all the usual treats. Jane and Louise Wilson coordinate the display, which will feature a combination of household names and emerging artists all selected from an open submission, throughout the building’s gorgeous galleries.

October 6-January 3, Royal Academy, royalacademy.org.uk

Bruce Nauman

It has been more than 20 years since Bruce Nauman’s last major exhibition in London. The American contemporary artist has become known for his bright neon light installations, but since starting out in the 1960s he has been working across sound, film, sculpture, printmaking and plenty of different media. The Tate Modern exhibition will feature a number of immersive installations too, so you can throw yourself into his world. Warning for coulrophobes: one of his major works, Clown Torture 1987, is an intentionally overwhelming video installation featuring five separate stressful sequences of clowns playing over each other.

October 7-February 12, Tate Modern, tate.org.uk

Michael Clark: Exhibition

Michael Clark & Company, I Am Curious, Orange, 1988; costumes: BodyMap and Leigh Bowery(Richard Haughton)
Michael Clark & Company, I Am Curious, Orange, 1988; costumes: BodyMap and Leigh Bowery(Richard Haughton)

Choreographer and dancer Michael Clark has a long history of collaborating with artists throughout his career – so it’s about time for a major exhibition dedicated to him. From his rise to fame in the 1980s to Olivier Award-winning compositions and an appearance on the Glastonbury Pyramid stage, Clark’s radical choreography has made waves in the dance world. This exhibition revisits his work through arts, fashion, film, music and pieces by Wolfgang Tillmans, Sarah Lucas, Cerith Wyn Evans and more.

October 7-January 3, Barbican, barbican.org.uk

Turner’s Modern World

JMW Turner, Rain, Steam and Speed (The National Gallery) (JMW Turner, Rain, Steam and Speed (The National Gallery))
JMW Turner, Rain, Steam and Speed (The National Gallery) (JMW Turner, Rain, Steam and Speed (The National Gallery))

If an artist’s job is to reflect the world we live in, JMW Turner rose to the challenge. When everything was fast changing at the peak of the industrial revolution, he transformed his work to roll with the times. Tate Britain’s exhibition follows his fascination, from the new technologies that emerged in the 1790s to his paintings of railway engines and steamboats in the 1840s. We will also see how he engaged with the politics of the day: the Napoleonic War and the campaign against slavery.

October 28-March 7, Tate Britain, tate.org.uk

Brass, Steel & Fire

That spirit of invention so admired by Turner comes to the Science Museum in the autumn. Touring exhibition Brass, Steel & Fire arrives from the National Railway Museum in York, bringing with it the innovation of the industrial revolution. The original Stephenson’s Rocket, which shaped the future of the railway, will be on display, alongside the stories of ordinary people who, inspired by these new developments, created miniature steam engines in their own homes.

October 2020, Science Museum, sciencemuseum.org.uk

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year award is full of gems, showing the beauty, devastation and comedy of the natural world. The 2020 competition winners are still under wraps, but you can see them in the flesh at the Natural History Museum’s annual exhibition. Last year’s winner was a picture of a fox creeping up on a startled marmot, so expect more of this sort of unique moment.

October 2020, Natural History Museum, nhm.ac.uk

Zanele Muholi

Photographer and visual activist Zanele Muholi has been documenting the lives of Black LGBTQ+ people in their homeland of South Africa for two decades. The non-binary artist documents the love, strength and tenderness of queer lives, as well as the trauma. In a more recent series of self-portraits entitled Somnyama Ngonyama (“Hail the Dark Lioness”), Muholi explores themes of racism, labour and sexual politics. With 260 photographs on show, you may find yourself drawn back in to see more.

November 5-March 7, Tate Modern, tate.org.uk

Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul

Tracey Emin, It - didnt stop - I didnt stop, 2019(HV-studio, courtesy the Artist and Xavier Hufkens) (Tracey Emin, It - didnt stop - I didnt stop, 2019(HV-studio, courtesy the Artist and Xavier Hufkens))
Tracey Emin, It - didnt stop - I didnt stop, 2019(HV-studio, courtesy the Artist and Xavier Hufkens) (Tracey Emin, It - didnt stop - I didnt stop, 2019(HV-studio, courtesy the Artist and Xavier Hufkens))

Edvard Munch’s The Scream has become a totem of the last few months of isolation. If you’ve found yourself relating, you’re not the only one – Tracey Emin has been “in love” with the artist since she was 18. The Loneliness of the Soul sees Emin investigate this decades-long love affair from as early as 1998, when she referenced him in a film, Homage To Edvard Munch And All My Dead Children, which sees her on the edge of an Oslo Fjord where he painted some of his well-known works.

November 15-February 18, Royal Academy, royalacademy.org.uk

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly In League With The Night

(Lynette Yiadom-Boakye)
(Lynette Yiadom-Boakye)

It’s about time painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye got a major Tate exhibition. In her figurative portraits of imagined people she deliberately separates her subjects from time and place, work which saw her shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2013. Eighty paintings from the early Noughties to the present day will make up the most extensive exploration yet.

November 18-May 9, Tate Britain, tate.org.uk

Bags: Inside Out

You’d be hard pressed to find many things that Margaret Thatcher and Kim Kardashian could talk about over tea, but the V&A’s next big exhibition puts their fashion choices side-by-side. A metallic silver Louis Vuitton number was Kim’s go-to when she stepped out with then-bestie Paris Hilton, while Mrs Thatcher preferred a more muted grey Asprey purse. It’s not just about handbags either – briefcases, trunks and suitcases will be on display to show the functional and fashionable sides of the accessory.

November 21-September 12, V&A Museum, vam.ac.uk

Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature

Have you seen what a shoebill bird looks like? Now there’s an animal that’ll make you believe in magical creatures. The Natural History Museum is teaming up with the world of Harry Potter to shine a light on fantastic beasts in all forms, real and imagined. Creatures, specimens and artefacts from the museum’s collection will be on show next to the findings of fictional magizoologist Newt Scamander in the first exhibition of its kind.

Winter 2020, Natural History Museum, nhm.ac.uk

2021

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms

Yayoi Kusama, Chandelier of Grief, 2016 (Courtesy Ota Fine Arts and Victoria Miro)
Yayoi Kusama, Chandelier of Grief, 2016 (Courtesy Ota Fine Arts and Victoria Miro)

People lined up around the block with cameras at the ready last time Yayoi Kusama brought her installations to London. Where better to share images of endless reflections than on Instagram? Her Infinity Mirror Room is one of the largest installations she has created, and will be shown alongside her Chandelier of Grief, a never-ending vision of rotating chandeliers ready to get lost in.

Spring 2021-Spring 2022, Tate Modern, tate.org.uk

Marina Abramović: After Life

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

You rarely stumble across the artist when perusing their exhibition, but Marina Abramović is all about presence in her performance art. Over the past 50 years, she has stared silently into the eyes of individual viewers and given them permission to do whatever they want to her – she’s all about pushing herself and us to the limits. So you might get a glimpse of her in After Life, surprisingly her first major retrospective in the UK.

2021 (no dates yet), Royal Academy, royalacademy.org.uk

Read more

Royal Academy’s 2020 Summer Exhibition becomes autumn exhibition

royalacademy.org.uk

tate.org.uk

barbican.org.uk

tate.org.uk

sciencemuseum.org.uk