17 Unmissable London Exhibitions Opening in 2018

Gallery view of the 250th Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, 2018 | © Royal Academy of Arts. Photo: David Parry
Picture of Freire Barnes
Art & Design Editor
Updated: 7 September 2018
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It’s a mega year for blockbuster art exhibitions in London. From significant solo presentations to important group exhibitions, here we round up the highlights you can’t miss in 2018.

Christian Marclay at Tate Modern

The premise of Christian Marclay’s brilliant film installation, The Clock (2010), is to create a work of art that exists for 24 hours, representing every minute of that day. Using a variety of film stock, Marclay splices together a disparate film work so what’s shown on screen correlates to the exact time you’re watching it. Sound bizarre? Well, it is, but it’s also one of the most captivating and enthralling works of art you’ll ever experience and, luckily for hardcore art fans, the Tate will present the work in its entirety over select weekends.

Christian Marclay: The Clock is at Tate Modern, Bankside, London, SE1 9TG from September 14, 2018 to January 20, 2019. Ticketed.

Christian Marclay, ‘The Clock’, 2010
Courtesy the artist

Burne-Jones at Tate Britain

It’s remarkable to think this much-loved British artist spent the majority of his life in isolation. So we’re overjoyed that Tate Britain will stage the first comprehensive retrospective of Edward Burne-Jones in over four decades. Quite possibly the most romantic of the Pre-Raphaelites, Burne-Jones was a pioneer of the symbolist movement and challenged 19th-century societal views with his work based on myth and legend. From paintings and stained glass works to tapestry, visitors will be immersed in Burne-Jones’s art, which he believed had redemptive power.

Burne-Jones at Tate Britain, Millbank, London, SW1P 4RG from October 24, 2018 to February 24, 2019. £19.50.

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, ‘Love and the Pilgrim’, 1896–1897
© Tate

Klimt/Schiele at Royal Academy of Arts

Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele have come to represent a momentous time in art history. The two friendly rivals lived and worked among the bohemian revelry of Vienna, with Klimt, the radical symbolist painter who courted controversy, mentoring the young Schiele. To mark the centenary of these two exceptional artists’ deaths, the Royal Academy of Arts have collaborated with the Albertina Museum in Vienna to bring together a selection of rare and fragile works on paper. You’ll be able to see the working processes of each artist, from Klimt’s sketches for his seminal Beethoven Frieze (1901–1902) to Schiele’s raw and intense self-portraits.

Klimt/Schiele: Drawings from the Albertina Museum, Vienna is at the Royal Academy of Arts, the Sackler Wing of Galleries, Burlington House, Piccadilly, Mayfair, London, W1J 0BD from November 4, 2018 to February 3, 2019. Ticketed.

Egon Schiele, ‘Seated Female Nude, Elbows Resting on Right Knee’, 1914
Courtesy The Albertina Museum, Vienna

Gainsborough’s Family Album at National Portrait Gallery

As one of Britain’s most successful and important 18th-century portraitists, Thomas Gainsborough looked to his own family to hone his skills. Although his first love was always landscape painting, Gainsborough pursued a career in portraiture for financial reasons and so to ease the artistic compromise of painting ‘damned faces’, he found inspiration in painting his own family. The National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition brings together over 50 works from international public and private collections, including 12 surviving portraits of the artist’s daughters, providing a unique overview of Gainsborough’s practice, his rise to fame and fortune, and the role of 18th-century portraiture in promoting family values.

Gainsbrough’s Family Album is at the National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London, WC2H 0HE from November 22, 2018 to February 3, 2019. £12.50–£16.

Thomas Gainsborough, ‘Painter’s Daughters with a Cat’, c.1760–1761
Courtesy The National Gallery, London

Picasso 1932 at Tate Modern

Reunited for the first time since they were painted over a five-day period in 1932 will be Picasso’s paintings of his lover Marie-Thérèse Walter. Nude, Green Leaves and Bust; Nude in a Black Armchair; and The Mirror (all 1932) form the highlights of this major show that centres around Picasso’s ‘year of wonders’, a crucial period in terms of productivity and acclaim. Having travelled from the Musée National-Picasso in Paris, The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy will present over 100 works, including paintings, sculptures and works on paper, to reveal the passionate and prolific character of a 50-year-old artist still in the prime of his career.

The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy is at Tate Modern, Bankside, London, SE1 9TG until September 9, 2018. £10–22.

Pablo Picasso, ‘Le Rêve’ (‘The Dream’), 1932
Private collection. © Succession Picasso/DACS 2017

Frida Kahlo at V&A

The first exhibition held outside Mexico of Frida Kahlo’s clothing, the V&A will bring a variety of personal possessions together that were discovered in 2004 when cupboards at the artist’s Blue House were opened for the first time in 50 years. Hand-painted corsets, prosthetics, traditional Mexican garments, jewellery, medicines, photographs and letters, along with many of her iconic self-portraits, will give a unique perspective on this important female artist.

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up is at the V&A in Room 38, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL from June 16 to November 4, 2018. Ticketed.

Frida Kahlo, ‘Self-Portrait in Red and Gold Dress’, 1941
© Gerardo Suter The J Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of 20th Century Mexican Art and The Vergel Foundation

Christo & Jeanne-Claude at Serpentine Gallery

It’s been over 35 years since the work of Christo & Jeanne-Claude have been shown in a London institution, so this presentation of drawings, photographs and sculptures from the duo’s five-decade practice is a rare treat. Although Jeanne-Claude sadly passed away eight years ago, Christo has worked with the Serpentine to create an overview of their collaborative projects. Known for their temporal large-scale interventions that transform urban and rural sites and in turn have altered our perceptive understanding of form and space, the show will present archival material, sculptures, photographs and drawings. It’s also been divulged that Christo is planning a major installation in the Serpentine lake–you heard it hear first.

Christo & Jeanne-Claude is at the Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, London, W2 3XA from June 20 to September 9, 2018. Free.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, ‘Wall of Oil Barrels – The Iron Curtain’, Rue Visconti, Paris, 1961–1962
Photo: Jean-Dominique Lajoux © 1962 Christo

Michael Jackson at National Portrait Gallery

To coincide with what would have been Michael Jackson’s 60th birthday, On the Wall charts the untold story of the pop legend and cultural figure’s influence on various leading contemporary artists, including Candice Breitz, David LaChapelle, Paul McCarthy, Rashid Johnson and Andy Warhol. An innovative approach for the NPG to focus on one subject through the eyes of an eclectic mix of established and emerging artists from all around the world, the exhibition promises to excite fans and to encourage new dialogues between audiences and contemporary art practices.

Michael Jackson: On the Wall is at the National Portrait Gallery, Wolfson and Lerner Galleries, St Martin’s Place, London, WC2H 0HE from June 28 to October 21, 2018. £17.50–£22.

Andy Warhol, ‘Michael Jackson’, 1984
Courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D. C.


Joan Jonas at Tate Modern

One of the most important figures in performance art, Tate Modern will pay homage to American artist, Joan Jonas with the largest UK survey of her work. From exploring female identity in her now iconic work Organic Honey’s Visual Telepathy (1972) to the issues of climate change in her recent installation Stream or River, Flight or Pattern (2016–2017), UK audiences will have the rare opportunity to experience this pioneer of performance and video art. In addition, the Tate will present film screenings in the Starr Cinema and stage a 10-day live performance programme in the Tanks, at which Jonas will perform.

Joan Jonas is at Tate Modern, Bankside, London, SE1 9TG until August 5, 2018. Ticketed.

Joan Jonas, ‘They Come to Us without a Word II’, 2015 (Performance at Teatro Piccolo Arsenale, Venice, Italy, 2015)
Photo: Moira Ricci. © 2017 Joan Jonas : Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York : DACS, London.

Dorothea Lange at Barbican Art Gallery

From her stunning and captivating portraits that captured the unimaginable impact of the Great Depression in America to the rarely seen photographs of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War, the first UK retrospective of Dorothea Lange explores how she used photography as a political tool. Including one of her most iconic images, Migrant Mother (1936), it’s clear how Lange used her camera to critique and confront issues of displacement, inequality and migration.

Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing is at Barbican Art Gallery, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS from June 22 to September 2, 2018. £13.50.

Dorothea Lange, ‘Migrant Mother’, Nipomo, California, 1936
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

Summer Exhibition at Royal Academy of Arts

This year’s coordinator of the Summer Exhibition, Grayson Perry wants the world’s largest open submission exhibition to only include works that have been made in 2017 and 2018. ‘Art Made Now’, being the theme for this year’s edition also takes place during the Royal Academy’s momentous 250th anniversary and will include an aspect of celebration with a ‘Room of Fun’.

Summer Exhibition 2018 is at the Royal Academy of Arts Main Galleries and the Sackler Wing of Galleries, Burlington House, Piccadilly, Mayfair, London, W1J 0BD from June 12 to August 19, 2018. Ticketed.

‘Summer Exhibition 2012’
Photo: Darren Gerrish © Royal Academy of Art

Monet & Architecture at National Gallery

Known for his landscapes and paintings of gardens, namely his own in Giverny, this landmark exhibition looks at Claude Monet’s more architecturally focused works. The first exhibition in over 20 years to purely present just Monet’s work in London, you’ll encounter his early depictions of Parisian bridges to his later Venetian vistas. Presented in three sections: ‘The Village and the Picturesque’, ‘The City and the Modern’, and ‘The Monument and the Mysterious’, Monet & Architecture explores how the French painter used buildings as a way to capture a rapidly changing society.

The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Monet & Architecture is at the National Gallery until July 29, 2018. Ticketed.

Claude Monet, ‘Le Portail et la tour d’Albane à l’aube’, 1893–1894
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Tompkins Collection - Arthur Gordon Tompkins Fund

Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece at the British Museum

The British Museum’s ownership of the Parthenon sculptures might still be a delicate subject, but they’ve found a way to deflect this by looking at how the 19th-century French sculptor, Rodin, was inspired by the fifth-century BC sculptor, Pheidias. Rodin often travelled to London to sketch at the British Museum and find inspiration among its exceptional collection of antiquities, saying: ‘In my spare time, I simply haunt the British Museum.’ So for the first time this April, Rodin’s sculptures will be displayed alongside the ancient Greek Parthenon sculptures, in particular the reclining female goddesses that are evoked in Rodin’s most famous work, The Kiss.

Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece is at the British Museum, Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG until July 29, 2018. £17, concessions available.

Auguste Rodin, large version of ‘The Kiss’, after 1898
© Musée Rodin

Andreas Gursky at Hayward Gallery

After an epic two-year refurbishment, the brutalist art haven of the Hayward Gallery on London’s South Bank has reopened with a major retrospective of acclaimed German photographer Andreas Gursky. With his works selling at auction for record figures (Gursky’s Rhine II (1999) sold for £2.7 million ($4.3m) in 2011, making it the most expensive photograph in the world), Gursky has the ability to distil globalisation into a single camera frame. A pioneer of the Dusseldorf School of Photography, visitors can get lost in both his famous large-scale works that employ digital manipulation.

Andreas Gursky is at Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX from January 25 to April 22, 2018. £7.25–£16.

Andreas Gursky, ‘Amazon’, 2016
© Andreas Gursky/DACS, 2017 Courtesy: Sprüth Magers

Rhythm & Reaction at Two Temple Place

For their annual winter exhibition, Two Temple Place look at the influence jazz had on British art and design over 100 years ago when it reached the dance halls of post-First World War Britain. From Frank Dobson’s paintings of lively dancers to the jazz-inspired ceramics of Clarice Cliff, the exhibition reveals how jazz not only impacted a broader understanding of African-American culture but also how it entered into the homes of normal, everyday people across the country.

Rhythm & Reaction: The Age of Jazz in Britain is at Two Temple Place, London, WC2R 3BD from January 27 to April 22, 2018. Free

‘Brightest London and Home by Underground’ poster, 1924, Horace Taylor, London Transport Museum
© TfL from the London Transport Museum collection

Mark Dion at Whitehapel Gallery

With anthropological fascination, the American artist Mark Dion excavates how we collate and interpret knowledge with particular focus on nature and lived environments. For his major solo show at the Whitechapel Gallery, many of his large-scale installations, along with a new commission, will be presented. Employing an archaeological approach, Dion works across many media, which the show will foreground. From his Tate Thames Dig (1998–2000) when he mudlarked with the local community on the foreshores of the Thames for artefacts ahead of the opening of the Tate Modern, to Bureau for the Centre of the Study for Surrealism and Its Legacy (2005), which evocatively recreates a 1920s curator’s office with ancient and modern specimens of curios, you’ll be taken on an enthralling journey of explorative proportions.

Mark Dion: Theatre of the Natural World is at Whitechapel Gallery, 77–82 Whitechapel High Street, London, E1 7QX from February 14 to May 13, 2018. £9.50–£12.95.

Mark Dion, ‘The Bureau of the Centre for the Study of Surrealism and Its Legacy’, 2005
Courtesy Manchester Museum, The University of Manchester. Photo: Paul Cliff

Another Kind of Life at Barbican Art Gallery

Looking at what it means to live in the margins of society, the Barbican Art Gallery present a number of outstanding bodies of work by 20 image-makers as part of the the gallery’s The Art of Change season, which contemplates the dialogues between art, society and politics. From personal to political perspectives, over 300 works will reflect how social attitudes have changed since the 1950s on gender and sexuality, minorities and countercultures existing outside the mainstream. The show will include Indian photographer Dayanita Singh’s photobook of Mona Ahmed (a revered and feared eunuch from New Delhi), Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama’s Japan: A Photo Theatre (1968), and Pieter Hugo’s The Hyena and Other Men (2005–2007) series that captures Nigeria’s Gadawan Kura.

Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins at Barbican Art Gallery, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS from February 28 to May 27, 2018. £5–£13.50.

Want to see more amazing art in London? Then take a look at the best free exhibitions on in London this week and the blockbuster exhibitions currently on in London.

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