As we say goodbye to summer, London is, as ever, absolutely packed with things to do — whether that’s exhibitions, events, theatre or music.
But of course, it can all get a bit pricey. So if you want to have a great weekend seeing some of London’s best culture, but also want to save a few quid, look no further than this guide to the best art shows to see in the city, which are all absolutely free.
Not one for the squeamish: the Hunterian Museum reopened in May after a six-year hiatus and a £4.6m redevelopment. A museum of anatomical specimens, that is appropriately located in the building of the Royal College of Surgeons, expect to see body parts, bones and organs in glass jars and cabinets. “There are skulls, lips, teeth, tongues, throats, stomachs, intestines, testes, penises, and ovaries in varying states of health,” said The Standard. “Those are just the human bits.”
Named after the 18th century surgeon and anatomist William Hunter, the museum’s major update includes some much-needed contextualisation, so while gawping at the growths floating in ethanol and skulls shot through with Syphilis, museum-goers now get an explanation of Hunter’s not-always-ethical methods, and of some of his ideas that would not be deemed acceptable today.
Hunterian Museum; hunterianmuseum.org
Los Angeles–based artist Nour Mobarak uses voice, sculpture, sound, performance, writing and video to investigate violence and desire on a micro (human) and macro (state) level. In Gods’ Facsimiles, she draws on seven years of classical voice education to reinterpret what is considered the first opera, Jacopo Peri and Ottavio Rinuccini’s La Dafne from 1598.
Rodeo Gallery, to September 23; rodeo-gallery.com
Ladbroke Hall is about to become one of West London’s destination art spots, as the giant space, whose restoration has involved collaborations with artists and architects including Sir David Adjaye, Sir Christopher Le Brun, Ingrid Donat, Michèle Lamy and Rick Owens, opened to the public in June.
Its new East Wing Carpenters Workshop Gallery is currently showing the work of architectural designer Niko Koronis, who earned his PhD from London’s Architectural Association. In Metamorph, Koronis – who has worked as both a Fellow at London’s Central Saint Martins, and as a researcher at Helsinki’s Alvar Aalto Foundation – presents a series of objects all of which explore Belgian black marble, and the way its surface changes when it is polished and treated.
Carpenters Workshop Gallery London, to September 24; carpentersworkshopgallery.com
Curator Aindrea Emelife’s exhibition traces the long road to black women having agency over how they are seen, taking as its starting point the ‘Hottentot Venus’, the name under which tickets were sold to see Sarah Baartman, an enslaved Khoekhoe woman who was toured around Europe in the 19th century. Emelife juxtaposes archival imagery dating from the late 1700s to the Thirties with contemporary artworks by the likes of Carrie Mae Weems, Kara Walker, Ming Smith and Zanele Muholi. It’s not strictly free, but operates on a pay-what-you-can basis.
Somerset House, to September 24; somersethouse.org.uk
Landscape Trauma explores the ways that humans engage with the environment. Works from artists including Keith Arnatt, John Blakemore, Victor Burgin, John Davies, Willie Doherty and Melanie Friend are on display, provoking questions and ideas around the role that landscape has played as a witness of history, a place of human intervention, a source of life and a source of tension and conflict.
Centre For British Photography, to September 24; britishphotography.org
Since 2007, award-winning South African photographer Gideon Mendel has been travelling around the world photographing the devastating impact of climate catastrophes, focusing on flooding and wildfires. Over the past 15 years, he’s made 20 trips to flooded areas, most recently spending time in Nigeria and Pakistan.
Mendel said: “My subjects... are showing the world the calamity that has befallen them. They are not victims in this exchange: the camera records their dignity and resilience. They bear witness to the brutal reality that the poorest people on the planet almost always suffer the most from climate change.”
The Photographers’ Gallery, to September 30; thephotographersgallery.org.uk
Christian Marclay’s disorientating video montage Doors, which opened at the White Cube this week, takes visitors on a wild ride. The study of these seemingly humdrum objects, which Marclay describes as “commonplace, yet unfamiliar” – opens a portal to ideas about fears and anxieties, unrealised potentials, lifecycles and more. The piece debuted at Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2022 and was shown at Art Basel this June. At White Cube Mason’s Yard it is accompanied by a series of sculptures made from doors. Should you go? It’s an open-and-shut case.
White Cube Mason’s Yard, to September 30; whitecube.com
This showcase of Royal Society of Sculptors members’ and fellows’ work has been curated by designer and historian Edward Bulmer. The varied works from artists including Isobel Church, Nicola Turner, Clee Claire Lee, Dave King, Ned Prizeman and Emma Elliott have all been selected to respond to his chosen theme of ‘The Shape of Life’ and are presented in the society’s newly restored headquarters, Dora House.
Royal Society of Sculptors, to September 30; sculptors.org.uk
In Keita Miyazaki’s third solo exhibition with Gallery Rosenfeld, the Japanese artist will present several of his extraordinary sculptures which combine car parts with brightly coloured intricate origami.
Gallery Rosenfeld, to September 30; galleryrosenfeld.com
Malaysian-born artist Mandy El-Sayegh will transform Thaddeus Ropac’s gallery space to provoke ideas about bodily, psychological and spatial interiors. Expect to see installations, large-scale paintings as well as sculptures.
Thaddeus Ropac, to September 30; ropac.net
Brussels-based Beninese artist Pélagie Gbaguidi’s work explores colonial and postcolonial history and trauma. Gbaguidi regards herself as a contemporary griot – a West African historian and storyteller – and so oral histories and themes around personal and collective memory are central threads running through her multi-disciplinary work.
Mimosa House, to October 15; mimosahouse.co.uk
RCA Tutor and V&A Jameel Fellow Dima Srouji uses objects and film to explore the history of glass in Greater Syria and Palestine. A trained architect and founder of Palestinian glass design initiative Hollow Forms, Srouji presents an exploratory film alongside eight pieces of glasswork that have been inspired by objects in the V&A.
V&A, to October 16; vam.ac.uk
To celebrate 25 years in business, Sarah Myerscough Gallery is putting on this exhibition of signature artworks and pieces from its key artists. The gallery has a special focus on contemporary craft and design, with a particular emphasis on wood, which will be reflected in its birthday show.
Sarah Myerscough Gallery, to October 21; sarahmyerscough.com
A selection of work from 60 Japanese artists, whose pieces include elements of pop art, surrealism, fine art and illustration, is being showcased in this visually striking exhibition. Late art of 20th-century innovators, Tanaami Keiichi and Yumura Teruhiko will also feature alongside a number of emerging artists being showcased for the first time in the UK.
Inspired by an annual exhibition in Tokyo of the same name, and curated by artists Hiro Sugiyama and Takahashi KintarÅ, WAVE: Currents in Japanese Graphic Arts presents a rare opportunity to experience the diversity of Japanese illustration and graphic arts outside of Japan.
Booking the free tickets is recommended to guarantee entry to the exhibition at your chosen time.
Japanese House, High Street Kensington, to October 22; wave.uk
In Sylvia Snowden’s first UK solo exhibition, the American painter presents eight vivid, vigorous, voluptuous examples on paper of her abstracted figures, that celebrate the strength and delicate beauty in the human body, beyond gender, beyond race, beyond class.
Edel Assanti, to October 28; edelassanti.com
This striking show across both of the South London Gallery spaces (look both ways when you cross the road!) is an investigation and a celebration of the links between Nigeria’s capital and Peckham, home to one of Britain’s highest concentrations of Nigerian diaspora and known informally as Little Lagos. Artists from both places come together to explore the ties that bind them.
South London Gallery, to October 29; southlondongallery.org
Having hung for 30 years in the National Gallery’s restaurant, seen only by the hungry eyes of monied diners (a fate that Mark Rothko refused to submit his work to), the gallery’s refurb has liberated the late Paula Rego’s fantastic painting, the result of two years as the NG’s associate artist, and got it back on full public display, alongside preparatory studies and the 15th century altarpiece by Carlo Crivelli that inspired it.
National Gallery, to October 29; nationalgallery.org.uk
Swiss pop artist Fleury has spent her career examining consumer culture, gender and object attachment. In this comprehensive collection of her work, both new and older pieces – which include shopping bags, paintings and bronze works – take over all three floors of Sprüth Magers, with the top floor set to be transformed into an apartment.
Sprüth Magers, to November 4; spruethmagers.com
Award-winning British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare has become known for his brightly-coloured works that explore cultural identity, race and colonialism. In Ritual Ecstasy of the Modern, Shonibare, who is perhaps best known globally for his 2010 Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle sculpture on Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth, presents old and new print works alongside sculptures of African ritual masks.
Cristea Roberts Gallery, to November 4; cristearoberts.com
“She creates a world rooted in the here and now but propels us into the realms of the imagination,” said the Standard, praising the National Gallery’s Paula Rego exhibition when it opened in July. Now a new Rego show is opening in London, looking at the late Portuguese-British artist’s work from the Eighties.
“These paintings, perhaps more than any others, helped her to understand herself and those close to her,” explained her son Nick Willing.
Victoria Miro, to November 11; victoria-miro.com
This exhibition showcases 250 works of renowned American jeweller Jacqueline Rabun, who released her first collection, Raw Elegance, in 1991. The bold pieces are presented alongside original drawings and photographs from the designer.
Carpenters Workshop Gallery, to November 18; carpentersworkshopgallery.com
Los Angeles-based artist Nikita Gale explores the relationship between materials and power. In their work, which in the past has included installations, films, photographs and collages, Gale examines physical boundaries, such as concrete and barricades, emotional boundaries, such as sound and lighting, and the tensions between structures and ruins.
Emalin, to December 9; emalin.co.uk
NASA and Outernet London have joined forces to present a series of mind-blowing images every half an hour, every day. The collaboration sees footage of the galaxy from NASA and other space agencies presented on Outernet’s ginormous, 4-storey high, 16K wrap-around screens, making for astonishing and transportative viewing.
The Now Building, every half an hour, to December 31; outernetglobal.com
Art Now is Tate Britain’s long-running exhibition series spotlighting rising stars in the art scene; this time, it’s Rhea Dillon’s turn to shine. The interdisciplinary artist and Central Saint Martins alum explores British and Caribbean identities using new and old sculptures which are being presented as “a conceptual fragmentation of a Black woman’s body”.
Tate Britain, to January 1, 2024; tate.org.uk
Bloomberg’s East London offices sit directly above the Roman Temple of Mithras, which dates back to around AD 240. When the news corporation moved into the space in 2017, it promised to transform the ancient site and make it accessible to the public. Now exhibitions are also held in the remarkable space.
In Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum’s The Pavilion, archival animations and hand-painted furnishings are arranged in a wooden construction designed with Dutch artist Remco OsoÌrio Lobato. The structure evokes a cabinet of curiosities to consider the role that museum spaces play in the way visitors receive ideas.
London Mithraeum, Bloomberg SPACE, to January 13, 2024; www.londonmithraeum.com
Four new-generation Palestinian artists – Mona Benyamin, Xaytun Ennasr, Dina Mimi and Makimakkuk – present film, installation, music and gaming works to contemplate Palestine, history, politics and aesthetics. Curated by The Mosaic Rooms working alongside artist platform Bilna’es – an Arabic word that translates as ‘in the negative’ – expect a new sonic performance from Ramallah-based musician Makimakkuk, and an accompanying text from curator Adam HajYahia.
The Mosaic Rooms, to January 14, 2024; mosaicrooms.org
This fascinating and very topical exhibition takes a questioning and playful look at the ways Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already shaping so many areas of our lives from our healthcare and justice systems to how we look after our pets. Showcased at the Science Gallery London, it is being presented in collaboration with FutureEverything and features 12 artistic collaborations from artists James Bridle, Blast Theory, Air Giants, Wesley Goatley, Mimi Onuoha and more, working alongside King’s College researchers, hospital patients and young people in London. Entering the exhibition, visitors will first encounter Sprout, an inflatable, huggable robot that responds to human behaviour using AI.
Science Gallery, to January 20, 2024; sciencegallery.com
In Genetic Automata, artists Larry Achiampong and David Blandy explore scientific racism – the pseudoscientific belief that there are biological differences between the races – in four collaborative video works: A Terrible Fiction (2019), A Lament for Power (2020) and Dust to Data (2021) and _GOD_MODE_ (2023), the duo’s latest film, a co-commission between Wellcome Collection, Black Cultural Archives (BCA), and Wellcome Connecting Science, which delves into the history of eugenics.
Much of the duo’s work uses 3D computer graphics to create their ambitious films, which touch on a wide range of topics including science, politics, history, education and class.
Wellcome Collection, to 11 February, 2024; wellcomecollection.org
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