Major Art Exhibitions in London 2017-18

All the Major Art Exhibitions in London in 2017 and 2018

BOOKMARK this page 

if you plan to see an art exhibition in London in 2017 or 2018. 

I live in London - but sometimes forget what's on, where and when!

How does it work?

The Listing:
  • focuses on painting, drawing and sculpture 
  • highlights MAJOR Exhibitions at each of the MAJOR Art Galleries and Museums 
    • based on galleries defined as MAJOR by the Art Newspaper List which ranks art galleries and museums by annual visitor numbers 
    • applies the UK ranking in terms of visitors in 2016 (based on the ALVA listing of ALL visitor attractions (i.e. not just art galleries and museums)
    • PLUS some of the minor displays at the same gallery
  • PLUS noteworthy / specialist art exhibitions at smaller galleries
  • lists exhibitions in date order - from the past to the future
  • CURRENT exhibitions have their dates in red
  • Links to the website and a map of their address are also provided
  • FUTURE exhibitions (opening in 2018) have their dates in pink
  • Where I've seen the exhibition and done a review I add this in to the listing below.  My taste in exhibitions leans towards Tate Britain rather than Tate Modern!  I also sometimes go to exhibitions without writing a review of them - in which case I may well add a few comments

Major Art Exhibitions in London in 2017

British Museum

#2 in the world | #1 in the UK | 6.42 million visitors in 2016

British Museum
The British Museum was founded in 1753, the first national public museum in the world. From the beginning it granted free admission to all 'studious and curious persons'.

Major Exhibitions

The major exhibitions are often very popular and you might want to book ahead. Exhibitions are free for members
  • The BP exhibition Scythians: warriors of ancient Siberia - 14 September 2017 – 14 January 2018 (Organised with the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia) Rated a 5 star exhibition by just about everybody - This major exhibition explores the story of the Scythians – nomadic tribes and masters of mounted warfare, who flourished between 900 and 200 BC. Their encounters with the Greeks, Assyrians and Persians were written into history but for centuries all trace of their culture was lost – buried beneath the ice. One for Game of Thrones fans....
  • Living with gods: peoples, places and worlds beyond - 2 November 2017 – 8 April 2018 - Stories, objects, images, prayers, meditation and rituals can provide ways for people to cope with anxieties about the world, and help form strong social bonds.

Free Exhibitions

Room 90 exhibitions tend to be related to the Prints and Drawings Collection and/or works on paper
  • The Business of Prints - 21 September 2017 – 28 January 2018 (Room 90) - focuses on some of the complexities of the process, the varied nature of the prints themselves, and the ways in which buyers used or collected them. This wide-ranging exhibition selects fine examples from the nation’s print collection to look at how prints were created, developed, bought and sold in the period 1400–1850.
  • On violence and beauty: reflections on war - 9 November 2017 - 21 January 2018 - This display explores how war has been represented in four key objects from around the world and across history.

National Gallery 

#4 in the world  |  #2 in the UK | 6.3 million visitors in 2016 | Trafalgar Square London WC2N 5DN

The National Gallery at twilight from Trafalgar Square
In general the big exhibitions are in the Sainsbury Wing and the more specialised and/or smaller exhibitions are in the Sunley Room - with yet smaller exhibitions and displays in the numbered rooms.

Major exhibitions in 2017-18

  • Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites4 October 2017 – 2 April 2018 (Sunley Room) - Discover how van Eyck’s 'Arnolfini Portrait' was one of the beacons by which the Pre-Raphaelites forged a radical new style of painting
  • Drawn in Colour: Degas from the Burrell 20 September 2017 – 7 May 2018 (Ground Floor Galleries) The Burrell Collection holds one of the greatest collections of Degas’s works in the world. Rarely seen in public, this exhibition marks the first time the group of 20 pastels has been shown outside of Scotland, since they were acquired.

  • Monochrome: Painting in Black and White - 1 November 2017 – 18 February 2018 (Sainsbury Wing) - Explore the tradition of painting in black and white from its beginnings in the Middle Ages through the Renaissance and into the 21st century

Major exhibitions in 2018

  • The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Monet & Architecture - 9 April – 29 July 2018 (Sainsbury Wing) See the 'Father of Impressionism’ in an entirely new way, in the first exhibition devoted to Monet’s relationship with architecture - includes his series of paintings of Rouen Cathedral
  • Thomas Cole's Journey11 June – 7 October 2018 (Ground Floor Galleries) Discover one of America’s leading painters of the mid-19th century
  • Mantegna and Bellini 1 October 2018 – 27 January 2019 (Sainsbury Wing) - Comprising major loans of paintings, drawings, and particularly sculpture, ‘Mantegna and Bellini’ compares the work of two pre-eminent artists who also happened to be related by marriage.
  • Lorenzo Lotto Portraits 5 November 2018 – 10 February 2019 (Ground Floor Galleries) - The first exhibition of its kind. Celebrated as one of the greatest portraitists of the Italian Renaissance, Lorenzo Lotto uniquely portrayed a cross section of middle-class sitters, among them clerics, merchants, and humanists.

Additional Displays

Tate Modern  

#6 in the world  |  #3 in the UK | 5.8 million visitors in 2016 | Bankside, London SE1 9TG
Tate is an executive non-departmental public body and an exempt charity. Its mission is to increase the public’s enjoyment and understanding of British art from the 16th century to the present day and of international modern and contemporary art
Tate Modern slid down the global rankings in recent years due to fewer visitors but construction is over and the new extension opened in 2016.

The Switch House - the new extension to the rear of the former Bankside Power Station
now known as The  Blavatnik Building (after a £50 million donation)

Major Exhibitions in 2017-18

  • Autumn brings a Russian theme to mark the centenary of the October Revolution
    • Ilya and Emilia Kabakov - 18 Oct 2017 – 28 Jan 2018 Russian-born conceptual artists
    • Red Star Over Russia - 8 Nov 2017 – 18 Feb 2018 - explores artworks made by Russian and Soviet artists over five decades, from the first revolution of 1905 to the death of Stalin in 1953
  • Modigliani - 23 Nov 2017 – 2 Apr 2018 - The most comprehensive UK survey of Amedeo Modigliani’s work; also includes works by his contemporaries including Brancusi and early Picasso

Major Exhibitions in 2018

Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House 

#11 in the world | #6 in the UK | 3.44 million visitors in 2016 for the Somerset House operation | Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 0RN

Note: It's not possible to separate out the visitor figures for the Courtauld Gallery from those for Somerset House as a whole - which is odd given their diverse functions and activities.
  • Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters and Bellboys - 19 October 2017 – 21 January 2018 - This exhibition brings together an outstanding group of portraits by Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943) - seen by many as the heir to Vincent van Gogh. This major show is the first time Soutine has been the subject of a significant exhibition in the United Kingdom for 35 years

Victoria & Albert Museum

#15 in the world | #6 in the UK | 3.0 million visitors in 2016 | Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL

Note: The Victoria & Albert Website lacks any search capacity at the moment! I last complained about this in May and we still have no search facility.
Though we de-prioritised search for launch, we know a site as content rich as ours needs a search facility and we’ll be developing that soon. May 2016
In 2015 Victoria and Albert saw visitor numbers increase by 8% due to very popular exhibitions and the re-opening of some of their important galleries housing the extensive permanent collection
  • Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion 27 May - 18 February 2018 (Room 40) - about Cristóbal Balenciaga - one of the most influential designers of the 20th century. 
  • Opera: Passion, Power and Politics 30 September 2017 – 25 February 2018 (Temporary Exhibition Space)  V&A and the Royal Opera House create a landmark exhibition presenting a vivid story of opera from its origins in late-Renaissance Italy to the present day - a journey through nearly 400 years.

Exhibitions in 2018

  • Jameel Prize 5 30 June – 25 November 2018 The Porter Gallery, - 
    an international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition.  

National Portrait Gallery

#30 in the world | #11 in the UK | 1.9 million visitors in 2016 | St Martin’s Place, London WC2H 0HE

Two Cezanne self-portraits
  • Cézanne Portraits - 26 October 2017 - 11 February 2018 (Wolfson and Lerner Galleries) - over 50 of Cézanne’s portraits from collections across the world
  • Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2017 16 November 2017 - 8 February 2018 (Porter Gallery) - Portraits by some of the most exciting contemporary photographers from around the world.

Major Exhibitions in 2018

  • Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography - 1 March - 20 May 2018 (Porter Gallery)  - This major new exhibition brings together, for the first time, the works of four of the most celebrated figures in art photography 
  • Tacita Dean: PORTRAIT 15 March - 28 May 2018 (Lerner Galleries) - Tacita Dean (b.1965) is a British European artist based in Berlin and Los Angeles who works with many mediums but primarily in film.
  • Michael Jackson: On the Wall 28 June - 21 October 2018 (Wolfson and Lerner Galleries) - This landmark exhibition explores the influence of Michael Jackson on some of the leading names in contemporary art

Royal Academy of Arts 

#42 in the world / #17 in the UK - 1.285 million visitors in 2016 | Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD | 6 Burlington Gardens, London W1S 3ET

Historically it has been a significant loser of visitors in recent years.
HOWEVER in 2016 it dramatically improved its ranking and overtook Tate Britain. Although how much of that is due to Tate Britain doing really badly is debatable. The reality is it had over 0.25 million extra visitors in 2016 - up by 17% - probably due to one exhibition. The Brits love their gardens!
Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse - was the most-attended paying exhibition in London (in 2016). It attracted around 5,100 visitors a day to the Royal Academy of Arts, which makes it the UK institution’s fourth most popular show since we began our survey nearly two decades ago..
 (The Art Newspaper)

  • Jasper Johns 23 September — 10 December 2017 (Main Galleries) - one of the most important artists of the 20th century. The exhibition brings together the artist’s paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings. 
  • Matisse in the Studio - 5 August — 12 November 2017 (The Sackler Wing) - a rare glimpse into the artist’s personal collection, as well as the paintings, sculptures and drawings it inspired.
  • Dalí / Duchamp7 October 2017 — 3 January 2018 (Weston Galleries, Burlington House) This is the first exhibition to throw light on their surprising relationship and its influence on the work of both artists.
  • From Life11 December 2017 — 11 March 2018 - Looking to the past, present and future of one of the cornerstones of artistic process, we ask what it means to make art from life, and how the practice is evolving as technology opens up new ways of making and seeing.

Exhibitions in Main & Sackler Galleries in 2018

  • Charles I: King and Collector - 27 January — 15 April 2018 - this exhibition will reunite the greatest masterpieces of his magnificent collection for the first time.
  • Tacita Dean - Landscape - dates to be announced in Spring 2018 - one of three exhibitions in London running concurently
  • Summer Exhibition 201812 June — 19 August 2018 (Main Galleries) - the largest open exhibition in the world
  • Klimt / Schiele - Drawings from the Albertina Museum, Vienna4 November 2018 — 3 February 2019 (Sackler Galleries) - To mark the centenerary of both artists' deaths, this exhibition will display rare and fragile drawings by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, offering intimate insights into their artistic relationship and differing creative processes. 

Serpentine Galleries

#49 in the world / (unrated by ALVA) - 1.19 million visitors in 2016

  • Wade Guyton: Das New Yorker Atelier, Abridged - 29 Sep 2017 to 8 Feb 2018 American artist Wade Guyton uses digital technologies – iPhones, cameras, computers and consumer-grade Epson printers – as tools to create both large-scale paintings on linen and smaller compositions on paper.
  • Torbjørn Rødland: The Touch That Made You - 29 Sep 2017 to 19 Nov 2017 - a Los Angeles-based photographer who creates portraits, still lifes and landscapes, which simultaneously inhabit, defamiliarise and disrupt the realm of the everyday.
  • Rose Wylie - 30 Nov 2017 to 11 Feb 2018 - Rose Wylie (born 1934, UK) finds visual material for her large-scale paintings in a wide range of sources: from art history, cinema and comic books, to daily observations, news and celebrity stories

Tate Britain  

#60 in the world | #13 in the UK - 1.08 million visitors in 2016 | Millbank, London SW1P 4RG
home to the greatest collection of British art in the world
Tate Britain very much feels like the poor relation of Tate Modern these days given the relative number of exhibitions held and the amount of information on the website. They used to have a downloadable pdf floor plan on the website - now they want cash for it.

It's very sad.  It's also unsurprising that as a result the visitor numbers keep dropping and dropping as does its ranking. In just four years, it's tumbled in rankings from #28 in 2012 to #45 in 2015 and #60 in 2016.  Visitor numbers dropped by over 15% in 2016.

I keep wondering how much is this is due to curatorial choices and how much due to the split of marketing spend between Tate Britain and Tate Modern?  (Note it's not helped by some poor decisions by those marketing its exhibitions - see Impressionists in London - a marketing own goal by Tate Britain!)
Nicholas Serota stepped down as Director of the Tate in 2017.  Maybe we'll see a change in future? Or maybe not:
  • Alex Farqueson, a Director at Tate Britain since 2015, conceives and executes the curatorial programme of collection displays and exhibitions at Tate Britain and represents the gallery externally and internally. He's steeped in contemporary art rather than telling the story of British Art which is the main purpose of Tate Britain.
  • Dr Maria Balshaw CBE is the new Chief Executive of the Tate. Maybe she can bring the primary focus of Tate Britain, and what its status should be, to the front of the collective brains of the Trustees?
Rachel Whiteread
  • open every day - BP Walk through British Art - representative artwork from 1545 to the present, is always on show in the gallery - and is well worth a visit.
  • Rachel Whiteread - 12 September 2017 – 4 February 2018 - The most comprehensive exhibition to date of Rachel Whiteread, the first woman to win the Turner Prize in 1993. It  will include new works alongside sculpture and installation from her 30-year career as a central figure in British art.  Also includes a video about 'House'.
  • The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London - 2 Nov 2017 – 29 Apr 2018 - The story of the artists (MonetTissotPissarro ) who fled to Britain to escape war in France. This is the first large-scale examination of the remarkable art that came from French artists who sought exile in London during and after the Franco-Prussian War.
  • Art Now: Marguerite Humeau: Echoes 18 Nov 2017 – 15 Apr 2018 - Confront nature's lethal powers in a hypnotic yellow environment laced with black mamba venom

Major Exhibitions in 2018

Saatchi Gallery

#35 in the world / (unrated by ALVA) - 1.57 million visitors in 2012 | Duke of York's HQ, King's Road, London SW3 4RY

2016: Dropped from #35 to #66 in the Art Newspaper rankings.

Never ever forget that this is a gallery run by a man with expertise in marketing!
EXAMPLE #1: The strapline running across the website states
In the last five years the saatchi gallery presented 15 of the 20 most visited museum exhibitions in london (The Art Newspaper's International Survey of Museum attendance 2016
HOWEVER what it doesn't say is that although Saatchi has a good showing in the 2015 Survey, the exhibitions quoted were free (rather than ticketed) and it had none in the top ten ticketed exhibitions! More to the point that is NOT what the survey says (I know - I did a search of the survey for the word 'Saatchi'). It appears that this is how the Gallery has chosen to interpret the survey.

EXAMPLE #2: Its website also says The World's No. 1 Museum on social media. Now my analysis software (according to Alexa) says this is patently not true - and that the Tate, Artsy and ArtNet websites all outrank Saatchi as a website. Plus as my blog post 10 Facebook Pages - Art Galleries and Museums indicates (I've been following Facebook Pages of Museums forever) - and I've never ever seen the Saatchi Gallery Facebook Page in my Insights!  Maybe they prefer to hide their data? (e.g. they're not listed as a UK Visitor Attraction)

Moral of the story - only trust data which is published and statements which can be accredited to actual words in articles.
  • SALON 03 Calder On Paper: 1960 - 1976 27 September 2017 - 7 January 2018 - a presentation of gouaches on paper by the American artist Alexander Calder
  • Art Riot: Post-Soviet Actionism16 November - 31 December 2017 - dedicated to Russian protest art over the past 25 years. It will take place in the year of the 100th anniversary of Russia's October Revolution - and although the exhibition will not have any direct links to this historical event, many of the issues that artists face in post-communist Russia are comparable to those in 1917.
  • Inside Pussy Riot 14 November - 24 December 2017 - Here's the story of a group of modern day, post-punk feminist art collective and Nadya Tolokonnikova's tribulations as the founder of Pussy Riot, who stuck two fingers up at the Russian system and suffered the consequences. 

Other Art Galleries

Dulwich Picture Gallery (unrated by ALVA)

unranked by The Art Newspaper | unranked by AVLA | Gallery Road, London, SE21 7AD

The major coup this year is the Dulwich Picture Gallery getting the Sargent Watercolours. If they are a good selection, this exhibition will buzz all the time it's on!
  • Tove Jansson (1914-2001) 25 Oct 2017 - 28 Jan 2018 - One of the most celebrated illustrators of the 20th century, Tove Jansson is known internationally as creator of the Moomin characters and books.

Exhibitions in 2018

  • David Milne: Modern Painting - 14 Feb 2018 - 7 May 2018 - the first major UK exhibition of work by the Canadian painter, David Milne (1882-1953)
  • Edward Bawden - 23 May 2018 - 9 Sep 2018 - Edward Bawden was a master printmaker, illustrator, watercolourist and designer and is today recognised as one of the most influential artists of his generation.  Includes 170 works.

The Natural History Museum

#3 in the UK (as the Natural History Museum) | The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD
  • The Art of British Natural History : Images of Nature (over 200 illustrations via 4 rotations) - Images of Nature Gallery - 11 March 2017 to summer 2018. - reviews different approaches to recording natural history over the last 300 years from observation in the field to inspection via the microscope; considers the different styles of natural history illustration over time and for different purposes.

Queen's Gallery |
The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London, SW1A 1AA

Serpentine Gallery

Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, London W2 3X

Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art

#15 in UK (as Royal Botanic Gardens Kew) |
Shirley Sherwood Gallery, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB

Wallace Collection | Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN

Small Fine Art Galleries (commercial)

Marlborough Fine Art

I'll and remove more exhibitions here as I become aware of them.


Paul Simmons said...

Thank you Katherine - what a brilliant list and I've already put several highlights in my own diary now. I know it must take a lot of work but your blog is much appreciated and really the only one I bother to continually follow and look forward to.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Many thanks Paul - I'm now glad I reinstated the comments functionality! :)