Major Art Exhibitions in London

All the Major Art Exhibitions in London in 2017

Bookmark this page if you plan to see an art exhibition in London in 2017. 

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 - and also lists noteworthy exhibitions at smaller galleries
  • includes only galleries defined as MAJOR by the Art Newspaper List which ranks art galleries and museums by annual visitor numbers in 2015.
  • applies the UK ranking in terms of visitors in 2015 (based on the ALVA listing of ALL visitor attractions (i.e. not just art galleries and museums)
  • lists exhibitions in date order - from the past to the future
  • exhibitions which are current or opening in 2017 have their dates in red
  • Links to the website and a map of their address are also provided
  • If the catalogue (or a good review of pics from the exhibition) is online I will link to it. (Do please comment and leave any link I've not yet spotted)
  • Reviews: 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 | 6.82 million visitors in 2015
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'.
This exhibition presents the Museum’s outstanding collection of modern and contemporary American prints for the first time. These will be shown with important works from museums and private collections around the world.
  • Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave - 25 May – 13 August 2017 (Room 35) - focuses on the last thirty years of Japan’s most renowned artist’s, Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), career from around 1820 to 1849. 
  • Places of the Mind: British watercolour landscapes 1850–195023 February – 27 August 2017 (Room 90) The 125 watercolours and drawings on display examining the ways artists interpreted landscape on paper during the Victorian and early Modern period; explores the idea that each work is a construct of the mind and imagination of the artist - an attempt to convey not merely the physical properties of a landscape but its sense of place.  
  • The Print before Photography (title TBC) - 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.

National Gallery 

#5 in the world  |  #2 in the UK | 5.9 million visitors in 2015 | Trafalgar Square London WC2N 5DN

In general the big exhibitions are in the Sainsbury Wing and the more specialised and/or smaller exhibitions are in the Sunley Room
  • Michelangelo & Sebastiano - 15 March – 25 June 2017 (North Galleries) - About the artistic relationship between two great Renaissance masters, Sebastiano and Michelangelo, from the 1510s through to the 1540s
  • Chris Ofili - Weaving Magic - 26 April – 28 August 2017  (Sunley Room) A new work in a new tapestry medium for Chris Ofili; imagery reflects Ofili’s ongoing interest in classical mythology and the stories, magic, and colour of the Trinidadian landscape he inhabits
  • 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
  • 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

Tate Modern  

#7 in the world  |  #5 in the UK | 4.71 million visitors in 2015 | 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)
  • The Radical Eye - Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection - 10 November 2016 – 7 May 2017a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see one of the world’s greatest private collections of photography; over 70 artists and nearly 150 rare vintage print drawn from the classic modernist period of the 1920s–50s. Includes 
  • Wolfgang Tillmans - 15 Feb – 11 Jun 2017 - First ever exhibition of Tillmans's work at Tate Modern includes photographs, video, digital slide projections, publications, curatorial projects and recorded music
  • BMW Tate Live Exhibition: Ten Day Six Nights - 24 Mar – 2 Apr 2017 - Moves from the static to the live - combines installation, performance, film, video, sound, and talks over a period of ten days (This used to be called Theatre where I come from!)
  • Alberto Giacometti 10 May – 10 Sep 2017 - focusing on influences and practices
  • Fahrelnissa Zeid - 6 Jun – 8 Oct 2017 - Zeid (1901–1991) was one of the most influential female Turkish artists; best known for her large-scale abstract paintings
  • Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power - 12 Jul – 22 Oct 2017 - explores how the category ‘Black Art’ was defined, rejected and redefined by artists across the United States
  • 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

Victoria & Albert Museum

#11 in the world | #6 in the UK | 3.43 million visitors in 2015 | 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
  • The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains - 13 May – 1 October 2017 (Room 39 - Exhibition Space) - includes set and construction pieces from some of Pink Floyd’s most innovative and legendary album covers and stage performances, original designs, architectural drawings, handwritten lyrics and psychedelic prints and posters.
  • Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion 27 May - 18 February 2018 (Room 40)
    EXHIBITION: about Cristóbal Balenciaga - one of the most influential designers of the 20th century. His unique and forward-thinking vision of female beauty, innovative use of textiles and ingenious pattern-cutting, shaped the modernity of 1960s fashion and continues to shape fashion today.
  • Opera: Passion, Power and Politics 30 September 2017 – 25 February 2018 (Temporary Exhibition Space)
    EXHIBITION: 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.

Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House 

#13 in the world | # 8 in the UK | 3.23 million visitors in 2015 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.
  • Reading Drawings 21 January – 4 June 2017 - This display examines the intriguing variety of inscriptions that can be found on drawings, from artists’ signatures to casual notes and records of ownership. Featuring works by Canaletto, Corot, Signac and others this selection reveals how such annotations can shed light on the purpose, history and use of drawings.
  • Bloomsbury Art & Design 18 February – 21 September 2017 Special Display - a wide-ranging selection of work by the early twentieth century Bloomsbury Group. A new selection of works on paper will be displayed from 24 May 2017. 
  • William Henry Hunt: Country People24 June – 17 September 2017 (The Drawings Gallery) - Taking its lead from W. H. Hunt’s watercolour The Head Gardener, c. 1825, that is part of The Courtauld Gallery’s permanent collection, this focused display will be first to investigate Hunt’s depiction of rural figures in his work of the 1820s and 1830s
  • 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.

National Portrait Gallery

#26 in the world | #10 in the UK | 2.145 million visitors in 2015 | St Martin’s Place, London WC2H 0HE

Tate Britain  

#45 in the world | #13 in the UK - 1.28 million visitors in 2015 | Millbank, London SW1P 4RG
The home of British art from 1500 to the present day
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 - by some 300k. In just three years, it's tumbled in rankings from #28 in 2012 to #45 in 2015.  I wonder what the split of marketing spend is between Tate Britain and Tate Modern?

Nicholas Serota steps down as Director of the Tate in 2017.

Maybe the new Director - or the Board appointing him or her - could bring the primary focus of Tate Britain, and what its status should be, to the front of their brains?

That said, this year's exhibitions is looking a bit stronger - I'll wait to see whether they get equal billing on the tube!
  • 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.
  • David Hockney 9 Feb – 29 May 2017 the most extensive survey of David Hockney’s work to date open as he approaches his 80th Birthday on 9th July 2017.

  • Queer British Art 1861 - 1967 - 5 April - 1 October 2017 - Featuring works from 1861–1967 relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) identities, the show marks the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England.
  • 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. 
  • 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.

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

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 2016 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 says this is not true - and that the Tate, Artsy and ArtNet websites all outrank Saatchi as a website according to Alexa. Plus as my blog post last week Top 10 Facebook Pages - Art Galleries and Museums, 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.
  • Painter's Painters - 30 November 2016 - 28 February 2017
  • Carmignac Photojournalism Award - Narciso Contreras - 16 May to 16 June 2017 - narrates the thoughts and observations of the photojournalist as he has travelled through the complex tribal society of post-Gaddafi Libya from February to June 2016, photographing the brutal reality of human trafficking.
  • 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.

Royal Academy of Arts 

#57 in the world / #17 in the UK - 1.09 million visitors in 2015 | Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD | 6 Burlington Gardens, London W1S 3ET

Another significant loser of visitors in recent years.
  • America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s - 25 February — 4 June 2017 - a chance to see American Gothic by Grant Wood which has never visited Europe before! 45 iconic works from the 1930s  portray a transformative period - they tell the story of a nation in flux. Artists responded to rapid social change and economic anxiety.

  • Revolution: Russian Art 1917–1932 - 11 February — 17 April 2017 - The RA marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution by focusing on the 15-year period between 1917 and 1932 when possibilities seemed limitless and Russian art flourished across every medium.
  • Summer Exhibition 2017 - 12 June — 20 August 2017 (Main Galleries) - the biggest open art exhibition in the world. A unique platform for emerging and established artists to showcase works across painting and printmaking, photography, sculpture, architecture and film. The RA limits entries to 12,000 - and there will be a blog post later this week with more details of how to enter.
  • 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 Studio5 August — 12 November 2017 (The Sackler Wing, Burlington House) - a rare glimpse into the artist’s personal collection, as well as the paintings, sculptures and drawings it inspired.

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!
  • Vanessa Bell (1879-1961) - 8 Feb 2017 - 4 Jun 2017 - Vanessa Bell (1879-1961) was a pivotal player in 20th century British art, inventing a new language of visual expression.
  • Sargent: The Watercolours - 21 Jun 2017 - 8 Oct 2017 - The first UK show in nearly 100 years devoted to watercolours by the Anglo-American artist, John Singer Sargent (1856-1925).
  • 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.
This is a great video by Richard Ormond, Sargent's great-nephew.

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
The works in the show will touch on many themes including popularity and art, masculinity and the current cultural landscape.

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
Flora Japonica
A number of the contributing artists from Japan at the Private View

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! :)