The Handbook
The Handbook

The doors to the Tate, the V&A, The Barbican, the RA, Somerset House and more are finally reopening, bringing London and its incredible cultural scene back to life.

For the first time in months we can step foot in a gallery again, see that exhibition we booked tickets for back in 2019 and lap up all the incredible art the city has to offer.

Sadly, the National Portrait Gallery has closed until 2023 to undergo its planned, multi-million pound restoration, but there are plenty of other galleries opening their doors and many exhibitions that were cancelled or postponed due to the national crisis extended to give as many of us a chance to view.

Andy Warhol at the Tate Modern and Picasso at the RA are without a doubt the two must-visits of the summer.

Be aware, that all visitors will need to book online to deal with government guidance, even if you’re planning on viewing a free exhibition.

Picasso and Paper

Royal Academy of Art

The iconic Summer Exhibition that’s held every year at the RA has been put on hold until Ocobter, but you can still get your art fix with Picasso and Paper. Originally postponed due to COVID (what hasn’t been?), this is the last chance to see the major exhibition spanning the artist’s 80-year career and featuring 300 works, including studies for ‘Guernica’ and a breathtaking 4.8-metre-wide collage.

As with all of the great Spanish artist’s work, the collection is varied with everything from letters to illustrated poems and photographic collaborations with Dora Maar on display.

Be aware that everyone (including Friends of the RA) must book tickets for a timed slot online or by phone.

 9 July – 2 August 2020

The Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD

Gauguin and the Impressionists

Royal Academy of Art

Also at the RA this summer is a borrowed selection of Denmark’s Ordrupgaard Collection, a treasure trove of important Impressionist works. Think some of the greats – Manet, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Morisot, Degas and Gauguin – many of which have never been seen in the UK in this 60-piece exhibition.

The exhibition closes with a stunning series of Post-Impressionist works by Paul Gauguin that span his career.

7 August — 18 October 2020

The Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD

Andy Warhol 

Tate Modern

One of the most anticipated art exhibitions of the year fell prey to COVID, as the Tate Modern’s long awaited Andy Warhol exhibition (it’s been over 20 years since a last retrospective) was put on hold. The gallery did take things online but nothing beats seeing some of the world’s most iconic images up close and personal and in their supersized proportions.

As well as his iconic pop images of Marilyn Monroe, Coca-Cola and Campbell’s soup cans, the exhibition includes works never seen before in the UK. Plus 25 pieces from his Ladies and Gentlemen series – portraits of black and Latinx drag queens and trans women will be shown for the first time in 30 years.

Thankfully, the run has been extended to 1 November giving it more than its 15 minutes of fame.

All tickets must be booked online prior to visiting. Tate Modern reopens 27 July 2020.

Runs until 15 November 2020

Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG

Hyundai Commision: Kara Walker

Tate Modern

The Tate’s behemoth of a Turbine Hall is the first area you see when you enter the building and it’s played host to many memorable commissions over the last 10 years thanks to the Hyundai Commision. This year sees one of the most impressive pieces to date as artist Kara Walker reimagines the Victoria Memorial that sits in front of Buckingham Palace.

Walker’s 13-metre tall working fountain, Fons Americanus, doesn’t celebrate the British empire however, but looks at the interconnected histories of Africa, America and Europe. She uses water as a key theme, referring to the transatlantic slave trade and the ambitions, fates and tragedies of people from these three continents. Fantasy, fact and fiction meeting on an epic scale.

The Turbine Hall works of art are always free to the public but due to social distancing, pre-booking to visit the Tate Modern is required.

2 October 2019 – 8 November 2020

Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG

Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi

Somerset House

Celebrating the unique cultural legacy of the ‘shroom, this unique exhibition brings together the work of over 40 leading artists, designers and musicians to reimagine our relationship with one of nature’s biggest enigmas.

Highlights include seminal American artist Cy Twombly’s collage portfolio paralleling natural world and human history, watercolours from renowned author Beatrix Potter, composer John Cage’s limited edition Mushroom Book of recipes, observations and illustrations, and inspiring works from emerging contemporary artists.

There will also be an opportunity to explore the sustainable side to mushrooms, with experiments in design, textiles and architecture that utilise fungi, from upcycled agro-waste to sustainable shoes. Trippy.

16 July  – 13 September 2020

Terrace Rooms, South Wing Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA

Masculinities: Liberation Through Photography

Barbican Centre

Bringing together over 300 works by over 50 international artists, Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at the Barbican explores the ways in which masculinity is experienced, performed, coded and socially constructed, from the 1960s to the present day.

As ideas of masculinity and what it means ‘to be a man’ are changing dramatically the world over, expect themes of patriarchy, power, queer identity, race, sexuality and class.

Not only is the work aesthetically beautiful but it raises so many questions about the times we live in.

Runs until 23 August 2020

Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS

Steve McQueen: Year 3

Tate Britain

This charming and entirely free exhibition is essentially one giant, epic school portrait of London’s Year 3 pupils and while they might look like your bog-standard, slightly awkward but nevertheless cute class pics, they are in fact created by Turner Prize-winning and Oscar-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen. Thankfully, Tate Britain have extended the run, giving you the chance to take a look for yourself.

McQueen invited every Year 3 pupil in London to have their photograph taken by a team of specially trained Tate photographers, spanning state primaries, independent schools, faith schools, special schools and home-educated pupils. The result is a huge, single large-scale installation of tens of thousands of Year 3 pupils and it is utterly charming. One to take the kids to for sure.

Runs until 31 January 2021


Aubrey Beardsley

Though we may not bat an eyelid at these images in 2020, back in their Victorian day they would have caused sheer shock and, at times, delight. Beardsley’s sinuous black and white drawings explored the erotic and the elegant, the humorous and grotesque, winning admirers around the world with their distinctive style.

This will be the first exhibition dedicated to Beardsley at the Tate since 1923, and the largest display of his original drawings in Europe since the seminal 1966 exhibition at the V&A, which triggered a Beardsley revival. Book in to see over 200 of his pieces, from Le Morte d’Arthur to Oscar Wilde’s Salomé.

Runs until 20 September 2020

Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG

Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk

Fashion and history fans can delight in getting their culture mojo back with the V&A’s huge exhibition dedicated to all things kimono.

Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk looks at the iconic garment as a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion, revealing the sartorial, aesthetic and social significance from the 1660s to the present day, both in Japan and the rest of the world.

Expect a history and textile lesson (and a fashion show) all in one.

Opens 27 August 2020

The V&A, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL

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