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TOP 16 LONDON EXHIBITIONS THIS MAY

The Capital's Unmissable Art Shows this May 2024
Fragile exhibition

May brings us some powerful and provocative photography exhibitions, from a big Princess Diana retrospective, to Sir Elton John and David Furnish's V&A summer blockbuster and a moving show about the journeys of displaced Ukrainian refugees.


There are also some wonderfully playful and immersive experiences, including a new celebration of art and sound, cartoonish hospitals, otherworldly, robotic trifles, LEGO art, trips to the moon with Tom Hanks and a journey through Japanese art and design.


So point your eyes at our top 16 London exhibitions this May and then take them there.

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Princess Diana

Princess Diana: Accredited Access Exhibition

The nation’s fascination with Princess Diana isn’t going away any time soon. And a new exhibition promises to give a behind-the-scenes journey through her life, via art installations and 75 life-sized photographs by her official photographers.

They include the famous image of her sitting alone outside the Taj Mahal and the 'revenge dress' she wore the night King Charles admitted adultery. Her story is told through the lenses of Anwar Hussein and his two sons, Samir and Zak, her longest standing photographers, who share what they heard and witnessed during these iconic moments, in the accompanying audio guide.

Princess Diana: Accredited Access Exhibition. Dockside Vaults, Ivory House, London E1W 1AT. 25 May - 2 September. Tickets: £17/adult, £15/child.


V&A exhibition

Fragile Beauty 

Sir Elton John and David Furnish are sharing their extraordinary private collection of more than 300 rare prints from over 140 photographers, for V&A’s new, summer blockbuster. The show features photographers including Cindy Sherman, Ai Weiwei and Robert Mapplethorpe and includes portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Miles Davis.

It spans from the Fifties to the present day, covering the civil rights movement and AIDS activism to 9/11 and has eight themes, from the male body to fashion and celebrity. The show will be the gallery’s largest temporary exhibition of photography to date.

Fragile Beauty: Photographs from the Sir Elton John and David Furnish Collection in partnership with Gucci. Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL.  from 18 May to 5 January 2025. Tickets £20 pp.


Vinyl Factory Reverb

The Vinyl Factory: REVERB

The Vinyl Factory explores the intersection of art and sound with a major new multimedia exhibition at 180 Studios. Bringing together more than 100 artists and musicians working across visual arts, music, film and live performance, the show features 18 installations, including audio visual pieces and sonic experiences. There will also be a chill out space to listen to vinyl, plus live performances, talks and UK premieres of many ambitious new artworks.

The Vinyl Factory, 180 Studios, 180 Strand, Temple, London WC2R 1EA. 23 May - 28 September. 


Charlotte Mei

Like a Melody: Myths, Memories, and Fantasy

The art world’s rising star, Charlotte Mei has transformed Now Gallery into an fairytale world, presided over by a giant, furry cat with silver wings. The artist and illustrator draws on her lifelong obsession with fantasy, mythology and anime for the mixed media show, which features ‘artefacts’ like chainmail underwear, otherworldly cuddly cats, action figures and her trademark pastel, dream landscapes.

She explains: "I wanted to create a fantasy world because I want to live in one. I want to find an enchanted sword and lie in a meadow of sparkling flowers surrounded by magical creatures.”

Mei’s celebration of the magic of fantasy is part of the gallery’s tenth anniversary programme, championing emerging talent in the arts.

Now Gallery, Soames Walk, London SE10 0SQ. FREE. Showing until 2 June


Jason and the Adventure

Jason and the Adventure of 254

Artist Jason Wilsher-Mills presents his major (and FREE) solo exhibition, which transforms the gallery into a cartoonish hospital ward, full of surreal humour and kaleidoscopic colour, exploring his experience of becoming disabled as a child. The joyful show is perfect for all ages - you are invited to touch everything. Highlights include a giant installation of a figure in a hospital bed, Seb Coe with a TV for a head, huge calliper boots and penny arcade inspired dioramas.

Wellcome Collection183 Euston Rd, London NW1 2BE. FREE. 21 March - 12 January 2025


Rong Bao is Me

Rong Bao is Me

Deliciously surreal artist, Rong Bao transforms everyday objects into playful, otherworldly and interactive artworks to laugh at the absurdity of life. Wonderfully bizarre sculptures resemble giant, robotic trifles or dancing, rainbow coloured burgers in feather headdresses and demand a smile. Other highlights include a Fragile box, perpetually being dropped from a conveyor belt. Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York's HQ, King's Rd, London SW3 4RY FREE. Until 12 May.


Polly Braden

Polly Braden: Leaving Ukraine

Polly Braden has used her camera to document the lives of women, children and babies scattered across Europe since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. And this deeply moving exhibition uses photography and film to share their extraordinary journeys, from job interviews, first days at school, trips to buy wedding dresses and poignant family reunions. Following four central stories, we see teenagers grow into young adults and babies into toddlers. 

Foundling Museum, Brunswick Square, London. £12.75. 21 and under go free. 15 March - 1 September


Angelica Kauffman

Angelica Kauffman

Angelica Kauffman paved the way for generations of women artists after her and was one of the most celebrated artists of the 18th century. She painted some of the most influential figures of her day – queens, countesses, actors and socialites – and reinvented the genre of history painting by focusing largely on female protagonists from classical history and mythology.

This exhibition traces her trajectory from child prodigy, her rise to fame in London to becoming one of Europe's most sought-after painters and a founding member of the Royal Academy.

Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD. Until 30 June.Tickets £17 pp


Myths to Manga

Japan: Myths to Manga at Young V&A

Take a trip through Japan and explore how landscape and folklore have influenced Japanese art, technology and design, featuring a seal shaped robotic comforter, Hello Kitty paraphrenalia, draw your own Manga characters and learn nifty facts about Sylvanian Families toys being born out of hundreds-of-years old netsuke animal sculptures.

Young V&A Museum, Bethnal Green, Tower Hamlets, Cambridge Heath Rd, Bethnal Green, London E2 9PA. General Museum access, free.


Yoko Ono Boat

Yoko Ono: Music for the Mind

Spanning more than seven decades and featuring over 200 artworks, this is the UK’s largest exhibition celebrating Ono’s groundbreaking, multidisciplinary career, from the mid-1950s to now – including her years in London where she met her future husband and longtime collaborator John Lennon.

It includes her Instruction Pieces, which you can interact with - shaking hands with a stranger through a hole; making a peace wish and tying it to a tree; drawing on a boat installation; completing tasks inside a black bag and playing chess with all-white pieces as well as her most famous pieces, like the banned Bottoms film and Cut Piece, where people were invited to cut off her clothing.

Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG. Until 1 September. £20 per adult. Free for under 12s.


Textile Art

Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art

Textiles are literally part of the fabric of our lives and each thread reveals stories about gender, labour, value, ecology, ancestral knowledge, and histories of oppression, extraction and trade. 

This exhibition shines a light on this rarely explored subject, featuring 50 international artists from the 1960s to today who have explored the transformative and subversive potential of textiles. 

It features more than 100 artworks, from intimate hand-crafted pieces to large-scale sculptural installations. 

Highlights include handstitched tapestries used to carry the memories of the deceased it touched; giant, deity-like macrame sculptures; a spatial installation exploring textiles’ use as an ancient form of communication and embroidered blankets, reflecting on an artist’s HIV diagnosis.

Barbican CentreSilk St, Barbican, London EC2Y 8DS. Until 26 May


Lego Dinosaur

Immersive Lego Exhibition

Aptly opening on Brick Lane, The Art of Brick brings its Lego masterpieces to London, following tours of more than 100 cities in 24 countries.

The exhibition features artist Nathan Sawaya's Lego recreations of some of the world’s most famous artworks, from Michelangelo’s David to Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Among the wonders, visitors will also find a 6-metre-long reproduction of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton

Kids (and big kids) can also make their own masterpieces at the play and build area.

The Boiler House, 152 Brick Lane, London, E1 6RU. Until 9 June


Tom Hanks and Space Ship

The Moonwalkers: A Journey with Tom Hanks

Lightroom leapt inside David Hockney’s brain for his juggernaut retrospective and now turns its immersive technology to space, with added Tom Hanks.

The Apollo 13 star narrates the audio-visual experience, which offers a unique new perspective on humankind’s past and future voyages to the moon.

Telling the stories of the Apollo missions in intimate detail, The Moonwalkers also provides an insight into the impending return of crewed surface missions by going behind-the-scenes of the Artemis programme, including interviews between Hanks and Artemis astronauts.

If your own trip to the moon is looking unlikely, the immersive gallery promises the next best thing, with its tech-wizardry taking visitors on a voyage to our closest celestial neighbour.

Lightroom, 12, Lewis Cubitt Square, London N1C 4DY. Until13 October 2024. Tickets from £25


Elvis Exhibition

Direct from Graceland: Elvis

Elvis is in the building - not Graceland, but Arches London Bridge. This retrospective of the King of Rock is bulging with 400 artefacts from his Memphis home, charting his humble beginnings and meteoric rise to fame.

It includes his prized Ferrari Dino, gold-plated telephone, jazzy, Vegas era jumpsuits, Aviators and iconic gold lamé suit.

Super-fans can even opt for the White Glove Experience, to hold the gold microphone used in his 1969 Vegas shows, and his Gold International Belt.

It’s easier than a trip to Memphis and has been such a hit, they’ve extended it until 14 April.

Arches London Bridge8 Bermondsey St, London SE1 2ER. Until 1 September 2024 Tickets from £19.90 pp

horseshoe crab

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The 59th Wildlife Photographer of the Year tells the story of a planet under pressure. The show harnesses the power of photography to help the Natural History Museum advance scientific knowledge, spread awareness of important issues and nurture a global love for nature, via donations to the exhibition.

It features astonishing photographs selected from more than 50,000 entries, including a golden, tri-spine horseshoe crab (pictured above) snow leopards hunting in China and seals in Greece.

Natural History Museum, Cromwell Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 5BD. Until 30 June


Olaf art

The World’s Biggest Disney Exhibition

It all began with a mouse and now, nearly 101 years later, a major exhibition returns in London, inviting fans to experience the iconic characters, stories and experiences that touched the lives of audiences around the world. Disney100: The Exhibition features 10 themed galleries bulging with more than 250 iconic props, costumes and treasures including the actual carousel horse that Dick Van Dyke rode in Mary Poppins, the glass slipper from Cinderella (2015), the Iron Man helmet from Avengers: Infinity War, original artwork from One Hundred and One Dalmatians and the red dress from the 2021 Cruella film. The 20,000 sq ft beast of a show has 14 interactive installations and themed galleries allowing you to dive into classics like Snow White and Encanto as well as the new additions to the Disney family, like Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel movies.

Disney100: The Exhibition. ExCeL London, Royal Victoria Dock, 1 Western Gateway, London E16 1XL. Tickets on sale now, starting from £16.50 off-peak for children.


Frameless Gallery

Frameless

Immersive art experiences are beckoning us to leap into paintings all over the world, but Frameless is art immersion on steroids. Situated in Marble Arch, it is the largest, permanent multi-sensory experience in the UK. Boasting four, themed galleries - Beyond Reality, Colour In Motion, The World Around Us and The Art Of Abstraction - with some of the world’s greatest works of art exploding across the walls, floors and ceilings of a 30,000 sq ft space. You can step inside more than 43 masterpieces by 28 artists, including Kandinsky, Monet, Van Gogh, Klimt, Munch, Monet, Rembrandt, Dali and Cezanne with musical scores accompanying each brushstroke.

Frameless, Marble Arch, London W1H 7FD, UK


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