12 London exhibitions not to miss in 2019

by Roisin McAuley  |  Published February 4, 2019

Despite the uncertain atmosphere looming over Britain in 2019, this year’s exhibition calendar will continue to be as vibrant as ever. Curators of London’s museums and galleries ensure the capital’s thriving creative scene with a dynamic range of exhibitions for youngsters, locals and tourists alike.  

The V&A will host a number of our top exhibitions of 2019 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Filmmakers, sculptors, architects, painters and many more will exhibit their work in London in 2019. The city is renowned for its exhibition calendar: from the V&A to the British Museum, cultural institutions will showcase the work of the most renowned and respected creatives worldwide. With this wealth of creativity its been difficult to choose what to attend, so we’ve put together our selection of the best current exhibitions and shows to hunt down in London whilst you are in London this year. We hope you get a chance to attend at least some of them!

Installation artist John Akomfrah presents Mimesis: African Soldier as part of the Imperial War Museum’s Making A New World season. The overarching series aims to explore how the First World War has shaped the society we live in today. The artist’s multimedia installation draws our eyes to the millions of Africans and people of colour from across the globe who fought and took part in the First World War. The installation combines projections on three screens, made of newly created film and archive footage, with a powerful score to give an account of the African experience of the First World War. Elsewhere in the Imperial War Museum, in both its London and North locations, the season includes performances, photographic and interactive exhibitions.

Location: Imperial War Museum London. Dates: Open now, until March 2019

Yves Saint Laurent in front of Christian Dior London, 11th November 1958
© Popperfoto/Getty Images


Christian Dior is one of the 20th century’s most influential couturiers. The V&A will stage the largest exhibition of the designer’s work in the UK,  tracing the history and impact of Dior and his lasting legacy, which has ensured the enduring influence of the fashion house. Gowns featured include those worn by Princess Margaret, Margot Fonteyn and Jennifer Lawrence. The gallery’s curators draw attention to Dior’s relationship with Britain, the exhibition explores his admiration for the grandeur of its great houses and gardens, traditions and way of life. The exhibition is accompanied by a series of private viewings, workshops and talks, which have seen significant demand already with few tickets remaining.

Location: The Sainsbury Gallery, The V&A. Dates: 2 February – 14 July 2019

Northern Ireland, The Bogside, Londonderry 1971


Tate Britain will celebrate Don McCullin in a major retrospective in early 2019.  Over the last 60 years, McCullin has become known for his iconic war photography. He has captured wars in Vietnam, Northern Ireland and more recently Syria. The photographer’s portfolio goes far beyond this as he has also turned his eyes to his home in England to document national problems: the exhibition follows scenes of poverty, working-class life in London’s East End and the industrial north before moving to the meditative landscapes of the photographer’s home of Somerset. This unique opportunity to observe the life and achievements of the photographer will feature some 250 images all printed by McCullin in his own darkroom.

Location: Tate Britain. Dates: 5 February – 6 May 2019


The White Cube Gallery will welcome Turner Prize nominee Tracey Emin’s emotive new multimedia exhibition in early February. Emin will fill the gallery with deeply personal memories with pieces conveying emotions ranging from loss, grief, longing and spiritual love’ in a very emotion exhibition. The show will feature new and never seen before works spanning mediums of paintings, photography, large-scale bronze sculptures, neon works and film.

Location: White Cube Gallery. Dates: 6 February – 7 April 2019

Kid in a hooded jacket aiming a gun, N.Y.C. 1957, 8 1/2 × 5 13/16 in. (21.6 × 14.7 cm)
Gift of Doon Arbus and Amy Arbus, 2007.  Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York/
Copyright © The Estate of Diane Arbus, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


For the first time in over 12 years, a solo exhibition of Diane Arbus’ work will go on show at the Southbank Centre.  Organised by the New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, over 100 photographs will fill the centre: many of these images have never been exhibited in Europe before. This unique opportunity to glimpse the artist’s works and life in New York features children, eccentrics, circus performers, female impersonators, pedestrians … the endless characters that the photographer encountered. Arbus’ is renowned for her ability to create intimate images that spark intrigue: the Southbank’s Hayward Gallery will become a viewing room for some of the most surprising and haunting photographs of the 20th century.

Location: Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre. Dates: 13 February – 6 May 2019

Brick Wonders Barrier Reef © Warren Elsmore, Horniman Museum and Gardens


View iconic architecture and Wonders of the World as you’ve never seen them before: made out of LEGO®. Over 50 models made using half a million LEGO® bricks are coming to London in an exhibition that will take visitors back in time and around the world. This inspiring exhibition invites visitors to build their own brick wonders in the interactive play areas, making for an engaging day out for families of all ages. The exhibition moves from 3D architectural wonders to film with a mini-cinema screening short LEGO® animations.

Location: Horniman Museum. Dates: 16 February  27 October 2019


Cited as a landmark exhibition of one of Britain’s most recognised contemporary photographers, Only Human will unite Martin Parr’s most well-known images with some never seen before photographs. Central to all images is Parr’s human fascination: each image a portrait of the modern world, examining national identity for Britain’s own, and others, reflection. Aptly timed, new images will take on the topic of Brexit and the photographer’s observations of the contemporary Britishness in the period following the EU referendum. The exhibition will move from everyday Brits, both at home and abroad, to famous faces. These include fashion icon Vivienne Westwood, contemporary artist Grayson Perry and football legend Pelé, captured by Parr during his career but many never exhibited before.

Location: National Portrait Gallery.  Dates: March 7 – May 27 2019


Anish Kapoor will launch Pitzhanger Gallery’s exhibitions programme as the Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery re-opens to the public following a three-year conservation and restoration project. One of the most influential sculptors of his generation, Anish Kapoor will present a series of sculptures, some previously unseen in Britain, for the gallery’s inaugural exhibition. The gallery’s architecture and interiors are highlighted by Kapoor in his considered use of materials. Engaging the audience with the space,  Kapoor will challenge traditional notions of form and space to disorientate the viewer and transform the surroundings.

Location: Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery. Dates: 16 March – 18 August 2019

Vincent van Gogh (1853 –1890) Self-portrait 1887 Oil paint on canvas 470 x 350 mm
Paris, Musée d’Orsay © RMN


Spring will see Tate Britain unite the largest collection of Vincent van Gogh’s work in the UK in almost a decade. 45 works by Van Gogh will be displayed in an exhibition that reveals both how the artist was inspired by Britain and how he inspired British artists: paintings from Francis Bacon, David Bomberg, and the young Camden Town painters will adorn the gallery alongside iconic images from Van Gogh. Curated with paintings from around the world, Van Gogh and Britain is a rare opportunity to view some of the artist’s renowned works together under one roof. These will include Shoes, Starry Night on the Rhône, L’Arlésienne, and two works he made while a patient at the Saint-Paul Asylum, At Eternity’s Gate and Prisoners Exercising as well as Sunflowers, which is rarely lent from London’s National Gallery.

Location: Tate Britain. Dates: 27 March – 11 Aug 2019


Glass artist Dale Chihuly will showcase luminous glass artworks in the Kew Gardens; bringing together art, science and nature. Dazzling glass sculptures consider form, colour and light to exaggerate their natural surrounds in the most biodiverse area on the planet.  A full programme of events will include family activities and night-time experiences to enable guests to see these installations illuminated in an entirely different light.

Location: Kew Gardens. Dates: 13 April – 27 October 2019 

A Clockwork Orange, directed by Stanley Kubrick (1970-71; GB/United States).
Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) in the Korova Milkbar. Still image. © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.


Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition comes to London after touring Europe, America and Asia, celebrating the filmmaker who spent most of his life working and living in Britain. This exhibition by the Deutsches Filmmuseum, Frankfurt am Main, unites films and artefacts from the visionary director’s life, collected by The Stanley Kubrick Archive at University of the Arts London. The exhibition will guide the audience through Kubrick’s creative life, from his beginnings as a print photographer to his cinematic masterpieces. Costumes, set-designs, notes and scenes are combined to take the audience on a journey behind the scenes of Kubrick’s work. The director’s creative vision in all aspects of design and architecture are reimagined to make this incredible, engaging and insightful retrospective.

Location: The Design Museum. Dates: 26 April – 17 September 2019

AI: More Than Human Mimic (concept), 2018 by Universal Everything. Image courtesy of Universal Everything

The Barbican invites visitors to explore the world of artificial intelligence in this highly engaging interactive exhibition. From the boundaries between humans and machines to the creative, technological and scientific developments in AI, More than Human engages its audiences with the contemporary realities of AI. The exhibition has given the opportunity to artists to develop new commissions using AI as their medium and highlight the technology as an art form in itself. Exhibiting artists include Joy Buolamwini, Mario Klingemann, Steve Goodman (Kode9), Lauren McCarthy, Yoichi Ochiai, Neri Oxman and Lawrence Lek. 

Location: Barbican Centre. Dates: 16 May – 26 August 2019

The British Museum is to host the world’s largest exhibition of manga outside of Japan. The museum will explore the global appeal and cultural crossover of Japanese graphic world that merges art and storytelling. Original Japanese manga, comic books and graphic novels will be displayed alongside an exploration into manga’s influence on contemporary culture. Across the globe, the influence of manga is seen in engagement with cinematic art form anime as well as cosplay events. The influential art form has created a new international visual language and the exhibition will feature unprecedented loans from Japan to entertain, inspires and challenge its audience.

Location: British Museum. Dates: May 23– August 26 2019


The British Library steps inside the mind of one of the world’s greatest artists to explore his fascination with motion. The exhibition unites three of da Vinci’s notebooks: the Codex Arundel, the Codex Forster and a selection of sheets from the Codex Leicester. These are widely considered to be the artist’s most important scientific notebooks. Detailed drawings and diagrams follow da Vinci’s fascination with modern science and his pursuit of discovery. Alongside detailed texts, the artists infamous painting The Virgin Rocks will be exhibited, encapsulating his thoughts and translating his detailed observations to the visual medium.

Location: British Library. Dates:  7 June – 8 September 2019

Olafur Eliasson, Beauty 1993. © Olafur Eliason. Photo: Anders Sune Berg. Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York


Olafur Eliasson, who has previously exhibited in Tate’s Turbine Hall, returns to the Tate Modern with a body of work that charts his career to date. Eliasson’s immersive installations play with our perspective of the world through the artist’s selection of natural materials and use of reflections and shadows. With a portfolio that engages with social and environmental issues, late last year Eliasson brought blocks of ice from Greenland’s waters to the capital as part of an installation on climate change; these will melt before the beginning of this exhibition in July.

Location: Tate Modern. Dates: 11 July 2019 – 5 January 2020

Sethu Ncise, Jermaine Downer, Will Sutton, Zuzanna Bartoszek and Sara Grace Wallerstedt. Fashion – Moncler 1 by Pierpaolo Piccioli. London, 2018 © Tim Walker


The V&A becomes both the subject and stage of British fashion photographer Tim Walker’s exhibition in late 2019. The gallery has provided inspiration for Walker over his career and this upcoming exhibition will feature a new series from the photographer. This body of work is influenced by Walker’s research into the V&A’s archives and collections. Bringing together photographs, films, photographic sets and installations the exhibition will also highlight Walker’s endless collaborators from his career: set designers, stylists, make-up artists and models provide an insight in the photographer’s spectacular creative process.

Location: The V&A.  Dates: 7 September 2019 – 8 March 2020


Art and science combine to explore one of the modern world’s biggest health epidemics: anxiety. Exploring anxiety in 21st-century life, the exhibition will look at what the emotional role of anxiety is in society; explore where anxiety is used as a political tool; speculate on what the future of anxiety and mental health will be and assess whether anxiety can ever fuel positive action. The King’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) will showcase research on the subject of anxiety alongside new and existing artworks from international artists.

Location: Science Gallery. Dates: 19 September 2019 – 12 January 2020

Antony Gormley, LOST HORIZON I, 2008. Cast iron, 189 x 53 x 29 cm (32 elements). Installation view, White Cube, Mason’s Yard, London, England. Photograph by Stephen White, London © the artist


Perhaps most well known for the Angel of the North sculpture in Gateshead, Antony Gormley will fill the Royal Academy of the Art’s Burlington House galleries in his most significant solo exhibition in over a decade. Early experimental sculptures, objects and drawings will be exhibited alongside large scale environments made especially for the RA. The sculptor uses organic, industrial and elemental materials, including as iron, steel, lead, seawater and clay, which is often moulded on his own body, as he explores the concept of ‘the body’ itself. 

Location: The Royal Academy of Arts. Dates: 1 September – 3 December 2019 

Photo Duffy © Duffy Archive


Cars have been around some 130 years: in this upcoming exhibition, the V&A celebrates the invention that transformed and shaped our cities, environments and economies. From first motorised vehicle to the beginning of driverless cars, this exhibition takes a look at the lasting tracks that cars have made on the contemporary world.

Location: The V&A. Dates: 19 October 2019 – 19 April 2020


Lucian Freud’s self-portraits will be united in a world-first later this year. The Royal Academy of the Arts will exhibit over 50 paintings, prints and drawings of the artist who turned his eyes on himself. The exhibition will chart the life of one of the most celebrated portraitists of our time, from Freud’s earliest 1939 portrait to his final portrait made 64 years later. Viewed together for the first time, this unique collection becomes a study of the process of ageing and the artist’s relationship with his own image.

Location: The Royal Academy of the Arts. Dates: October 27 2019 – January 26 2020