London art exhibitions 2022: an ongoing guide to the must-see shows

Simeon Barclay, ’In the Name of the Father’, South London Gallery, September 2022. Installation view, Andy Stagg

Harriet Lloyd-Smith; Martha Elliott
29 Sep 2022

If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that nothing beats an in-person art encounter. Narrowing down your London art exhibitions must-see list is rarely easy, even in the quieter months on the art calendar.

Here, we save you the trouble with an ongoing guide to the best London art exhibitions, in the city and around the UK. 

‘Sensitive Content’
Unit London
Until 16 October 

Polly Borland, Nudie 10, 2021. Image copyright the artist. Courtesy the artist and Nino Mier Gallery 

What does it mean to have your art censored? Who, or what gets to decide? A new group exhibition at Unit spotlights artists who have been censored for the feminist, anti-racist or queer content of their work. Curated by artist Helen Beard, and art historians Alayo Akinkugbe and Maria Elena Buszek, the show surveys censored artworks from the 1940s to the present day. It contextualises how censorship has endured as an obstacle to creativity and amplifies the voices fighting back.

‘Same Same’ 
30 September - 22 October
Sid Motion Gallery

Gabriele Beveridge Coupling, hand-blown glass

As its name suggests, ‘Same Same’ is all about repetition in the act of creation. In a novel concept that’s sure to induce feelings of deja vu, curators Rose Davey and Sid Motion invited seven artists to execute the same idea twice. The resulting works are hung separately in adjacent spaces of the gallery, creating two versions of the same show. The Instead of spotting differences in aesthetic detail, the curators urge visitors to spot a shift in thought, a ‘second solution to a single idea’.

Shezad Dawood: HMS Alice Liddell
St Pancras International

Shezad Dawood’s St Pancras Wires commission, HMS Alice Liddell, 2022 at St Pancras International station. Photography: PA

Dawood’s new site-specific sculpture for St Pancras International includes references to speculative fiction, steampunk and architecture to imagine a new mode of transportation. The multi-dimensional work, which draws on the station itself, as well as the story of Alice in Wonderland, explores an adventurer of multiple realities which includes an AR counterpart - accessed through a QR code. 

Tschabalala Self 
Coal Drops Yard sculpture 
From 5 October

Tschabalala Self, Lady in Yellow on Spiral Seat #2, 2021. Image courtesy the artist

In her first public art commission, American artist Tschabalala Self will present a large-scale bronze sculpture (her first public artwork commissioned by Avant Arte), alongside a pop-up space with limited edition sculptures, silkscreen prints and a new film with individual responses to the ideas tackled in the sculpture. The installation will be staged on Lewis Cubitt Square, at the northern gateway to the Thomas Heatherwick-designed Coal Drops Yard complex. From 6 October – 17 December, Self will also present ‘Home Body’, a solo show at Pilar Corrias gallery, which will feature paintings, works on paper, furniture and sculpture investigating domestic space.

Michael Armitage: ‘Amongst the Living, with Seyni Awa Camara’
White Cube Bermondsey
Until 30 October

Michael Armitage, Warigia, 2022. Photography © White Cube, David Westwood

White Cube Bermondsey is playing host to two rich creative perspectives: the ethereal paintings of acclaimed Kenyan-born British artist Micheal Armitage, alongside abstract terracotta sculptures by Senegalese sculptor Seyni Awa Camara. The show captures Armitage’s admiration for Camara’s works and marks Camara’s first major presentation in the UK.

Mark Grotjahn: ‘Backcountry’
Until 5 November

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Backcountry Capri 54.74), 2021 © Mark Grotjahn. Photography: Douglas M. Parker Studio, Courtesy Gagosian

In this exhibition of new works, Grotjahn delves into perspective and colour in a series of abstract oil paintings. The graphic images are executed on linen-mounted cardboard, his abrasive strokes on dark grounds explore texture. Some are punctuated by ‘slugs’ which Grotjahn applies by scraping off and then reattaching small rolls of paint.

Barbara Chase-Riboud: ‘Infinite Folds’
11 October - 29 January

Barbara Chase-Riboud. Malcolm X #6, 2003. Bronze and silk on metal. Photography: Mott-Warsh Collection © Barbara Chase-Riboud

In a major new show, American sculptor, novelist and poet Barbara Chase Riboud will present a portfolio of works unifying, yet opposing forces. The show, consisting of large-scale sculptures and works on paper from the 1960s to the present day, celebrates the legacy of Malcolm X, takes inspiration from Egyptian Pharaohs and explores ‘power as wielded by women throughout the ages,’ as the artist notes.

Last chance to see: ‘First Impression’
Charles Burnand Gallery
Until 30 September

Works by Fredrik Nielsen at ’First Impression’. Photography: Sophia Spring

In this group exhibition in Fitzrovia, we see a lineup of glassworking creatives that includes the works of established artist Fredrik Nielsen and Dawn Bendick’s colour-changing stack, as well as an array of emerging artists presenting ceramic-glass hybrids and psychedelic ‘fluid’. The show brings together diverse creative identities under one common passion: glass.

Selfridges x Reference Studios: ‘Superfutures’
Until 16 October

Ottolinger and Jan Vorisek, Devotion Strategy, 2022 at Selfridges. Photography © Lewis Reynolds

Available to view online and in-store, this immersive collation of works from 13 artists will be displayed throughout Selfridges over the summer. The show, curated by Reference Festival and Agnes Gryczkowska, speculates on prospective futures and features contributions from Katja Novitskova, who considers the relationship between technology, biology and ecology, and Jakob Kudsk Steensen, whose Liminal Lands is a digital reconstruction of a landscape in southern France. A specially commissioned work by Monira Al Qadiri aligns sculptures made from Murano glass with inflatables to reflect on the impact of oil drilling. The show cleverly integrates an exhibition that reflects on our role in the planet’s future into the retail environment of Selfridges – beckoning us to question our intent, and encouraging shoppers to be wiser about the brands they choose to support.

Wolfgang Laib: ‘City of Silence’
Thaddaeus Ropac
Until 3 October

Installation view of Wolfgang Laib: City of Silence at Thaddaeus Ropac London. Photo: Eva Herzog © Wolfgang Laib. Courtesy Thaddaeus Ropac gallery

Wolfgang Laib is known for his work in natural materials like pollen, wool, milk and wood, producing pieces inspired by Taoist philosophy and modern sculptors to connect past and present, with perishability as a central theme. In ‘City of Silence’, his beeswax motifs from Mesopotamian pyramids and Christian shrines are paired with brass boats and works on paper to create an impactful city of burial towers.

William Kentridge
Royal Academy of Arts
Until 11 December

William Kentridge in his studio in Houghton, Johannesburg, a purpose-built space designed in 2000 by Pierre Lombart and Briget Grosskopff. Photography: Nico Krijno for Wallpaper’s October 2022 issue

William Kentridge’s long-awaited show at the RA, his largest in the UK to date, is nothing short of a triumph. It spans 40 years of the artist’s wide-ranging practice – including drawing, collage, film, sculpture, tapestry, theatre, dance and music – with many works unseen and created specifically for the show. As Kentridge told us in a recent interview, ‘It’s very much a view from the studio outwards... the studio is the central point.’

Rolls-Royce: ‘Spirit of Ecstasy Challenge’
Cromwell Place
5 - 8 October

In an exhibition for Muse, Rolls-Royce’s arts programme, artists were invited to create works inspired by the luxury car manufacturer’s figurine - the ‘Spirit of Ecstasy,’ with this year’s provision focusing on textiles. Bi Rongrong, Ghizlane Sahli and Scarlett Yang were the emerging artists selected as winners, respectively using stitching, a material newly invented from algae extract and silk protein, and recycled mixed media.

Cecily Brown: ‘Studio Pictures’
Thomas Dane
11 October – 17 December 

Cecily Brown, A Hunting Scene, 2020. © Cecily Brown. Courtesy the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery. Photography: Genevieve Hanson

British artist Cecily Brown is well known for monumental pieces comprising expressive and vivid abstract scapes. In this solo show at Thomas Dane, Brown exposes her audience to more intimate and previously unseen works, Brown notes that ‘it is a lot harder to make a small painting than a big one, minute is often much more.’

Damien Hirst ‘Natural History’
Gagosian, Britannia Street

Damien Hirst: ’Natural History’, installation view, 2022. © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2022. Photography: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd. Courtesy Gagosian

‘Natural History’, spanning 30 years of Hirst’s greatest hits in formaldehyde-preserved animals, is prime-cut Hirst: unflinching and notorious. Through saggy-eyed sharks, bowel-like sausages, flayed innards, six-limbed cows, miscellaneous fish, upside-down sheep and Hunterian Museum-esque jarred organs and the most startling diorama of all: The Beheading of John the Baptist (2006), the show is a reminder of why the YBA icon pricked our ears up in the first place. With simultaneous surveys by Hirst, Francis Bacon and Louise Bourgeois, London’s air is pulsating with pungent, visceral animalism, and it’s stifling. Like it or loathe it, flayed, deformed, dissected, crucified bodies (or parts of them) seem to be de rigueur-(mortis), and Hirst’s show plays a leading role. Maybe what we need is a bit of realism to feel alive, even if it is dead, and marinating in a tank. Read the full review

Simeon Barclay, ‘In the Name of the Father’
Rene Matić, ‘Upon This Rock’
South London Gallery
Until 27 November

Rene Matić, 60 and 25, alive, 2022 at the South London Gallery. Photography: Andy Stagg

Running concurrently at the main building and the Fire Station of the South London Gallery, Barclay and Matić explore identity, legacy and British culture in two structurally different but thematically linked shows. Barclay uses sculpture to incite conversations about space, while Matić’s documentation of culture considers notions of ’Britishness’ through film, photography and memorabilia.

Anton Alvarez, ‘The Remnants’
100 Bishopsgate 
Until March 2023

Anton Alvarez, with work in progress for ’The Remnants’ at Brookfield Properties’ 100 Bishopsgate. Credit: TwobyTwo Photography

Art exhibitions in the heart of London’s corporate ‘square mile’ are rare. Rarer still are those where you can see the work being created in real-time, in full public view. At 100 Bishopsgate, Swedish-Chilean artist Anton Alvarez is presenting the fruits of a month-long studio pop-up, commissioned by Brookfield Properties. Alvarez’s vibrant clay columns debuted a new technique of grinding down old sculptures and reusing the clay, and were produced using the artist’s self-built ceramic press, ‘The Extruder’. ‘Producing the exhibition in the same place it will be shown gave me greater artistic licence – by creating the works on-site I was able to go up in scale and create works that would have been impossible to transport had they been extruded somewhere else’, he says.

Yayoi Kusama: ‘Infinity Mirror Rooms’
Tate Modern
Until 2 April 2023

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room Filled with the Brilliance of Life, 2011/2017, Tate, presented by the artist, Ota Fine Arts and Victoria Miro 2015, accessioned 2019 © YAYOI KUSAMA Photo © Tate (Joe Humphrys)

On the post-lockdown London art scene, there seems to be a recurring theme: immersion. These include Ryoji Ikeda’s sensory ambush at 180 The Strand, and Es Devlin’s recent Forest for Change at Somerset House for London Design Biennale. But Tate Modern is hosting the piece of work that arguably redefined the role of immersion in contemporary art: Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Infinity Mirror Rooms’. The year-long show will comprise two of the artist’s acclaimed mirror room installations in a dizzying marriage of mirrors, light and water, which offers the illusion of limitless space. Also on view is The Universe as Seen from the Stairway to Heaven, 2021, Kusama’s brand new ’peep in’ sculpture, which has been created specifically for the show. At 92, Kusama remains a prolific force: the artist currently has simultaneous shows at Victoria Miro, London, the New York Botanical Garden, and a major retrospective at Gropius Bau in Berlin. She has also recently collaborated with brands such as Veuve Clicquot, which involved a striking sculptural intervention on the French Champagne house’s premium cuvée, La Grande Dame.

‘Ghosts of Empires II’, curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah
Ben Brown Fine Arts London
16 September - 22 October

Tidawhitney Lek, Leaving, 2022. Acrylic and oil on canvas, 117 x 91.5cm

The second of a two-part exhibition (the first having been held at Ben Brown Fine Arts Hong Kong earlier this year) ‘Ghosts of Empires II’ looks to present how artists from African and Asian diasporas explore the legacies of colonialism, imperialism trade, slavery and sovereignty in contemporary culture. In curating the show Larry Ossei-Mensah has brought together an array of 13 artists, related in their experience of the lingering impacts of oppression. The show features influential artists Theaster Gates and Chris Ofili amongst other key painters, photographers, sculptors and mixed media creators - all coming together in a ‘conscious act of liberation.’

Art exhibitions around the UK

Louise Bourgeois: ‘Drawing Intimacy’
Hauser & Wirth Somerset 
1 October 2022 - 2 January 2023

Louise Bourgeois, Untitled (Orbits and Gravity), 2009. Photography: Peter Butler © The Easton Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS

Hauser & Wirth Somerset will unveil an intimate series of works from Louise Bourgeois’ private collection, consisting of plaster sculptures, paintings, drawings and works on paper seen for the first time. The excerpts from the late artist’s collection are largely taken from the final four years of her life, and in true form, are deeply, madly human.

‘Robert Indiana: Sculpture 1958-2018’
Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Until 8 January 2023

Robert Indiana, LOVE (Red Blue Green), 1966-1998, Installation view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2022. Photography: Jonty Wilde. © 2022 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/DACS, London

Late sculptor Robert Indiana was long concerned with the American dream and all it stood for in times of political and social change. His renowned LOVE sculpture (1964) – still as contemporary as ever – welcomes YSP’s guests at the entrance of his exhibition, nodding to the underlying themes of equity and diversity in Indiana’s work. His claim that ‘numbers fill [his] life’, ‘more than love’, proves itself with his brightly coloured ONE through ZERO sculpture, additionally manifesting the repeated use of words and numbers throughout. These ten numbers additionally refer to the cyclical human stages of birth, death, and everything in between.

Writer: Saskia Koopman