The best free exhibitions in London right now: Free culture
It’s the best time of the year. Summer is fast approaching, these crazy sporadic showers have almost it’s all over and London is absolutely filled with exhibits, people, events and music.
But of course, it can all get a bit pricey. So if you want to have a great weekend seeing some of London’s best culture, but also save a few bucks, look no further than this guide to the best art exhibitions to see in the city, all of which are absolutely free.
Shawanda Corbett at Tate Britain
Art Now is Tate Britain’s long-running series of exhibitions that stimulate rising stars on the art scene. Past shows include choreographer SERAFINE1369, Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe aka Cooking Sections, Scottish artist France-Lise McGurn and Polish Joanna Piotrowska.
Now it’s Shawanda Corbett’s turn to shine. The American artist is best known for his performative pottery and deep body conversations. During his show at the Tate, you can expect a short film (his first, with the catchy title Cyborg Theory: The Matching of Tenderness to Our Antipathy), a jazz score (also written by Corbett) and a set of ceramic vessels – all running side by side to highlight human interaction.
Tate Britain, Millbank, 28 May – 4 September 2022, tate.org.uk
Picasso Ingres: Face to Face at the National Gallery
Woman with a Book is one of Picasso’s most famous paintings, but did you know that it was based on a painting titled Madame Moitessier by the classic 19th-century artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres? Or that Picasso referred to Ingres’ portrait frequently for more than a decade after first encountering the work?
From now on, an exhibition will explore the relationship between Picasso, the man whose work he evoked on several occasions, and the elusive Madame Moitessier. This will be the first time that the two paintings have been brought together.
National Gallery, from June 3 to October 9, nationalgallery.org.uk
Age of Many Posts Weekender at the Barbican Art Gallery
Running for just one weekend, artist Abbas Zahedi takes over the Barbican Conservatory with what promises to be a jam-packed program of exhibitions, screenings, talks, performances and workshops. Zahedi will call on his friends and associates to fill the weekend, which will investigate “the reality facing artists working in the post-war era.”
Although it may seem a little introspective, the activities take place in the Barbican’s Garden Room and Conservatory, one of the best places in London. Plus, Zahedi’s track record (which includes exhibitions at Goldsmiths CCA and residencies at Tate Britain and the Battersea Arts Centre) indicates it will be a treat.
Barbican, June 4-5, barbican.org.uk
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster: Alienarium 5 at South Serpentine
This is a major moment for art lovers, as Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster has her first institutional solo exhibition in London since TH.2058 at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2008. Showcasing nearly all new work, art was created to be site-specific. and extends around the internal and external spaces of the south gallery.
It’s also an exciting cultural option for sci-fi fans, as the exhibit is all about deep space and extraterrestrial life. It promises to be a “speculative environment” that opens minds to “possible alien encounters” – fun!
There is a special VR experience running alongside the exhibition, but it can only be booked in person and there are a limited number of slots available on the day. So if this sounds like your cup of tea, it’s best to arrive early.
Serpentine South Gallery, until September 4 serpentinegalleries.org
Simone Fattal: Finding a Way at the Whitechapel Gallery
Simone Fattal, the famous Lebanese-American artist, presents her first solo exhibition in the United Kingdom at the Whitechapel Gallery. Expect a brick-lined room full of his ceramic figures, as well as watercolors and collages. She explores themes of ancient landscapes, her memories of Damascus, gardens and spirituality and has drawn inspiration from everything from wars and ancient religions to Sufi poetry and migration to create her work.
While you’re at the gallery, there’s a ton of other (free) stuff to check out: an archival exhibit of three legendary art dealers, a collection of curated works by painter Hurvin Anderson, as well as the We Get to Choose Our Families exhibit, an LGBTQAI+ exploration of family ties.
Whitechapel Gallery, until June 14, whitechapelgallery.org
Among the machines of the Zabludowicz collection
It’s a conversation that comes up often: AI, human interaction, and what the future holds for us all. Now you can also think of it as part of a gallery. Among the machines, 13 artists, including Rebecca Allen, Ian Cheng and Jake Elwes, all bring technology to life in one form or another.
There are video installations, sculptures, “interactive computer works” and augmented reality experiences for your smartphone. It all sounds like a fun way to explore our coexistence with other life forms and our potential demise.
Plus, while you’re there, be sure to pop in to the 360: Lauren Moffatt exhibit. There are only a few days left, so you will have to leave soon. You enter a moonlit forest where you are reflected by a flower-like creature – all in virtual reality, of course.
Zabludowicz Collection, to July 17 zabludowiczcollection.com
Larry Bell at Hauser & Wirth
Los Angeles artist Larry Bell shares some of his new works in this Hauser & Wirth exhibit. Its title, Deconstructed Cube Series, is a true description – imagine giant panes of colored glass rearranged to form abstract cube-like sculptures.
Bell was a major player in California’s “Light and Space” movement and it’s always a treat to see his work from this side of the pond (his last show in London was in 2017 at the White Cube). The exhibit is also extremely Instagrammable, if that’s your kind of thing.
Hauser & Wirth, as of July 30, vip-hauserwirth.com
Celine Condorelli at the South London Gallery
There are plenty of great things to see at the South London Gallery: a ‘playground’ by Céline Condorelli surveying culture and society, a film installation by Franco-British artist Alice Theobald about her experience as a Franco- bilingual British in the UK and a “sound work” by Shamica Ruddock.
The 30-minute soundscape invites listeners to “journey through sonic and cosmic worlds” – another out-of-this-world adventure from the safety of a London gallery.
South London Gallery, until June 5, southlondongallery.org
Hidden masterpieces at the Sir John Soane Museum
Even just wandering around every crowded corner of the Sir John Soane Museum is an afternoon well spent, in this somewhat secretive spot in central Holborn. The 18th-century neo-classical architect’s mansion is full of paintings, sculptures, drawings and antiques – all of which are simply part of the collection Soane built up over his lifetime.
Now, Hidden Masterpieces invites guests to view designs that are usually kept under lock and key. So if the idea of a Grinling Gibbons motivates you, this exhibit is for you.
Sir John Soane Museum, to June 5, soane.org
Gallery 31: Peace of mind at Somerset House Studios
Piece of Mind is an exhibition curated by Harlesden High Street Gallery, a space that provides resources for underrepresented artists. The exhibition examines domestic spaces and how their function changes with societal and human progress.
There is a range of multimedia works on display, all focusing on the bedroom as a stage of modern life. So why not spend your time out of bed browsing someone else’s?
Somerset House, to July 17, somersethouse.org.uk
Bethany Williams at the Design Museum
Bethany Williams is best known for creating colorful clothing with silhouettes that are both classic and modern. The Design Museum celebrates the London-based designer in this exhibition which covers her clothing, community projects and her collaboration with Emergency Designer Network to create PPE during the pandemic.
Design Museum, until September 4, designmuseum.org
Virginia Overton at the Goldsmiths Center for Contemporary Art
American artist Virginia Overton takes over the Goldsmith CCA in New Cross. Think of raw building materials salvaged from industrial contexts, used in a combination of sculptures and installations.
Drawing on his memories of the family farm in Tennessee and examining the processes involved in industry and repair, this exhibit is incredibly physical – much of the work is new and was in fact designed to meet the building space.
Overton has previously shown works at the White Cube and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
Goldsmiths CCA, until July 31 goldsmithscca.art
Keith Cunningham at the Newport Street Gallery
In this very well-appointed Lambeth gallery (owned by Damien Hirst), RCA-trained Keith Cunningham exhibits 70 pieces of his work. The canvases are dark and moody, often depicting skulls, dogs, or twisted human figures. One for fans of Francis Bacon and Leon Kossoff.
Newport Street Gallery, through August 21, newportstreetgallery.com/