Kicking yourself that you didn’t get to take in THAT exhibition before London’s museums closed their doors? It’s hard enough to catch all the brilliant shows the cultural sector offers at the best of times, let alone when the city is in lockdown. And it’s still uncertain which exhibitions will have their runs extended after the Coronavirus crisis, whenever that might be!
The silver lining is that museums have risen to the challenge, finding innovative ways to share the stories and content of their exhibitions. In the words of the Southbank Centre, the show must go on(line). Take a virtual tour, tune into top documentaries, bop along to curated playlists, pore over exhibition guides or pour yourself an exhibition inspired quarantini. Here is my pick of London’s best current temporary exhibitions to visit NOW, from home.
Among the Trees at Hayward Gallery
Original opening dates: 4 March – 17 May 2020
This thoughtful show conveys the beauty and mystery of trees, whilst also raising questions about the climate emergency, urbanisation, deforestation and the eviction of indigenous forest-dwellers. Take a virtual tour through its sculptures and installations, photography, painting, video and digital art by 38 artists. Enjoy 54 tracks that reference, or are inspired by, interactions with trees, forests or woodland with their special Spotify playlist. Find more Southbank virtual culture here: https://southbankcentre.co.uk/blog
Andy Warhol at Tate Modern
Original opening dates: 12 March – 6 September 2020
Take a new look at the extraordinary life of the life and work of the pop art superstar. In this episode of Museums in Quarantine, Alistair Sooke takes us through the eerily empty exhibition and argues Warhol might be the most significant artist of the second half of the 20th century, not only predicting but creating a world obsessed with hyper-consumption, mass media and celebrity.
Want more Warhol? Join Tate curators Gregor Muir and Fiontán Moran in this exhibition tour as they discuss the artist through the lens of the immigrant story, his LGBTQI identity and concerns with death and religion.
Read the exhibition guide, ponder the role of persona in art with this podcast, and learn how to print like Warhol with artist Marianne Keating.
Aubrey Beardsley at Tate Britain
Original opening dates: 4 March – 25 May 2020
Sex and death in black and white – Aubrey Beardsley shocked and delighted late-Victorian London with his sinuous drawings. Read this guide which accompanies the largest exhibition of his work for over 50 years. For those in a hurry, here’s the story of Beardsley in five artworks. Or join Curator Stephen Calloway and drag king Holly James over a cuppa discussing the ‘dos and don’ts’ of dandyism according to artist Aubrey Beardsley.
In Scandal and Beauty, life-long fan Mark Gatiss delves into the artist’s short but scandalous life to reveal technological innovation and a remarkably modern uncompromising attitude.
British Surrealism at the Dulwich Picture Gallery
Original opening dates: 26 February – 17 May 2020
Explore the British origins of surrealism, and the lasting influence of the art movement on famous British artists. Listen to the accompanying audioguide for insights into works by Paul Nash, Leonora Carrington and more, along with readings by surrealist poet David Gascoyne.
Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things at National Portrait Gallery
Original opening dates: 12 March – 7 June 2020
Confirmed new dates: the NPG will remain closed until 2023, after its refurbishment
Curator Robin Muir takes you on a virtual tour of Cecil Beaton’s photographs of High Society, socialites and the avant-garde. You’ll find the four films on the exhibition’s main page. And you can get a literal taste of the glamour and glitz of the (nineteen) twenties and thirties with one of these Jazz Age cocktails inspired by the exhibition. Quarintinis never tasted so good. Play BBC Radio 3 programme Slebs: Warhol, Beaton and celebrity culture at the same time for an extra culture fix.
The Clash: London Calling at the Museum of London
Original opening dates: 15 November 2019 – 19 April 2020
40 years after the release of the groundbreaking ‘London Calling’ album, this exhibition brings together more than 150 items from the Clash’s personal archives. You can take an exhibition tour with this BBC Culture in Quarantine documentary.
Or download the free app ‘Smartify‘ and search for Museum of London to find out more about 27 key objects. From album artwork to Topper’s drumsticks and THAT smashed guitar, each featured object has a short description and links to video, radio and music clips.
Gauguin and the Impressionists at Royal Academy of Arts
Original opening dates: 29 March – 14 June 2020
Confirmed new dates: from when the Royal Academy reopens until mid-October
Manet, Renoir, Monet, Degas, Pissaro, Delacroiz, Courbet, Cézanne, Matisse – and of course, Gauguin all feature in this show. Expect vibrant colours, sun-drenched scenes and some surprises in this show of 60 paintings from the Danish Ordrupgaard Collection. Whilst we eagerly await the opening of the exhibition, start by exploring Paul Gauguin’s life and work in this minute-long video.
Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk at V&A Museum
Original opening dates: 29 February – June 21 2020
Kimono – traditional dress or a constantly evolving fashion icon? In this five part tour, Curator Anna Jackson guides you through the V&A’s Kimono exhibition, providing a personal insight into the making of the show, star exhibits and the fascinating history of the garment. You can see still images inside the exhibition in this article, read more about street inspired kimono or find out how Akira Times styles his with a mohawk, red nail varnish and a beard in this video.
Thirst for more V&A? Get behind the scenes with the six part BBC series ‘Secrets of the Museum’ over on iPlayer
Leon Spilleart at Royal Academy of Arts
Original opening dates: 23 February – 25 May 2020
Confirmed new dates: the exhibition will remain open until mid-September
Take an atmospheric tour through the unsettling drawings of Belgian artist Leon Spilleart. Much of his intense, brooding art was inspired by late night walks through the windswept seaside town of Ostend. The simplistic beauty of his slightly sinister works seem particularly poignant in our new age of anxiety.
Masculinities: Liberation Through Photography at the Barbican
Original opening dates: 20 February – 17 May 2020
This exhibition puts maleness under the microscope, exploring how masculinity has been performed over the last 60 years through photographs and film. Get a great overview of the themes with the exhibition guide. Watch these playful, pastel-hued short films exploring male identity. Top off your TBR pile with this pick of books exploring what it means to be a man in today’s world. Or listen to this Masculinities playlist.
Picasso and Paper at the Royal Academy
Original opening dates: 15 January – 13 April 2020
Expect a fresh perspective on Picasso, through the intimate medium of paper in this virtual exhibition tour. Curator Anna Dumas gives another view inside the exhibition in this short film. And if you’re looking to make some art in your isolation, explore five of Picasso’s paper techniques that you can try at home.
Titian: Love, Desire, Death at National Gallery
Original opening dates: 16 March – 14 June 2020
Confirmed extension, exact dates to be announced
All six of Titian’s radical and sensuous ‘poesie’ paintings have been brought together for the first time in nearly 500 years. Only open a few days before lockdown, the good news for Londoners is that the show will be extended once the gallery reopens, unfortunately at the cost of its Edinburgh stint. Meanwhile, here’s a playlist of ten Titian videos from the museum’s YouTube channel, including Mary Beard looking at Titian’s reinvention of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharoah at the Saatchi Gallery
Original opening dates: 2 November 2019 – 3 May 2020
Whizz through 150 objects from the most famous Pharaoh’s tomb, including the world famous gold coffinette. Learn more about highlighted items on this page, from dramatic statues to humble looking food containers. And you can dig deeper into the boy-king’s life with the four part series Tutankhamun by Dan Snow.
Kids can take a short exhibition tour with Gemma Chandler from National Geographic Kids. The downloadable Tutankhamun’s Treasure Resource Kit is perfect for a bit of at home learning, and there’s fun activities from printable mazes to learning to juggle like an Egyptian on this page.