The best free exhibitions in London right now: culture at no cost


specially in the winter months, London is, as ever, absolutely packed with things to do — and with the weather rapidly turning chilly, what better place to escape to than an art gallery?

But of course, it can all get a bit pricey if you’re not careful. So if you want to have a great weekend seeing some of London’s best culture, but also want to save a few quid, look no further than this guide to the best art shows to see in the city, which are all absolutely free.

Art Now: Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings

Courtesy the Artists and Arcadia Missa, L ondon . Photo by Josef Konczak

Art Now is Tate Britain’s long-running exhibition series spotlighting rising stars in the art scene. Past shows include choreographer SERAFINE1369, Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe aka Cooking Sections, Scottish artist France-Lise McGurn and Polish-born Joanna Piotrowska. Now it’s Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings’s turn to shine.

Quinlan and Hastings’s work uses the traditional fresco painting technique to depict scenes of people, and explores themes of power dynamics and authority in relation to public spaces, architecture and different forms of identity.

Tate Britain, to May 7;

Soheila Sokhanvari: Rebel Rebel

Soheila Sokhanvari, Rebel (Portrait of Zinat Moadab), 2021, Elizabeth and Jeff Louis Private Collection

/ © Soheila Sokhanvari, courtesy Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery

This is the first major UK commission for Iranian artist Soheila Sokhanvari. Here, she paints miniature portraits of both feminist icons and important cultural figures, ranging from 1925 to the 1979 revolution.

Her celebratory portraits will be housed in Barbican’s Curve, which is being turned into an immersive space with geometric shapes hand-painted from the floor to the ceiling. There will be a soundtrack composed by Marios Aristopoulos, and mirrored sculptures with projections from the 2019 film Filmfarsi.

Barbican, to February 26;

Kamala Ibrahim Ishag

Blues for the Martyrs, 2022. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Mohamed Noureldin Abdallah Ahmed. © Kamala Ibrahim Ishag.

Sudanese modernist artist Kamala Ibrahim Ishag. Isha was part of the influential Khartoum School and was co-founder of the Seventies modernist conceptual group the Crystalists, which was committed to novelty and invention. Her famous paintings, where human and plant forms are intertwined, will be on show as part of this comprehensive survey of her work.

Serpentine South Gallery, to January 29;

Out of the Margins:Performance in London’s Institutions 1990s-2010s

Courtesy Whitechapel Gallery Archive. Photograph by Manuel Vason

This show investigates the way that institutions have engaged with live art over the years. The show focuses on key moments over a twenty-year period in London and introduces audiences to the city’s electric modern art scene as you’ve never seen it before: think underground parties at the ICA, the start of the Live Art Development Agency, initiative from The Roberts Institute of Art, and Whitechapel Gallery’s major 2002 exhibition A Short History of Performance (I, II, III, IV).

While you’re at the gallery also check out Donna Huanca’s selection of works from the Norweigan Christen Sveaas Art Foundation. She’s made a multi-sensory environment and investigates themes of colonialism, displacement and artistic creation, on until January 1.

Whitechapel Gallery, to January 15;

LuYang NetiNeti

Courtesy of the artist and Société, Berlin

Chinese artist LuYang’s first solo exhibition in the UK focuses on LuYang’s digital avatar DOKU as they explore opposites – life and death, human and machine, past and present – through moving images, installations, interactive games and videos. The artist’s work is described as “darkly humourous” and as “all-consuming in their visual and sonic intensity”.

Spread across the gallery are half a dozen mind-boggling videos: a choreographed dance video, a video that was shown at this year’s Venice Biennale, a video about gods, moving image works and animations.

Zabludowicz Collection, to February 12;

Amy Sherald: The World We Make

Amy Sherald, For love, and for country, 2022

/ © Amy Sherald, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth, Photo: Joseph Hyde

US artist Amy Sherald has become one of America’s most famous: she’s best known for her official portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama. Her paintings of Black Americans at leisure investigate the Black experience.

“Sherald foregrounds the idea that Black life and identity are not solely tethered to grappling publicly with social issues and that resistance also lies in an expressive vision of self-sovereignty in the world,” says the gallery. In The World We Make she asks audiences to look beyond social constructs, instead reflecting on humans and their interior lives.

Hauser & Wirth, to December 23;

Yinka Ilori: Parables For Happiness

Creative Courts, Yinka Ilori, photographed by Matt Alexander

Yinka Ilori draws on his British-Nigerian heritage to create his accessibility-focused art and design work. He reimagines spaces in cities – often using bright colour patterns and employing geometric shapes – by creating murals, building outdoor gallery trails, installing structures in pavillions and transforming pedestrian crossings.

Her, the artist showcases a range of his work and inspirations including billboard graphics, Nigerian textiles, photographs, furniture and books.

Design Museum, to June 25;

David Altmejd

David Altmejd, White Cube Mason’s Yard

/ © the artist. Photo © White Cube (Ollie Hammick)

David Altmejd’s eerie sculptures fuse old and new ideas through playful use of figure and colour. In these pieces, Altmejd toys with the concept of Trickster archetypes, from Loki – the gender-shifting Trickster from Norse mythology – to Eshu, the Yoruban character navigating between heaven and hell.

White Cube, to January 21;

David Hockney: 20 Flowers and some Bigger Pictures

David Hockney, August 2021, Landscape with Shadows

/ © David Hockney

Sometimes in life we need to see the bigger picture. Like almost every other area in life, art is subject to change, and digital is taking over. David Hockney’s display presents what is possible in this new age – all these dynamic pieces are made with an iPad.

You can certainly see the appeal to the artist of the digital form, with Hockney’s clean strokes complimented by bold and luminous colour choices.

Annely Juda Fine Art, to December 23;

Nana Wolke: Wanda’s

Nana Wolke, Wanda’s, NıCOLETTı, London, 2022

/ Photos by Theo Christelis. Courtesy of the artist and NıCOLETTı, London.

London as a city feels like its own exhibition at times – some of the most simplistic everyday experiences of life in the capital could make compelling art. In comes Nana Wolke, who invited cab drivers, actors and performers to an underpass at the Westway Roundabout, North Kensington.

What unfolded is displayed in paintings of this encounter – will all the potential for rowdiness, sensuality and anything else possible.

NICOLETTI, to January 28;

In Plain Sight

In Plain Sight, Wellcome Collection, 2022

/ Photography: Steven Pocock

As the title suggests, the exhibition explores the different ways we see and are seen by others – as well as sight as a fundamental sensory function in society – by allowing us to view life through the experiences of visually impaired, partially sighted and blind people.

Using VR technology, this unique experience explores four themes: symbolism of the eye, bias in visual perception, eyewear and identity, and the interconnection between senses. A digital display showcases pieces commissioned from artists including Emilie Gossiaux, Nina Manandhar and Alexandra Zsigmondand convened by Whitney Mashburn and Carmen Papalia.

Much of life is based on the dependence of sight – this exhibition challenges its visitors to see things differently.

Wellcome Collection, to February 12;

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