20 best UK exhibitions to book now in 2023 and 2024

The Rossettis 

The largest exhibition of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s work in decades is on show at Tate Britain along with paintings by his wife, Elizabeth Siddal. Fans of pre-Raphaelite art will be thrilled with “The Rossettis”, which features splendid loans alongside much-loved paintings from our national collections. Until 24 September 2023, Tate Britain, London SW1; tate.org.uk

When the Apple Ripens: Peter Howson at 65 

Spanning the length of his career, Peter Howson’s “tense, sweaty, unhappy, creepy and, eventually, rather brilliant” retrospective in Edinburgh shows he has not mellowed with age, said Waldemar Januszczak in The Sunday Times. Until 1 October 2023, City Art Centre, Edinburgh; edinburghmuseums.org.uk

Paul McCartney: Photographs 1963-64

Paul McCartney “was always the most surprising Beatle”, said Mark Hudson in The Independent, and it should come as no surprise that he was, by any standard, “a pretty good photographer”. This fact is confirmed by this exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, which brings together some 250 photographs McCartney took between December 1963 and February 1964. Until 1 October 2023, National Portrait Gallery, London WC2; npg.org.uk

Gwen John: Art and Life in London and Paris

This show at Pallant House in Chichester brings together 113 works from every stage of Welsh-born painter Gwen John’s career. There are some unexpected and rather wonderful images here, said Laura Cumming in The Observer. Until 8 October, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, West Sussex; pallant.org.uk

Essence of Nature 

Newcastle’s Laing Art Gallery surveys late 19th century landscape painting in “Essence of Nature: Pre-Raphaelites to British Impressionists”. The show features works by the likes of John Ruskin and William Holman Hunt, as well as lesser-known painters of the time. Until 14 October 2023, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle NE1; laingartgallery.org.uk 

Herzog & de Meuron 

Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron are the subject of this “unusual” exhibition, said Robert Bevan in the Evening Standard, which promises to lift the lid on their design process. Until 15 October, Royal Academy, London W1; royalacademy.org.uk

Portraits of Dogs: From Gainsborough to Hockney 

Consisting of more than 50 works, this Wallace Collection exhibition explores how artists have depicted our four-legged friends over the centuries – and perhaps more pertinently, what our taste for dog pictures says about us. Until 15 October 2023, The Wallace Collection, London W1; wallacecollection.org

Sonia Boyce: Feeling Her Way

At last year’s Venice Biennale, Sonia Boyce became the first British artist in decades to win the event’s coveted Golden Lion prize. Boyce’s multimedia installation at the British pavilion, “Feeling Her Way”, celebrated the achievements of black British female musicians. After being presented on these shores for the first time at Margate’s Turner Contemporary it is now on show at Leeds Art Gallery. Until 5 November 2023, Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds LS1; museumsandgalleries.leeds.gov.uk 

Grayson Perry: Smash Hits 

Grayson Perry, a satirist who has used cartoonish imagery to subversive effect, has his biggest retrospective yet. Perry’s “Smash Hits” exhibition includes prints, tapestries, clips from his popular TV shows, sculptures, signature ceramic works, and charts his rise from 1980s outsider to household name, all the while using his art to dissect and critique contemporary mores. Until 12 November 2023, National Galleries of Scotland (Royal Scottish Academy), Edinburgh; nationalgalleries.org

Spotlight on Reynolds 

This summer marks 300 years since the birth of Sir Joshua Reynolds, and Kenwood House on the edge of Hampstead Heath is celebrating the occasion by putting its full collection of 17 Reynolds paintings on display. Until 19 November 2023, Kenwood House, London NW3; english-heritage.org.uk


Tartan may well be “the most categorised textile on Earth”, said Cal Revely-Calder in The Daily Telegraph. This show at the V&A in Dundee brings together more than 300 objects to explore tartan’s history and significance, covering everything from Culloden to the Bay City Rollers. Until 14 January 2024, V&A Dundee, Riverside Esplanade, Dundee; vam.ac.uk/dundee

Capturing The Moment 

There is “a lot going on” at this Tate Modern exhibition, said Laura Freeman in The Times. Subtitled “A journey through painting and photography”, the show is a huge and ambitious attempt to explore the relationship between painting and photography from the early 20th century to the present day. Until 28 January 2024, Tate Modern, London SE1; tate.org.uk

Albrecht Dürer’s Material World 

Manchester’s Whitworth gallery is showing its magnificent collection of Albrecht Dürer’s graphic art. “Albrecht Dürer’s Material World” will focus on the German Renaissance master’s intensely detailed depictions of manufactured objects, from weaponry and tools to books and cutlery, considering them in the context of the huge technical developments during the artist’s lifetime. Until 10 March 2024, The Whitworth, Manchester M15; whitworth.manchester.ac.uk

Michael Rakowitz: The Waiting Gardens of the North 

Gateshead’s Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art is showcasing another leading contemporary artist, Michael Rakowitz. The Iraqi-American is best known in the UK for his widely praised sculpture of a lamassu, a creature from Babylonian mythology, on Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth in 2018. In Gateshead, he once again revisits the lore of ancient Babylon to create an installation inspired by both its fabled Hanging Gardens and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Until 26 May 2024, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead NE8; baltic.art 

Marina Abramović 

Groundbreaking Serbian artist Marina Abramović’s long-awaited landmark exhibition at the Royal Academy presents key moments from her career, through sculpture, video, installation and – of course – performance (though not by her in person). 23 September 2023 to 1 January 2024, The Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House; royalacademy.org.uk

Rubens & Women 

“Rubens & Women” at Dulwich Picture Gallery looks afresh at the Old Master’s depiction of the female form, showing more than 40 paintings that rejoice “in bodies of all shapes and ages”, said The Guardian. 27 September 2023 to 28 January 2024, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London SE21; dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk

Sarah Lucas: Happy Gas  

“Sarah Lucas: Happy Gas” celebrates work by the former YBA, exploring themes of class and gender, often with humour and incorporating everyday materials. 28 September 2023 to 14 January 2024, Tate Britain, London SW1; tate.org.uk

Spies, Lies and Deception

Espionage is the theme of Imperial War Museum London’s “Spies, Lies and Deception” exhibition, which brings together some 150 objects from the First World War to the present day. Free entry. 29 September 2023 to 14 April 2024, IWM London SE1; iwm.org.uk

Frans Hals 

The National Gallery’s autumn blockbuster draws together 50 works by Frans Hals, one of the greatest portrait painters in Western art history – including “The Laughing Cavalier”, loaned for the first time from The Wallace Collection. This is the first major retrospective of the Dutch Golden Age painter in the UK in 30 years. 30 September 2023 to 21 January 2024, National Gallery, London WC2; nationalgallery.org.uk

Philip Guston 

Tate Modern will open its long-delayed Philip Guston retrospective on 5 October. Postponed in 2020 over fears that the artist’s depictions of Ku Klux Klan figures might cause offence, the show will trace the career of one of 20th century America’s most influential artists – from his anti-fascist frescoes to his abstract expressionist paintings of the 1950s and 1960s, and the deliberately crude, cartoonish satirical paintings he produced late in his life. 5 October 2023 to 25 February 2024, Tate Modern, London SE1; tate.org.uk 

Sign up to the Arts & Life newsletter for reviews and recommendations