Art capital: top ten London exhibitions

Autumn and winter are the best seasons for art in the Big Smoke. Here’s our rundown of 10 must-see shows to catch when you take a GWR train to London Paddington.

Antony Gormley

Royal Academy of Arts
Until 3 December 2019
British sculptor, Antony Gormley – best-known for his Angel of the North in Gateshead – is one of the country’s most famous artists, producing striking figurative sculptures using traditional, industrial materials, such as weathered steel. This latest show looks to be a massive hit, with works spanning the artist’s 45-year career, as well as brand new installations that will test the limits of the Royal Academy’s architecture.
Tickets £18–£22 (concessions available)

Gauguin Portraits

National Gallery
Until 26 January 2020
Van Gogh’s roommate, and globe-trotting artist, Gauguin spent his most productive period living in French Polynesia, where he developed his distinctly colourful style. The national Gallery show is the first to be dedicated solely to his portraits, spanning his entire career, from his early years to the latter period spent abroad.
Tickets £22 Monday – Friday, £24 Saturday – Sunday

Lucian Freud: The Self-portraits

Royal Academy of Arts
27 October 2019 – 26 January 2020
The London-based artist, and one-time friend of Francis Bacon, was considered the most psychologically penetrating portrait artists of his time, with his paintings achieving seemingly impossible degrees of soul-searching. It’s a great opportunity to see one of the 20th century’s greatest artists turning his scrutinous eye on himself.
Tickets £18 (concessions available)

Shana Moulton

Zabludowicz Collection
Until 15 December
The Zabludowicz Collection has garnered a name as one of the city’s foremost contemporary art galleries, commissioning cutting-edge work from around the world. This season they introduce American artist Shana Moulton, best-known for her tongue-in-cheek videos and performances that explore new-age mysticism, often set in kitschy domestic scenes. It’s barking – but great fun!
Free admission

Elizabeth Peyton: Aire and Angels

National Portrait Gallery
Until 5 January 2020
Elizabeth Peyton rose to fame in the 1990s with her informal yet intimate portraits of celebrities, often copied from glossy magazines. Her stylishly low-key paintings are like high-end fan art, indicative of a more innocent age. See portraits of Kurt Cobain, David Bowie, Frida Kahlo and more.
Free admission

David Hockney: Drawing from Life

National Portrait Gallery
27 February – 28 June 2020
One of Britain’s best-loved artists, David Hockney has been an innovator since the 1960s, reinventing himself every decade. The outcome is an astonishingly versatile body of work. Underpinning his curiosity is a love of drawing. From 27 February, you can see around 150 of the great man’s sketches, including intimate self-portraits, studies and drawings of friends and family, including the artist’s mum.
Tickets £17.20

Tim Walker: Wonderful Things

Until 8 March 2020
Tim Walker is one of the country’s most imaginative fashion photographers, creating beguiling fantasy worlds full of giant dolls, oversized skeletons and creepy puppets. Explore his creative process at the V&A, through pictures, films, photographic sets and special installations, including an insight into the images that have most inspired his art.
Tickets £15

Hogarth: Place and Progress

Sir John Soane’s Museum
Until 5 January 2020
The great artist, satirist and life-long Londoner, William Hogarth was a hugely prolific force in 18th century England, casting his critical eye on subjects as varied as marriage, vice and excess, as well as everyday life. See some of his best-loved works in this exhibition, including Rake’s Progress, Gin Lane and Beer Street. Better still, you can see these works in one of the capital’s hidden gems, the Sir John Soane’s Museum.
Free, but booking essential

Bridget Riley

Hayward Gallery
23 October 2019 – 26 January 2020
Nothing says 1960s visual culture like Bridget Riley’s groovy paintings, full of wavy patterns and mind-bending optical tricks. Check out her first UK survey show for 16 years at the Hayward, where you can see her iconic black-and-white paintings, early representational paintings, recent wall paintings, as well as studies and preparatory material.
Tickets £18 (concessions available)

Feast for the Eyes – The Story of Food in Photography

The Photographers’ Gallery
18 October 2019 – 9 February 2020
Get stuck into this delicious array of images, exploring the rich history of food in photography. Discover the relationship between photography and still-life painting; consider food as a ritual and a facet of culture; and finally, food photos imbued with good dollop of humour. A smorgasbord of nourishing imagery awaits you.
Exhibition Day Pass £5/£2.50 (free from 5pm daily)