From peerless portraits to poptastic prints, discover this season’s top photography exhibitions in London.
Don’t let the bleak weather drive you down. There is loads of great exhibitions to catch in the Big Smoke, and some of the best among them are photography shows. From prize-winning portraits to iconic rock memorabilia, there’s tons of exciting images to discover.
The Photographers’ Gallery
Until 7 June
See the most cutting-edge snaps at the photography world’s equivalent to the Turner Prize. Shortlisted this year are four very different photographers, taking shots of everything from the blue skies above former Nazi concentration camps to marginalised youths in the Paris suburbs. We’re rooting for British artist Mark Neville, who photographed the quirky occupants of so-called ‘Little Britain’ in northwest France as part of a new, Brexit-themed project.
National Portrait Gallery
Until 16 February
For as long as people have been taking photographs, artists have been snapping portraits of people. In the age of the selfie, you might be tempted to think the artform is obsolete, but looking at the shortlisted artists for this year’s Taylor Wessing Prize, there’s little doubt that portrait photography is alive and kicking. Explore these penetrating likenesses at the National Portrait Gallery this season.
Observatory Photography Gallery
Until 30 April
Being a familiar face on the UK stand-up circuit has given comedian-turned-photographer Steve Best exclusive access to some of the industry’s top performers, including Jimmy Carr (pictured above), Stewart Lee, Harry Hill, Jack Whitehall, Robin Ince and Jo Brand. Get a backstage pass to the world of comedy with this revealing and frequently funny exhibition.
12 March – 6 September
This major retrospective – the first Warhol exhibition at the Tate for 20 years – charts the career of one of the most celebrated visual artists of the 20th century. Warhol is best-known for prints embracing consumerist and celebrity culture, including iconic pop images of Marilyn Monroe, Coca-Cola bottles and Campbell’s soup cans, but there was so much more to his varied art practice, including film poster and album cover design.
Until 3 May
Film director and Turner Prize winner Steve McQueen invited every Year 3 pupil from London’s state, independent and faith schools to have their photograph taken by a team of specially trained Tate photographers. The outcome is a large-scale installation that adds up to one of the most ambitious portraits of a generation you’ll likely to ever encounter. And while you’re at it, head over to see more work by the multi-talented McQueen at Tate Modern until 11 May.
Until 15 March
Photographer Dora Maar was best known for her surrealist photomontages, but she was extremely prolific and turned her hand to most things, including street photography. She also had a turbulent relationship with Pablo Picasso and is famously the subject of his painting Weeping Woman. As an overlooked master of the camera Maar is therefore well worth discovering for yourself. Her work offers a window on to an exciting period of fierce experimentation and creativity.
Barbican Art Gallery
20 February – 17 May
In this survey show, curators at the Barbican explore how masculinity has been depicted by artists from around the world, in the process discovering just what it means to be male in the 21st century. The exhibition includes work by Robert Mapplethorpe, Annette Messager and Peter Hujar.
National Portrait Gallery
12 March – 7 June
As we embark on the 2020s, it’s only fitting that we take a look back at the 20th-century’s ‘roaring twenties’, with its stylish celebrities and ‘bright young things’. At the centre of this world was British photographer Cecil Beaton, who documented all the glamour of an era that saw the liberal mixing of high society and avant-garde culture. Explore how this middle-class, suburban schoolboy became the unrivalled star of Vogue magazine.
Museum of London
Until 19 March
This free exhibition on the classic British punk band The Clash might not be a photography show per se, but it does include an object from one of the most iconic of all rock-related photographs. As well as music and memories from the band’s history, you can also see the very guitar that bass player Paul Simonon is shown smashing up on the famous cover of the Clash album London Calling.