The Best UK Art Exhibitions of 2021

Shows you won't want to miss this year

Galleries in the UK are now allowed to reopen, which means a whole host of great new exhibitions to explore. Get excited with our guide to the best UK art exhibitions of 2021.

Best Virtual Art Exhibitions

Main image: Van Gogh Experience

The Best Art Exhibitions of 2021


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Hogarth and Europe Tate Britain

Hogarth and Europe

Tate Britain

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Hogarth? Maybe it’s the artist as the ‘father of satire’; that jaunty Brit calling out the pretensions of upper-class 18th Century Britain. Well, prepare for your preconceptions to be rewritten in Tate’s new exhibition. Discussing the trans-Atlantic slave trade, xenophobia, sexual assault, and reframing Hogarth as a man of contradictions, this is one for those willing to go under the glossy veneer of 18th Century society and see this period as it truly was.

3 November 2021 – 20 March 2022 tate.org

Image: William Hogarth’s Marriage A-la-Mode, courtesy of Tate Britain.


Ajlan Gharem, Paradise Has Many Gates–Daytime, 2015.

Jameel Prize: Poetry To Politics

The V&A

Celebrating contemporary design inspired by Islamic tradition, this year’s instalment of the Jameel Prize is one you won’t want to miss. The eight finalists – Golnar Adili, Hadeyeh Badri, Kallol Datta, Farah Fayyad, Ajlan Gharem, Sofia Karim, Jana Traboulsi, and Bushra Waqas Khan – will come together to address global events, lived realities and the legacies of language, architecture, and craft. Catch the exhibition on its opening day, 18 September, when the winner will be announced.

18 September – 28 November 2021, vam.ac.uk

Image: Ajlan Gharem, Paradise Has Many Gates–Daytime, 2015. 

Malala Andrialavidrazana

We Are History

Somerset House

The autumn/winter exhibition at Somerset House aims to change the conversation around climate change, bringing the perspectives of different communities to the forefront. Curated by writer Ekow Eshun, the show features works from nine artists with personal connections to the countries in the Caribbean, South America and Africa, ranging from photography to textile and video.

14 October 2021 – 6 February 2022, somersethouse.org.uk

Image: Malala Andrialavidrazana, Figures 1852, River Systems of the World, 2018

Blackfield by Zadok Ben David

Zadok Ben-David: Natural Reserve

Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art at Kew Gardens

Themes of tragedy and hope are explored in a new exhibition of works from artist and sculptor Zadok Ben-David, opening at Kew Gardens this autumn. The centrepiece is a site-specific floor installation titled Blackfield, which contains over 17,000 steel etched flowers and plays with sensations of perception and perspective. Other works on display include Winter Lights, a large sculpture which takes the form of a tree comprised of interlinked human silhouettes and rusts when exposed to the elements.

16 October 2021 – 27 March 2022, kew.org

UK Art Exhibitions 2021 - The Nature of Thyme - pressed flowers

The Nature of Thyme: An Exhibition of Pressed Botanicals by JamJar Flowers

Thyme, Gloucestershire

The Cotswolds’ Thyme Hotel has teamed up with JamJar Flowers to create an exhibition of botanical illustrations. Alongside JamJar’s signature native flower pressing, visitors can expect to see large-scale artworks inspired by the UK’s natural flora and fauna. The exhibition will be held in the restored Tithe Barn, celebrating the rich water meadows and grasslands that inspire the ‘love of the land’ ethos of Thyme.

15 June – 12 September 2021, thyme.co.uk

Image: Emma Guscott

UK Art Exhibitions 2021 - Summer of Sound, Wakehurst

Summer of Sounds


Six large-scale sound installations will bring Wakehurst to life this summer as part of new programme Summer of Sounds, with works from artists including Kathy Hinde and Marco Barotti. Go after dark to enjoy special performances and open-fire cooking.

9 July – 12 September 2021, kew.org

UK Art Exhibitions 2021 - Silence – Alone in a World of Wounds

Silence – Alone in a World of Wounds

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The Oak Project is an initiative aiming to inspire and motivate public action for the environment through art. This summer, it launches its first artist commission at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, created by artists Heather and Ivan Morison from Studio Morison. In response to the question, ‘Can art save us from extinction?’, the artists developed a sculptural space made of natural materials, designed to act as a quiet space set within nature. The artists ask for silence when viewing it to encourage calm contemplation. Over time, the work will become part of the landscape as the natural weather contributes to its decomposition.


UK Art Exhibitions 2021 - Parham House, Adrian Sassoon

Adrian Sassoon

Parham House

Head to the beautiful Parham House this summer to see a panorama of contemporary works from art dealer Adrian Sassoon. He’ll be staging pieces from his celebrated roster of artists amid the Elizabethan country house, which is located at the foot of the South Downs. Reflecting the rich collecting spirit of the venue, the show will include a mixture of ceramics, glass and silver, with works from ceramicists Kate Malone MBE, Felicity Aylieff and Takahiro Kondo, alongside silversmith Hiroshi Suzuki and glass artist Angela Jarman. Speaking about the display, Sassoon says: ‘Without removing furniture and objects, we have placed an outstanding selection of new and recent work by our international artists, as a collector might do, whilst remaining true to the Parham spirit of the un-changing past being the foundation for today’s living.’ Ahead of the in-person show – which launches in late June – a film and online experience will bring the collection to life.

Online 26 May – 31 August 2021, in-person late June – 31 August 2021, parhaminsussex.com

Image: Colin Reid, Colour Saturation, Open Eye, 2021

Fiona Rae, Abstract 01, 2020

Masterpieces in Miniature: The 2021 Model Art Gallery

Pallant House Gallery

Damien Hirst, John Akomfrah and Michael Armitage are just some of the artists participating in a new miniature artworks gallery at Pallant House. The 2021 Model Art Gallery will feature new works created over the past year by 34 artists, spanning sculpture, ceramics, photography and painting – ranging from the size of a pound coin to 20cm. The exhibition will go on display alongside two earlier model galleries: The Thirty Four Gallery and The Model Art Gallery 2000. Together, the three will form a time capsule showcasing over 80 years in British art – from the surrealists to pop artists.

26 June 2021 – spring 2022, pallant.org.uk

Image: Fiona Rae, Abstract 01, 2020

UK Art Exhibitions 2021 - Van Gogh Alive

Van Gogh Alive

Kensington Gardens

A multi-sensory experience designed to immerse you in the life of Vincent van Gogh is coming to Kensington Gardens this summer. Set to be unlike anything we’ve seen before, special technology will display the artist’s works in a kaleidoscope of colour, set to a classical score of music delivered via a high-fidelity 3D sound system. Sounds, visuals and aromas will transport visitors into Van Gogh’s world, giving the sensation of walking right into his paintings. Create your own souvenirs in a walk-in representation of his Bedroom in Arles painting and take a snap in the mirrored selfie room, an Instagrammer’s dream complete with hundreds of sunflowers.

4 June – 26 September 2021, vangoghaliveuk.com

Sheila Legge, Phantoms of Surrealism

Phantoms of Surrealism

Whitechapel Gallery

On a summer’s day in 1936, a mystery woman dressed in a wedding dress paraded around Trafalgar Square with her head covered in red roses as a tribute to Salvador Dali. It was later revealed as artist Sheila Legge, appearing as ‘the phantom of Surrealism’ to launch the London International Surrealist Exhibition. Now, Whitechapel Gallery is bringing together works, press cuttings and scrapbooks from the original exhibition in a new archive show. It features artists such as Eileen Agar, Ruth Adams, Claude Cahun and Sheila Legge herself.

19 May – 12 December 2021, whitechapelgallery.org

Image: Sheila Legge as Surrealist ‘Phantom’, 1936. Photographed by Claude Cahun.

Beano exhibition, Somerset House

Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules

Somerset House

Somerset House’s major 2021 autumn art exhibition will celebrate the world’s longest running comic, Beano, on its 70th anniversary. Launching this October, Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules is set to feature original comic drawings alongside works from leading artists and designers such as Heather Philippson, Bedwyr Williams and Hardeep Pandhal.

21 October 2021 – 6 March 2022, somersethouse.org.uk

Image: Bash Street Kids, 1982, courtesy of Beano

Lewis Carroll and Alice, Eileen Agar

Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy

Whitechapel Gallery

Surrealist women came into the spotlight in 2020 – and it looks like momentum is set to continue into 2021, with Whitechapel Gallery poised to showcase the largest exhibition of Eileen Agar’s work to date.

19 May – 29 August 2021, whitechapelgallery.org

Image: Eileen Agar, Alice with Lewis Carroll, 1961. Courtesy of a private collection.

Christ among the Doctors, Albrecht Dürer

Dürer’s Journeys: Travels of a Renaissance Artist

National Gallery

This year The National Gallery presents the first major UK exhibition of German Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer in nearly 20 years. Through a series of paintings, drawings, prints and letters, the show explores how Dürer’s travels across Europe sparked an exchange of ideas with other artists, fuelling his curiosity.

20 November 2021 – 27 February 2022, nationalgallery.org.uk

Image: Christ among the Doctors, Albrecht Dürer. Courtesy of Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.

Alexander Calder Portable Sculpture Exhibition

Portable Sculpture

Henry Moore Institute

While we tend to associate sculpture with large, immobile objects, the art form can also be agile and adaptable. This is explored in a new exhibition launching at the Henry Moore Institute this spring, which focuses on sculpture that is deliberately designed to move.

18 May – 29 August 2021, henry-moore.org

Image: Alexander Calder, Chicago Black, 1949 

Art of Banksy

The Art of Banksy

50 Earlham Street

Following tours everywhere from Tel Aviv to Miami, the world’s largest touring exhibition of Banksy artworks is coming to Covent Garden, featuring a vast array of prints, canvasses and sculptures from the mysterious political activist.


Image: Art of Banksy London Ltd.

David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 artwork images

David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020

Royal Academy of Arts

During the first lockdown, David Hockney created a series of artworks on his iPad at his home in Normandy. The 116 works – which Hockney ‘painted’ on the iPad then printed onto paper – chart the unfolding of spring from beginning to end, a celebration that nature continues to blossom in the darkest of times. Almost exactly a year later, the collection is being displayed as part of a new exhibition at The Royal Academy, standing as a reminder of the constant renewal and wonder of the natural world.

23 May – 26 September 2021, royalacademy.org.uk

Image: David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 artwork images.

Alice in Wonderland exhibition, V&A

Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser

The V&A

After being postponed last summer, the V&A’s highly anticipated Alice in Wonderland-themed exhibition is set to debut this March. The immersive show will take visitors on a trip down the rabbit hole with an extravaganza of Alice-related fare – from the original concept art for Disney’s 1951 animated version to Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter outfit.

Until 31 December 2021, vam.ac.uk

Image: Johan-Persson, 2011.

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms

Tate Modern

Prepare to be dazzled at Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms, undoubtedly one of the most highly anticipated art exhibitions of 2021. Going on display at Tate Modern this May after being postponed from its original date last year, the exhibition will feature two spectacular installations. The first is Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled With The Brilliance of Life, which was showcased in the Tate’s Kusama retrospective back in 2012. The second is Chandelier of Grief, a room which creates the illusion of a boundless universe of rotating Swarovski crystal chandeliers. You can expect queues round the block for this one – but it’s on display for a year, so there’s time for everyone to experience the magic.

18 May 2021 – 21 June 2022, tate.org.uk

Image: Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled With The Brilliance of Life, Yayoi Kusama.

The Making of Rodin, Tate Modern

The EY Exhibition: The Making of Rodin

Tate Modern

French artist Auguste Rodin is best known for his bronze and marble sculptures, yet he was also an exceptional modeller. This major exhibition at Tate Modern highlights the crucial role of plaster in his practice, looking at lesser-known pieces and new aspects of his most famous works.

18 May – 21 November 2021, tate.org.uk

Image: Auguste Rodin, Main droite de Pierre et Jacques de Wissant 1885–86, Musée Rodin.

Barbara Hepworth Exhibition

Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life

The Hepworth Wakefield

To mark The Hepworth Wakefield’s 10th anniversary, the gallery is launching the most expansive UK exhibition of Barbara Hepworth’s work since she died in 1975. This will include some of the artist’s most celebrated sculptures, including the modern abstract carving that launched her career in the 1920s and 1930s, plus some carved pieces from later in her career. There will also be works from private collections that have not been on public display since the 1970s, as well as rarely seen drawings, paintings and fabric designs.

21 May 2021 – 27 February 2022, hepworthwakefield.org

Image: Norman Taylor

Helen Frankenthaler, Freefall

Helen Frankenthaler: Radical Beauty

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Opening ten years after her passing, a new exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery will showcase the woodcuts of abstract artist Helen Frankenthaler. Works range from her first woodcut East and Beyond (1973), created on multiple blocks to avoid negative space, and her later triptych Madame Butterfly (2000), which measures over two metres in length and will occupy an entire room in the exhibition.

15 September 2021 – 17 April 2022, dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk

Image: Helen Frankenthaler, Freefall, 1993. Courtesy of 2020 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / DACS / Tyler Graphics Ltd., Mount Kisco, NY.

Paula Rego, The Dance

Paula Rego

Tate Britain

The first retrospective of Paula Rego’s work in 20 years will feature paintings, drawings and prints spanning her entire career, from her early works in the 50s to the acclaimed Dog Women and Abortion series. Across over 100 pieces, the exhibition will tell the story of the Portuguese artist’s extraordinary life, looking at the social-political context in which her works are rooted.

7 July – 24 October 2021, tate.org.uk

Image: Paula Rego, The Dance, 1988, courtesy of Paula Rego