Culture /

New UK Cultural Openings for 2019

Swoop in on the new year, culture vultures!

This post may contain affiliate links. Learn more


These openings are revving up a new year filled with brand spanking new cultural must-dos. Hop to these exhibitions and events and begin 2019 on an culture high…

New UK Cultural Openings for 2019

Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition

Nelson Mandela


A major exhibition about the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela will be making its world debut in London’s 26 Leake Street this February. Visitors will have the opportunity to get up close to artefacts that have never been seen outside his native South Africa before, alongside immersive presentations and scenic re-creations. Items on show include the suit worn for the opening of the South African parliament in 1996, his presidential desk and chair, his iconic beige trench coat, and the traditional head dress gifted to him by The King of Xhosa people. Visitors will be taken on a journey through Mandela’s life, from his beginnings in rural Mvezo, through years of struggle against the apartheid regime, to his final years as South Africa’s first black president. The exhibition marks 100 years since his birth, and five years since his passing. 8 February-1 April

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing

To mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, 144 of his greatest drawings in the Royal Collection will go on display in exhibitions around the UK including in Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield. Then in May, the drawings will be brought together to form an exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace, which will be the largest exhibition of Leonardo’s work in over 60 years, before travelling to The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in November. From February 2019

Smoke and Mirrors: The psychology of magic

The first ever exhibition to focus on the relationship between magic and psychology is coming to London’s Wellcome Collection this April. Explore psychology experiments, spirit photography and magic props, and learn about the history of magic, from 19th century séances to contemporary illusionists. Learn how cognitive flaws allow masters of the art to fool us into believing we’ve seen magic, and look at items used by Derren Brown and Tommy Cooper. Themes of horoscopes and hypnotherapy will also be put under the microscope, exploring how magicians control our minds. 11 April-15 September

Alfred Munnings: War Artist, 1918

This exhibition focuses on Alfred Munnings’ time with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War, featuring over 40 original paintings, displayed together in England for the first time in a century. Including equine subjects, portraiture and pastoral landscapes, these impressionist paintings highlight the role of horses in military operations and capture their beauty in the war-torn landscapes of France in 1918. National Army Museum; 30 November 2018 – 3 March 2019.


De Velde
This new exhibition explores the history of ice skating as a practical means of transport, a sport, a pastime, and an art. Skating presents a fascinating collection of 30 works from the past 400 years, ranging from 17th-century Flemish painting and Victorian panoramic scenes to 20th-century photographs, vintage skates and Pathé films. In 1605 James I chanced upon the village of Newmarket whilst out hunting and recognised the open, flat Suffolk plains as an ideal location upon which to race his string of horses. Subsequently, the town came to be regarded as the epicentre of the British horse racing industry – but the nearby rivers, fens and waterways also provided an alternative transportation network and source of sporting endeavour in the teeth of winter. National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art; 15 November 2018 – 28 April 2019

Albert Irvin and Abstract Expressionism

Irvin Almada

This is the first retrospective of British abstract expressionist artist Albert Irvin, and a 60th anniversary celebration of the seminal exhibition The New American Painting. Albert Irvin RA OBE (1922-2015) was one of Britain’s most important post-war painters and printmakers. He is best known for his large-scale abstract colourist paintings – some of the most distinctive to have ever been produced in this country. In 1959, Irvin visited an exhibition called The New American Painting at Tate. It brought the boldest and best new artistic talent from across the Atlantic to London. The exhibition redefined what was possible for a generation of British artists. For Irvin, it was an epiphany. Royal West of England Academy8 December 2018 – 3 March 2019

Fernand Léger: New Times, New Pleasures


This exhibition brings together more than 50 works by the renowned painter, sculptor and filmmaker Fernand Léger (1881-1955). Léger’s paintings, murals, film and textiles are infused with the bustle and rhythm of modern life. He drew on photography and new forms of communication that boomed during the ‘mechanical age’ of the 20th century such as typography, advertising and graphic design. Tate Liverpool; 23 November 2018 – 17 March 2019

Cirque du Soleilis: TOTEM

Cirque du Soleilis’ famous TOTEM will return to London in January 2019. Approaching it’s 10th successful year of touring since it’s 2010 debut, TOTEM is a fantastical glimpse into the journey of mankind. On an island evoking the shape of a giant turtle, TOTEM traces the fascinating journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly. Through a visual and acrobatic language, TOTEM explores the ties that bind Man to other species, his dreams and his infinite potential. Cirque du Soleil or; 12 January 2019 – 9 February 2019