fragile beauty
Dakota Hair, 2004, from the Fragile Beauty exhibition at the V&A. Image: Ryan McGinley Studios

The best London exhibitions to visit in 2024

09 Jan 2024 | |By Annie Lewis

From activist art to never-seen-before works from acclaimed painters, here are the shows not to miss in London in 2024

2024 promises to be a bumper year for the capital’s cultural scene, with art fairs galore and a plethora of stage shows to tempt even the most discerning of theatre fans. And, it would seem, London’s art world is no different. As the National Gallery celebrates its bicentenary, and the Tate Modern and V&A showcase big names from Lucian Freud to Yoko Ono, here’s our pick of the must-see London exhibitions to add to your calendar now. 

Lucian Freud’s Etchings: A Creative Collaboration at the V&A

lucian freud
Lucian Freud, trial proof of Pluto Aged Twelve, 2000, etching printed by Marc Balakjian

Kicking off the 2024 exhibition calendar, famous figurative artist Lucian Freud – renowned for his portraits, including the 1985 work Reflection (Self-Portrait) which revealed a stark image of his 63-year-old self – returns to London. Alongside his figurative paintings, Freud also made a series of etchings, often of the subjects and people featured in his other painted works. It’s this selection that has been curated into an exhibition opening at the V&A this month, exploring this lesser-known aspect of Freud’s work and featuring unprecedented highlights collated by master printer Marc Balakjian, who worked with Freud for more than 20 years. 

When: Opens 22 January 2024

Where: Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7 2RL


Barbara Kruger Thinking Of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You at the Serpentine South Gallery

barbara kruger

When deciding on a gallery to present her first solo show in London for more than 20 years, Barbara Kruger naturally chose the Serpentine, which she trusted with her last London group exhibition, Wall to Wall, in 1994. Featuring installations, moving images and soundscapes, this groundbreaking new collection is emblematic of the conceptual artist’s DNA, and focuses on themes of power, gender, class, and capital. 

Highlights include Untitled (Your body is a battleground), first created as a poster for the Women’s March on Washington in 1989 in support of reproductive freedom. Here, Kruger has created a woman’s face split into two halves with contrasting colours, which also can be interpreted as a frontline of a battle.  

When: 1 February – 17 March 2024

Where: Serpentine South Gallery, Kensington Gardens, W2 3XA


Frank Auerbach: The Charcoal Heads at The Courtauld Gallery

Alongside fellow artists Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, German-British painter Frank Auerbach is one of the leading artists in the School of London movement that focused on figurative painting. However, little is known about one of Auerbach’s largest bodies of work: a series of haunting heads drawn in charcoal. During his early years as a young artist in post-war London, Auerbach spent months on each drawing, reworking them during numerous sessions with his sitters. This new exhibition at The Courtauld Gallery, celebrating one of the world’s most famous living artists, will be the first time Auerbach’s extraordinary post-war drawings from the 1950s and 1960s have been brought together as a collection. 

When: 9 February – 27 May 2024

Where: The Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 0RN


Yoko Ono: Music of the Mind at Tate Modern

yoko ono
Yoko Ono, Half A Room

Artist and activist Yoko Ono is a leading figure in the world of performance art, having nurtured her practice in America, Japan and the UK. Today, she is famous not only for her tumultuous marriage to Beatles star John Lennon, but also for her work advocating for world peace, which acts as a central theme to her art. Spanning more than seven decades, Music of the Mind focuses on key moments in Ono’s artistic career – including Cut Piece (1964), which invited visitors to cut off her clothing, to her banned 1996 work Film No.4 (Bottoms) which she created as a ‘petition for peace’ – as well as her years in London from 1966 to 1971, where she met John Lennon. Visitors to the exhibition can also discover a selection of her activist projects, such as ‘PEACE is POWER’ and Wish Tree, where they can contribute their own personal wishes for peace.

When: 15 February – 1 September 2024

Where: Tate Modern, Bankside, SE1 9TG


The Last Caravaggio at The National Gallery

Salome receives the Head of John the Baptist. Image: Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

2024 promises to be a bumper year for the National Gallery, as it celebrates its 200th anniversary with a series of exhibitions from acclaimed artists. One of the most notable puts the spotlight on Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio focusing on the last year of his life – 1610 – during which he created some of his most striking works. Featuring his classic tightly-cropped scenes and dramatic lighting, don’t miss The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula (1610), which will be coming to London for the first time in 20 years, and Salome with the Head of John the Baptist (circa 1609-10).

When: 18 April – 21 July 2024

Where: The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN


Fragile Beauty: Photographs from the Sir Elton John and David Furnish Collection at the V&A

One of the most highly-anticipated exhibitions of 2024 lands at the V&A in May, presenting a collection of modern and contemporary photography on loan from Sir Elton John and David Furnish. Showcasing more than 300 rare prints from 140 photographers – the majority of which will be on display to the public for the first time – Fragile Beauty will be the V&A’s largest temporary exhibition of photography to date and comes after the success of a similar exhibition in 2016 at the Tate Modern. Across eight sections, discover portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Miles Davis, and Chet Baker, as well as historic images ranging from the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s to 1980s AIDS activism and 9/11. 

When: 18 May 2024 – 5 January 2025

Where: Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7 2RL


Zanele Muholi at Tate Modern

Zanele Muholi, one of the most acclaimed photographers working today, will present a collection of 260 incredible photographs spanning the breadth of their career so far at the Tate Modern this spring. Dating back to the early 2000s, Muholi has documented and celebrated the lives of South Africa’s Black lesbian, gay, trans, queer and intersex communities. Highlights include the Only Half the Picture series, in which Muholi captures intense images alluding to traumatic events, exploring how much of South Africa’s LGBTQIA+ community remains a target for violence and prejudice despite the 1996 constitution. Elsewhere, discover Faces and Phases, a portrait series in which each participant looks directly at the camera, challenging the viewer to hold their gaze, and accompanied by testimonies from those risking their safety by living freely in the face of discrimination.

When: 6 June 2024 – 26 January 2025

Where: Tate Modern, Bankside, SE1 9TG


Naomi at the V&A

Image: Marco Bahler

Exploring supermodel Naomi Campbell’s iconic 40-year career in fashion, this eponymous exhibition draws upon Campbell’s own extensive wardrobe of haute couture and leading ready-to-wear ensembles, along with loans from designer archives and objects from the V&A collection. Discover 100 looks from the best of global high fashion and an installation of photography curated by former British Vogue editor, Edward Enninful, while delving deep into Campbell’s global catwalk shows, advertising campaigns and editorial fashion shoots. 

When: 22 June 2024 – 6 April 2025

Where: Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7 2RL


Van Gogh: Poets and Lovers at the National Gallery

Another art icon whose works will be returning to the capital this year is Dutch painter Van Gogh, whose spectacular works will be presented at the National Gallery in a once-in-a-century exhibition. Bringing together Van Gogh’s most-loved paintings from across the globe, some of which are rarely seen in public, see his Starry Night over the Rhône, The Yellow House, Sunflowers and Van Gogh's Chair among many others.

When: 14 September 2024 – 19 January 2025

Where: The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN


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