Five Must-See Art Exhibitions To See In London In 2022

17 January 2022

Museums and art galleries are returning with a bang in 2022 with an incredible choice of blockbuster shows to lure us back to their spaces.

This year, art institutions throughout the capital have programmed a fabulous range of exhibitions, and it’s been a real challenge to choose just five when there are so many tempting shows on offer.

But we did it! And here are our must-see picks…

Van Gogh Self-Portraits at the Courtauld: 3rd February - 8th May 2022

“Van Gogh Self-Portraits” is the first major temporary exhibition at the Courtauld. It’s also the first time there has been a comprehensive exhibition solely devoted to Vincent van Gogh’s self-portraits.

While the Dutch artist may be best known for his paintings of sunflowers and starry nights, this show will focus on how the artist saw himself, during good times and bad.

It’s based around one of Van Gogh’s most famous portraits, which is part of the Courtauld collection, “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear”.

This was painted after a fight Van Gogh had with fellow painter and friend, Paul Gaugin. Famously, Van Gogh sliced off part of his left ear, which he later presented to a prostitute in a local brothel.

The painting will be joined by several works that are rarely loaned out, from museums including the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

“Self-Portrait with a Dark Felt Hat” will also be included, as well as “Self-Portrait with a Palette” – one of his last self-portraits which he painted when he was in the asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

A not-to-be-missed show for fans of Van Gogh.

Louise Bourgeois at the Hayward Gallery: 9th February - 15th May 2022

Who remembers the giant steel spider that was perched outside of the Tate Modern when it opened to the public in 1999?

That, and the towers located in the Turbine Hall, were works by the amazing French American artist, Louise Bourgeois, who created art until she died in 2010.

While she’s best known for her sculptures, installations, and paintings, this new show at the Hayward will focus solely on the fabric and textile works she made in the last 20 years of her life.

She had a strong connection with textiles her whole life – her family had a tapestry restoration business when she was growing up in France.

Some of the pieces in this show even include tapestry materials within them.

And of course, there will be a spider in the exhibition, hovering over a metal cage with fabric works inside.

For Bourgeois, the spider was not something to be scared of, but a creature she viewed as a protector, and a weaver like her own mother.

The exhibition will also showcase her figurative sculptures as well as more abstracted works, exploring her own personal history.

Surrealism Beyond Borders at Tate Modern: 24th February - 29th August 2022

When you think of surrealism, what comes to mind?

Probably Dali’s melting clocks or Magritte’s man in a bowler hat, with an apple obscuring his face.

While many may be familiar with some of surrealism’s famous European artists, this new exhibition at Tate Modern demonstrates the incredible global reach the movement had.

Visitors will be treated to over 150 artworks, encompassing painting, photography, sculpture, and film, from artists in cities including Buenos Aires, Cairo, and Tokyo.

Works by well-known names such as Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, and Instagram favourite Yayoi Kusama will be on show, but the exhibition will also highlight pieces by artists people may be less familiar with.

These include Antonio Berni’s “Landru in the Hotel, Paris”, first shown in Argentina in the 1930s; and Toshiko Okanoue’s “Yobi-goe” (The Call), which responded to the artist’s experience of life in Japan in the 1950s.

As well as looking at the traditional surrealist themes of dreams and the uncanny, the show will also address the political themes tackled by some of these artists.

It’s the first time that many of the works in the show will be displayed in the UK, making this a must-see exhibition for surrealism fans.

Raphael at the National Gallery: 9th April - 31st July 2022  

2020 marked the 500th-year anniversary of the death of renowned Renaissance painter Raphael.

That was when the National Gallery originally planned to open its retrospective. But due to the pandemic, it was pushed back to this year.

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, known as Raphael, was one of the titans of the Italian Renaissance, alongside Leonardo and Michelangelo.

Despite dying at the young age of 37, Raphael made a strong mark in the art world, both at the time and to this day.

He is best known for his fresco “The School of Athens”, as well as his two contemplative cherubs, which are actually just a small detail at the bottom of the “Sistine Madonna” painting but are now better known than the full painting itself.

This major exhibition of over 90 works will not only focus on his paintings and drawings - but his designs for sculptures and tapestries and his explorations into architecture and poetry.

William Kentridge at the Royal Academy: 24th September - 11th December 2022

William Kentridge is probably one of the best-known artists from South Africa and this exhibition will feature a wide selection of his works that span his 40-year career.

Born in Johannesburg in the 1950s, Kentridge is respected for his broad repertoire of works, from paintings and drawings to animations and sculptures.

He has also produced performance pieces and has collaborated on theatre productions.

This exhibition will showcase all these media and more – he has also created tapestries and made his own mechanical theatre.

Highlights of the show include the first UK screening of Kentridge’s animated film Waiting for the Sibyl.

Kentridge will also be creating a site-specific drawing on the walls of the gallery to complement his 1997 film Ubu tells the truth.