20 Art Shows to See in London This Summer

Summer is a great time of year to enjoy London’s arts and culture scene. Below is a list of indoor shows, outdoor installations, and art events to help you plan your summer.

Carrie Mae Weems: Reflections For Now

Barbican Art Gallery presents the first major solo exhibition of American artist Carrie Mae Weems in a UK institution. Widely considered to be one of the most influential artists working today, Weems (b.1953) is celebrated for her exploration of cultural identity, power structures, desire, and social justice through a body of work that develops questioning narratives around race, gender, history, class and their systems of representation. 

Barbican (barbican.org.uk)
Silk St, Barbican, London EC2Y 8DS
Through 3 September

Emmanuel Awuni: I Know why the Caged Bird Sings

Emmanuel Awuni (b.1993, Accra) has titled his solo show with Copperfield after Maya Angelou’s 1969 text of the same name, and it is fitting that his first notes on the exhibition came in the form of lyrics or poetry. Angelou, herself a poet, has so well encapsulated the idea of non-violent resistance and growing self-worth through expression, not just in her text but in her title alone that Awuni can extend it to think further about culture, objects, music, people and heritage. While sound and music are at the core of his work, in his own terms, any repressed or muted expression no matter the medium ‘sings’ against the bars when undefeated.

Copperfield Gallery (copperfieldgallery.com)
6 Copperfield St, London SE1 0EP
Until 5 August

Lagos, Peckham Repeat: Pilgrimage To The Lakes

Peckham, a neighbourhood in south-east London is home to one of the largest Nigerian diaspora communities in the UK. This major group exhibition at South London Gallery explores the shared, history, culture and art that connects the local neighbourhood with the largest city in Nigeria. Lagos, Peckham, Repeat: Pilgrimage to the Lakes showcases the works of thirteen Nigerian and British-Nigerian artists bringing together sculpture, photography, sound and film.

South London Gallery (southlondongallery.org)
65 Peckham Rd, London SE5 8UH
Until 29 October

Godfried Donkor: Battle Royale II

British-Ghanaian artist Godfried Donkor has spent the last 20 years researching the social-historical relevance of boxing and its relationship with the slave trade across the UK, USA and Ghana. In his latest exhibition, ‘Battle Royale II’ the artist pays homage to 10 local champions who became legendary figures in Ghana.

Gallery 1957 (gallery1957.com)
1 Hyde Park Gate, South Kensington, London SW7 5EW
Until 12 August

Gary Simmons: This Must Be The Place

American artist Gary Simmons uses imagery drawn from popular culture to create works that address the politics of race, class and social stereotypes. The artists’ first exhibition with with Hauser & Wirth in London presents a collection of new paintings and sculptures.

Hauser & Wirth (hauserwirth.com)
23 Savile Row, London W1S 2ET
Until 29 July

A World In Common: Contemporary African Photography

Unfolding across three thematic chapters of spirituality, identity, urbanism and climate emergency, Tate Modern brings together 36 Artists from different generations and geographies to share their artistic visions that reclaim Africa’s histories and reimagine its place in global society. Curated by Osei Bonsu, the exhibition showcases photography, film and audio that reveal how both the past and future co-exist in transformative ways.

Tate Modern (tate.org.uk)
Bankside, Holland Street, London, SE1 9TG
Until 14 January 2024

Simone Brewster: The Shape of Things

In The Shape Of Things, artist & designer Simone Brewster explores the concept of “intimate architecture” – the affect that texture and three dimensional form have on memory and emotion. Using furniture, painting, jewellery and sculpture to investigate the hidden language behind,  The Shape of Things encourages the viewers to reconsider their perception of everyday objects and the way we interact with them.

Now Gallery (nowgallery.co.uk)
Soames Walk, London SE10 0SQ
Until 24 September

Isaac Julien: What Things Mean To Me

This is Isaac Julien‘s first major UK exhibition. The artist is known for his thought-provoking films and multiple screen video installations that challenge how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. Tate Britain presents 11 films dating back from the early 1980s through to the present day. The exhibition highlights Julien’s critical thinking and the way his work breaks down barriers between different artistic disciplines, drawing from film, dance, photography, music, theatre, painting and sculpture by utilising the themes of desire, history and culture.

The exhibition will present works from early films to large-scale, multi-screen installations which investigate the movement of peoples across different continents, times and spaces. Isaac Julien’s work across forty years will be presented for the first time in the UK.

Tate Britain (tate.org)
Millbank, London SW1P 4RG
Until 20 August

Phoebe Boswell: A Tree Says [In These Boughs The World Rustles]

For the the summer and part of autumn, Orleans House Gallery is presenting Phoebe Collins’ multi-disciplinary installations across its gallery space and surrounding woodlands. Through recorded intergenerational exchanges with elders from around the world the artist emphasises the act of listening encouraging visitors to explore the themes of memory, history and place.

Orleans Gallery (orleanshousegallery.org)
Orleans Rd, Twickenham TW1 3BL
Until 5 November

Eric Gyamfi: Fixing Shadows-Julius and I

Eric Gyamfi examines how photography can shift meanings and histories with his current show at Autograph in Shoreditch. In his first show in the UK, thousands of cyanotype prints cover the walls blending his own image with a portrait of African American composer Julius Eastman (1940-1990).

In a combustible career, the late composer swerved from critical acclaim to gate-crashing controversy, and from success to homelessness. To be proudly gay as a composer in the 1970s was brave enough; to be Black and gay in that world, even more so. But that confident self-awareness enabled Eastman to write music that was challenging, mischievously irreverent and sometimes ecstatic.

Fixing Shadows  – Julius and I is Gyamfi’s personal homage to the composer. Each image is unique, thousands of subtle variations in which their faces merge and reappear in new forms.

Autograph (autograph.org.uk)
Rivington Pl, London EC2A 3BA
Until 2 September

Larry Achiampong and David Blandy: Genetic Automata

The Wellcome Collection’s current exhibition ‘Genetic Automata’ is an ongoing body of video works by artists Larry Achiampong and David Blandy exploring race and identity in an age of avatars, videogames and DNA ancestry. The four films in the series investigate where deeply ingrained ideas about race come from and the role that science has played in shaping these perceptions. The exhibition premieres ‘_GOD_MODE_’, the newest film in the series, commissioned by Wellcome Collection, Black Cultural Archives and Wellcome Connecting Science.

Wellcome Collection (wellcomecollection.org)
183 Euston Rd., London NW1 2BE
Until 11 February 2024

Eastern Voices: Contemporary Artists From East Africa

Addis Fine Art Gallery in London in collaboration with Circle Art Gallery (Nairobi, Kenya) and AfriArt Gallery (Kampala) presents a group show featuring eighteen artists from Ethiopia, Kenya, Egypt, Uganda, Eritrea, and Sudan. This survey exhibition aims to foster dialogues and highlight synergies between artists and galleries working in East Africa today.

Addis Fine Art (addisfineart.com)
183 Euston Rd., London NW1 2BE
Until 11 February 2024

Dawit L. Petros: Recollections

Dawit L. Petros: Recollections draws from and extends the third in this trio of projects. In this exhibition selected works highlight colonial publications that the artist has been collecting since 2010 – maps, aeronautic manuals, postcards, and photographs. These are reimagined and converted into multi-scalar works across an array of media. A monumental mural manifests an imperial structure in unstable, ambiguous ways. A wall sculpture proposes a form for contested territorial claims. Performative, staged photographs juxtapose subjects with charged, symbolic landscapes. These acts of appropriation and transformation are gestures of cultural and ideological resistance intended to reveal the ambiguities and dissonances inherent to colonial documents.

Tiwani Contemporary (tiwani.co.uk)
4 Cromwell Pl, South Kensington, London SW7 2JE
Until 29 July

Ajamu: The Patron Saint of Darkrooms

For more than 30 years, Ajamu has unapologetically celebrated black queer bodies, the erotic sense and pleasure as activism. Ajamu’s evocative photographs present the lives and experiences of himself and those around him. From charged self-portraits to tender depictions of lovers, spirited images of friends to objects that his sitters use, The Patron Saint of Darkrooms foregrounds the community that has fostered an environment embracing the politics of pleasure. Since the 1980s, Ajamu has sought to use sensuality and desire as a creative practice, liberating representations of the black queer body.

Autograph (autograph.org.uk)
Rivington Pl, London EC2A 3BA
Until 2 September

Magdalene Odundo: A Private View

In this exhibition the acclaimed artist presents her vessels and drawings alongside works she has selected from the Crafts Study Centre’s collections.

Crafts Study Centre (csc.uca.ac.uk)
Falkner Road Farnham, England, GU9
Until 19 August

Dear Earth: Art and Hope in a Time of Crisis

Dear Earth is inspired by artist Otobong Nkanga’s suggestion that ‘caring is a form of resistance’. The group exhibition highlights the ways in which artists are helping to reframe and deepen our psychological and spiritual responses to the climate crisis, hoping to inspire joy and empathy as well as promoting a sense of political and social activism.

Hayward Gallery (southbankcentre.co.uk)
Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XX
Until 3 September

Johny Pitts: Home is Not a Place

In 2021, photographer and writer, Johny Pitts, and poet Roger Robinson travelled around the British coast in search of an answer to the question ‘What is Black Britain?’ Their collaboration became Home is Not a Place. Following the coast clockwise, together they set out to document and respond to the many manifestations of Black British culture, and to present an alternative to official and media narratives.

The Photographers’ Gallery (southbankcentre.co.uk)
16-18 Ramillies St, London W1F 7LW
Until 24 September

Chris Ofili: The Seven Deadly Sins

In a new series of works completed over six years, Chris Ofili contemplates the seven deadly sins – a subject with Biblical origins that bears fundamentally on the human condition and human behaviour. The works offer an expansive meditation on sin and the complex experience of sinfulness.  The artist was raised as a Roman Catholic and has always been interested in religion, which he mixes in his work with mythology, contemporary pop culture and art-historical references.

The Photographers’ Gallery (southbankcentre.co.uk)
16-18 Ramillies St, London W1F 7LW
Until 24 September

Hurvin Anderson: Salon Paintings

Over the last 15 years, Hurvin Anderson has repeatedly reworked the same barbershop in a multitude of ways to explore key painting styles, shifting from figuration to abstraction, and experimenting with the classic genres of still life, landscape and portraiture.

The Salon Paintings exhibition focuses on the Barbershop series as a lens through which to understand Anderson’s wider practice and key concerns of memory, identity and nationhood.

The exhibition displays the most comprehensive presentation of the Barbershop series, from the very first work made in 2006 to the latest paintings, Skiffle, 2023 and Shear Cut, 2023, created this spring which culminate the series. Anderson’s studio drawings and related sketches are interspersed throughout the exhibition revealing the subject matter of the barbershop as one that has sustained his approach to experimentation over the past 15 years.

The Hepworth Wakefield (hepworthwakefield.org)
Gallery Walk, Wakefield WF1 5AW
Until 5 November

Aubrey Williams: Future Conscious

October Gallery presents a solo exhibition comprising of a selection of recently rediscovered paintings and works on paper by Aubrey Williams. Future Conscious spans three decades — from the 1960s to the 1980s and highlights Williams’ concerns regarding the mounting problems impacting environmental and ecological stability.

October Gallery (octobergallery.co.uk)
24 Old Gloucester St, London WC1N 3AL
Until 29 July