Discover London’s ever-changing & spectacular art exhibitions in 2023 for both local residents & visitors to the capital. Read more on The Ritz London blog.
The Best Art Exhibitions and Museums in London
London is a world-renowned centre for art and is home to some of the most famous and talented painters, photographers and sculptors in the world. Whether it’s the works of the founding fathers of the Royal Academy, the icons of the 19th century or the YBAs of the 1990s that inspire you, all these and much more from artists the world over, reside within the hallowed walls of London’s finest museums and galleries.
The artistic calendar may peak for Londoners in October with the arrival of Frieze art fair, which brings with it the most exciting emerging talent from the contemporary art world, but there’s no shortage of new openings and permanent collections to look forward to no matter when you may be in the capital in 2023.
The ideal pursuit to add a touch of cultural wonder to your family city break, London has many child-friendly galleries to explore right on the doorstep of The Ritz. Institutions, such as Tate, introduce the at-first intimidating great masters of the art world to the art historians of the future with accessible and compelling activities for children of all ages. Additionally, as the fool proof day out for when London’s weather is on the soggier side, it won’t be long before they know their Hirsts from their Hockneys.
However, with many galleries introducing late-night openings for their must-see exhibitions, now a night at the museum is just as an appealing date night activity as a candlelit dinner. There’s now no excuse not to catch the best art exhibitions in London as we’ve compiled The Ritz’s guide to London’s art scene for 2023.
Iconic & Famous London Museums
The capital is no stranger to an icon, be it an architectural masterpiece, a landmark of global significance or indeed an institution of art and culture. With so many options of the latter to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start, so here we present our top ten list of the best museums in London. Whether you’re a local looking for how to spend a rainy Sunday or a tourist on your first trip to the capital, these cornerstones of culture house countless priceless works which never fail to impress visitors on their first encounter or their fiftieth.
10. The Saatchi Gallery
Since it’s opening in 1985, the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea has consistently showcased some of the most ground-breaking art exhibitions the capital has seen. Famously, collector Charles Saatchi championed the Young British Artists, including Sarah Lucas, Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, whose works changed the artistic landscape of Britain with their then-shocking approach to contemporary art and openness to innovation. A must-visit for those interested in finding the next big thing.
9. The British Museum
It doesn’t get much more famous than the British Museum, situated in the artistic heart of London, Bloomsbury. Most well-known for its Ancient Egyptian and Greek artefacts, the British Museum is also home to a wide range of outward looking art exhibitions from artists known the world over.
8. The Courtauld Gallery
Back and better than ever following an extensive renovation, the Courtauld Gallery is home to one of the most significant collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings in Europe. If it’s been a few years since you’ve found yourself lost in Manet’s inimitable ‘A Bar at the Folies Bergère’ it’s high time for another trip to Somerset House.
7. The Wallace Collection
Located in a beautiful town house in Manchester Square, the Wallace Collection is no ordinary West London residence, for behind its doors resides a priceless and distinguished collection of fine and decorative arts. A few jewels in the Wallace crown include Frans Hals’ ‘The Laughing Cavalier’, Fragonard’s ‘The Swing’, Rubens’ ‘The Rainbow Landscape’ and a monumental pair by François Boucher which take your breath away as you ascend the grand staircase.
6. Tate Britain
One of the largest museums in the country and part of the Tate group, Tate Britain, as the name suggests, houses a substantial collection of historic and contemporary works by British artists. Every other year, Tate Britain hosts the Turner Prize, which is awarded to a British artist for an outstanding exhibition, signalling their ongoing commitment to supporting homegrown talent.
5. The National Gallery
A landmark in itself, the National Gallery, located in Trafalgar Square is an unmissable institution for European art, with a collection featuring the very best from Dutch, British, French and Italian artists. You may have seen the masterpieces on show at the National Gallery, such as Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ and JMW Turner’s ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ reproduced thousands of times but nothing can compete with seeing the real pieces up close.
4. The National Portrait Gallery
Having been closed for the past few years whilst undergoing a major transformation, the National Portrait Gallery re-opened to the public in June 2023. The return of one of London’s most-visited galleries was a much-anticipated event on the calendars of tourists and art lovers alike. With its galleries completely refurbished and the collection redisplayed, the summer of 2023 brings the opportunity to see some of the world’s most famous portraits in a whole new light.
3. Tate Modern
A favourite among tourists and Londoners, families and students, art lovers and art sceptics, Tate Modern has long since cemented its iconic status on Southbank. With its ever-adapting approach on how to create the exhibition that everyone is talking about, Tate Modern never fails to capture the zeitgeist, be it with an Instagram worthy and futuristic immersive experience by Yayoi Kusama or a refreshing retrospective on well-loved artists of the past century.
2. The Victoria & Albert Museum
Once the sun sets, a whole new realm of date activities in London open up. A door that you would walk sThere’s a wealth of wonderful museums to choose from in South Kensington but if you’re artistically minded, the V&A is the one for you. With its awe-inspiring sculpture hall and incredible reputation for high fashion exhibitions, you’ll be guaranteed an afternoon surrounded by beauty.
1. The Royal Academy
Perfectly located on Piccadilly, your next destination in central London is A friendly neighbour of The Ritz, Piccadilly’s the Royal Academy is the true home for art in London. Its Summer Exhibition has been a major social event since its launch in 1769, showcasing art in all its forms from Royal Academicians, emerging talent and invited artists. Additionally, the RA’s annual schedule is always packed with thought-provoking exhibitions, so there’s always something new to see that’s worth leaving your Ritz suite for.
Spectacular Art Exhibitions In London
London has always been a global destination for hosting some of the most exciting and ground-breaking exhibitions, including retrospectives of the masters, debuts of up-and-coming talent and now the increasingly popular genre of immersive art exhibitions. 2023 is no different, here are the shows we would recommend snapping up tickets for.
Marvel at masterpieces
If you like your art pre-21st Century, there are plenty of exhibitions to explore this year. Firstly, opening on 11th February, the V&A will host Donatello: Sculpting the Renaissance, which will explore the mastery of one of the greatest and most influential sculptors of all time.
Fast forwarding one month to March (but a few centuries in time) sees the opening of After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art at The National Gallery, celebrating three major artists of the movement: Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin. The exhibition, comprising over 100 works, will take a deep dive into the movement which broke free from convention and laid the groundwork for the modern art we know and love today.
Also focusing on the popular era of Impressionism will be Impressionists on Paper: Degas to Toulouse-Lautrec at the Royal Academy from 25th November onwards. With this exhibition, the RA takes a fresh approach to Impressionism and directs the spotlight towards the drawings and watercolours, often disregarded as preparatory sketches, which are pieces of art in their own right.
Finally, Tate Modern will host Hilma af Klimt and Piet Mondrian from 20th April. Despite the Swedish and Dutch painters never having met, their abstract works show parallels due to their shared interests in spirituality and how they both rooted their art in nature.
Think outside the frame
There’s more to art than just painting and these mixed media exhibitions, focusing on fashion, photography, performance and more are stunning examples of how the art scene has evolved throughout history.
Known for its mixed media exhibitions, the V&A has two lined up this year to look forward to. Running until 16th April, Africa Fashion presents the global impact that African artists and designers have made through photographs, textiles, visual arts and music. Then, in November comes the much-anticipated Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto which is the first UK exhibition to showcase the works of the iconic designer whose immeasurable influence on women’s fashion continues to be felt today.
Meanwhile, Women in Revolt! comes to Tate Britain on 8th November, charting the role of art in activism during the women’s movement of the 1970s and 1980s. The works explore the varying experiences of British, black, and South Asian women, as well as maternal and domestic issues, all through politically engaged performance, film, drawing, sculpture and painting.
At the Design Museum from 7th April, Ai Weiwei: Making Sense will see the globally renowned Chinese artist’s contemplations on humanity, art and activism through a diverse range of disciplines. His inaugural exhibition focusing on design is simply not to be missed.
Don’t just see it, Live it
Immersive art in London has become one of the most popular new ways of experiencing art. Thanks to impressive technological advances, artworks can now be projected into vast spaces whilst still maintaining incredible visual quality, allowing visitors to walk within the brushstrokes and experience the scenes in a completely new way.
Presenting works by greats such as Dalí, Munch, Rousseau and Arcimboldo, Frameless, located just off Oxford Street, offers an audio-visual experience where you can even use your own movements to create masterpieces of your own.
Additionally, at the brand-new venue Lightroom in Kings Cross, comes the arrival of its first ever exhibition David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (not smaller & further away) from 22nd February. Hockney is known to have embraced modern technology throughout his 60-year career with his most recent collection created exclusively on an iPad, yet this exhibition elevates his work to a new level with this state-of-the-art immersive experience.
Mayfair Museums & Exhibitions
Some may not be aware that The Ritz is in fact surrounded by many galleries and museums in Mayfair. Our central location means a cultural outing is only ever a walk away and you can be back in time for afternoon tea. A few of our recommendations for Mayfair museums include HOFA (House of Fine Art), situated just a 7-minute walk away from 150 Piccadilly. A contemporary gallery specialising in supporting both artists who are on their way to the top and those who have already made it, expect exceptional works that may just have to join your collection at home.
Located just a 13-minute walk away, is the international gallery, Pace. Showcasing some of the finest works of the 20th and 21st century, including those by Alexander Calder, Jean Dubuffet, Barbara Hepworth and Mark Rothko, this is certainly worth a detour from your Bond Street shopping trip.
Just around the corner behind Berkeley Square is Gagosian, an 8-minute walk away. Established in Los Angeles in 1980, Gagosian now has a global reputation for producing ground-breaking contemporary art exhibitions of historic and living artists and now even has its own publishing house. If you’re not quite in the market for investing in the art on the walls, the stunning books in the Gagosian Shop are a great place to start.
Finally, Eden Gallery, a mere 12-minute stroll away from The Ritz, presents in their words ‘contemporary optimism and a colourful view of life’. This vibrant space is sure to put a smile on your face and add some colour to your day, especially if the London clouds aren’t allowing for much sunshine elsewhere.
There you have it, our guide to the best museums in London and art exhibitions for 2023 is complete. If you find yourself wandering the famed hallways of any of our recommended spots, we’re sure it’ll be a colourful year ahead.