Here you can find all of our recommended art exhibitions in one place. Below is a list of our 7 must-see art shows for the month, along with a navigation that can take you to smaller weekly listings that are worthy of note. This section is updated with new shows every week. If you want to see exhibitions in London or in your area simply go to our Artist Calendar – let us know about an exhibition using the form at the bottom of that page for the chance to be included in one of our Art Exhibitions on Now posts!
7 Unmissable Art Exhibitions on in May
This month’s not to miss choices include interactive artworks, towering sculptures, and work that has never been exhibited in the UK before.
1. Francis Bacon
‘I would like my picture to look as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail leaving its trail of the human presence… as a snail leaves its slime.’
Francis Bacon is considered one of the greatest British painter of the post-war period. His searing and raw images – contorted limbs, bloody scenes, howling mouths –
expose humanity’s basic instincts and explore nihilism and death at a time when Europe had been ravaged by war. Inspired by both the Old Masters and Surrealism, he was known for his fixation on personal motifs and heavy experimentation. Bacon is best known for his depictions of popes, crucifixions, and portraits of close friends.
The loan of two important early paintings by Bacon provides a rare opportunity to look at the work of this artist in a small but powerful display. Bacon’s paintings have the power to unnerve us and hold our attention, forcing us to consider some of the unpalatable truths that lie beneath everyday life. Despite being painted up to seventy years ago, Bacon’s works still continue to shock viewers.
This exhibition is showing at the Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art until 2 June 2019.
2. Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Lee Krasner was one of the pioneers of Abstract Expressionism and her work came to epitomize the features that made the group so groundbreaking; in particular, the feeling of possibility, chance and experimentation in New York in the post-war period. The exhibition celebrates and explores Krasner’s spirit for invention and tells the story of a formidable artist whose importance has often been overshadowed by her marriage to Jackson Pollock, one of the most renown Abstract Expressionists.
Krasner was determined to find new ways to capture inner experience and is now regarded as a key transitional figure within abstraction. She connected early twentieth-century art with the new ideas of postwar America and she is one of the few female artists to have had a retrospective show at the Museum of Modern Art.
The exhibition includes a huge selection of Krasner’s work, from early self-portraits and charcoal life drawings to designs for shop window displays and her acclaimed ‘Little Image’ paintings from the 1940s. The exhibition also features a selection of her most impressive large-scale abstract paintings. After Pollock’s early death in 1956, Krasner made the courageous decision to claim his studio as her own, which allowed her to work for the first time on large, unstretched canvas tacked to the wall. The result is a remarkable exploration of scale, form and colour which formed some of her most celebrated work.
This exhibition is showing at the Barbican until 1 September 2019.
3. Franz West
From abstract and interactive sculptures to collage and furniture, Franz West captured a new ‘punk aesthetic’ that was both lighthearted and deeply philosophical. Working in response to the Actionist and Performance Art of the 1960s and 70s, West rejected the idea of a passive relationship between artwork and viewer. He is best known for sculpture and furniture-based installation work with a strong interactive or performative element. His work is informed by the psychoanalysis of Lacan and the philosophy of Wittgenstein and investigates the relationship between what we see and how we encounter it physically.
Made from simple materials, typically papier maché or plaster, the rough-finished surfaces demonstrate West’s hands-on approach in which art is part of the everyday. A turning point in the relationship between art and its audience, his Passstücke, or Adaptives, begun in 1974, are small sculptural objects to be manipulated by the viewer. These ‘ergonomically inclined’ objects become works of art only when touched, held, worn or carried. Visitors to this major retrospective will be able to handle replicas. West also created playful sculptures incorporating objects from everyday life such as a hat, a broom, or a whisky bottle. In his final years, he produced large, brightly coloured and absurd sculptures both for galleries and public spaces.
This exhibition is showing at the Tate Modern until 2 June 2019.
4. How Chicago! Imagists 1960s & 70s
Chicago saw an explosion of artistic activity centred around the Chicago Imagists in the mid-1960s. Associated with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, their work was distinct and lively, united by their complete uninvolvement with New York art world trends. The group shared an enthusiasm for surrealism, art brut, comic books, non-western and ‘self-taught’ artists, commercial advertising and the music, markets, and architecture of Chicago.
The group absorbed popular culture, appropriated images and shared puns and wordplays in much the same way as Pop Art – hence the comparisons – however, and most importantly, it was defined by Chicago and remained very much a Chicago thing. Moreover, the group was largely oblivious to minimalism and post-minimalism, conceptual art, and the mass popularity of abstraction. They experimented with vibrant colours, distorted figuration, shimmering repetitions; they blended art history, folk art and the urban fabric of Chicago to create something entirely personal to them.
5. Edvard Munch: love and angst
Edvard Munch and Scream are household names, synonymous with grief, anxiety and dread. Yet, as this exhibition explores, Munch was multi-talented and experimented with various mediums and styles. He was lesser known for, yet equally as skilled with, woodcut prints and etches. Influenced by Gauguin and the etchings of German artist Max Klinger, Munch experimented with prints as a medium to create graphic versions of his works. In 1896 he created his first woodcuts – a medium that proved ideal to Munch’s symbolic imagery.
Like in his famous paintings, his prints explore and expose the depths of his feelings and anxieties: the stages of life, the femme fatale, the hopelessness of love, anxiety, infidelity, jealousy, and sexual humiliation. The exhibition also shows how new ideas about personal and political independence gave rise to an important voice within Munch. Rebellious and hungry for new experiences, Munch rejected his strict Lutheran upbringing and pursued an unconventional lifestyle. He travelled across Europe, drawing artistic inspiration from love affairs and the artistic circles he encountered. As a result, Munch’s work articulated his experiences of life in a rapidly changing Europe.
This exhibition is showing at the British Museum until 21 July 2019.
6. Ideas Depot
Most would agree on the important role art plays in education – it plants and shapes ideas, teaches us to ask questions, to look more intently, to step back and look less intently. It encourages us to think differently and challenge our own perception and understanding of what we see around us.
Tate Liverpool have harnessed this idea in their new display Ideas Depot. Co-curated with primary school teachers across the city, this unique display of artworks has been chosen for primary school children in an aim to inform and enrich their development. The selection includes works by artists including Anya Gallaccio, Salvador Dalí and Chris Ofili. Works will be swapped in and out as the primary schools in residence pick and choose new ones from the art stores. Open to the general public and not just schools, this exhibitions hopes to show that through art we can always learn something new – about history, the world, and our place in it.
This exhibition is showing at the Tate Liverpool until 21 July 2019.
7. Phyllida Barlow RA: cul-de-sac
One of the most exciting sculptors working today, Phyllida Barlow’s vibrant, large-scale installations transform the environments they inhabit. From the Venice Biennale and Tate Britain to Zurich’s Kunsthalle, Phyllida Barlow’s colourful creations have reconfigured spaces around the world. Often massive in scale, Barlow is known for using materials such as plaster, cardboard and cement, turning the conventions of traditional sculpture on its head.
The site-specific works test and take inspiration from the RA’s unique and grand architecture. By forming a cul-de-sac, with only one way in and out, it gives visitors the freedom to navigate their own way among the towering, seemingly precarious structures. Barlow’s interest in large, expansive sculptural installations responds to her desire to ‘argue with space’. This argument is perfectly captured in cul-de-sac.
This exhibition is showing at the Royal Academy of Art until 23 June 2019.
Interesting Upcoming Artist Shows on this Month:
This is a selection of UK art exhibitions, including group, solo, artist-led and gallery curated shows, that we think are interesting or unusual in some way. We update this section every week so you know the exhibitions to see now. If you want to submit your own, follow the link at the bottom of this section.
Exhibitions on at the Start of May
‘Motherland’: New Works by Lesley Blakelock
4 May – 14 June 2019
‘Motherland’ explores the lived experience of being a child’s primary parent in contemporary society, the trials and tribulations, the practical difficulties, the joyous moments and the emotional turmoil that women invest when unwittingly embarking on the highly charged confusing role of ‘mother’.
Blakelock questions the lack of information and lack of support on offer, how in the career driven environment of the western capitalist world where commodity is paramount, motherhood is often overlooked, taken for granted and de-valued despite the importance bestowed upon the child’s development by child psychologists.
18 London Rd
Neon Blue Tales: Annie Taylor, Bev Sage, Clair Meyrick and Meg Wroe
3 May – 7 May 2019
Neon Blue Tales is an eclectic mix of installation, paintings, prints, performance and words. Four creative women – Annie Taylor, Bev Sage, Clair Meyrick and Meg Wroe, transform this beautiful space in Margate, Kent.
5 Broad St
Adam Hennessey: Blemish And Beyond
6 April – 27 May 2019
For his new show, Adam Hennessey has written a comic about him visiting the doctor after spraining his foot and checking out a small blemish on his body. He has chosen to paint a painting for each page of the comic.
He has also curated an accompanying exhibition – And Beyond. He has brought together artists that he thinks about in relation to his own work. It is a discussion with his community of working contemporaries.
New Art Projects London
6D Sheep Ln
Joyti Kaur Kalsi : Art Expedition
1 May – 31 May 2019
‘This is an interactive exhibition with the onlooker seeking to see things from a different point of view, with each piece fitting as a puzzle, all accompanied with a story of the universe.’
This is the first collection of Joyti Kaur Kalsi’s work showing in his hometown of Birmingham.
The Gap Arts Project
498 Moseley Rd
Dronefield Open Art Exhibition
3 May – 7 May 2019
This year the Dronfield Arts Festival is hosting its first Open Arts Exhibition. Over 30 experienced artists from Dronfield and district will be submitting their original artwork for selection and exhibition over the festival weekend.
Dronefield Art Festival
4 April – 16 May 2019
Curated and ordered as if hanging in the home of a synaesthete, rather than in a gallery, the exhibition shows how artworks by better-known artists (such as Banksy, Chagall, Meidner, Tretchikoff and Wallinger – themselves forming an unlikely set of bed-fellows) can sit cheek-by-jowl in a residential setting with those of up-and-coming, and less celebrated, artists.
Paintings, lithographs, photographs, volume poster prints, sculpture and objets d’art come together in a democratic and thematic way, connected as they are by colour and by their sharing – and helping to create – a home.
1B Charterhouse Square
Exhibitions on in the Middle of May
Affordable Art Fair – Hampstead
9 – 12 May 2019
Discover the joy of collecting art at the Affordable Art Fair, which returns to glorious Hampstead Heath in May 2019 with 1000s of original, contemporary artworks from all over the world. You can also see selected works that were successful in Jackson’s Open Painting Prize 2019.
Affordable Art Fair Hampstead
Lower Fairground Site
East Heath Road (opposite Downshire Hill)
Giles & Gadenne Exhibition
10 May – 22 May 2019
Award-winning artists Anthony Giles and Paul Gadenne showcase a collection of new works from their studios, including watercolours, oils and sketches.
Heavily influenced by the later work of JMW Turner, Anthony Giles uses traditional methods of a gesso primer, turpentine colour wash, oil mixed with beeswax and turpentine before applying several oil and paint glazes to reach the glowing impasto texture, essence and quality of light found by painting on a beach during a summer squall.
Paul Gadenne’s work features a wide range of subjects but most tend to have an element of narrative and the everyday. Paul’s paintings are in public and private collections in the UK and abroad and can be seen at local Art Galleries and Open Art Shows throughout the year.
5 Broad St
7 May – 12 May 2019
Human IEU brings together eleven artists working in a variety of mediums in a group show – FLUID. The work they’ve created in response to this theme challenges, provokes and dynamically engages the viewer in a collection that incorporates drawing, painting, video, sculpture, photography and performance.
While to some the word FLUID may conjure up the gender fluidity emerging in today’s culture, to others FLUID suggests a method of working or a medium in which to work. Remembering that the human body is 60% water, we’re asking the viewer to think about the importance of fluid to the human experience.
159 Bethnal Green Road,
Journeys in The Holy Land: Alexander Creswell
27 April – 9 June 2019
Alexander Creswell travels the world in search of places of beauty and capturing the spirit of place in astonishing watercolour paintings. Light and dark are his muses and the patina of stone, brick and earth inform his palette. His work has been likened to JMW Turner and David Roberts but his fluency with light is quite his own. Works in this exhibition explore the rock-carved architecture of Petra and the ancient stones of Jerusalem, celebrating the play of changing sunlight upon stone.
Bertrand Fournier: Some Pieces Of Mind
2 May – 17 May 2019
Born in 1985 in Île-de-France, Fournier began painting in his early 30s. What started out as a hobby alongside his job as a nurse in a psychiatric infirmary—became a compulsive artistic obsession. He has since achieved astronomical success, both online, and in galleries worldwide.
Fournier reconfigures organic forms into grander linear statements on untreated linen canvas. He flirts between abstraction and symbolism, figuration and minimalism. Bold combinations of bright colours are synthesised into disorderly settings as a deliberate gesture to celebrate the beauty of imperfection.
76 Montagu Square
Daniel Pasteiner: Love In An Age Of Hyperobjects
2 May – 26 May 2019
The work continues Pasteiner’s concern with flux and function, often using found materials to restructure representation in paintings whose material presence alludes to something not quite within reach. The materials in question here being alkyd and oil on solar panels, acid and sodium, pigment, foam, steel and glass.
57A Redchurch St
In – Out
18 May – 26 May 2019
Waltham Forest Artists, Jonathan O’Dea and Neil Irons have joined forces to display recent artwork that explores humankind’s impact on our environment, physically, politically and psychologically.
The exhibition will display a range of art forms including, painting, drawing and sculpture.
As Above, So Below
5 April – 2 June 2019
Gallery S O is very pleased to announce a solo-exhibition by Scottish artist and metalworker Kathleen Reilly. The exhibition will include for the first-time a series of Reilly’s poetic writings following the theme of As Above, So Below. With this new exhibition, the audience is invited to draw parallels between her writings and the tangible outcomes, creating contemplative and subtle connections between these two facets of her practice.
Gallery S O
92 Brick Ln
Frank Bowling: More Land than Landscape
10 May – 22 June 2019
Hales London is presenting a solo exhibition of Frank Bowling OBE RA’s most recent paintings. The exhibition coincides with Bowling’s major retrospective at Tate Britain celebrating his sixty-year career, which runs from 31 May to 26 August 2019.
Frank Bowling OBE RA (b. Guyana, 1934) moved to London in 1953, where his artistic career started shortly after his arrival at the Royal College of Art (1959 – 62). Bowling began as a figurative painter incorporating personal and political subject matter, before moving to New York in 1966, where he made a decisive turn towards abstraction. In this career-defining moment, he developed a process-based practice – initially one committed to formalism, exploring the nature and possibilities of paint. Through his monumental colour field paintings, he cemented himself in the competitive New York scene.
7 Bethnal Green Rd
Frea Buckler: Polychrome
9 May – 26 May 2019
In Polychrome, Frea Buckler employs the language of hard-edged geometric abstraction as a means to explore colour interactions across her dynamic unique screenprints, editions and wall painting.
In these collected works, Frea’s concerns shift from her previous interest in the pure formal abstraction of primary, interlocking and juxtaposed shapes to an interrogation of functional objects and the vernacular of architecture. Through a series of visual investigations into everyday, functional forms such as door wedges, domestic furniture and decorative architectural elements, she fluidly collapses definitions of interior and exterior spatiality.
53 Curtain Rd
10 May – 11 May 2019
The exhibition showcases works investigating the nature of the city, its infrastructure, inhabitants, its past and future. Exhibiting Artists:
Abigail Burt, Anna Chiarini, Jonathan Comerford, Jelena Curcic, Lucie Kordacova, Gillian McIver, Eva Orupõld, Xuân Sinden&Vytas, Conor O’Sullivan, Samuel Thomson, Tünde Valiszka, Isabella Vento, Gabriela Zigova.
The Steamship PS
Hannah Thomas: Rebel Visions
11 May – 19 June 2019
Green Rooms Hotel presents Artist Hannah Thomas’ first London exhibition Rebel Visions, a project exploring atmosphere and mood, celebrating a form of controlled chaos in materials and technique, and liberation from self-imposed limitations.
Showing from 11th of May until mid-June, Hannah’s work is intensely personal and expresses something elusive, impatient and amorphous, reflecting her taste for the dark and romantic.
13-27 Station Road
Exhibitions on at the End of May
For The Few And The Many
18 May – 29 June 2019
This presents the paintings of Pakistani-born, Saudi-American artist Nadia Waheed with a sculptural presentation by Malaysian sculptor Haffendi Anuar.
Nadia Waheed has lived in places such as Islamabad, Paris, Sydney, Cairo, and the USA. In fact, she hasn’t lived in the same place for longer than four years. As such, the notion of displacement, vulnerability and identity has undoubtedly woven itself into her paintings. She states that the figures in her paintings are herself – but also others: ‘The women are [versions of] me, but also others. They’re two women, but also one woman…women contain multitudes’, she states.
Based in Kuala Lumpur, but having lived in London, Rhode Island, and China, Haffendi Anuar’s works are primarily based around the varied landscapes that surround him. Sculpture’s ineluctable link to the landscape (through movements such as land art and, more simply, public sculptures), allow the artist to explore notions of modernisation, urban fluctuation, and architectural vernaculars
1 Baldwin Street
Guts Gallery Opening Exhibition
16 May – 19 May 2019
Guts Gallery aim to provide financial support and exhibition opportunities for artists less platformed within today’s contemporary art scene: ‘Our desire is to facilitate space and exposure for BAME artists, female artists, working-class artists, queer artists, and artists outside of London (bridging the North/South divide).’
‘Through initiating relationships between established and emerging artists, we can create an inclusive and diverse arts community, with a dynamic and interesting creative working environment, to produce new structures that enable emerging artists to have the exposure they are often denied.’
Mark Wallinger, Guerrilla Girls, Liam Fallon, Alexi Marshall, Polly Morgan, Sophie Vallance, Lucy Gregory, Bryden, Sola Olulode, Florence Hutchings, Billy Parker, Hannah Tilson, Lucy Neish, Andrew Pierre Hart, Valerie Savchits, Douglas Cantor, Tess Williams, Rosa Luetchford, Barry Reigate, Joe Holbrook, Ze Aya, Florence Sweeney, Mary Savva, Rayvenn D’Clark, Alfie Kungu, Rene Matić, Ruby Dickson, Jenny Beard, Pallas Citroen, Robert Cooper and Amy Holt.
49 Tanner St
Daniel Hosego: OMG!!
16 May – 18 June 2019
Daniel Hosego’s ink drawings echo the ebullience of Old Masters such as Albrecht Durer, but with a crispness of line and the slick humour of 20th century comics. His works reimagine contemporary culture through a framework of Classical references, images he then reproduces as unique colourway screenprints on Perspex, applying a 20th century Pop Art process to the antique.
The exhibition examines contemporary culture through the lens of art history, and in the process explores how art’s alpha males and macho narratives still loom large in how art is defined and valued.
James Freeman Gallery
354 Upper St
Raw Materials: Plastics
17 May – 25 August 2019
Raw Materials explores the forgotten industrial history of plastic in east London around the River Lea. The exhibition reveals the story of east London’s central role in the invention and early development of plastics, showcasing some of the very first plastic objects alongside newly commissioned artwork which tells the story of this material’s remarkable journey.
181 Bow Rd
Who’s Afraid of Drawing? Works on Paper from the Ramo Collection
17 April – 23 June 2019
Milan’s Ramo Collection brings together outstanding works from some of the most important movements in twentieth-century Italian art, including images by Umberto Boccioni, Giorgio de Chirico, Lucio Fontana, Alighiero Boetti, Pino Pascali and many more. Assembled by the late Milanese entrepreneur Giuseppe ‘Pino’ Rabolini, it is the largest private collection of modern and contemporary Italian art on paper, comprising almost 600 works.
39A Canonbury Square
Measurable Distances of Space and Air
26 April – 15 June 2019
In this exhibition, Juan Araujo has created a new series of paintings and multimedia works that are based on photographs taken during his research visits to the Henry Moore Foundation in Perry Green, Hertfordshire and the Barbican Centre, London in early 2018. These two sources enabled the artist to pursue one of his long-term preoccupations – the consideration of how different articulations of modernist histories can be variously read through art and architecture, and the connections between them.
97-99 Hoxton St
If you want to find out about more exhibitions that are on near you, or if you are feeling inspired to try something new, search our Exhibition and Artist Opportunity Calendar by region to find an event for you.
Let us know about your exhibition by filling out the form at the bottom of the page and we may include it in one of our Art Exhibitions on Now posts.
all images are copyright of the artist unless otherwise stated