15 Must-See London Gallery Shows for Your September 2020 Culture Fix
After an unprecedented period of closure, the stalwarts of London’s gallery scene have been ushering us back in for a while now, but September is the month when the city’s thriving art world will truly burst back into life.
Now is the perfect time to appreciate art in a more serene setting. Although booking things in advance is essential, it’s a small trade off to avoid the indignity of being herded hurriedly through a perilously oversold show.
Below are my personally curated must-sees for September 2020, featuring everything from sci-fi octopuses to sofas for dogs!
September Gallery Shows to See Right Now
Tate Britain - Aubrey Beardsley
Image credit: @Tate
Dates: Until September 20th 2020
Nearest Tube: Pimlico
Entry: £16, concessions available
The more stately and traditional of London’s Tate sisters, the Tate Britain, is offering up sleek art nouveau delights from Aubrey Beardsley.
Beardsley’s sensuous, erotic and sometimes grotesque draughtsmanship had the late-Victorian’s clutching their pearls and still look refreshingly modern today. Book here.
Tate Modern - Andy Warhol
Image credit: @Tate
Dates: Until 15th November 2020
Nearest Tube: Blackfriars or London Bridge
Entry: £16, concessions available
Meanwhile, at the Modern, a giant Andy Warhol retrospective awaits. This whistlestop tour through the eccentric artist’s life attempts to uncover the enigma under the dusty white wig — 3 of which are also on show, if you’re interested.
Despite the explosions of colour and playful frivolity that Warhol is known for, a thread of neon death runs through the show in the form of electric chairs, posthumous portraits and Warhol’s own untimely demise. This tableaux illuminates the procession of defiantly colourful face masks as pop culture in the making. Book here
The V&A - Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk
Image credit: @vamuseum
Dates: Until 20th November 2020
Nearest Tube: South Kensington
Entry: £16 – £18
It feels like every eccentric icon — from Bowie to Bjork — has been draped in a kimono-inspired outfit at some point in their careers, and now’s your chance to see the garments off their backs at the V&A. This riotously colourful exhibition aims to explore the origins and enduring style clout of this 17th century Japanese icon, and it looks gorgeous doing it. Book here.
Barbican - Toyin Ojih Odutola: A Countervailing Theory
Image credit: @toyinojihodutola
Dates: Until 21st Jan 2021
Nearest Tube: Barbican or Moorgate
This free show at the Barbican’s Curve gallery might be small, but the quality of the work and the imaginary world it’s plucked from is immense. Working in simple drawing materials, Nigerian-American artist Toyin Ojih Odutola summons an elaborate self-created ancient myth where women reign supreme. The spectacular Barbican Conservatory is also open 7 days a week until the 5th September, so if you book in early, you’ll be able to catch both! Book here.
Serpentine - Cao Fei: Blueprints
Image credit @Serpentine
Dates: Until 13th September 2020
Nearest Tube: Lancaster gate or Marble Arch
If, like me, you have spent an unhealthy amount of time swigging wine in parks recently, you might feel totally over your local green spaces, but a walk in Hyde Park is always a treat; especially with a gallery at the end.
Exploring how technology both serves and suppresses humanity, Cao Fei offers us a portal to Beijing and a peek into how rapid industrialisation is changing the Jiuxianqiao region. Featuring site-specific installations, virtual reality delivered through your mobile phone and some giant sci-fi octopuses for good measure. Book here.
Alison Jacques - Gordon Parks Part Two
Image credit: @AlisonJacques
Dates: Until 1st October 2020
Nearest Tube: Goodge Street, Tottenham Court Road or Oxford Circus
Born into segregation, Gordon Parks was the first African-American photographer and writer for the prestigious ‘Life’ magazine. Now recognised as an important artist fighting for social justice, Parks’ images pack even more power on the gallery wall.
Even if you don’t know his name, you will know Parks’ iconic images and Part Two of this retrospective focuses on his intimate and affectionate portraits of the legendary boxer and human rights activist, Muhammed Ali. Book here.
The Photographers Gallery - The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize
Image credit: @marknevillestudio
Dates: Until September 20th 2020
Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus
Entry: £5/£2.50 Concessions
Aiming to celebrate and promote innovative contemporary photography-based practice, The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize is always one of the highlights of my art show calendar.
Hayward Gallery - Among the Trees
Image credit: @hayward.gallery
Dates: Until 31st October 2020
Nearest Tube: Waterloo or Embankment
Entry: £13.50, concessions available
Strolling through this stunning, multifaceted forest of art nestled in the brutalist Hayward gallery is a meditative affair. Inviting us to consider time through the vast lifespans of trees, this collection of multimedia artworks is humbling in the best possible way. Book here.
September Gallery Shows to Look Forwards To
Now Gallery - Emmanuelle Moureaux: Slices of Time
Image credit: @emmanuellemoureaux
Dates: 3rd September 2020- 27th September 2020
Nearest Tube: North Greenwich
Emmanuelle Moureaux’s first large-scale installation in the UK hovers majestically in the NOW gallery in Greenwich. Inspired by the location near the Meridian marker, this colourful mass of numbers is preoccupied with the impossible task of visualising the flow of time. Book here.
Saatchi Gallery - London Grads Now.
Image credit: @taed0_0ng
Dates: 3rd September 2020- 25th September 2020
Nearest Tube: Sloane Square
A thought-provoking showcase of London’s freshest crop of graduates, this Saatchi show brings the traditional university degree show into the big time in swanky Sloane Square.
This snapshot of the explorations and discussions going on in the art world right now is a reflection of our shared experience in today’s strange times. Book here.
Victoria Miro - Grayson Perry: The MOST Specialest Relationship
Image credit: @victoriamirogallery
Dates: 15th September 2020- 31st October 2020
Nearest Tube: Old Street
Featuring never seen before work inspired by an upcoming 3-part Channel 4 documentary by the nation’s favourite, Grayson Perry.
This show by the East London stalwart, Victoria Miro, will be crammed full of Perry treasures. Expect tapestries, ceramics and large scale prints exploring Perry’s motorcycle odyssey across a divided America. Booking starts 30th August.
Japan House - Architecture for Dogs
Image credit: @archfordogs please note this exact piece may not appear
Dates: 19th September 2020- 21st Jan 2021
Nearest Tube: High Street Kensington
Making its European debut, the Architecture for Dogs show at Japan House is a light-hearted exploration into how architecture can bring joy to both dogs and their two-legged companions.
With pieces based on different dog breeds, including the Beagle, Bichon Frise, Shiba Inu, Boston Terrier and Poodle, this exhibition also offers an open source network of designs so you can make your own canine creations. Even better, dogs small enough to carry can come along too, but sadly they can’t interact with the art work.
Open House London
Image credit: @openhouselondon
Dates: 19th September 2020- 20th September 2020
Nearest Tube: Various Locations
A yearly chance to peek behind the closed doors of various London locations which have always piqued your interest, a lot of Open House London is online this year, but you can still see some interiors in the flesh.
Stephen Friedman Gallery: 25 Year Show
Image credit: @stephenfriedmangallery
Dates: 24th September 2020- 7th November 2020
Nearest Tube: Piccadilly Circus
A special celebration of the Stephen Friedman Gallery’s 25th anniversary, this free show will feature new and retrospective work from each of the 29 represented artists including David Shrigley and Yinka Shonibare CBE.
Camden Art Centre: The Botanical Mind: Art, Mysticism and The Cosmic Tree
Image credit: @Camdenartcentre
Dates: 24th September 2020- 23rd December 2020
Nearest Tube: Finchley Road
This hugely ambitious exhibition from the Camden Art Centre weaves together the work of over 50 artists and spans a time period of 500 years. The show aims to investigate the significance of plants in relation to human life, consciousness and spirituality.
The universal archetype of the cosmic tree helps to hold the disparate works together and reminds us of the binding roots which connect the symbolism and mythology of various religions.