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The best art exhibitions to see in 2021

It has been hard to get to art exhibitions in the past year, but don’t worry – there’s plenty to look forward to in 2021. While the art world’s plans are of course dependent on the UK restrictions, but there's no harm in getting excited about everything that is planned for this year.

The best art exhibitions to see in 2021
Matilda Davies
· 5 min read

It has been hard to get to art exhibitions in the past year, but don’t worry – there’s plenty to look forward to in 2021. While the art world’s plans are of course dependent on the UK restrictions, but there's no harm in getting excited about everything that is planned for this year.

Whatever your style, there’s an exhibition you’ll love this year.

Francis Bacon: Man and Beast

Francis Bacon is back at the Royal Academy of Arts in London early this year. The exhibition planned to open on 30th January but will now likely open once the lockdown restrictions ease in February. But it’s running until 18th April, so there’s still plenty of time to see it. It charts Bacon’s depictions of humans and animals throughout his career, concluding with his famous Study of a Bull. It was co-curated by Michael Peppiatt, a close friend of Bacon’s, so expect an exciting new look at the artist’s life.

Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser

Everyone knows Lewis Carroll’s famous Alice in Wonderland, and now you can experience the story like never before. The exhibition compiles over 300 objects including set designs and models from the film adaptations, original illustrations and costumes from the Royal Ballet adaptation. It has been described as a “theatrical, immersive journey down the rabbit hole” and you’ll want to take the whole family with you. The exhibition opens on 27th March at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and will run for the whole of 2021.

The Making of Rodin

Auguste Rodin is revered in the art world for his impressionistic bronze sculptures. This exhibition will let you experience his works in a whole new way. It will include plaster and clay casts he used to test his designs before casting them in bronze, so you get a unique insight into his creative process and how his creations came to be. It opens on 6th May at the Tate Modern in London and will run until October this year.

The Turner Prize

The Turner Prize was delayed last year due to the pandemic and lockdowns in the UK, but it’s back in 2021 and better than ever. It is being held at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry in honour of the city being the UK’s city of culture this year. The four shortlisted artists will be showing their work from 29th September until January 2022, with the winner officially being announced on 1st December this year.

Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy

Named after her most famous work, this Eileen Agar exhibition is the largest to date, documenting her career that spanned almost 100 years. While she is famed for her Surrealist works, she also experimented with Cubism and Abstraction. The exhibition opens at the Whitechapel Gallery in London from 11th February (lockdowns permitting) and will be open until 23rd May.

Helen Levitt: Retrospective

This highly anticipated photography exhibition was planned for 2020 but wasn’t able to go ahead. But it’s back in November this year at The Photographers’ Gallery in London. Levitt is revered for her evocative American street photography and the way she depicts men in her work. Her poetic photographs paint a different picture of New York than you may have seen before and will make you look at the city in a new way.

Peter Hujar

Another American photography great, Peter Hujar documents drag culture in New York through the 1970s and 1980s. His images of drag queens in and out of drag take an intimate look at gender and transformation. The exhibition was planned to run 6th February to 14th March at the Maureen Paley gallery in London. Official dates are now TBC, but it's one to keep your eye out for.

Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty

This is his first major UK exhibition for over 50 years, so this is not one to miss. The Barbican in London is holding a retrospective with over 150 of his classic works featuring his butterfly assemblages, portraits, lithographs and statues. His work has influenced art greats David Hockney and Eva Hesse, so if you're into art history, you will be into this exhibition. It plans to open on 11th February and run until 23rd May, but these may be subject to change.

David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy

Speaking of David Hockney, his work is back at the Royal Academy in London from 27th March this year. As one of the UK’s - if not the world’s - most loved living artists, he is bringing his work into the 21st century with new works painted using an iPad. While he is usually known for his colourful depictions of natural scenes, this is the Hockney you know and love with a new tech twist.

Heather Phillipson

After he recent commission for Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth, where she created a melting ice cream cone, she now has a full exhibition coming to the Tate Britain. She is known for her playful and humorous sculptures and video art. It will give you a unique look at the artist making waves in the industry so that you can see the story behind the ice cream cone.

Matilda Davies
Matilda Davies
Matilda is an experienced journalist and content creator who has written for local, national and global publications. She is passionate about culture and lifestyle content, and connecting with audiences through these topics.