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London exhibitions 2021: the best art and museum displays to see online

Nancy Durrant
·8-min read
<p>You can still experience the Tate Modern’s Andy Warhol exhibition online</p> (Tate)

You can still experience the Tate Modern’s Andy Warhol exhibition online

(Tate)

Yes, we’re desperate to get back into London’s fabulous museums and galleries, but while we wait for them to safely open, there is plenty for culture lovers to gorge on online. Though surprisingly few galleries have set up full virtual exhibition tours (issues of image rights are just one of the reasons why sometimes that can be complicated), there are other ways to experience the amazing works on display at London’s institutions and commercial galleries. Here’s our guide to the best of them that you can explore now.

From a Place of Love: Zanele Muholi

The first major survey exhibition the UK for the South African artist, who goes by they/them, focuses on the lives and stories of black LGBTQ+ people living in the country - despite the post-apartheid constitution outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation, they remain a target for violence and prejudice. Despite that, they love and thrive. This ten minute film, From a Place of Love, is a lovely introduction to the exhibition, with British LGBTQ+ people of colour, from drag queens to curates, talking about Muholi’s art and what it means to them for these works to be in the Tate. The gallery has also created an extensive video exhibition tour for members, which will soon be available.

Tate Modern, tate.org.uk

Titian: Love, Desire, Death: member’s tour

National Gallery
National Gallery

Since this show (and the Artemisia exhibition, below), which reunited six Titian masterpieces for the first time in 300 years, is now officially closed (as opposed to closed by Covid restrictions) the classy online exhibition tour is only available to members but if you are one, then you should definitely check it out. Curatorial fellow Dr Thomas Dalla Costa introduces us to these mythological paintings, created by the artist in the 1550s and 1560s for Philip II of Spain, when the Venetian master artist was at the height of his creative powers, explains why they’re so significant and gives a bit of insight into the exhibition creation process.

National Gallery, nationalgallery.org.uk

Artemisia: member’s tour

PA
PA

Few painters worked with the skill of Artemisia Gentileschi, yet she was widely forgotten (no prizes for guessing why). This was one of the year’s most anticipated exhibitions, already postponed due to the first lockdown. The 17th century painter was the first woman to gain membership to the artists’ academy in Florence, and this exhibition was the first of its kind in the UK, placing her in the league of elite artists where she belongs and it’s a tragedy that it was seen by so few. This engaging online exhibition tour, available to members, is led by the show’s curator Dr Letizia Treves.

National Gallery, nationalgallery.org.uk

Emin/Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul

Tracey Emin
Tracey Emin

This show, which Tracey Emin has curated, places the contemporary artist’s work in conversation with that of her hero, Edvard Munch. Given free rein at the Munch Museum in Oslo (outside which she recently installed a major bronze sculpture), she has chosen works that seem to connect on both a formal level and an emotional one. Those familiar with the visceral nature of Emin’s paintings (there are also a few sculptures and neons) will not be surprised to find that it’s a pretty intense experience. The free virtual tour reflects the character of the exhibition, giving you a bit of info at the start, then leaving you to experience the powerful images without fuss.

Royal Academy, royalacademy.org.uk

Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer

Richard Haughton
Richard Haughton

Choreographer and dancer Michael Clark has a long history of collaborating with artists throughout his career – so it’s about time for a major exhibition dedicated to him. From his rise to fame in the 1980s to Olivier Award-winning compositions and an appearance on the Glastonbury Pyramid stage, Clark’s radical approach has made waves in the dance world. This exhibition revisits his work through arts, fashion, film, music and pieces by Wolfgang Tillmans, Sarah Lucas, Cerith Wyn Evans and more, and Clark himself leads the informal video exhibition tour, in collaboration, naturally, with one of his oldest friends, the choreographer Les Child.

Barbican, barbican.org.uk

Electronic: From Kraftwerk to The Chemical Brothers

You can't go out to a club, so the Design Museum made itself into one. Now you can’t go to that either, but fear not, this exhibition, which explores the people, art, design, technology and photography central to shaping electronic music, has been made into a virtual tour guided by the museum curators Gemma Curtin and Maria McLintock, with additional exclusive interviews by the likes of A Guy Called Gerald, Jean-Michel Jarre, Yuri Suzuki and Weirdcore. Tickets are £7 or free to members.

Until March, Design Museum, designmuseum.org

Aora III: Sculpture

Pool of InfinityPrincess Pea
Pool of InfinityPrincess Pea

Not exactly a London gallery but set up by two London-based creatives, the curator Jenn Ellis and Benni Allan of EBBA architects, this entirely virtual exhibition space is designed to create a sense of calm, wellbeing and discovery through the meeting of art, architecture and music. Their third show, which launches on February 1, was created by making an open call to artists and focuses on sculpture. How can you think about objects in the virtual space, you might ask? At your leisure and from the sofa with a drink, is one perfectly reasonable answer.

From February 1, aoraspace.com

Amy Sherald: Womanist is to Feminist as Purple is to Lavender

Untitled, 2020Amy Sherald
Untitled, 2020Amy Sherald

Hauser & Wirth has wisely understood that in some cases, what many virtual visitors want is an unwhizzy experience where they can simply scroll through some good pictures. This format works beautifully for these five striking new small-scale portraits of black women by the American artist Amy Sherald (who painted Michelle Obama’s official portrait). A bit of informative text accompanies the images, and the whole gorgeous thing needn’t take you more than 15 minutes to enjoy.

Hauser & Wirth, hauserwirth.com

Andy Warhol

This seven minute film provides an introduction to the knockout Andy Warhol exhibition at Tate Modern - curators Gregor Muir and Fiontan Moran take us through the show and talk about how they wanted to remove Warhol from “the hype” and instead explore his life and work through three lenses: the immigrant story of the young Polish American, his queer identity and his obsession with death and religion. Even if you’ve seen the show, this is a lovely addition to the experience. If you want more, there’s a 30 minute full exhibition tour accessible only to Tate members.

Tate Modern, tate.org.uk

Anno’s Journey

The Exiling of the Ministers of State (Daijin ruzai) from The Tale of Heike Picture BookCourtesy of Anno Art Museum, Tsuwano
The Exiling of the Ministers of State (Daijin ruzai) from The Tale of Heike Picture BookCourtesy of Anno Art Museum, Tsuwano

Exhibitions at Japan House are always reliably elegant and beautiful, and this one, available to view in virtual 3D and exploring the work of iconic Japanese illustrator Anno Mitsumasa, is no exception. An engaging and popular primary school teacher, Mitsumasa turned to illustration - mostly of children’s books - aged 35, and was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Award for his exquisite, warm and humorous work (often containing little puzzles for his readers to discover), that drew on his extensive travels.

Japan House, japanhouselondon.uk

Phyllida Barlow: Lockdown Drawings

In a departure from her usual monumental sculptures and installations, London-based artist Phyllida Barlow, who represented Britain at the 2017 Venice Biennale, has spent her lockdown working on smaller scale 3D works and drawings, many inspired by the cityscapes of London, and now they go on display in this online show at Hauser & Wirth (it’s also IRL in their Zurich gallery).

untitled sodiumlit street object, 2020 by Phyllida Barlow Phyllida Barlow
untitled sodiumlit street object, 2020 by Phyllida Barlow Phyllida Barlow

Hauser & Wirth, hauserwirth.com

Turner's Modern World: member’s tour

Daniel Hambury
Daniel Hambury

A train is never just a train in the eyes of JMW Turner - it's a thrilling sign of the times. This exhibition, which spans the painter's career, aims to show how he reflected the changing era in which he lived - not for him the allegorical or the nostalgic; his ‘history’ subjects were contemporary; he saw the sublime not just in raging seas and magnificent mountain ranges, but in the fire and power of the new industry. From his celebrated naval battles to his later, near-impressionist landscapes, there's a Turner here for everyone. This fascinating video tour by the exhibition’s curators is available exclusively to Tate members but since the show is due to end on March 7, it’s likely to be the only chance to see it.

Tate Britain, tate.org.uk

Arctic: culture and climate

There are more than 40 different indigenous groups that inhabit the vast Arctic, and all have evolved their way of life over 30,000 years (yep, you read that right) to work symbiotically with the harsh but rich and beautiful landscape. Now they're all at threat. Within a generation, all of this might be lost. This tour by curators Amber Lincoln and Jago Cooper is a lovely introduction to a show of wonderful objects, from a bag made from salmon skin to a parka made of seal gut (lovely and waterproof), that tells the story of a rapidly disappearing human relationship with the earth.

British Museum, britishmuseum.org