Your London Exhibition Guide

Must-See Shows This May

This month, we’ve got a mix of immersive shows and shows with little paintings, film-based works plus some sculpture. Check back weekly as we update what to see.


Emma Fineman at Huxley-Parlour

Emma Fineman at Huxley-Parlour

For those who love a messy Instagram story

The dreamscapes imagined by Emma Fineman in this exhibition are vivid and strikingly of our time: thick brushstrokes and masterful use of layering create little windows into interior worlds. Looking at her painting Peripheral Visions feels like racing through a series of fuzzy Instagram stories posted in a tipsy blur, the figures leaking into each other. Dora recalls Francis Bacon at his darkest, removing the outer veneer of the sitter and plunging straight into their soul. Fineman doesn’t apply flattering filters to her subjects. Instead, she captures them in their stark reality, then freezes them in time. If you’ve ever asked your friend to delete an Instagram story from a night out, this show will hit home.

Exhibition Site

Mahesh Baliga at Zwirner London

Mahesh Baliga at David Zwirner

For those who love people watching

If you are a committed people-watcher, eagerly awaiting spring so you can plop yourself on a park bench or cafe terrace and look at the passing crowd, you share a special kinship with the Indian artist Mahesh Baliga. In Drawn to Remember, Baliga presents both “lap-sized paintings” and larger works, all devoted to looking, with constant curiosity, at ordinary people and moments from western India. The everyday occupations of Baliga’s subjects — a man clips his toenails, a group of figures sit in a hospital waiting room — belie their subdued but smouldering power. A man’s shirt pocket leaks a stain from a burst pen, a mother elephant and her calf hasten to take shelter from a sudden rain. More than anything, Baliga proves himself an artist of extraordinary generosity: having captured his own observations and memories so artfully, he shares them openly and exquisitely with us.

Exhibition Site

Lily van der Stokker at Camden Art Centre

Lily Van der Stokker at Camden Art Centre

Lily Van der Stokker takes her fun very seriously. A self-styled “professor of the paint-mix science,” she approaches her work with a rigorous methodology that produces joyful paintings. Pushing back against prevailing ideas that art must be somber to be serious, she paints bursts of flowers, loopy monochrome blobs, and abstract geometric patterns vaguely reminiscent of Ikea shower curtains. It quickly becomes clear, however, that her paintings are hardly one-dimensional. Yes, they trade in joy and exuberance (which are by no means bad things!), but they also question patriarchal hierarchies of what proper art should be. Van der Stokker thus positions herself firmly in a line of feminist artists using “frivolous” means to explore the charged themes of relationships, home, and work.

Exhibition Site

Rafal Zajko at Cooke Latham

Rafał Zajko at Cooke Latham Gallery

This is not a drill! Rafał Zajko, who sees science fiction “as inherently queer,” has one of the most original and peculiar shows in London this month. (And we mean that in the best way). Featuring soft human forms bristling with wires and tubes, Zajko’s terracotta sculptures combine elements of both man and machine. The installation mimics that of a control room, with brightly painted forms uniting the gadgets in some single, mysterious circuit. Some pieces emit glowing light and puff plumes of smoke. This tension — between recognisable humanity and the sinister machinations of industry — is what makes the show tick, leaving you in wonder about where we’re all headed.

Exhibition Site

Louise Bourgeois at Hayward Gallery

Louise Bourgeois at Hayward Gallery

Last Chance — Closes May 15!

The Woven Child is dedicated to works made during the last two decades of the Louise Bourgeois’s life, when she began working with textiles. The sculptures, collages, and installations at the Hayward incorporate bed linens, handkerchiefs, tapestry, and needlepoint. These materials held particular significance for Bourgeois, as symbols of her parents (who worked in textiles), womanhood, and even forgiveness. While much of her work can be difficult to view — her famous, gigantic Maman spiders never fail to send chills down your spine — Bourgeois’s conviction that the needle held a “magic power” that could repair damages both physical and emotional gives her later work a nuanced, cathartic force.   

Exhibition Site

Language Toggle Icon