Your London Exhibition Guide

Must-See Shows This September

London offers tons to see at the many galleries and museums that dot the city. Some might even say there are too many to see, so that’s where we come in. Explore our list of favorite exhibitions below. We keep it regularly updated, and the shows are in order of freshness. If you’re looking for a bit more in depth coverage, head to our Instagram where these shows and more are featured.

Lydia Blakely at Niru Ratnam | ArtDrunk

Lydia Blakeley at Niru Ratnam

Not long ago, a certain American president warned us that we would get tired of “winning.” Well, that hasn’t happened, and Lydia Blakeley decided this is the perfect moment to stick her paintbrush in the eye of an endlessly entertaining trope: that everybody wants to be number one. “Winners,” her new show at Niru Ratnam, charts the foibles of our quest to be best. Her paintings are efficient and earnest in their execution, with just the right dash of sensuality. As you’re won over by the cute — and champion pedigreed — puppies, LA poolscapes, and stock-photo smiles, you barely notice that Blakeley is popping the hood of our “perfect” success stories. And she points out, with an expert mechanic’s oil-stained finger, everything that’s wrong down there.

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Lea Cetere at Phillida Reid | ArtDrunk

Lea Cetera at Phillida Reid

Lea Cetera’s marvelously curious sculptures are a gift to all those prone to the gallery fidgets. Bolted together from what looks to be an adult-size erector set, the show’s central piece will capture your gaze for hours (or at least for longer than any other sculpture you’ve seen!). A rotating gyroscope with a liquid-filled puppet strung in its centre keeps twisting and turning in a never-ending somersault. Other pieces feature videos of seafood preparation (not for the faint of heart, or the allergic) played behind metal cages. Like a ride on the amusement park swings, this show will make you question your fragile relationship to your own shell. But with a thrill you won’t soon forget…

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Andra Ursuta at David Zwirner | ArtDrunk

Andra Ursuţa at David Zwirner

Andra Ursuţa ain’t afraid of no ghost. A supernatural power glides, dips, and gently wails through the galleries at David Zwirner, where Ursuţa’s sculptures reference “premodern” notions about death, grief, and loss. Her choice of medium underscores her interest in old-school spookiness. Various photograms (a primitive means of capturing an image using light) evoke the 19th-century craze for ghost photography – a delightfully eerie, if often ridiculously fake, attempt to document phantom beings. Sculptures, made from lead crystal, exude funereal solemnity. Ursuţa is careful not to overdo it though (we all have that one friend who won’t stop talking about crystal skulls). She tempers the seance-y vibes with a good dollop of humor: what more can we do than laugh at the face of death?

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Wolfgang Laib at Thaddaeus Ropac | ArtDrunk

Wolfgang Laib at Thaddaeus Ropac

You could be forgiven, at first glance, for mistaking Wolfgang Laib’s miniature cityscapes for the models used to film The Lord of the Rings. Tiny spires rise in thickets, resembling all manner of towers, houses, and ziggurats. But look closer, and you’ll find that Laib’s architectural marvels are built from the most unlikely natural elements: pollen, beeswax, and even milk. Works on paper, made in response to the sculptures, line the gallery’s walls. A spiritual mystery reigns over Laib’s Lilliputian kingdom, but it shares the throne with a sense of calming enchantment. The combination of symbolic, manmade forms and raw natural materials brings out the beauty in both, and imbues the entire show with a muted magic.

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Theaster Gates at the Serpentine Pavilion | ArtDrunk

Theaster Gates The Serpentine Pavilion 2022

Amidst London’s hectic hustle, serenity is the rarest of commodities. How lucky we are this summer, then, to have Theaster Gates’s “Black Chapel,” an oasis of tranquility set smack in the middle of Hyde Park. The black cylindrical structure is modeled on the historic pottery kilns of Stoke-on-Trent, referencing Gates’s own work as a ceramicist. Gates wants the structure to foster spiritual meditation and serve as a venue for communal experience: it will host music concerts, workshops, and even a tea ceremony. Ultimately, the Chapel invites you to fill the space with your own reflections, to take a peaceful breath and add some small part of yourself to this welcoming vessel.

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