The 12 best exhibitions to see in London: May 2022

We look forward to May’s must-see shows in London.

1. Watch: The Woman in the Window at the Dulwich Picture Gallery

A timeless trope. © Simran Janjua

Whether it’s a 3,000-year-old carved ivory panel or a contemporary photograph by Cindy Sherman, the image of a woman looking out of a window has been used throughout the history of art. Sometimes it’s about voyeurism, others evoke the empathy for the domestic life that women have often had to lead. The likes of Rembrandt, Hockney – as well as contemporary photographers illustrate how and why the theme is timeless.

Cropped: The Woman in the Window at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. 4 May-4 September 2022, £16.50.

2. Acclimatization: Our time on Earth at the Barbican Center

The ideal city imagined by the research and design agency Space10. Photo: Iwan Baan.

How to respond to the climate emergency? A major exhibition in several spaces of the Barbican Center includes futuristic installations, grassroots activism and learning from indigenous communities to discover how we can live more harmoniously with nature, making the Earth more habitable for us and other species . Academics, architects, artists, activists, designers, environmentalists, engineers, environmental activists, researchers, scientists, technologists and writers come together for this timely exhibition.

Our Time on Earth at the Barbican Center. 5 May-29 Aug 2022, £18.

3. Meditative: Lauren Baker at 99 Projects

Do we need silence more than ever? Copyright Lauren Baker.

In such a noisy world, do we need silence more than ever? That’s what artist Lauren Baker is tapping into, having created a new series of works inspired by 10 Days of Silent Meditation in Mexico. Contemplate these abstract love letters and lose yourself in the auras.

Lauren Baker: Ten days of silence on 99 projects. May 6-29, free.

4. All the sensations: the world of ASMR at the Design Museum

The world has opened its minds (and ears) to ASMR in recent years.

Have you ever heard a sound that hits you the right way? It is the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), a physical feeling of euphoria or deep calm, triggered by sound, touch and movement. From drips to whispers that float your audio boat, there’s something for you at the Design Museum.

The world of ASMR at the Design Museum. 13 May-16 October, £9.50

5. And breathe: In the Air at Wellcome Collection

How much attention do we pay to the air we breathe and how did it come about? Wellcome Collection takes us back to the 3.5 billion year old bacteria that produce oxygen, to today’s protests against toxic air pollution – something all Londoners have to deal with . In the Air will also emphasize the benefits of fresh air and encourage us to step away from our offices and into the local park.

In the Air at Wellcome Collection. May 19-October 16, free.

6. Arma-shed-don: Cornelia Parker at Tate Britain

A garden shed frozen at the time of the explosion. Copyright of the artist.

Taking ordinary everyday objects, Cornelia Parker creates stunning works of art, including a garden shed frozen in the moment of explosion – fragments poised to fly off in all directions. Flattened silverware and a hand-stitched Wikipedia page all have political elements, as Parker comments on issues ranging from human rights to climate change to the economy.

Cornelia Parker at Tate Britain. May 19-October 16, £16.

7. Fierce Women: Female Power at the British Museum

A representation of the Hindu goddess Kali by Kaushik Ghosh. Image © trustees of the British Museum.

Stories of the divine are often seen through the lens of male protagonists, but that’s only half the story. The British Museum invites us to explore the representation of women in beliefs ranging from the West to Japan via India and China. Feminine Power: The Divine to the Demonic also explores how women have often been demonized – like Lilith, Adam’s first wife, who was reviled and expelled from Eden for disobeying.

Feminine power: from divine to demonic at the British Museum. 19 May-25 September, £15.

8. Bling: Gold at the British Library

A miniature book with a golden binding. © Trustees of the British Library.

The British Library displays 50 manuscripts from around the world in which gold was used, exploring the effects it had on the stories they contain. Books used to be pretty bling, so prepare to be dazzled by this collection of golden treasures.

Gold at the British Library. 20 May-2 October, £8.

9. Candy Color: Pip & Pop at Kew Gardens

Prepare for saccharin overload. © Pip&Pop.

We love food and we love art, so why not bring them together. Pip & Pop artist (it’s just one person) has put together a collection of vibrant artworks made from everyday materials, including lots of sugar. Get ready for sweet overload with these elaborate pieces that take us to a candy-colored wonderland. It’s part of Kew Gardens’ wider Food Forever summer program which looks at the future of food.

Pip & Pop: When Flowers Dream at Kew Gardens, Shirley Sherwood Gallery. 21 May-5 March 2023, £15 (access to the gardens).

10. Treating Cancer: The Cancer Revolution at the Science Museum

Sarah Herd’s wig stand from the Cancer Collection Project. Science Museum Copyright Administrators.

Learn how cancer is detected, prevented and treated in the Science Museum’s new Cancer Revolution exhibit. It features artifacts and personal testimonials and aims to dispel myths about the disease, as well as highlight the progress made in combating it.

Cancer Revolution: Science, Innovation and Hope at the Science Museum. May 25-January 2023, free.

11. More than a Scream: Edvard Munch at the Courtauld Gallery

The KODE Collection in Bergen has a superb collection of works by Edvard Munch and they are visiting the UK for the first time. Edvard Munch: Masterpieces from Bergen traces the artist’s journey from more realistic painting to the emotionally charged, expressive works for which he is best known. Although his famous The Scream isn’t there, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about the talented painter who deserves to be known for so much more than just one work. And anyway, there is a lot of angst on the screen.

Edvard Munch: Masterpieces from Bergen at the Courtauld Gallery. 27 May-5 September, £18 (includes entry to the permanent collection).

12. Nostalgia: Dippy returns to the Natural History Museum

Look who’s back, back. Photo: Natural History Museum

One of London’s most beloved museum objects, Dippy the Diplodocus (replica) returns to the Natural History Museum after its national tour, to feature in a special exhibition. This is only a temporary return, however, so take the opportunity to say goodbye to a childhood friend. Technically, an item doesn’t make an exhibit, but whatever – we’re more than happy.

Dippy’s Return: The Nation’s Favorite Dinosaur at the Natural History Museum. May 27-December, free.

Short term events

There are many art fairs this month.

There are many art fairs in May. If you’re looking for that standout piece to complete your living room, there’s the Affordable Art Fair at Hampstead Heath (May 5-8, £11-27). Buy directly from an artist in their studio at Wimbledon Art Fair (May 12-15, free). Bargains abound at the Electric Art Car Boot Fair (May 14-17, £15) where art is sold from the back of a car/van and emerging artists mingle with household names like Gavin Turk.

Peter Blake at the London Original Print Fair 2019.

If your tastes are higher, visit Eye of the Collector at Two Temple Place (12-14 May, £28) where artwork, design pieces and furniture are displayed as if you had entered the house of ‘a collector. And if photography is more your thing, it doesn’t get more comprehensive than Photo London at Somerset House (May 12-15, £29). Later in May, Somerset House hosts another fair which focuses on prints and limited edition works at the London Original Print Fair (26-29 May, £18).

Yayoi Kusama was at Victoria Miro during London Gallery Weekend 2019. Photo: Linda Nylind

Elsewhere, London Gallery Weekend (May 13-15, free) sees galleries open across London for extended opening hours over a weekend, with trails and plenty of top artists. If you’re feeling more crafty, London Craft Week (May 9-15, some ticketed events) brings together over 250 established and emerging creators, designers, brands and galleries from around the world to come to our fair city.

About Wesley Williamson

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