Looking for an awesome London exhibition this October? Here's our roundup of must-see shows in the capital.
1. Freudian show: Lucian Freud at The National Gallery
Marking a century since the artist's birth, this show brings together the work of one of Britain's greatest portrait painters, from across seven decades. The focus is on how his paintings drew inspiration from the Old Masters that came before him — and what better place to host such a show than The National Gallery? Meanwhile, over at The Garden Museum there's a selection of his lesser-known paintings of plants, which he continued to paint throughout his career.
The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Lucian Freud - New Perspectives at The National Gallery. 1 October-22 January 2023, from £24.
Lucian Freud: Plant Portraits at Garden Museum. 14 October-5 March 2023, £14.
2. Impressionist master: Cezanne at Tate Modern
Paul Cezanne was one of the great Post-Impressionist painters whose brilliant landscapes and figurative works have rightly placed him up there with the likes of Monet, Gauguin and Van Gogh. Tate has brought together over 80 of his works to showcase his full range of painting, plus a look back at the formative moments in his life, including his rejection by the art establishment at the time.
The EY exhibition: Cezanne at Tate Modern. 5 October-12 March 2023, £22.
3. Travel into space: Science Fiction at Science Museum
Taking immersive to the next level, visitors can board a spaceship and find themselves hovering above Earth at Science Museum, in an exhibition that shows how close science and science fiction really are. Remember those fancy universal translators on Star Trek? We're not far off from that now, though teleporters are still beyond our means at present. It's a great chance to geek out over both the Daleks from Doctor Who and a model of a telescope being used to search for intelligent life across the Universe.
Science Fiction: Voyage to the Edge of Imagination at Science Museum. 6 October 2022-4 May 2023, £20.
4. Female rebels: Soheila Sokhanvari at Barbican
Creating miniature portraits of 27 feminist icons from pre-Revolutionary Iran, Soheila Sokhanvari uses a traditional technique to cover a modern slice of history. Influenced by Western culture, these women forged a new path that became no longer possible to pursue within their home country after the Iranian Revolution. The artist has turned Barbican's Curve gallery into a devotional space that tells their important stories.
Soheila Sokhanvari: Rebel Rebel at Barbican, The Curve. 7 October-26 February 2023, free.
5. Double immersion: Richard Mosse and Universal Everything at 180 Studios
Richard Mosse's immersive video installation looks at remote parts of the Amazon to draw attention to environmental crimes committed in Brazil. Using his stylised filming that turns vegetation pink we still have fond memories of his excellent 2014 exhibition. Alongside his work will be the surreal films of Universal Everything, who wowed at the last 180 Strand exhibition with their walking figures that morphed from fire to stone to water as the film progressed.
Universal Everything: Lifeforms & Richard Mosse: Broken Spectre at 180 Studios. 12 October-4 December, £20.
6. Talk like an Egyptian: Hieroglyphs at The British Museum
How did we learn how to read Egyptian hieroglyphs? The British Museum walks us through the deciphering of hieroglyphs and the pivotal role that the Rosetta Stone played in learning more about Ancient Egypt. Leaning on the museum's vast Egyptian collection and external loans, the exhibition includes sarcophagi, canopic jars for storing the organs of the deceased, and the illustrated four-metre long papyrus of the book of the dead.
Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt at The British Museum. 13 October-19 February 2023, £18.
7. All the animals: Wildlife Photographer of the Year at Natural History Museum
Every year we look forward to visiting the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. Why? Because it captures the beauty, savagery and cruelty of the animal kingdom through stunning photographs. We're part of that kingdom too, and the cruelty inflicted by humans is also featured, to remind us that we as a species can be just as savage, if not more so. This year's crop takes us through all the emotions from awe to devastation — and who can resist a polar bear sticking its head out of a window?
Wildlife Photographer of the Year at Natural History Museum. 14 October-2 July 2023, £17.
8. Grisly: Executions at Museum of London Docklands
Executions were a regular part of London life between the 12th and 19th centuries, and remnants of this legacy can still be found throughout the city. This exhibition takes us back through London's grisly history including the vest King Charles I wore when he was executed outside Banqueting House, letters from the condemned, and a recreation of a gallows. One for the more morbid of us London history nerds.
Executions at Museum of London Docklands. 14 October-16 April 2023, £13.
9. Keeping it surreal: Objects of Desire at Design Museum
A horse with a lamp on its head, or a chair with a pair of breasts made out of cigarettes — fancy having either of these in your home? Artists creating surreal works also cross over into the world of design — think Salvador Dalí's lobster phone. From the playful to the unsettling, this exhibition looks at surreal design from 1924 right through to today.
Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924-Today at Design Museum. 14 October-19 February 2023, £16.80.
10. Re-open house: Leighton House is back
This west London gem of a house museum re-opens to the public after a major refurbishment that includes a new wing and an exhibition on the Holland Park circle of artists. Plus, it now operates jointly with the nearby Sambourne House. The mixture of Western and Eastern influences make this museum an architectural beaut (the Narcissus Hall in particular is a sight to behold); it's great to see the place all spruced up.
Leighton House & Sambourne House re-open. Opens 15 October, £11.
11. Look again: In Plain Sight at Wellcome Collection
How do we see, and how does that affect the way we view society and how society views us if we're sighted, partially sighted or blind? This exhibition charts the evolution of eyewear from the 1600s to commissions by contemporary artists relating to how we see this world — it's the blend of science, history and art that the Wellcome Collection does so well.
In Plain Sight at Wellcome Collection. 20 October-12 February 2023, free.
12. Cracking ceramics: Strange Clay at Hayward Gallery
Whether it's abstract pieces or fantastical figures, there's a wide range of artworks that are made using ceramics, and the full breadth of them is on show at Hayward Gallery. It's a delicate selection ready to fire the imagination, including David Zink Yi's giant ceramic squid, and Klara Kristalova's sculptures within roots, branches and moss.
Strange Clay: Ceramics in Contemporary Art at Hayward Gallery. 26 October-8 January 2023, £15.
13. Aaaah!: The Horror Show at Somerset House
Great horror manifests our innermost fears and Somerset House is using the genre to show how creative rebellion has been inspired by horror, from the 1970s punks to modern witchcraft. With over 200 artworks and artefacts across three sections called Monster, Ghost and Witch, it's a rare chance to combine our two loves of horror and art in a spook-tacular exhibition.
The Horror Show! A Twisted Tale of Modern Britain at Somerset House. 27 October-19 February 2023, £16.50.
14. Prize photography: Taylor Wessing Prize at Cromwell Place
With the National Portrait Gallery still undergoing a major redevelopment, the Taylor Wessing Photography Prize is at Cromwell Place in South Kensington again — not a surprise, given last year's was one of the strongest we've seen. Featuring intimate family portraits and works covering social issues, as well as a few recognisable faces, this prize captures the annual face of Britain.
Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at Cromwell Place. 27 October-18 December, £9.
15. Creative prisoners: Koestler Arts at Royal Festival Hall
Koestler Arts does a fantastic job of bringing art and creativity to those within the UK criminal justice system, and part of this is an annual exhibition of works by prisoners and young offenders. For its 60th year, guest curator is art legend Ai Weiwei, a man who has been imprisoned himself, and he's selected the great works that have been designed inside institutions where creativity is a vital outlet.
Koestler Arts: Freedom at Royal Festival Hall. 27 October-18 December, free.
16. Black brilliance: The New Black Vanguard at Saatchi Gallery
Bringing together art and fashion, this collection of photographs celebrates Black creatives, Black bodies and Black lives. Tackling important issues such as race and gender these are beautiful photographs that are quite literally at the height of fashion. If you can celebrate diversity and look this good while doing it, then we're sold.
The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion at Saatchi Gallery. 28 October-22 January 2023, £10.
Short run events
It's art fair season in London and that's because the granddaddy of them all, Frieze London (12-16 October, £46+), rolls into town and takes over a good chunk of Regent's Park with a marquee containing the latest in contemporary art. At the other end of the park Frieze Masters (12-16 October, £46+) takes us back in time for the best in art from centuries ago to a few decades ago. With 280 galleries from over 42 countries there's more art here than anyone could possibly take in one visit.
1:54 at Somerset House (13-16 Oct, £25+) will be celebrating its 10 anniversary by bringing the very best in contemporary African art to London. There's also StART art fair over at Saatchi Gallery (12-16 Oct, £17+) where international galleries come together, including West Contemporary who will be showing the fab neon and lenticular works of Lauren Baker.
If design is more your speed then the top end of 20th century and contemporary design can be found at PAD London in Berkeley Square (10-16 October, £25), and you can meet hundreds of design professionals and purchase their wares at Decorex at Olympia (9-12 October, ticketed).
For those looking for art to add to their walls, The Other Art Fair at Truman Brewery (13-16 October, £9+) is the place to go — we've made plenty of purchases at this fair where visitors can deal directly with the artists. Around the corner two artists, Roy's People and Sam Peacock, have joined forces for a combination of miniature people in playful works, and chunky industrial abstract paintings at BoxPark Shoreditch (13-16 October, free).
If you'd prefer something a bit more trippy then there's a virtual reality experience based on the works of spiritual artist Hilma af Klint housed within Koko Camden (10-13 October, free, booking required)