Recommendations

Blockbuster exhibitions in the North

Leilah Babirye, Obumu (Unity), installation view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2024

Planning a cultural day out in the North of England? From a contemporary film installation in Manchester to a major sculpture exhibition in York, don't miss the biggest exhibitions open now.

Beyond its stunning scenery, the North of England has a vibrant creative landscape. Whether you're interested in contemporary art or history, learning about the most famous artists or discovering emerging stars, there's an exhibition on offer for every cultural appetite.

From visitor favourites such as Wakefield's Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery to historic places like Kendal's Abbot Hall and York's Castle Howard, a rolling programme of must-see exhibitions runs throughout the year.

Here's our guide to some of the biggest blockbuster exhibitions in the North open now.


Don't forget to pack your National Art Pass to get great benefits at every venue, and check out our full listings for more upcoming exhibitions.

Discover some of the best exhibitions in the North with an Art Pass

01
John Lyons, Mama Look A Mas Passin, 1990

John Lyons: Carnivalesque

Explore the colourful worlds of Trinidadian folklore and mythology in this major retrospective of poet and painter John Lyons, who has dedicated six decades to his creative practice. Discover his influence on British art, literature and art education, having taught in Manchester and across the nation. While you're there, don't miss the Art Fund supported exhibition, Ayo Akingbade: Show Me The World Mister, comprising a film installation exploring history, legacy, power and place-making in Nigeria.

02
Leilah Babirye, Gunsinze aliwa Bitono (detail), 2023.

Leilah Babirye: Obumu (Unity)

Marvel at the monumental sculptures that congregate in Yorkshire Sculpture Park's chapel by Leilah Barbirye, who uses wood, ceramics, stainless steel, bike chains and copper to create figures which celebrate the beauty of the LGBTQ+ community. Once you're done, check out the two other exhibitions on at the moment, Jonathan Baldock: Touch Wood and Yukihiro Akama: Basho no Kankaku – A Sense of Place 場所の感覚.

03
Frank Raffles Soviet Women © Franki Raffles Estate, all rights reserved.

Franki Raffles: Photography, Activism, Campaign Works

Explore the stories of women and their work across the globe, from China to the Caribbean, in this major retrospective of documentary photographer and activist Franki Raffles, who produced a staggering 40,000 images in the space of 10 years. Raffles documented the lives of women all over the world, uncovering key issues including inequality, gendered violence and disability.

04
JMW Turner, The Fighting Temeraire, 1839

Turner: Art, Industry & Nostalgia

Witness a masterpiece by JMW Turner, on loan from the National Gallery to celebrate their 200th anniversary, in this exhibition exploring the rise of industrialisation in Britain, with a particular focus on the North East's shipbuilding history. And if you're not in Newcastle, browse our full listings to find a National Treasures exhibition near you.

05
Jarvis Cocker

Self Made: Derrick Santini

Famous faces go on display in this exhibition of photography by Derrick Santini, who has captured some of the biggest names in art, fashion, music and film, including Adele, Jarvis Cocker, Judi Dench, Idris Elba and One Direction. Explore the story of Scarborough local Santini's career as a photographer and come face-to-face with the icons who have shaped British culture over the last three decades.

06
Tony Cragg, Industrial Nature, 2024 at Castle Howard.

Tony Cragg at Castle Howard

Don't miss this opportunity to experience striking art in stunning surroundings, as Tony Cragg's large-scale sculptures are brought to Castle Howard in this landmark exhibition. Find works dotted throughout the grounds and inside the house, where a selection of Cragg's works on paper are also on display.

07
Claude Cahun, I am in training, don’t kiss me, 1927

Claude Cahun: Beneath this Mask

Discover a radical artist and trailblazer who used photography and self-portraiture to explore gender and identity at the start of the 20th century. Claude Cahun refused the narrow confines of gender and adopted a gender-neutral pseudonym as her artist name. See 42 of her striking prints that have left an enduring mark on photography today, inspiring leading artists including Cindy Sherman and Nan Goldin.

08
Afamefuma 'Ebo Boy' by Lela Harris, Judges Lodgings Museum

Facing the Past - Black Lancastrians. A Portrait Exhibition by Lela Harris

Through portraiture, self-taught artist Lela Harris reimagines six Black people connected to the transatlantic slave trade who lived in Lancaster during the 18th century. Harris has combed through archival material to produce visual records of these people who have been historically erased, crucially reminding us of their existence and humanity.

IndividualTiana Clarke Please note this is an example card and not a reflection of the final product

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