What to see: Exhibitions 2015

  • 10 December 2014

Potty for Perry? Mad about McQueen? We take a look at the exhibitions to get excited about over the coming year.

The year of the sculptor

It's set to be a phenomenal year for three-dimensional art, with Tate alone promising three major shows dedicated to sculpture. The lavish marble, ceramic and silver work created in the pioneering Victorian era is the subject of Tate Britain's Sculpture Victorious show in February, while in June the gallery offers London's first Barbara Hepworth retrospective in 50 years. Completing the lineup in autumn, Tate Modern will host an inspiring exhibition of kinetic mobile sculptures by the groundbreaking American artist, Alexander Calder (from November).

Yorkshire Sculpture Park boasts an impressive programme for 2015, with solo shows celebrating masters of the art, Henry Moore and Antony Caro (March and July). Meanwhile Pallant House displays tribal-inspired designs by 'the precursor of modern sculpture in Britain' Leon Underwood, and Phyllida Barlow transforms the Fruitmarket Gallery with her monumentally-sized installations over summer (March and June).

Italy's finest​

Eighteenth-century Venice yielded a wealth of outstanding Italian painters, famed for producing vivid canvases using elaborate brushwork. At Compton Verney, Canaletto: Celebrating Britain records the artist's nine-year stay in England. Brought together for the first time, a series of paintings by the classical Venetian artist celebrate the achievements of British architecture and engineering (from March).

The Ashmolean takes an alternative view of the era, using new research to shed light on the undiscovered drawing practice of Titian, Bellini, Tintoretto and Canaletto. See Drawing in Venice: Titian to Canaletto, from October.

Into the abstract

Whitechapel kicks things off in January with a show celebrating 100 years since Kazimir Malevich debuted his suprematist Black Square at the 0.10 exhibition in Russia. Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art 1915 - 2015 also features works by Carl Andre, Dan Flavin and Piet Mondrian.

Sonia Delauney's experiments with colour are set to enthral audiences at Tate Modern from April, while Jackson Pollock's action paintings are the subject of Tate Liverpool's summer blockbuster in June.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, V and A, 50% off with National Art Pass Philip Treacy for Alexander McQueen, Butterfly headdress of hand-painted turkey feathers La Dame Bleue, © Anthea Simms

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, V and A, 50% off with National Art Pass

Passion for fashion

Quite possibly the most-anticipated show of 2015, Savage Beauty had audiences queuing around the block when it was first shown in New York in 2011. This spring an expanded version goes on display in Alexander McQueen's hometown, featuring 30 additional garments and a new section exploring his early days as a designer – not to mention a life-size hologram of Kate Moss. Prepare to be dazzled at the V&A from March.

In the same month, Imperial War Museum London explores the challenges of Fashion on the Ration during the Second World War, while photographs, magazine covers and film stills celebrate style icon Audrey Hepburn at National Portrait Gallery from July.

Election fever

Taking its cue from the upcoming general election, the Hayward Gallery asks six artists to curate individual displays exploring key moments in national history since 1945. Britain Can Make It opens at the venue in February. Similarly inspired, the V&A's All of This Belongs To You features a series of interventions around the museum which question the role of public institutions in contemporary life (from April). 

Twice prime minister the Duke of Wellington is the subject of a National Portrait Gallery display in March. Marking the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions will explore his contrasting public and personal personas. Also in March, The Bowes Museum presents Milk Snatcher: The Thatcher Drawings – satirical animations by Gerald Scarfe .

Pick of the portraits

An early show at Tate Modern delves into the dark world of Marlene Dumas, whose abstract portraiture explores issues such as violence, torture and death (from February). National Portrait Gallery opts for the traditional instead; intimate paintings by John Singer Sargent capture many of his famous friends, including Robert Louis Stevenson, Claude Monet and Auguste Rodin. Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends is on display from February.

An exhibition at the National Gallery in October will reveal Francisco de Goya's talents as a portrait artist. Railing against tradition, he gave new direction to the genre by focusing on the psychology of his sitters. See the effect for yourself in Goya: The Portraits. Van Dyck's magnificent self-portrait will be on a multi-venue tour this year, starting in Self Image and Identity at Turner Contemporary in Margate (from January).

New now

A series of new works produced by Cornelia Parker in collaboration with Nobel Prize-winning scientists from Manchester University form the first exhibition of the Whitworth's grand reopening in February. Damien Hirst wonders if science is the new religion in a body of work on display at The Lightbox (from March) and Grayson Perry's unique brand of social commentary spills from tapestries, prints and sculptures at Turner Contemporary (from May).

Despite the fact he's forbidden from leaving China, artist and activist Ai Wei Wei presents a major exhibition of unapologetically political work at the Royal Academy in September. Curators have travelled to meet Ai in Beijing and have devised the show using virtual plans of the galleries. The innovative fig-2 project meanwhile, will see 50 different artists exhibit for one week each at the ICA studio. In a unique twist, the artist will only be announced four days prior to their show (from January).

Inventing Impressionism, National Gallery, 50% off with National Art Pass Berthe Morisot, Woman at Her Toilette, 1875-80 © The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, Stickney Fund

Inventing Impressionism, National Gallery, 50% off with National Art Pass

Best of the rest

In January, National Museum Cardiff reveals how an ordinary family from Swansea pioneered new techniques in image production in the 19th century. Historic Photography Uncovered features the Dillwyn Llewelyn's fascinating pictures of the south Wales landscape, as well as of their family life and social activities.

Degas, Monet and Renoir feature in National Gallery's Inventing Impressionism, but the real star of the show is Paul Durand-Ruel – the visionary art dealer who saved their work from critical disaster. His fascinating story is uncovered in March.

Later in the year, the Barbican takes a peek inside the laboratory of iconic designers Ray and Charles Eames, while the V&A investigates the photography of Julia Margaret Cameron – particularly her relationship with the museum's founding director, Sir Henry Cole, who presented the first exhibition of her work (October and November).

Buy a National Art Pass and you can enjoy 50% off entry to major exhibitions at Tate, V&A, National Gallery and hundreds of other venues across the UK for the next 12 months.

Tags: ExhibitionsWhat to see