Five spring blockbuster exhibitions

Published 19 February 2014

Rediscover the Vikings, get front row seats to Gaultier and marvel at rarely-seen Matisse – we bring you the best of the blockbusters this spring.

1. Vikings: Life and Legend, British Museum, London

6 March – 22 June 2014

50% off with National Art Pass

Bloodthirsty, war-mongering raiders and pillagers? Not quite, according to the British Museum's spring show, which suggests the Vikings were culturally enlightened folk whose travels across the globe exposed them to a wide range of ideas, beliefs and practices. A series of new archaeological discoveries means that as well as swords, amulets and treasure hoards, there's plenty of myth-busting matter on display. (Did you know they didn't wear horned helmets either?) This is the first exhibition in the museum's Sainsbury gallery, and its new capabilities mean the space is able to hold the surviving timbers of a 37-metre-long Viking warship, the longest ever found.

2. Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice, National Gallery, London

19 March – 15 June 2014

50% off with National Art Pass

A truly supreme colourist capable of creating rich tones in paint and inspiring the likes of Van Dyck, Reubens and Delacroix – so why is it that Veronese's reputation diminished in the 19th century, more than 300 years after his death? National Gallery's display of portraits, altarpieces, allegorical decorations and mythological works restore faith in the artist's true magnificence, highlighting his bold and spectacular style. Specially for this exhibition, several of Veronese's works are reunited for the first time in centuries, including a painting of Adoration of the Kings, which was made for the church of San Silvestro in Venice, and an altarpiece of the same subject. These two pictures have not been seen together since they were in the artist's studio.

3. The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, Barbican, London, 9 April – 25 August 2014

Reduced price with National Art Pass

Want to see the conical bra infamously worn by Madonna in the 90s or costumes designed for sci-fi film favourite The Fifth Element? Jean Paul Gaultier's outlandish creations have fuelled his rise to superstardom, celebrated in this theatrically staged exhibition which unites fashion with film, photography and dance performance. Whether he's working up radical pieces of cutting-edge couture or presenting late night comedy TV series Eurotrash, Gaultier is not your typical fashion designer, making his career – and this retrospective – all the more interesting.

4. Matisse: The Cut-Outs, Tate Modern, London, 17 April – 7 September 2014

50% off with National Art Pass

Facing ill health and unable to paint Henri Matisse could have easily retired, but instead he looked for ways to reinvent his working practice. Cutting shapes from brightly coloured paper he created a vivid series of maquettes that were every bit as brilliant as his paintings. In fact, his cut-outs were even said to have made Picasso 'rather jealous'. In this display Tate is showing the largest number of Blue Nudes ever exhibited together, as well as reuniting The Snail with its sister works for the first time since they were made. Four years in the planning, this stage of Matisse's career has never been examined in such detail before, owing not just to the dispersion of the works into international collections, but also due to their fragility. As such, it is unlikely you'll see a show of this scale again for some time.​

5. Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK, British Library, London, 2 May – 19 August 2014

50% off with National Art Pass

The biggest UK show ever devoted to British comics, it includes examples of animation spanning back as far as the Victorian age when it first became a popular mass medium. Rare and original artwork – from Batman to Sandman to Kick-Ass – demonstrates the ways in which comics have been used to explore political and social issues, from violence and drugs to class and sexuality. One highlight is the display of a little-known comic book from the Nasty Tales series, which was put on trial for obscenity charges in the early 1970s due to its graphic content.

Look out for our regular round ups of art exhibitions to see around the UK, including the autumn digest, featuring openings in October, November and December.

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