The exhibitions you must see this December

Published 29 November 2019

From the drama of Troy at the British Museum to an Arts and Crafts masterclass in Edinburgh, see out the year on a high with our pick of December’s exhibitions.

This month it’s all about bringing to light stories and people who have been overlooked or denied a voice. Indian master painters commissioned by the East India Company take centre stage at the Wallace Collection, while Arts and Crafts trailblazer May Morris steps clear of her father’s shadow at Dovecot Studios.

Stunning infographics by WEB Du Bois which challenged racism in America are on display at the House of Illustration, while at Tate Liverpool, Theaster Gates throws a spotlight on the injustice done to the people of Malaga – and an exhibition at Kettle's Yard presents South Asian tales of displacement and migration.

Elsewhere, discover why the story of Troy has stayed fresh for 3,000 years, delight in Tristram Hillier’s surreal masterpieces, and finally – if you've been wondering where you can see our furry friend pictured at the top – lose yourself in the wonders of the natural world at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.

Most of our must-see exhibitions are 50% off with a National Art Pass – and don’t forget there are hundreds more fantastic shows to discover in our full exhibition listings. Happy holidays!

Filippo Albacini, The Wounded Achilles, 1825

Troy: Myth and Reality

It's a powerful story – the abduction of the most beautiful woman in the world, and an epic battle that spawned dozens more tales of heroism and intrigue. No wonder Troy has fascinated artists, storytellers and archaeologists for 3,000 years. This exhibition sorts myth from reality and explores how these stories have been reimagined through the ages, from ancient sculpture to Hollywood films.


Theaster Gates: Amalgam

The first major UK exhibition of influential American artist Theaster Gates takes the story of Malaga island as its starting point. In 1912, the community living on this small island off the coast of Maine was forcibly removed to the mainland and given no support. Through sculpture, installation, film and dance, Gates examines issues of race inequality and territory in the US.

Distribution of Negroes in the United States © WEB Du Bois

WEB Du Bois: Charting Black Lives

The African American activist WEB du Bois was a prolific writer and one of the standout voices for equal rights in the 20th century. This exhibition offers a chance to see his less well-known series of striking infographics – radical charts, graphs and maps that refuted pseudo-scientific racism and charted the unpublicised achievements of African Americans.

May Morris for Morris & Co, Honeysuckle wallpaper

May Morris: Art & Life

Originally created through an Art Happens crowdfunding campaign by William Morris Gallery, this exhibition repositions May Morris as one of the most important artists of the Arts and Crafts movement. Over 80 original textiles and drawings, as well as wallpaper, jewellery, dresses and book designs, reveal a major talent whose influence extended far beyond the UK.

Sohrab Hura, Snow (Exhibition suite of 27 photographs, 2014-ongoing)

Homelands: Art from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan

Exploring ideas of home in a region marked by changing borders and migration, this exhibition tells stories of displacement, resettlement and transition in South Asia and beyond through photography, sculpture, painting, performance and film. Many works are new or have never been displayed in the UK before.


Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company

This is a unique opportunity to see works by Indian master painters commissioned by the East India Company in the late 18th and 19th centuries, brought together. Guest curated by historian William Dalrymple, the exhibition showcases the originality of these vivid paintings and the unusual fusion of British and Indian artistic styles at the time.

Thomas P Peschak, Touching Trust

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Get up close to the world’s wildlife with stunning photographs that capture nature at its most ferocious, spectacular and just plain adorable. The images on display both celebrate the beauty and wonder of the natural world, and challenge us to consider our place and responsibilities within it.

Tristram Hillier, The Beach at Yport, 1940 © Bridgeman Images

Landscapes of the Mind: The Art of Tristram Hillier

The first retrospective in over 30 years of Surrealist-influenced artist Tristram Hillier brings together more than 50 works from across the UK. The exhibition, which is supported by the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund, includes paintings from Hillier's time in Somerset, Spain and Portugal and also works by contemporaries including Paul Nash and Ben Nicholson.

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