The exhibitions you must see this February
From the extraordinary sculptures of Louise Bourgeois to the world’s most famous book of bird paintings, there are some fantastic exhibitions to see this February.
While we’re still in the clutches of winter, why not take refuge in the warmth and visit your favourite museum?
February is one of the busiest months for brand new exhibitions, with major shows such as Van Gogh at the Courtauld gallery, Beatrix Potter at the V&A and Ai Weiwei at Kettle’s Yard being just a few of the fantastic exhibitions opening this month.
From Louise Bourgeois' powerful textile sculptures at the Hayward Gallery to paintings by wartime singer Vera Lynn at Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, there’s simply so much to see.
Don't forget, most of our must-see exhibitions are free or 50% off with a National Art Pass. You can also check out our guide to the must-see exhibitions of 2022 and our full exhibition listings for more inspiration.
- The Courtauld Gallery, London
- 3 February – 8 May 2022
One of the most anticipated exhibitions of 2022, Van Gogh Self-Portraits is the first show at the Courtauld gallery following its multi-million-pound redevelopment. The exhibition focuses on Vincent van Gogh's enigmatic paintings of himself, including incredibly famous works such as Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889). Explore the Dutch Post-Impressionist's turbulent life and career through the face of the artist himself, from his formative years in Paris to his time spent in an asylum in Provence – all the while creating art that would be remembered around the world for generations.
- Hayward Gallery, London
- 9 February – 15 May 2022
This exhibition explores the later years of textile artist and sculptor Louise Bourgeois, who returned to the roots of her family’s atelier in France by incorporating complex textiles and fabric design into her large-scale work. Featuring hanging sculptures, fabric heads and fantastical bodies, the exhibition explores prevalent themes in Bourgeois’ long career, including identity, sexuality and family relationships.
- National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
- 12 February – 8 May 2022
The rare book Birds of America (1827-38) is considered the archetype of ornithological illustration, containing 435 life-size watercolours of North American birds, including now-extinct species. Due to its enormous scale, very few copies of this precious publication remain, and due to its depiction of lost birds, it is considered an important scientific encyclopaedia. See a bound copy of the book alongside original prints, ephemera, letters and taxidermy specimens that demonstrate its accuracy.
- V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum), London
- From 12 February 2022
Known for her exquisite watercolours and adorable characters, Beatrix Potter is one of the most beloved children’s authors in history. This exhibition focuses on her enduring love of nature, and how her work in conservation and her appreciation for the natural world led to some of her most memorable creations, from Peter Rabbit and the Flopsy Bunnies to Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and Jemima Puddle-Duck.
- Tate St Ives, St Ives
- 5 February – 2 May 2022
In this mesmerising exhibition multimedia artist Thao Nguyen Phan explores the majestic Mekong River, stretching all the way from the Tibetan plateau in the north to its delta in southern Vietnam. The culmination of years of research, the exhibition features a blend of silk paintings, works on film and exciting new mixed-media creations in which the artist exposes the urgent environmental issues facing this important waterway.
- Kettle's Yard, Cambridge
- 12 February – 19 June 2022
Juxtaposing ancient Chinese artefacts with his own contemporary creations, visual artist and activist Ai Weiwei reflects on notions of liberty in the west in contrast with China’s authoritarian regime. The exhibition features a number of works bought by the artist at auction in Cambridge, plus 13 new and existing works including the films Coronation, Cockroach (both 2020) and Human Flow (2017).
- Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield
- 19 February – 5 June 2022
This exhibition marks an enduring relationship between sculptor David Nash and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, as well as Nash's lifelong dedication to the study of trees. The artist explores the connection between nature and art alongside our deep human connection to the natural world through a series of drawings and mark-makings, from far-reaching landscape views to vivid, abstract works. You can pair the exhibition with a stroll around the artist’s site-specific works dotted around the park, such as Barnsley Lump, Three Stones for Three Trees (both 1981-82) and Seventy-One Steps (2010).
- Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, Ditchling
- 8 January – 18 April 2022
Vera Lynn was best known for entertaining troops with her songbird vocals during the Second World War, crucially helping to maintain morale. But Lynn was also an enthusiastic painter for much of her life, and this exhibition displays 20 works in still-life and portraiture painted following the war and from her home in Ditchling. Including diaries, costumes, photographs and other items from across Vera Lynn’s career, the exhibition explores the eclectic life and artistic outputs of this nation’s sweetheart.