The exhibitions you must see this September

Published 27 August 2020

From iconic 1960s photography to a journey into the depths of electronic music – there are plenty of exhibitions to celebrate a return to museums and galleries this September. Here are our must-sees.

This month’s selections celebrate the truly eclectic nature of museums and galleries across the UK, featuring shows that transcend the typical gallery experience to plunge you into immersive and visceral worlds.

Dive into the 1960s music scene at the Walker Art Gallery’s major exhibit of photographer Linda McCartney; explore the complex and inspirational identity of music icon Grace Jones at Nottingham Contemporary; or lose yourself in the sounds of Kraftwerk and the Chemical Brothers at the Design Museum.

The ultimate style symbol of Japan, the kimono, takes centre stage at the V&A in London, while in Cumbria, Tullie House explore almost 3,000 years of Imperial Chinese culture. And in Bournemouth, you’ve a last chance to dive into the legacy of the Pre-Raphaelite movement at Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum.

Meanwhile, the Imperial War Museum reveals the personal struggles of refugees forced to flee their homes in a programme of poignant exhibits across its London and Manchester venues, all working towards shining a light on this global issue.

Most of our must-sees are free or 50% off with a National Art Pass, and you can explore our full listings for more exhibitions near you.

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Linda McCartney Retrospective

50% off exhibitions

Celebrating Linda McCartney as the truly prolific photographer she is, this major exhibition explores her depictions of the 1960s music scene and life with Paul McCartney, and even includes some never-before-seen images of Liverpool and the Wirral – all captured through Linda’s emotive and charismatic lens.

Anthony Barboza, Grace Jones, NYC, 1970s. Courtesy of Anthony Barboza Photography.

Grace Before Jones: Camera, Disco, Studio

10% off

Exploring the complex image of Grace Jones, this exhibition unpicks the idea that Jones embodies many juxtaposing concepts – from model to performer, Jamaican to French, masculine to feminine. Themes of race, gender, sexuality and performance are unwoven and made more complicated by the image of this undisputed icon.

The Boat Builders

ICONS II: John Bellany

£ off exhibitions

Reuniting works from the long career of esteemed Scottish artist John Bellany, this latest exhibition in Perth Museum’s ICONS series focuses on his portrayals of fishing communities and boating life on the east coast of Scotland. Themes such as guilt, sex and death are explored alongside his boundary-breaking approach to both realist and abstract painting techniques.

Kimono Times, Akira Times, 2017 © Akira Times

Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk

50% off exhibitions

Historically the ultimate symbol of Japanese culture, the kimono has previously been viewed as a traditional, one-dimensional garment – a misconception that the V&A are setting right with this exhibition exploring the varied nature of the kimono and its influence on global fashion today.


Treasures of China

Free exhibitions

A deep dive into the dynamic history of Imperial China over nearly 3,000 years, this show features rare examples of porcelain, embroidery, calligraphy, silk and jade. Displays of historical artefacts are combined with the work of contemporary Chinese artists, exploring the influence that Imperial Chinese culture, history and use of symbolism has on art today.

Cowper - Vanity

Beyond the Brotherhood: The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy

Free exhibitions

Despite coming to an end in the late 1800s, the Pre-Raphaelite movement continues to inspire art and culture to this day, notably influencing fantasy illustration and film, such as productions like The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. Don’t miss your last chance to explore its legacy, and the mark it left on other artistic movements including Realism, Aestheticism, Symbolism and Art Nouveau – the show ends 27 September.

Rob Pinney, Afghan teenagers play cricket against a shipping container in the Calais ‘Jungle’, in an area of the camp known as 'Afghan Square' © Rob Pinney

Refugees: Forced to Flee

Free to all

Drawing on work from IWM London’s rich collections, this exhibition explores the complicated and upsetting plight of refugees forced to flee their homes and build new lives elsewhere. It’s part of a wider season of exhibitions across IWM’s venues; at IWM London you can also visit Ai Weiwei’s History of Bombs and Life in a Camp, examining other areas of politics, power and the life of refugees.


Electronic: From Kraftwerk to The Chemical Brothers

50% off exhibitions

Be transported into the hypnotic world of electronic music through the people, art, design, photography and technology that have shaped and captured it. This immersive experience evokes the feeling of a club, where you can experience the dance floors of Detroit, Chicago, Paris, Berlin and the UK.

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