Blockbuster exhibitions to see this autumn

Published 27 August 2019

Autumn is bursting with some of the biggest shows of the year. From Rembrandt to robots, Blake to Buddhism, here’s our roundup of the season’s blockbuster exhibitions.

It’s a festival of firsts this autumn, as the National Gallery presents the first ever exhibition focusing solely on Paul Gauguin’s groundbreaking portraits; everything’s finally out of the closet at Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery in An English Lady’s Wardrobe; and the National Portrait Gallery shines a light on previously unseen works by women of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

Speaking of firsts – the next stage in the evolution of robots comes under scrutiny at V&A Dundee, and moving to Mars becomes a real possibility at the Design Museum.

All that alongside major surveys of work by Bridget Riley, William Blake, photographer Tim Walker, and more... and you’ll be more than ready for the British Library’s immersive journey into Buddhism.

Don't forget – all our blockbuster exhibitions are free or 50% off with a National Art Pass.


1
Joris Laarman for MX3D, Bridge Project, 2015 (3D-printed pedestrian bridge)

Hello, Robot

Robots already play key roles in our lives, from industry to fashion, and this exhibition asks what the future holds as the boundaries between human and machine become increasingly blurred. Over 200 objects are on display, including a robot designed to comfort the dying, a manifesto-generating machine and a specially commissioned architectural project that explores ideas of collaboration between ourselves and our own creations.


2
Prince Siddhartha’s birth depicted in a woodblock printed folding book in four volumes containing scenes from the Life of Buddha, China, 1808

Buddhism

Revealing the story of Buddhism through stunning historical artefacts including illuminated books, silk scrolls and sacred texts written on tree bark through to contemporary art and ritual objects, this exhibition immerses visitors in the religion's history and principles. A natural soundscape and settings inspired by a temple and monastic library create the perfect atmosphere for mindfulness.


3
Weldon's ladies' fashion patterns, which belonged to Emily Tinne and might have been used by her dressmaker

An English Lady's Wardrobe

If you can't resist poking about in someone else's wardrobe, don't miss this exhibition of the largest collection of a single person's clothing and accessories held by a UK gallery. Emily Tinne belonged to a wealthy Liverpool family and her dedication to fashion reflects the changing styles between 1910 and 1939, as well as the city's abundance of quality department stores and higly skilled tailors, milliners and shoemakers at the time.


4
Bridget Riley, High Sky, 1991

Bridget Riley

You'll be as dazzled by the breadth and range of Bridget Riley's 70-year career as much as by her optical illusions in this comprehensive exhibition. As a major practitioner of ‘Op art’, Riley questions the fundamental nature of perception – how we see. Highlights include her iconic black-and-white abstract paintings from the 1960s, expansive canvases in colour and new wall paintings made especially for the Hayward Gallery.


5
Joanna Wells, Fanny Eaton, 1861

Pre-Raphaelite Sisters

While members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood are well known, this is the first ever exhibition to focus on the women who contributed to the movement as artists, models and muses. Paintings – some of which have never been on public display before – are shown alongside manuscripts, photographs and personal items, offering new insight into the lives and work of artists such as Evelyn de Morgan, Effie Millais, Elizabeth Siddal and Joanna Wells.


6
Jonas Bendiksen, Villagers collecting scrap from a crashed spacecraft, surrounded by thousands of white butterflies. Altai Territory, Russia, 2000

Magnum Manifesto

Explore over 70 years of history, from significant global events to everyday scenes, through the lenses of some of the world's most renowned photographers. Magnum Photos was founded after the Second World War to chronicle and redefine our histories, and this exhibition showcases some of the agency's most enduring images through magazine spreads, newspaper articles, books and more.


7
Rembrandt van Rijn, The Denial of St Peter, 1660

Rembrandt's Light

Rembrandt is particularly celebrated for his mastery of light, and Dulwich Picture Gallery – 350 years after the Dutch Master's death – is particularly keen to showcase this aspect of his genius. Not only has the gallery brought together 35 of his iconic works, including major international loans, it has also collaborated with cinematographer Peter Suschitzky to create an immersive lighting design.


8
George Stubbs, Whistlejacket, c1762

George Stubbs: 'all done from Nature'

Compared to Leonardo da Vinci for his precise, scientific observations, George Stubbs is considered one of the most original artists of the 18th century. This exhibition is the largest survey of his work in the UK for 30 years and includes many of his anatomical drawings of different animals, from hens to humans. You can also see the skeleton of one of Stubbs' subjects, the legendary racehorse Eclipse.


9
Tim Walker, Zo, Kiran Kandola, Firpal, Yusuf, Ravyanshi Mehta, Jeenu Mahadevan, Chawntell Kulkami, & Radhika Nair (Fashion: Marni, Paolina Russo, Missoni, Ahluwalia Studio, Bottega Veneta, Chloé, Lou Dallas Pershore, Worcestershire), 2018

Tim Walker: Wonderful Things

Discover what happens when one of the world's most original photographers turns his attention to the vast collections of the V&A. This is the largest exhibition of Tim Walker's work to date, featuring 10 major new projects he created after scouring the museum from top to bottom. Stained glass, erotica, snuffboxes, the V&A's largest photograph and many more rare treasures provided inspiration and are also on display.


10
Mars © NASA

Moving to Mars

Astonishingly, the idea of flying to Mars has evolved from science fiction into serious scientific endeavour within our lifetimes. From the design challenges of getting there to the reality of housing, food and even makeup on a different planet, this exhibition offers a sneak preview of what might be in store. The immersive experience even gives visitors a sense of a Martian landscape and asks how all this innovative design could help our own environment on Earth.


11
Paul Gauguin, Self-Portrait Dedicated to Carrière, 1888 or 1889

Gauguin Portraits

This fascinating exhibition examines Paul Gauguin's innovative approach to portraiture, from his early career through to his move from Impressionism to Symbolism in the last two decades of his life. From the range of personifications he created in his self-portraits to his different interpretations of the same sitter over time (brought together from different collections), the show reveals how Gauguin revolutionised the portrait as an art form.


12
William Blake, Capaneus the Blasphemer, 1824-1827

William Blake

Read the name William Blake and the word ‘visionary’ won’t be far away. This exhibition, showcasing over 300 works, focuses on Blake the visual artist and the ambitions he held for his work. It includes frescoes that have been digitally enlarged to the huge scale Blake intended, as well as some of his best-known paintings such as Newton (1795-c1805) and Ghost of a Flea (c1819-20).


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