Blockbuster exhibitions to see this winter

Published 9 December 2019

Warm your cockles this winter with contemporary photography from Africa, Paula Rego's powerful political art and more – it's our pick of the season's blockbusters.

Short days and chilly temperatures are no reason to hibernate. A host of retrospectives and first UK showings means there are unmissable artists for you to discover this winter.

If you appreciate the surreal side of life, don't miss Dora Maar at Tate Modern – her experimental photographic work with Picasso was just one chapter in a long and fascinating career.

Renowned American artist Theaster Gates lands in Liverpool with an unflinching look at inequality in the US through sculpture, installation, film and dance.

Sculpture by Naum Gabo, a pioneer of kinetic art, keeps things moving in St Ives; while Paula Rego's captivating and unsettling paintings, on show in Edinburgh, will give you plenty to think about of a dark evening.

And if you really want to escape, the Royal West of England Academy will transport you to Africa, as experienced by photographers who live there; and you can lose yourself in myth at the British Museum, or fantasise about owning a flying car at the V&A.

For an extra cosy feeling – all our blockbuster exhibitions are 50% off with a National Art Pass.

Theicon signifies when there is a National Art Pass offer

Paula Rego: Obedience and Defiance

50% off exhibitions

This retrospective of the work of Paula Rego, one of Europe’s most influential contemporary figurative artists, spans her entire career and features over 80 paintings, drawings and prints. Challenging and confrontational, her work often tackles urgent political issues. Highlights include her response to Portugal's 1998 referendum on abortion (Abortion Series, 1998-99), The Maids (1987), Joseph’s Dream (1990) and paintings made in the 1960s during the regime of the dictator Salazar.

French advertisement for the Tatra 77, 1934

Cars: Accelerating the Modern World

50% off exhibitions

The car has had an impact on almost every area of life – changing our environment, revolutionising design and getting us from A to B at unprecedented speed. For many, as this exhibition at the V&A explores, the car has also won hearts. Alongside 250 objects are 15 motors never shown in the UK before, including an autonomous flying car, the first ever production vehicle and a 1950s concept car.

Dora Maar, Untitled (Hand-Shell), 1934, Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jacques Faujour © DACS, London

Dora Maar

50% off exhibitions

This is the largest retrospective ever held in the UK of the work of pioneering Surrealist photographer Dora Maar. Her career spanned six decades, and the exhibition covers every step, from her photomontages and street photography to collaborations with Picasso in experimental printmaking and her later move to painting. It also covers important but less well-known areas of her work, including commercial commissions and social documentary.


Africa State of Mind

50% off exhibitions

Curated by editor Ekow Eshun with Nottingham's New Art Exchange, this exhibition of work by photographers from across Africa offers a subjective and varied take on 'Africanness'. By examining the dynamism and contradictions of the continent's cities, the fluidity of identity and the legacy of history, the artists explore Africa as a psychological as well as a physical space.

Filippo Albacini, The Wounded Achilles, 1825

Troy: Myth and Reality

50% off exhibitions

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

50% off exhibitions

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.


Naum Gabo

50% off exhibitions

Marking the centenary of Naum Gabo's Realistic Manifesto, in which he and his brother Antoine Pevsner rejected conventional elements of art, this exhibition is the largest UK show of the Russian Constructivist's work in over 30 years. Believing time and space to be the true forms of an object's essence, many of his works move or give the impression of movement.

Back to top