The best free exhibitions in London right now: culture at no cost

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especially in the winter months, London is, as always, absolutely packed with things to do – and with the weather quickly turning cold, what better place to escape than an art gallery?

But of course, everything can get a bit expensive if you’re not careful. So if you want to have a great weekend seeing London’s best culture, but also want to save a few quid, look no further than this guide to the best art exhibitions to see in the city, all of which are absolutely free.

Art Now: Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings

Courtesy the Artists and Arcadia Missa, London . Photo by Josef Konczak

Art Now is Tate Britain’s long-running series of exhibitions highlighting the rising stars of the art scene. Past performances include choreographer SERAFINE1369, Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe aka Cooking Sections, Scottish artist France-Lise McGurn and Polish artist Joanna Piotrowska. Now it’s Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings’ turn to shine.

Quinlan and Hastings’ work uses the traditional fresco technique to depict scenes of people and explores themes of power dynamics and authority in relation to public spaces, architecture and different forms of identity.

Tate Britain, until 7 May; tate.org.uk

Soheila Sokhanvari: Rebel Rebel

Soheila Sokhanvari, Rebel (Portrait of Zinat Moadab), 2021, Private Collection Elizabeth and Jeff Louis

/ © Soheila Sokhanvari, courtesy of Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery

This is the first major UK commission for Iranian artist Soheila Sokhanvari. Here she paints miniature portraits of both feminist icons and important cultural figures, from 1925 to the 1979 revolution.

His celebratory portraits will be housed in the Barbican’s Curve, which is transforming into an immersive space with floor-to-ceiling hand-painted geometric shapes. There will be a soundtrack composed by Marios Aristopoulos and mirrored sculptures with projections of the 2019 film Filmfarsi.

Barbican, until 26 February; barbacan.org.uk

Kamala Ibrahim Ishag

Blues for the Martyrs, 2022. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Mohamed Noureldin Abdallah Ahmed. © Kamala Ibrahim Ishag.

Sudanese modernist artist Kamala Ibrahim Ishag. Isha was a member of the influential Khartoum School and was a co-founder of the 1970s modernist conceptual group, the Crystalists, which was committed to novelty and invention. Her famous paintings, intertwining human and plant forms, will be on display as part of this comprehensive overview of her work.

Serpentine South Gallery, until January 29; serpentinegalleries.org

Out of the Margins: Performance in London’s Institutions 1990s-2010s

Courtesy of the Whitechapel Gallery Archive. Photography by Manuel Vason

This exhibition investigates how institutions have engaged with live art over the years. The show focuses on the key moments of a twenty-year period in London and introduces audiences to the city’s electric modern art scene as they’ve never seen it before: think of the underground parties at the ICA, the beginning of Live Art Development Agency, initiated by The Roberts Institute of Art and the Whitechapel Gallery’s major 2002 exhibition A Short History of Performance (I, II, III, IV).

While you’re in the gallery also check out the Norweigan Christen Sveaas Art Foundation’s selection of works by Donna Huanca. She has created a multi-sensory environment and investigates the themes of colonialism, displacement and artistic creation, until January 1st.

Whitechapel Gallery, until 15 January; www.whitechapelgallery.org

LuYang NetiNeti

Courtesy of the artist and the Société, Berlin

Chinese artist LuYang’s first solo exhibition in the UK focuses on LuYang DOKU’s digital avatar as they explore opposites – life and death, man and machine, past and present – through moving images, installations, interactive games and videos. The artist’s work is described as “darkly humorous” and as “all-consuming in their visual and aural intensity”.

Scattered throughout the gallery are a half-dozen jaw-dropping videos: a choreographed dance video, a video that was shown at this year’s Venice Biennale, a video about gods, works of moving images and animations.

Zabludowicz Collection, until 12 February; www.zabludowiczcollection.com

Amy Sherald: The world we create

Amy Sherald, For Love and Country, 2022

/ © Amy Sherald, courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth, photo: Joseph Hyde

US artist Amy Sherald has become one of America’s most famous: she is best known for her official portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama. His paintings of Black Americans in their spare time investigate the Black experience.

“Sherald foregrounds the idea that black life and identity is not exclusively about publicly addressing social issues and that resistance also resides in an expressive vision of self-sovereignty in the world,” the gallery says . In The World We Make he asks the audience to look beyond social constructs, reflecting instead on human beings and their inner lives.

Hauser & Wirth, until December 23; hauserwirth. com

Yinka Ilori: parables for happiness

Creative Courts, Yinka Ilori, photographed by Matt Alexander

Yinka Ilori draws on her Anglo-Nigerian heritage to create her accessibility-focused design and art work. She reimagines city spaces, often using patterns of bright colors and geometric shapes, creating murals, constructing open-air gallery pathways, installing structures in pavilions and transforming pedestrian crossings.

Her, the artist showcases a range of work and inspirations including billboard graphics, Nigerian textiles, photography, furniture and books.

Museum of Design, until 25 June; designmuseum.org

David Altmejd

David Altmejd, White Cube Mason’s Yard

/ © the artist. Photo © White Cube (Ollie Hammick)

David Altmejd’s haunting sculptures blend old and new ideas through the playful use of figure and color. In these pieces, Altmejd plays with the concept of Trickster archetypes, from Loki – the gender-shifting Trickster from Norse mythology – to Eshu, the Yoruba character who navigates between heaven and hell.

White Cube, until 21 January; whitecube.com

David Hockney: 20 flowers and some larger images

David Hockney, August 2021, Landscape with Shadows

/ ©David Hockney

Sometimes in life we ​​need to see the bigger picture. Like almost every other area of ​​life, art is subject to change and digital is taking over. David Hockney’s display presents what is possible in this new era: all these dynamic pieces are made with an iPad.

You can certainly see the artist’s fascination with the digital form, with Hockney’s clean strokes complimented by bold and bright color choices.

Annely Juda Fine Art, until 23 December; annelyjudafineart.co.uk

Nana Wolke: Wanda’s

Nana Wolke, Wanda’s, NıCOLETTı, London, 2022

/ Photo by Theo Christelis. Courtesy of the artist and NıCOLETTI, London.

London as a city sometimes feels like an exhibition unto itself: some of the more simplistic everyday experiences of life in the capital could make for compelling art. Here comes Nana Wolke, who has invited taxi drivers, actors and artists to an underpass at Westway Roundabout, North Kensington.

What unfolded is shown in the paintings of this meeting: it will have all the potential for turbulence, sensuality and anything else possible.

NICOLETTI, on 28 January; nicoletticontemporary.com

In plain sight

In plain sight, Wellcome Collection, 2022

/ Photography: Steven Pocock

As the title suggests, the exhibition explores the different ways we see and are seen by others – as well as vision as a fundamental sensory function in society – allowing us to see life through the experiences of visually impaired, visually impaired and blind people.

Using VR technology, this unique experience explores four themes: the symbolism of the eye, bias in visual perception, glasses and identity, and the interconnectedness between the senses. A digital display showcases commissioned pieces from artists including Emilie Gossiaux, Nina Manandhar and Alexandra Zsigmondand convened by Whitney Mashburn and Carmen Papalia.

Much of life is based on the addiction of sight: this exhibition challenges its visitors to see things differently.

Wellcome Collection, until February 12; wellcomecollection.org

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