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artwork illustrating Alice in Wonderland

London’s must-see summer exhibitions

If you’ve missed being enraptured by centuries-old paintings, monolithic sculptures and mind-bending virtual reality experiences, there’s good news on the horizon. June sees the reopening of galleries and museums in the capital, and we’ve rounded up the best and brightest to kick-start your 2021 culture adventure


01/06/2021

Wraparound rendition of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, 1889, at Kensington Gardens

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Van Gogh Alive

Where: Kensington Gardens
When: 4 June-26 September 2021

After touring 65 cities around the world, the highly anticipated, multi-sensory experience of Van Gogh Alive finally lands in London this June. The 360˚ digital art exhibition uses VR technology, sounds, visuals and a kaleidoscope of colours to transport visitors into the creative world of the Dutch painter. Insta-fans will find plenty of fab feed content here, with a walk-in representation of his Bedroom in Arles painting and a knee-deep stroll through hundreds of sunflowers. If the experience leaves you feeling inspired, an activity area offers the chance to try your hand at sketching under the guidance of video tutorials.

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Cheshire cat psychedelic poster by Joseph McHugh (published by East Totem West, USA, 1967. Purchased through the Julie and Robert Breckman Print Fund. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London); print by Peter Blake from a suite illustrating Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, 1970 (© Peter Blake. All rights reserved, DACS 2019). Opening image: Down the Rabbit Hole (© Kristjana S Williams)

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Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser

Where: V&A Museum
When: Until 22 December 2022

Brace yourself before diving into this immersive, theatrical experience celebrating Louis Carroll’s world-famous 1865 creation, Alice in Wonderland. Virtual reality explorations, psychedelic artwork, original manuscripts and an extensive range of creations inspired by the character – including displays of Japanese Lolita clothing and Salvador Dalí sketches – take visitors deep down the rabbit hole. Exit through the gift shop to be tempted by the exhibition’s imaginative merchandise, including a Cheshire Cat clutch bag, Dodo jewellery and charming Alice book minders.

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An elephant-sized Zouwu at the Fantastic Beasts exhibition (Trustees of the Natural History Museum)

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Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature

Where: Natural History Museum
When: 17 May-3 January 2022

The magical creatures of JK Rowling’s fantastical world come to life in this exhibition revealing the real-life animals that inspired such critters as the Erumpent and Demiguise. Models used in the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchises sit alongside specimens including the giant oarfish (the world’s longest bony fish), a tiger and a Galápagos marine iguana. Underpinned by a message about the preservation of our planet’s natural resources, this exhibit will leave youngsters feeling enchanted and energised to do their bit for the environment.

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The Guerrilla Girls, an anonymous group of feminist, female artists; Isabel Lewis, Occasions and Other Occurrences, Dia Beacon, 2016 (Joanna Seitz)

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Art Night, London

Where: London, and various UK locations
When: 18 June-18 July 2021

To mark the creative festival’s fifth edition, Art Night is extending its run to a full month of events across London and – for the first time – in various other locations across the UK. Transforming iconic and unexpected public spaces into works of art, it’s exhibiting new commissions from feminist art pioneers Guerrilla Girls, and Adham Faramawy. Plus, Turner Prize-winner Mark Leckey will present new work, incorporating augmented reality with a magnificent light show at 180 Strand.

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The London Design Biennale takes place at Somerset House (Kevin Meredith)

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London Design Biennale 2021

Where: Somerset House
When: 1-27 June 2021

For the centrepiece at this year’s London Design Biennale, artistic director Es Devlin has turned the courtyard of Somerset House into a 400-tree forest. Featuring 23 varieties typical of those found across the UK and Northern Europe, the project, titled Forest For Change hopes to raise awareness of the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Visitors will be able to wind their way through the labyrinth of foliage to find a clearing at the centre, where an installation outlining these goals resides.

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Banksy’s Monkey Queen and Happy Choppers, both 2003

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The Art of Banksy

Where: Covent Garden, Seven Dials
When: Until November 2021

The world’s largest touring collection of Bristolian artist Banksy’s work has already appeared in Melbourne, Tel Aviv, Auckland and Toronto and is now pitching up in a 12,000sqft warehouse in Covent Garden. The unauthorised exhibit comprises loans from private owners and is the first time the UK has displayed the anonymous creator’s catalogue. Highlights include several famous pieces, including Girl and Balloon, Rude Copper and Flower Thrower, while lesser-known works in a variety of media, covering a period from 1997 to 2008, will also be on display.

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Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled With The Brilliance of Life, 2011, by Yayoi Kusama

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Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms

Where: The Tate Modern
When: Until May 2022

Prepare to be dazzled by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms. Now on display at the Tate Modern, this exhibition features two spectacular installations. The first is Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled With The Brilliance of Life, where hundreds of coloured LED lights are duplicated many thousands of times in a room that’s mirrored on the floor, walls and ceiling. The second is Chandelier of Grief, a space that creates the illusion of a ‘boundless universe’ using spinning Swarovski crystal chandeliers. Expect to queue for this one, but it’s on for a year so there’s plenty of time – and it’s definitely worth the wait.

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JR self portrait (© JR-ART-NET); 28 Millimetres, Portrait d’une generation, B11, Destruction #2, Montfermeil, France, 2013 (© JR-ART-NET)

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JR: Chronicles

Where: Saatchi Gallery
When: 4 June-3 October 2021

Known for his large-scale photography projects, the French-born artist JR is presenting his first major show in the UK this month. Highlighting some of his most well-known work, the JR: Chronicles spans his diverse 15-year career – from portrayals of graffiti artists while he was a teenager in Paris, to eye-catching architectural installations across the world. Don’t miss The Secret of the Great Pyramid (2019), a giant 3D optical illusion that marked the Louvre’s 30th anniversary, and Tehachapi (2019), a piece that follows his experiences with inmates of a maximum-security prison in California.

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CITY sleeps

Rest and recuperate between exhibition sessions at these art-friendly hotels  

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