Best art and design exhibitions in 2020

Image detail: Tate Photography

We've brought together the best art, design and immersive exhibitions from around the UK to inspire you for the year ahead, with everything from Alice in Wonderland to Andy Warhol.

These group and solo exhibitions – including work from Edvard Munch, Salvador Dali, Warhol and more  – will inspire and educate you. We’ll be updating throughout 2020 as more events are announced, so keep checking back.

We kick off with essential ongoing shows from last year at the House of Illustration and The Design Museum.

W.E.B. Du Bois: Charting Black Lives

Until March 1 2020
House of Illustration, London, England

As co-founder of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and author of the seminal book The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois is celebrated for his profound and prolific writings. But alongside his famous essays, Du Bois produced an astounding – yet little-known – body of infographics to challenge pseudo-scientific racism, making visual arguments every bit as powerful as his textual ones.

Since last year, London's House of Illustration has been displaying the complete set of 63 graphics shown at the 1900 Paris Exposition, produced by Du Bois and a team of African American students from his sociology laboratory at Atlanta University. These visually innovative graphs, charts and maps formed a radical new approach to refuting racism, using strikingly presented facts and statistics to counter contemporary white supremacy.

Find out more.

Lightboxes + Lettering

January 17 - March 29 2020
Nunnery Gallery, London, England

Lightboxes + Lettering tells the story of the print industry across the 20th century, focussing on the east London boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Waltham Forest.

The show uncovers and presents a wealth of material from historic examples of print to objects, photographs of iconic businesses and workers’ memories, told through a new collection of oral histories.

Find out more.

Beazley Designs of the Year

Until March 31 2020
The Design Museum, London, England

Discover the most innovative designs across fashion, architecture, digital, transport, product and graphic design from the past, as nominated by the public and design experts from around the world.

This year's winners include work for Adidas, a low-cost HIV detector, a next-generation crutch and graphic design by Pentagram, as profiled here.

Find out more on The Design Museum site.

Picasso and Paper

25 January - 13 April 2020
Royal Academy of Arts, London, England

From effortlessly expressive drawings that led to towering sculptures to the colossal collage, Femmes à leur toilette, Picasso’s work with paper spans his entire lifetime and showcases his constant drive to invent and innovate.

This exhibition shows Picasso’s creative process first-hand in remarkable documentary footage of the artist at work, studies for Guernica, and sketchbooks where the seeds of revolutionary masterpieces first took shape, including Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

Immerse yourself in Picasso’s world of paper and discover how – with this everyday material we know so well – he found the means to explore the furthest reaches of his creativity.

Find out more.

Andy Warhol

March 12 - September 6 2020
Tate Modern, London

This major retrospective is the first Warhol exhibition at Tate Modern for almost 20 years. As well as his iconic pop images of Marilyn Monroe, Coca-Cola and Campbell’s soup cans, it includes works never seen before in the UK. Twenty-five works from his Ladies and Gentlemen series – portraits of black and Latinx drag queens and trans women – are shown for the first time in 30 years.

Visitors can also play with his floating Silver Clouds and experience the psychedelic multimedia environment of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable.

Find out more.

Image: Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987) Debbie Harry 1980, Private Collection of Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport 1961 © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London

Electronic: From Kraftwerk to The Chemical Brothers

April 1 - July 26 2020
Design Museum, London

A new show at London's Design Museum reminds us that the relationship between visual opulence and electronic sound has been a long one.

Starting this April, Electronic: From Kraftwerk to The Chemical Brothers is the museum's first music-themed exhibition, encompassing not just classic sleeves but also the light beam sights of Jean-Michel Jarre's laser harp and the more extreme end of Aphex Twin's videography.

Although adapted from last year's popular Electro Expo at Musée de la musique - Philharmonie de Paris, the show has been made into a beast of its own with the museum premiere of a Chemical Brothers 'sensory spectacle' from creative studio Smith & Lyall.

There's also a celebration of a half century of Kraftwerk history through a half-hour 3D experience, which'll no doubt be familiar to those who've seen the German group's amazing live performances.

Find out more.

German Revolution: Expressionist prints

10 April to 31 August 2020
Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool, England

Including work by Munch, Schiele and Kokoschka, the exhibition explores how the social, political, sexual and moral struggles taking place during the turbulent period of the German Revolution (1918-1919) moved artists to produce such dramatic imagery.

The exhibition also features important prints by Gauguin and Picasso that demonstrate how artists outside Germany contributed to the evolution of Expressionism.

Find out more.

Yama - The mining art of Sakubei Yamamoto

Until 30 September 2020
Big Pit National Coal Museum, Blaenavon, Wales

At seven years old Sakubei Yamamoto moved with his family to the coal mines of Japan’s Chikuho region. He was apprenticed to a colliery blacksmith, and later worked as a mine blacksmith and coalminer. Sakubei then became a colliery security guard, and started painting his memories of the mining industry.

His paintings and drawings have been registered in UNESCO’s Memory of the World programme, a selection of which have been display since September 2019.

Find out more.

Image: detail from No.307- Tachibori [Mining Coal in an Upright Position]38.2 x 54.4 cm, Painting in Watercolors and Ink [©Yamamoto Family, owned by Tagawa City Coal Mining Historical Museum]

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Rooms

May 11 - May 9 2021
Tate Modern, London, England

Tate Modern will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its opening with a special exhibition dedicated to the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Rooms will be another chance to experience two of the artist’s immersive mirror room installations juxtaposed with photos and footage of early performance works and studio happenings. It will feature Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled with the Brilliance of Life, one of Kusama’s largest installations to date, originally made for her 2012 retrospective at Tate Modern.

This will be shown alongside Chandelier of Grief, a room which creates the illusion of a boundless universe of rotating crystal chandeliers.

As you'd expect, there'll be the usual big queues and sell-out bookings, so get in quick if you can.

Find out more.

Image detail © Yayoi Kusama. Photo courtesy of Tate Photography

Ray Harryhausen | Titan of Cinema

May 23 - October 25 2020
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Scotland

Film special effects superstar Ray Harryhausen elevated stop motion animation to an art during the 1950s to 1980s. For the first time, highlights from Ray’s collection will be showcased, which will be the largest and widest-ranging exhibition of his work ever seen.

As part of a series of events and initiatives under the banner #Harryhausen100, this exhibition will be accompanied by screenings, workshops and more, bringing his creations to life once more and celebrating the legacy of a filmmaker who changed the face of modern cinema.

Find out more.

Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser

June 27 2020 - January 10 2021
V&A, London, England

Exploring its origins, adaptations and reinventions over 157 years, this immersive and theatrical show charts the evolution of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland from manuscript to a global phenomenon beloved by all ages.

On show will be illustrations from the original edition by John Tenniel along with Alice-inspired works by Dali, Dorothea Tanning and Ralph Steadman.

Find out more.

Tokyo: Art & Photography

July 16 - November 8 2020
Ashmolean, Oxford, England

In time for the Tokyo Olympics, this is a celebration of one of the world’s most creative, dynamic and fascinating cities.  Including works on loan from Japan and new commissions by contemporary artists, the show spans the exquisite arts of the Edo period when the country was officially closed to the outside world, including the iconic images of Hokusai and Hiroshige.  

The exhibition looks at a city which has undergone constant destruction and renewal and it tells the stories of the people who have made Tokyo so famous with their insatiable appetite for the new and innovative - from the samurai to avant-garde artists groups today.

Find out more.

Image © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford


October 3 2020 - January 10 2021
National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland

Dutch painter Piet Mondrian was one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. This exhibition features art from all periods of his fascinating career: from early landscapes to his distinctive abstract paintings using geometric shapes. 

Also on show are works by De Stijl artists Theo van Doesburg, Bart van der Leck and Gerrit Rietveld.

Find out more.

Image: Piet Mondrian (1872–1944), Composition with large red plane, yellow, black, gray and blue, 1921. Courtesy of Kunstmuseum Den Haag

Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn't affect our editorial independence. Learn more.

Elsewhere on IDG sites

Read Next...