Must-see UK exhibitions this year


The UK is home to some of the world’s finest art galleries and museums, attracting huge numbers of global tourists all year-round. Notably, the cultural highlights on offer are by no means limited to London, though the capital does boast more than its fair share of flagship venues and events.

Over the remainder of the current year, locations the length and breadth of Britain will be hosting major exhibitions, with something to suit almost everyone. Here are just a few highlights for autumn/winter 2015:

Exbition London

Celts: Art and Identity at the British Museum

Nowhere does blockbuster shows quite like the British Museum and this special, collaborative exhibition looks set to be one of the biggest hits of the past decade. Put together in partnership with the National Museums of Scotland, the show is the first major exhibition focusing solely on the rich, fascinating history of Celtic art and identity.

With objects dating back as far as 500BC, it shows how Britain and also Europe was shaped by the Celts and how their influence endures to this day. Combining everything from history and art through to religion and even sport, there’s something for everyone in the Celts exhibition.

The exhibition will be on at the British Museum until the end of January 2016. Tickets cost £16.50 each, though Members of the museum can get in for free.

Roy Lichtenstein at the Scottish National Museum of Modern Art

Few artists have captured the modern imagination like Lichtenstein did, so much so that his iconic works have been replicated and copied by dozens of artists and are now part of the larger cultural landscape.

However, nothing quite beats seeing a Lichtenstein original up-close-and-personal, and this is just what visitors to Scotland’s premier modern art venue are able to do between now and the end of January. This special exhibition features dozens of the artist’s finest works, including iconic pop art pieces and comic strips. While several are already owned by the National Gallery of Modern Art, others are on tour and in Scotland for the first time.

The Lichtenstein exhibition covers three-rooms of the popular museum, and entry is completely free, though visitors are asked to donate to help maintain the permanent collections.

Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age at the Science Museum, London

Hailed as a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition, the Cosmonauts show offers a rare insight into the true story of the ‘Space Race’ of the 1950s, 60s and beyond.

Bringing together dozens of special objects and artefacts, many of which have never been seen in public before, let alone been allowed to leave first the USSR and now Russia, the Science Museum blockbuster shows just how much progress was made in such a short space of time. The big highlight of the show is, of course, the Vostok 6 capsule that launched the first woman into space, as well as the Soviet lunar lander that was never actually used as the Americans won the race to put a man on the moon. Alongside these hugely-significant objects, a collection of Soviet-era posters and memorabilia shows the propaganda role the Space Race played, as well as the extent to which it captured the popular imagination.

Cosmonauts is on at the Science Museum in London until the end of March. Tickets cost £14 for adults, while under-sevens get in for free.

Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy of Arts

Banned from leaving his native China, Weiwi, who is arguably the world’s most celebrated artist right now, has nevertheless managed to work alongside the famous London venue to curate a special exhibition showcasing his best work.

As the first major UK show devoted to the Chinese artist, the exhibition brings together some of his most political pieces, as well as some more playful works. Additionally, the blockbuster show also features a number of large-scale installations created especially for his British debut.

The Ai Weiwei exhibition runs at the Royal Academy of Arts until mid-December. Tickets cost £17.60, with friends of the Royal Academy going for free. Advance booking is highly-recommended.

Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots at the Tate Liverpool

American artist Pollock is one of the best-known and loved of all modern artists. Despite this, his early 1950s works remain largely overlooked, something this new exhibition at the celebrated Tate Liverpool seeks to address.

Rather than his famous ‘dripping’ paintings, this show brings together the best examples of his so-called ‘Black Pourings’ period, and promises to be both challenging and eye-opening. Alongside these important works, the Blind Spots exhibition also features a specially-selected number of Pollock’s earlies works in order to lend a sense of context to the main highlights.

The Pollock show is on at Tate Liverpool until 18 October, with tickets costing £10.