Gallery and Museum Reopenings: Summer’s Top Exhibitions

This week the government announced plans to cut funding for arts education by as much as 50%. Ironically, this month museums and galleries (and other indoor venues) will be able to reopen from lockdown. I’m keen to support as many as art venues as possible but there’s no room here to include every one, so from an inbox choc-full of press releases on new exhibitions and events here’s my top openings in May.

These are all located in destinations that are perfect for either a lazy afternoon visit or, if you’re feeling braver, a staycation break.

Tate St. Ives

L to R: Lubaina Himid, Between the Two my Heart is Balanced (1991) © Lubaina Himid; Alfred Wallis, The Hold House Port Mear Square Island Port Mear Beach (c.1932) Tate

Located right next to the beach Tate St. Ives ‘hopes to reopen’ on 17 May. By way of further enticement to visit will be a major rehang of its collection displays, its first since 2017 when the gallery was refurnished and extended. Modern Conversations will feature five artists associated with the modern art of St Ives and West Cornwall: Alfred Wallis (1855-1942), Marlow Moss (1889-1958), Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975), Partou Zia (1958-2008) and Bob Law (1934-2004). Pre-book online. Tickets adults £12 with donation, concessions available.

The British Museum

Taysir Batniji. Photo courtesy The British Museum.

The mighty British Museum is offering a bumper three exbhibitions in May including a blockbuster Nero: the man behind the myth. The fifth emperor of Ancient Rome, and one of the most notorious, can it be that Nero simply received a bad press? We are promised an exploration of the true story informed by new research and archaeological evidence from the time to challenge the historical accounts written after Nero’s death. If you’d like to know more about Nero’s infamous life I recommend Suetonius’s The Twelve Caesars.

Reflections: contemporary art of the Middle East and North Africa (17 May – 15 August), Room 90 free entry; Thomas Becket: murder and the making of a saint (20 May – 22 August) Tickets to be announced; and Nero: the man behind the myth (27 May – 24 October). pre-book online. Tickets from adult £20.

Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

One of the Shelter Drawings by Henry Moore.

The Sainsbury Centre is located at the University of East Anglia. The programme for this year includes Bill Brandt | Henry Moore (18 May – 22 August). Bill Brandt and the sculptor Henry Moore first met during the Second World War, when they both created images of civilians sheltering from the Blitz in the London Underground. Photographs by Brandt and drawings by Moore have become some of the most iconic images of the period. The exhibition explores shared subjects including coal miners and their families, Stonehenge, and the body presented as landscape. Tickets from adult £18, concessions available.

As an aside check out online the incredible tapestries of Moore’s blitz drawings commissioned by the Henry Moore Foundation, and created by designers and master weavers at West Dean Tapestry Studio. If you ever get a chance to see these works of textile art don’t think twice!

Bill Brandt | Henry Moore was originally set to open in December of last year and you can read my full review at Travel Begins At 40. It’s sister-site London Begins At 40 launches this month and I’ll be writing a regular culture column from June on the latest and the best, more on that later.

Programme 2021: Leiko Ikemura: Usagi in Wonderland (11 July – 12 December); Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years (19 September – 30 January 2022); and Rhythm and Geometry: Constructivist art in Britain since 1951 – (2 October – 30 January 2022). Ticket prices vary. Book online.

Blenheim Palace

Audrey Hepburn by Cecil Beaton. Photo courtesy Blenheim Palace.

This is a not-to-be-missed chance to see the exquisite photographs of master photographer Cecil Beaton. Indulge the senses in images featuring the giants of 20th century figures from Picasso and Salvador Dali to Marilyn Monroe, Mick Jagger and members of the Royal Family; including the Queen, Princess Margaret and Prince Charles. More than 50 stunning images and profiles spanning six decades from the Roaring Twenties to the Seventies. Cecil Beaton: Celebrating Celebrity. (17 May to 1 August).

Blenheim is the birth place of Sir Winston Churchill and this summer two further major exhibitions will include Churchill in tandem with an unveiling of a life-size Churchill waxwork. Book online, prices vary.

Pallant House Gallery

Pablo Bronstein: Wall Pomp at Pallant House Gallery. Photographs by Mark Heathcote.

Pallant House Gallery in Chichester will be reopening on 18 May. Exhibitions will include Pablo Bronstein: Wall Pomp. Bronstein’s work reinvents the panoramic 18th century wallpapers used in interior decoration and referencing the classical world of Greece and Rome with a modern twist. The gallery itself is a remarkable juxtaposition of Georgian and contemporary design. Tickets from adult, £8.50. Pre-book online at

Combining Georgian with contemporary architectural design. Pallant House, Chichester.

Royal Academy

David Hockney, No. 241, 23rd April 2020. iPad drawing © David Hockney.

During the long months of the pandemic lockdown, David Hockney worked on capturing the gentle arrival of spring on his iPad. The result, 116 new and optimistic works in celebration of nature, it’s beauty and it’s breathtaking process against all the odds. David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 (23 May-26 September).

That’s the round-up for this week. Let me know which exhibitions you recommend in the comments. Stay safe and well wherever you are in the world.

If you’re a gallery or museum and would like to send me regular updates please get in touch via the contact page.

As always please check the Foreign travel advice web site for the latest on domestic and international travel guidelines.

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