Head to These 2019 London Exhibitions With a Global Theme

Dig deep into London’s museum and gallery scene, you’ll find that its global influence spreads much further than just the British Museum and National Gallery.

Honouring Mandela

 The Official Exhibition, London, UK
Mandela walks with Joe Slovo (right) after Slovo’s return to South Africa after a 12-year exile in London. (©Lily Franey/Gamma-Rapho/via Getty)

An exhibition heading on a world tour makes its international debut in London, with “Mandela: The Official Exhibition” at 26 Leake Street Waterloo (8 Feb–2 Jun). It tells Nelson Mandela’s life story in collaboration with The Royal House of Mandela, which works to underline the late statesman’s royal bloodline in his native South Africa. The exhibition’s writer Steve Swaby promises, “Visitors will leave with an understanding of Mandela’s life in richer detail.” This is the centenary of the great man’s birth, so there’s never been a better time to pay homage to his life.

Grenade thrower, Hue, 1968, at Don McCullen exhibition at Tate Britain, London, UK
McCullen's photograph of a grenade thrower in the Vietnam War at Hue in 1968. (©Don McCullen)

Master Photographer

Tate Britain acknowledges a local hero this season with “Don McCullin” (5 Feb–6 May) for his work around the world. The photographer grew up in North London and started out taking pictures in this area in the 1950s – six decades later, he’s a knight of the realm. Sir Don McCullin made his name as a photojournalist working in war zones around the world, including Vietnam, Northern Ireland and Lebanon. This powerful collection of more than 250 images ranges from his famous depictions of conflict to his travel, documentary and still life work. Visit for striking portrayals of many of the 20th century’s darkest times.

Princess Magaret photographed by Cecil Beaton
Portait of Princess Margaret taken by Cecil Beaton in 1949. (©Cecil Beaton/Victoria and Albert Museum)

Dior's Beauty

There aren’t many names in fashion that generate as much swooning as Christian Dior. From Granville in Normandy, the designer witnessed two World Wars and in revealing his first couture collection in 1947, Dior ignited a new era of elegant escapism for women’s fashion. Taking that first Paris show as its starting point, the Victoria and Albert Museum pays tribute to everything that has come since with “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” (2 Feb–14 Jul). As well as exploring the label’s influence, you’ll discover why Monsieur Dior loved England so much. Expect dramatic haute couture, original sketches and exquisite vintage perfume bottles.

Diane Arbus, photograph of Jack Dracula, in exhibition at Hayward Gallery, London, UK
Photo of Jack Dracula at a bar in Connecticut, 1961. (©Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York/ Copyright © The Estate of Diane Arbus, LLC)

American Scenes

Art from across the Atlantic is being celebrated on the South Bank, with "Diane Arbus: In the Beginning" at the Hayward Gallery (13 Feb—6 May). It follows the New Yorker’s early years, from 1956 to 1962, when she photographed many marginalised communities. By working with the Diane Arbus Archive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the gallery has secured many photographs never before displayed in Europe.

Migrants' Tragedies

The Cuban artist and activist Tania Bruguera presents her own perspective on the current global migration crisis, with a series of powerful, interactive installations in Tate Modern’s huge Turbine Hall. The name of her Hyundai Commission, "10,148,451" (to 24 Feb), features an ever-increasing number that depicts the number of people who migrated from one country to another, added to the number of migrant deaths this year. rises every time a migrant dies during a journey. It's therefore, tragically, likely to change often. It’s a stirring reminder that, as a global city, London’s duty is to speak for everybody.

Refugee Stories

The House of Illustration is shining a light on others who wish to call London home, with "Journeys Drawn: Illustration from the Refugee Crisis" (to 24 Mar). The works of 12 artists depict epic journeys that are currently being undertaken by migrants – some of these emotive illustrations were drawn by refugees themselves.

Factory Prison by David Foldvari at House of Illustration, London, UK
David Foldvari's "Factory Prison" depicts the harsh working conditions for migrants.(©David Foldvari)