A Summer of Culture: Head to These London Exhibitions

From celebrating the moon landings to ancient texts, witness history and culture at London's galleries and museums.

Fly Me to the Moon, Science Museum (to 1 Sept)

Even after 50 years since the first human placed a foot on the surface of the moon, there’s no doubting that without the world’s most brilliant scientists we’d still be simply gazing up at it from Earth. So, where better to celebrate one of humanity’s greatest-ever achievements than at the Science Museum? Its new Fly Me to the Moon show (daily, 1.30pm & 2.30pm) is a great place to start. Held in the museum’s Hans Rausing Lecture Theatre and suitable for children over six, it takes viewers on a thrilling lunar mission.

The Moon, National Maritime Museum (to 5 Jan 2020)

The Moon exhibit at National Maritime Museum, London, UK
Get an insight into the moon at this exhibition to honour the 50th anniversary of the moon landings. (©Nationa Maritime Museum London)

There’s another celebration of this notable anniversary with The Moon at the National Maritime Museum, exploring humanity’s evolving relationship with our lunar neighbour, from early man to today. It includes pieces from major London museums as well as artifacts from the Apollo space programme, which have been sourced from the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. This is set to be an out-of-this-world exhibition for anyone who just can’t get enough of space.

Writing: Making Your Mark, British Library (to 31 Aug)

Sandstone sphynx at British Library exhibition, London, UK
Ancient markings on a pre-historic sandstone sphynix, one of the earliest known forms of written text. (©British Museum)

From ancient Mayan limestone stela to rare Japanese calligraphy by Emperors, this landmark exhibition at the British Library celebrates more than 5,000 years of the written word—the actual act of writing. Through rare exhibits, we can trace the origins of writing in Mesopotamia and Egypt, including a 5,000-year-old clay tablet adorned with cuneiform, right up to today’s digital typefaces and emojis. There are documents related to famous events or people—Florence Nightingale’s diary, and a 1905 petition signed by 60,000 protesting against the first partition of Bengal.

Cutting Edge: Modernist British Printmaking, Dulwich Picture Gallery (to 8 Sep)

Claude Flight, Speed, Dulwich Gallery, London, UK
(©Claude Flight Speed 1922 © The Estate of Caude Flight. All Right Reserved 2019 Bridgeman images photo © Elijah Taylor Brick City Projects)

From the written word to pioneering printmakers… The spirit of 1930s Britain is captured with these 120 powerufl prints, drawings and posters from the Grosvenor School of Modern Art, where 10 artists created something of a revolution in these interwar years. The exhibition Cutting Edge: Modernist British Printmaking at Dulwich Picture Gallery especially champions the humble linocut, known as ‘an art of the people’ because of its affordability and accessibility. Themes of speed, transport and movement are showcased such as in Cyril Power’s The Tube Station and Ethel Spowers’ Wet Afternoon, and original tools are also on show that revolutionised the printmaking process. Scenes of London, and especially its public transport, will be of special interest to those familiar with the city.

Top Secret, Science Museum (to 23 Feb 2020)

Science Museum, London, UK
Detail of the kryha cipher machine, one of the exhibits in the "Top Secret" exhibition. (©The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum)

Head to the Science Museum for an exhibition that explores UK spies, from ciphers to cyber security. Top Secret details the history of intelligence over the past century, including the advent of cyber security and what the future might bring. It’s all in celebration of the first 100 years of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which is the UK’s intelligence, security and cyber agency. Browse declassified files and artefacts from the private collections of the Science Museum Group and GCHQ, some of which have been made public for the first time.

Takis, Tate Modern (to 27 Oct)

Tate Modern is hosting the UK's first major exhibition since the 1960s the Greek artist, Takis. The 93-year-old sculptor has been a pioneer in the practice of incorporating magnetism, light and sounds into his paintings, sculptures and music, all of which investigate energy. Takis presents his musical and antenna-like sculptures, which he calls ‘Signals’, via magnets and electricity. Explore forests of Signals, exhibits of scrap aircraft dials and magnetic objects, all accompanied by Takis’ Musicales soundscape. This promises to be an extraordinary look at a career that has spanned a lifetime, taking Takis from Athens to Paris, New York and London. 

Helene Schjerfbeck, Royal Academy of Arts (to 27 Oct)

Helene Schjerfbeck, Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK
Helene Schjerfbeck's prints at the Royal Academy of Arts. (©Helene Schjerfbeck)

Born in Helsinki in 1862, artist Helene Schjerfbeck became famous for her naturalistic, realist works and her abstract self-portraits. Helene Schjerfbeck makes its UK bebut at the Royal Academy of Arts, an exhibition of more than 60 of her portraits, landscapes and still-life pieces. Trace the evolution of the Finnish painter’s career from its beginnings in Paris, where Schjerfbeck indulged her fascination with ageing, in both the physical and psychological senses.