London 2012 will be about so much more than just sport. The Cultural Olympiad is promising the UK’s biggest ever festival of dance, music, theatre, visual arts, film and digital innovation, and all the major galleries are calling in the big guns to make sure that the best of art in London is on show in 2012.

Some have accused galleries of playing it safe by exhibiting household names, but these artists are well known for a reason and the exhibitions are likely to be some of the most comprehensive collections of their work to date. Highlights announced so far include:

David Hockney at the RA 21 January – 9 April

Lucian Freud at the National Portrait Gallery 9 February – 27 May

Picasso at Tate Britain 15 February – 15 July

Damien Hirst at Tate Modern 4 April – 9 September

Titian at The National Gallery 11 July – 23 September 


If you don’t fancy the crowds or are after something a bit alternative then you won’t be disappointed either. Fifty years of Yoko Ono’s work is going on display at the Serpentine in June, featuring installations, films, performances and the ongoing project ‘SMILE’. The antithesis of Laurel Nakadate’s Catalogue of Tears, ‘SMILE’ invites people across the world to photograph and upload images of their smile to create a global anthology of happy portraits.

The radical Tino Sehgal has been awarded the commission for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2012 in what promises to be an exciting new installment for The Unilever Series. Sehgal’s work brings people together in unusual but engaging live encounters. By responding to the gallery visitor directly, he has built a reputation for creating interactive and provocative social situations, which incorporate conversation, dance, sound and movement and reflect on current philosophical and economic debate.

…‘naked war-orgies’ and ‘a large-scale mirrored infinity room.’

Following the success of Locked Room Scenario, Artangel is presenting A Room for London in January 2012. The project is a collaboration between Living Architecture and Artangel, and offers couples the chance to spend the night in a uniquely designed ‘one-bedroom installation’ in the Southbank Centre.

At this time of relative unrest people are increasingly turning to art for social expression, so perhaps it is an appropriate time to look back at politically active art of the past. Yayoi Kusama brought together art, politics and sex in her 1960s body art and this February a major survey of her work will be displayed at Tate Modern. Time Out promises ‘naked war-orgies’ and ‘a new large-scale mirrored infinity room.’

Try something new this year:

Art Licks tours offer to take you off the beaten track to discover the most exciting emerging arts spaces and meet the people behind them. Tours are conducted every other Saturday afternoon and cost £10pp.

Image courtesy of Yoko Ono


About The Author

I recently graduated from UCL with a degree in History of Art. I hope to make a career in Arts Journalism and MouthLondon seemed like a great place to start! Get in touch if you'd like to write for the Arts section.

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