What’s on in London in March 2020 I hear you ask? Well, we’ve got recommendations including new art exhibitions, big names in West End theatre and some special boat trips on The Thames.
It’s St Patrick’s Day this month and the London celebrations are on Sunday 15 March 2020. A Parade runs from Piccadilly to Trafalgar Square where there’s a festival of fun for the afternoon. If you would like to celebrate on 17 March, there’s a traditional St Patrick’s Day Ceilidh at Cutty Sark in Greenwich. You can dance to a live band beneath the copper hull of the last remaining Tea Clipper.
Sunday 22 March is Mother’s Day so do consider booking afternoon tea in the Quarter Bar & Lounge.
And the last weekend of the month has the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race on Sunday 29 March 2020 so head to west London to cheer on the teams racing between Putney and Mortlake.
For guests staying at the London Bridge Hotel, these ideas are all nearby.
The Old Operating Theatre has a film night on 19 March 2020. Repulsion (1965) is an arresting journey into unease and personal terror. This unnerving psychological thriller features the sexual anxiety of a cold and indifferent woman who is horrified by men’s desire for her. Uncomfortable and yet mesmerising, this is an excellent atmospheric setting for the movie.
On the same road, Science Gallery London has an exhibition called Genders. It’s a playful and kaleidoscopic view of genders and its relationship with science, as well as factors like class, culture, race, age and sexuality.
If you are going to see a production at the National Theatre, do see the Costume at the National Theatre exhibition too. (We included this when the exhibition opened in October 2019.) Or use Musicity x Low Line as a great reason to get out exploring the area. (We mentioned this last July shortly after it opened.)
Beethoven 250, Southbank Centre’s 2020 season celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, continues throughout the month. Or simply stay in the hotel as London Bridge Hotel OPEN 3: Urban Nature has artworks on display in the foyer and Quarter Bar & Lounge.
This last minute idea will sell out quickly, but the London Theatre Company presents I Remember It Well at the Bridge Theatre from 20 March to 4 April 2020. What is it about? It’s Judi Dench live in conversation with author and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth looking back on her legendary career.
Opening on 4 March (and on until 17 May 2020), the Hayward Gallery has Among the Trees. This is the first comprehensive exhibition in the UK exploring trees and forests in contemporary art.
Timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day next month, the exhibition explores how trees have shaped human civilisation and how they continue to play an indispensable role in our lives and imaginations. Spanning 50 years, the exhibition brings together artworks that explore our multifaceted relationships with trees and forests. There are major works by 38 leading international artists from five different continents including Robert Adams, Tacita Dean and Peter Doig and Pascale Marthine Tayou.
This is the chance to see Titian’s five large-scale mythological paintings together for the first time since the late 16th century. Titian: Love, Desire, Death is at the National Gallery from 16 March to 14 June 2020.
Painted between about 1551 and 1562, the series was commissioned by Philip II of Spain. Unusually, Titian was given an open brief to select his subjects. The paintings depict stories from classical mythology, primarily drawn from the Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Because he considered them visual equivalents to poetry, Titian called them his ‘poesie’.
From the original cycle of six paintings, the exhibition reunites:
- Danaë (1551–3, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House)
- Venus and Adonis (1554, Prado, Madrid)
- Diana and Actaeon (1556-9)
- Diana and Callisto (1556-9), jointly owned by the National Gallery and the National Galleries of Scotland
- and the newly conserved Rape of Europa (1562) from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.
The National Gallery’s own Death of Actaeon (1559-75), originally conceived as part of the series, but only executed much later and never delivered, will also be on display.
National Portrait Gallery
David Hockney: Drawing from Life at the National Portrait Gallery is the first major exhibition devoted to David Hockney’s drawings in over twenty years. On from 27 February to 28 June 2020, the exhibition explores Hockney as a draughtsman from the 1950s to now. It focuses on his depictions of himself and a small group of sitters close to him: his muse, Celia Birtwell; his mother, Laura Hockney; and friends, the curator, Gregory Evans, and master printer, Maurice Payne.
The exhibition features new portraits of some of the sitters and previously unseen early works. Do see the working drawings for his pivotal A Rake’s Progress etching suite (1961-63), inspired by the identically named series of prints by William Hogarth (1697-64). And you can also see sketchbooks from Hockney’s art school days in Bradford in the 1950s.
Also at the National Portrait Gallery this month, Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things has portraits from a golden age. On from 12 March to 7 June 2020, around 150 works give us an insight into the glamorous and stylish Bright Young Things of the twenties and thirties, seen through the eye of renowned British photographer Cecil Beaton.
Andy Warhol opens at Tate Modern on 12 March 2020 telling the story of a shy outsider who became a pop art superstar. The show demonstrates how his work captured the contradictions of 20th century American society and culture. Featuring over 100 works from across his remarkable career, the exhibition looks at Warhol’s experiences as a gay Catholic man from a working-class immigrant family.
The exhibition emphasises recurring themes around desire, identity and belief. It shows how this innovative artist reimagined what art could be in an age of immense social, political and technological change.
Also at Tate Modern this month, the BMW Tate Live Exhibition is on from 20 to 29 March 2020.
The three featured artists this year are Faustin Linyekula, Okwui Okpokwasili and Tanya Lukin Linklater. These artists have created 10 days of live performances and site-specific installations for Tate Modern’s underground Tanks.
Illuminated River is an ambitious public art commission which is transforming the capital at night. It is lighting up to fourteen bridges on the River Thames between Albert Bridge and Tower Bridge. Once complete, it will be the longest public art project in the world.
Thames Clippers are offering Illuminated River boat tours to experience phase one of Illuminated River, covering London, Cannon Street, Southwark and Millennium bridges.
The tours started in January and are running until May on Thursdays and Saturdays. Departing from Tower Pier, the Illuminated River is better enjoyed at night and departure times will change as days become longer.
The tours for this month have special talks on Thursdays:
- Thursday 5 March 2020, 19:30 (Lead project architect Douglas Inglis)
- Thursday 19 March 2020, 19:30 (Lead project architect Chris Waite)
And you can enjoy the standard tour on Saturday 14 March 2020, 19:30 and Saturday 28 March 2020, 19:30.
The Fourth Plinth art installation is changed this month. It’s time for Michael Rakowitz’s Iraq-inspired sculpture to be replaced by Heather Phillipson’s The End.
The London-born artist wanted to respond to the way Trafalgar Square is used for shared experience, from celebrations to mass protests. The large sculpture of a giant swirl of whipped cream topped with a cherry is designed to make the plinth look top-heavy, representing impending collapse.
The fly clinging on could signify being a ‘fly on the wall’ watching over the Square, and the drone represents surveillance. Overall, The End is about exuberance and unease. So that’s a slightly disturbing thought process.
The End will be unveiled at a ceremony on 26 March 2020.
Guildhall Art Gallery
On display from 13 March to 14 June 2020, The Enchanted Interior at Guildhall Art Gallery looks at the historical depiction of women in paintings.
It explores the recurring motif of female subjects in art, as depicted in enclosed, ornate interiors. Such images are inherently alluring yet sinister, carrying implications of enforced isolation. This theme is prevalent in nineteenth-century British painting, with many Pre-Raphaelites and Orientalists showing a fascination with the so-called ‘gilded cage’. Highlights include Edward Burne-Jones’ Laus Veneris (1873-75) and The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse (c. 1894), in which the famed subject is trapped in a tower, unable to engage.
Many art styles are represented in this exhibition from high Victorian through to Art Nouveau, Aestheticism, Surrealism, and pieces by contemporary female artists, who ‘speak back’ to the historic tradition.
Florence Nightingale Museum
There is an exhibition marking the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth opening at the Florence Nightingale Museum this month. ‘Nightingale in 200 Objects, People & Places: Leader, Icon and Pioneer’ opens on 5 March 2020 and explores the wide range of Nightingale’s connections, reach and influence as well as influences on her through various lenses including her nursing work, statistical contributions, leadership and empowerment.
Opening on 5 March 2020, Blithe Spirit is at the Duke of York’s Theatre for 6 weeks only. It is about novelist Charles Condomine and his second wife Ruth. They are literally haunted when an overly eccentric medium, Madame Arcati, accidentally summons the ghost of his first wife. Iconic comedic actress Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous, French & Saunders) has the starring role as Madame Arcati. Other cast members include Lisa Dillon (BBC 1’s Cranford) and Geoffrey Streatfeild (Spooks, The Thick of It, Traitors).
The play was originally written in 1941 by Noël Coward as a wonderfully witty wartime distraction. This production is directed by Richard Eyre, director of the National Theatre for ten years, winner of 5 Olivier Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement award.
If you would like even more ideas for this month, do have a look at last month’s recommendations as many are still valid for March too.
The National Gallery has a major monographic exhibition of the work of Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–1654, or later) next month. She is considered one of the most accomplished followers of Caravaggio. At a time when women artists were not easily accepted, she was exceptional for becoming the first female member of the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno in Florence. She enjoyed a long and successful career, spanning more than forty years. Artemisia opens on 6 April 2020.
Also opening at the National Gallery next month is the free exhibition Sin. From 15 April 2020 you can see paintings from across the National Gallery’s collection. The exhibition includes modern and contemporary works by artists such as Andy Warhol and Tracey Emin. And you can see the Gallery’s recently acquired Venus and Cupid by Lucas Cranach the Elder.
There is an exhibition opening at Hampton Court Palace next month to mark the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s legendary encounter with his great rival François I of France. Gold and Glory: Henry VIII and the French King is being billed as a special exhibition of dazzling Tudor treasures. Immerse yourself in Tudor history as the exhibition has works of art, gold, weapons, manuscripts and clothing from the actual historic event, as well as from the 16th-century English and French courts.
Bags: Inside Out at the V&A from 25 April 2020 to 3 January 2021 is the UK’s most comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the ultimate accessory. From designer handbags to despatch boxes, vanity cases to military rucksacks, the exhibition explores our longstanding fascination with the bag. The exhibition features innovative designs from Mulberry to Karl Lagerfeld. Plus statement handbags used by Margaret Thatcher and Sarah Jessica Parker.
And the big annual event for next month is Easter as Easter Sunday is on 12 April 2020. In the UK we get public holidays on Good Friday and Easter Monday. You will find that most large shops are closed on these days. Schoolchildren get a two week holiday (dates can vary) so there are often lots of special events as the major museums and attractions.
Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while maintaining an impressive afternoon tea addiction. You can find Laura on Twitter as @AboutLondon, on Instagram as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.
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