The best free exhibitions in London right now

Zoe Paskett
·3-min read
AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

Fancy a day out but short of pennies?

Londoners are lucky enough to have some of the capital’s biggest galleries and museums open their permanent collections free of charge – but there are free exhibitions to be enjoyed too, if you know where to look.

From smaller galleries off the beaten track to special displays at some of the capital's more established museums, there's plenty to see without causing distress to your bank balance.

Here's our guide to the best free exhibitions to see in London.

The Clash: London Calling

(Pennie Smith)
(Pennie Smith)

Joe Strummer’s notebook and the bass guitar Paul Simonon smashed onstage are on display at the Museum of London among 100 items from The Clash’s archive. This December, it’s 40 years since the album London Calling was released and it forms the inspiration behind this exhibition. The free display also includes Strummer’s typewriter and Topper Headon’s drumsticks.

When and where? Until September 6, Museum of London, museumoflondon.org.uk

Kara Walker: Fons Americanus

(Matt Writtle)
(Matt Writtle)

Around 35,000 litres of water cascade from a figure atop Kara Walker’s 42ft fountain. Fons Americanus is the latest installation in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. Her sculpture is based on the Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace, but, rather than celebrating the British Empire, it explores the connected histories of Africa, America and Europe. The water references the transatlantic slave trade and the sculptures it contains pay tribute to the fates of the people it affected.

When and where? Until November 8, Tate Modern, tate.org.uk

Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi

image

Whether you like them or not, mushrooms are incredible organisms. From food and psychedelics to the future of sustainability, fungus makes the world go round. This new exhibition takes a look at mushrooms through sculpture, recipes, design, textiles and architecture, featuring watercolours by Beatrix Potter.

When and where? Until September 13, Somerset House, somersethouse.org.uk

Steve McQueen: Year 3

(David Lennon)
(David Lennon)

Turner Prize-winning artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen has conducted an ambitious project. He invited every Year 3 pupil in London to have their photograph taken by a team of photographers, and has brought the class photos together into a single installation at Tate Britain, showing the future of the city.

When and where? ​Until January 2021, Tate Britain, tate.org.uk

Driverless: Who is in control?

(Science Museum Group)
(Science Museum Group)

This interactive exhibition offers a thought-provoking look at the rise of autonomous machines and artificial intelligence, and looks at how emerging technology could change our lives. Exhibits include a 1960s precursor to the driverless car, a collection of autonomous flying drones, and a scale model of the submarine Boaty McBoatface.

When and where? Until January 2021, Science Museum, sciencemuseum.org.uk​

Clapham street art takeover

(Ian Cox)
(Ian Cox)

Street artists have been let loose on an empty townhouse in Clapham, with just one brief: the pandemic. Each room in the house has been transformed. The downstairs toilet is covered in vomit emoji wallpaper and decorated with bottles of bleach, while another room’s wall bears the message “Lost all reason and sense of belonging” – great for an artistic browse but maybe not the best choice to redo your kitchen.

When and where? Until August 24, Schoeni Projects LDN, schoeniprojects.com