The Top 12 Exhibitions To See In London: May 2022

We look ahead to May's must-see shows in London.

1. Watching: The Woman in the Window at Dulwich Picture Gallery

A timeless trope. © Simran Janjua

Whether on a 3,000 year old carved ivory panel or a contemporary photograph by Cindy Sherman, the image of a woman looking out of a window is used throughout art history. Sometimes it's about voyeurism, others it evokes empathy at the domestic life women have often been required to lead. The likes of Rembrandt, Hockney — plus contemporary photographers illustrate how and why the theme is timeless.

Reframed: The Woman in the Window at Dulwich Picture Gallery. 4 May-4 September 2022, £16.50.

2. Acclimatising: Our time on Earth at Barbican Centre

The ideal city envisioned by research and design agency Space10. Photo: Iwan Baan.

How can we respond to the climate emergency? A major exhibition in multiple spaces across the Barbican Centre includes futuristic installations, grassroots activism and learning from indigenous communities to discover how we can live in a more harmonious way with nature, making Earth more habitable for us and other species. Academics, architects, artists, activists, designers, ecologists, engineers, environmental campaigners, researchers, scientists, technologists and writers come together for this timely exhibition.

Our Time on Earth at Barbican Centre. 5 May-29 August 2022, £18.

3. Meditative: Lauren Baker at 99 Projects

Do we need silence now more than ever? Copyright Lauren Baker.

In a world that's so noisy do we need silence now more than ever? That's what artist Lauren Baker is tapping into, having created a new series of works inspired by 10 days of silent meditation in Mexico. Gaze into these abstract love letters and lose yourself in the auras.

Lauren Baker: Ten Days of Silence at 99 Projects. 6-29 May, free.

4. All the feels: The world of ASMR at Design Museum

The world has opened its mind (and ears) to ASMR in recent years.

Ever heard a sound that gets to you in a good way? That's Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), a physical sensation of euphoria or deep calm, triggered through sound, touch, and movement. Whether it's water drops or whispering that floats your audio boat, there's plenty to get you blissing out at Design Museum.

The World of ASMR at Design Museum. 13 May-16 October, £9.50

5. And breathe: In the Air at Wellcome Collection

How much thought do we give to the air that we breathe and how it came to be? Wellcome Collection takes us back to the 3.5 billion year old bacteria that produce oxygen, all the way up to today's protests against toxic air pollution — something all Londoners have to deal with. In the Air will also focus on the benefits of fresh air, and encourage us to get away from our desks and off to the local park.

In the Air at Wellcome Collection. 19 May-16 October, free.

6. Arma-shed-don: Cornelia Parker at Tate Britain

A garden shed frozen at the moment of explosion. Copyright the artist.

Taking ordinary everyday objects, Cornelia Parker creates stunning artworks including a garden shed frozen at the moment of explosion —- fragments about to fly off in every direction. Flattened silverware and a hand-sewn Wikipedia page all have political elements to them, as Parker comments on issues from human rights to climate change to economics.

Cornelia Parker at Tate Britain. 19 May-16 October, £16.

7. Fierce women: Feminine Power at The British Museum

A depiction of the Hindu goddess Kali by Kaushik Ghosh. Image © trustees of The British Museum.

Stories of the divine are often seen through a lens of male protagonists, but that's only half the story. The British Museum invites us to explore the representation of women in beliefs spanning the West to Japan by way of India and China. Feminine Power: The Divine to the Demonic also explores how women have often been demonised - such as Lilith, the first wife of Adam, who was vilified and expelled from Eden for being disobedient.

Feminine Power: The Divine to the Demonic at The British Museum. 19 May-25 September, £15.

8. Bling: Gold at The British Library

A miniature book with a gold binding. © trustees of the British Library.

The British Library displays 50 manuscripts from around the world in which gold has been used, delving into the effects this had on the stories contained within. Books were once rather bling, so prepare to be dazzled by this collection of golden treasures.

Gold at The British Library. 20 May-2 October, £8.  

9. Candy coloured: Pip & Pop at Kew Gardens

Prepare for a saccharine overload. © Pip & Pop.

We love food and we love art, so why not bring them together. Artist Pip & Pop (it's just one person) has pulled together a collection of vibrant artworks made from everyday materials, including a whole lot of sugar. Prepare for a saccharine overload with these elaborate pieces that immerse us in a candy-coloured wonderland. It's part of Kew Gardens' wider Food Forever summer programme that looks at the future of food.

Pip & Pop: When Flowers Dream at Kew Gardens, Shirley Sherwood gallery. 21 May-5 March 2023, £15 (admission to gardens).

10. Treating cancer: Cancer revolution at Science Museum

Sarah Herd's wig stand from the Cancer Collection Project. Copyright trustees of Science Museum.

Get an insight into how cancer is detected, prevented and treated, at Science Museum's new Cancer Revolution exhibition. It features objects and personal accounts, and aims to dispel myths about the disease, as well as highlighting the progress that's been made towards tackling it.

Cancer Revolution: Science, Innovation and Hope at Science Museum. 25 May-January 2023, free.

11. More than a scream: Edvard Munch at The Courtauld Gallery

The KODE collection in Bergen has a superb collection of works by Edvard Munch and they're visiting the UK for the first time. Edvard Munch: Masterpieces from Bergen charts the artist's journey from more realistic painting to the emotionally charged expressive works he's best known for. While his famous The Scream won't be here it's a great opportunity to learn about the talented painter who deserves to be know for far more than just one work. And anyway, there's plenty of angst on display.

Edvard Munch: Masterpieces from Bergen at The Courtauld Gallery. 27 May-5 September, £18 (includes entry to permanent collection).

12. Nostalgia: Dippy Returns at Natural History Museum

Look who's back, back again. Photo: Natural History Museum

One of London's most beloved museum items, Dippy the (replica) diplodocus returns to the Natural History Museum after its national tour, to star in a special exhibition. It's only a temporary return though, so take this opportunity to say goodbye to a childhood friend. Technically one item doesn't make an exhibition, but who cares — we are beyond excited.

Dippy Returns: The nation's favourite dinosaur at Natural History Museum. 27 May-December, free.

Short run events

There are art fairs aplenty this month.

There are art fairs aplenty in May. If you're looking for that standout piece to complete you living room, there's the Affordable Art Fair on Hampstead Heath (5-8 May, £11-27). Buy direct from an artist in their studio at Wimbledon Art Fair (12-15 May, free). Bargains abound at the Electric Art Car Boot Fair (14-17 May, £15)  where art is sold out of the back of a car/van and emerging artists mix with well-known names like Gavin Turk.

Peter Blake at the 2019 London Original Print Fair.

If you're tastes are higher end, visit Eye of the Collector at Two Temple Place (12-14 May, £28) where artwork, design pieces and furniture are arranged as if you've walked into a collector's home. And if photography is more your thing, it doesn't get more comprehensive than Photo London at Somerset House (12-15 May, £29). Later in May, Somerset House houses another fair that focuses on limited edition prints and works at the London Original Print Fair (26-29 May, £18).

Yayoi Kusama was at Victoria Miro in the 2019 London Gallery weekend. Photo: Linda Nylind

Elsewhere, London Gallery Weekend (13-15 May, free) sees galleries opening across London for extended opening hours over one weekend, with trails and plenty of great artists. If you're feeling more crafty, London Craft Week (9-15 May, some events ticketed) has over 250 established and emerging makers, designers, brands and galleries from around the world descend upon our fair city.