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21 must-see British art exhibitions showcasing work by people of colour this autumn

Say goodbye to Hot Girl Summer, and hello to Art Girl Autumn!


13 Oct 2021

Tokyo from Utsurundesu series, since 2018.Tokyo from Utsurundesu series, since 2018. MoNinagawa Mika, courtesy the artist and Tomio Koyama Gallery

The leaves are turning orange, daylight hours are getting shorter and I’ve had to replace my electric fan for a heater, which means it’s officially autumn. With fewer things to do outdoors (RIP music festivals, we had a good run) it’s time to take out extracurricular activities inside. Embrace the cosiness and make sure to see some of these amazing art exhibitions showcasing spectacular work by people of colour in the coming months: 


Olivia Sterling: Really Rough Scrubbing Brush
Olivia Sterling’s most recent work touches on themes of race and body image in the UK. The 24-year-old’s brilliant cartoonish canvases explore the ways bodies change colour through natural tanning, fake tanning and other means of skin colour manipulation. She also depicts people playing with food on their bodies by smearing different things on their skin in a satirical style, inspired by 18th century British political cartoons. The paintings ask important questions around why when white people’s skin is darkened, it becomes an object of desire while entrenched racial prejudices against darker skin tones still exist.

Until 31 October 2021 @ Goldsmith’s Centre for Contemporary Art. Tickets are free.

Zeinab Saleh: Softest place (on earth)

As the co-founder of Muslim Sisterhood, Zeinab Saleh’s art practice is rooted in community. The London-based artist presents a new body of work in her first solo exhibition, where she meditates on the conditions of stillness brought on by the pandemic. Saleh does this through different mediums – painting, drawing and video.

Until 23 December 2021 @ Camden Art Centre. Tickets are free, but book ahead online.

Bow Open Show 2021 selected by gal-dem

Artist, curator and gal-dem founding member, Leyla Reynolds has selected 24 artists for Bow Arts’ annual Bow Open Show responding to her title ‘Aboutface: regroup, reorganise, reimagine’. Exhibited works include banners, ceramics, jewellery and many other art mediums, commenting on thhe political themes of the past year, such as the environment, the pandemic, decolonisation, gender identity and our digital lives. 

“The standard of the submissions for this year’s Bow Open has been truly exceptional; the innovativeness shown in fulfilling the brief has been truly inspiring, with the artist responses demonstrating the variety of thought housed in Bow Arts Studios,” Leyla says.

The show was originally due to take place in 2020, however, due to the pandemic it had to be rescheduled to this year.

Until 10 December 2021 @ Bow Arts Centre.

Tickets are free.

 via Alberto Romano (Instagram: @albertoromano_ph)

Nine Nights: Channel B

The audio-visual exhibition explores Black futurism by the Black-owned initiative Nine Nights, which was created in 2020 as a stand against systemic racism within the global music industry. Channel B features installations by founding artists Gaika, GLOR1A and Shannen SP as well as a series of live events called New Syntax, which is hosting performances by Black artists from all over the world. According to the gallery, the exhibiting artists examine “electronically mutated rhythms of the diaspora that pulse through every city, every night”.

“The name ‘Nine Nights’ is rooted in Jamaican tradition that celebrates the life and safe passing for those deceased over nine nights” the group explains. “This ‘dead yard’ series is for those who have lost their lives at the hands of racism, police brutality and COVID, to celebrate their existence, and push for change. We want a new system, one that helps develop Black lives in music, art and community.”

Until January 2022 @ ICA.

Tickets are £6.

Summer Exhibition 2021 

Yinka Shonibare has put together this year’s summer exhibition at the RA focusing on the theme ‘Reclaiming Magic’. From icons to up-and-coming names, there are 1,300 works that have been selected by him and a panel of artists. The summer exhibitions at the RA have been historically very white, but this year, no doubt due to Shonibare’s influence, there have been significantly more artists of colour on show. And what’s exciting too is the broadening of the materials used on display – you will see ceramics, crochet, quilts, batik and so much more.

Until 2 January 2022 @ The Royal Academy of Arts. Tickets are £20-£22.

Theaster Gates: A Clay Sermon

Theaster Gates is doing a collaboration with London artists, by presenting a multi-venue dedication to clay. The Chicago-based artist has a brand new exhibition at Whitechapel which explores the clay by looking at not just the material, but also, it’s spiritual legacies. A Clay Sermon displays not just Gates’ work but also those whose work has shaped the artist’s approach to clay.

“Clay has been foundational to Theaster Gates’s intertwined artistic and social practices, bringing together research, ideas, process and production,” said Lydia Yee, the Chief Curator of the exhibition. “His interests and investigations span clay mineralogy, industrial and studio pottery production, the use of clay in teaching and community building, and the ceremonial and ritual use of ceramics.”

Until 9 January 2022 @ Whitechapel Gallery. Tickets are free.


The Barbican is putting on a major retrospective exhibition celebrating the Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi with over 150 works on show, including sculptures made in a variety of materials as well as set designs, models, furniture and lighting. His works address themes of spiritual consciousness and Japanese traditions. If you like looking at interesting shapes, this one’s for you.

Until 9 January 2022 @ Barbican Art Gallery. Tickets are £18.

Lubaina Himid 

Since the 1980s, the artist has played a vital role in the British Black arts movement and has earned recognition for her figurative paintings which explore overlooked stories, questions of race, gender and class as well as contemporary life. Himid was awarded the Turner Prize in 2017. This large-scale exhibition at the Tate Modern takes inspiration from Himid’s interest in theatre and places visitors not just backstage, but centre-stage as well.

25 November – 3 July 2022 @ Tate Modern. Ticket prices TBC.

Ball on Shipboard, 2018, by Lubaina Himid

Phoebe Collings-James: A Scratch! A Scratch!

We all deal with feelings of grief, heartbreak and desire differently and for her first solo exhibition, Collings-James uses sculpture, video, sound and performance art to do so. The artist has spent the last six months developing a new body of work presented in A Scratch! A Scratch! and exploring various aspects of storytelling, language and imagery from mythological and religious traditions.

Until 23 December 2021 @ Camden Art Centre. Tickets are free, but book ahead online.

Jameel Prize: Poetry to Politics

The Jameel Prize is an international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition. According to the V&A, “the Prize aims to explore the relationship between contemporary practice and Islamic tradition as part of a wider debate about Islamic culture in the twenty-first century.” This year, see how eight artists from India, Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the UK showcase their work through graphic design, fashion, architecture and activism.

Until 28 November 2021 @ V&A. Tickets are free.

Rindon Johnson: Law of Large Numbers: Our Selves 

By combining CGI, writing, painting and sculpture, the artist’s work presents a wide range of subjects, from his identity as a Black trans American, to the environmental crisis and virtual realities. Born in California and now based in Berlin, this is Johnson’s first solo exhibition in the UK. Law of Large Numbers: Our Bodies includes newly commissioned works as well as a new publication with original writings by the multidisciplinary artist.

November – January 2022 @ Chisenhale Gallery. Tickets are free.

Adam Farah: What I’ve Learned From You And Myself

Farah’s exhibition What I’ve Learned From You And Myself delves into the depths of heartache, trauma, desires and spiritual voyaging while navigating all of these emotions against the backdrop of a rapidly mutating London. From moving images, sculpture, poppers, peppers and iPods to walking, cruising and microdosing, the artist works in a range of media and performative gestures. 

“Recently a friend described what I do as ‘soul work’,” the artist explains. “Although the term is broad and manifests its meaning through different contexts, it reminded me that there has been this underlying natural reaction within my creative endeavours, to counteract the coldness and sterility that permeated the context of my art school experience in the 2010’s – at the height of the post-internet art moment; typified by reductive and uncritical forms of irony.”

Until 23 December 2021 @ Camden Art Centre. Tickets are free, but book ahead online.

Anicka Yi: Hyundai Commission

According to the Tate Modern, this year’s Hyundai Commission will be Anicka Yi’s largest and most ambitious project to date, but we haven’t really been given a clue what exactly will fill the ground floor space of the old power station. The Seoul-born artist’s work normally fuses artistic imagination and scientific research. Her work speculates about the present in relation to our shared futures including the evolution of artificial intelligence, climate emergency and migration. 

Until 16 January 2021 @ Tate Modern. Tickets are free.


Tokyo: Art and Photography

Have you ever wanted to go to Japan but couldn’t afford the travel? This exhibition of photographs and art will temporarily transport you thereby celebrating one of the world’s most creative, dynamic and thrilling cities in the East Asian country.

Ashmolean’s new exhibition showcases new commissions from contemporary artists, loans from Japan and displays work from the gallery’s own collections. Highlights include historic folding screens and woodblock prints, video works, pop art, and contemporary photographs by Moriyama Daido and Ninagawa Mika.

Until 3 January 2022 @ Ashmolean Museum. Tickets are £12.25, concessions are available.

Anish Kapoor: Painting

Anish Kapoor, famed for his daring sculptures, has helped to put together Painting, an exhibition offering a window in his studio practice and his views on being alive and transitioning to death. “The art I love, the art I make, I hope, celebrates the sensual while always knowing that decay is close,” the artist says. The works show how Kapoor pushes boundaries between sculpture and painting as he explores our perception and experience of the body.

2 October 2021 – 13 February 2022 @ Modern Art Oxford. Tickets are £7.50, concessions are available.


She Appeared to Vanish

International artists including Delphine Diallo and Pinar Yolaçan come together to question the historical depictions of women in photography by challenging the objectifying male gaze. The group exhibition draws on wider traditions of painting, sculpture, surrealist collage and performance and asks the viewer to consider the act of viewing the female form and its historical and contemporary implications. 

Until 7 November 2021 @ HOME Manchester. Tickets are free.

AWAKENING, 2016, Delphine Diallo

Jade Monserratt’s Constellations: Care & Resistance

Part-gallery, part-studio, Constellations: Care & Resistance explores race, body and language. Monserratt works on paper as well as performances and her artwork is displayed alongside artworks from the Gallery’s collection, hung in conversation with pieces by Claudette Johnson, Mark Titchner and Ian Hamilton Finlay. In this unique set-up, visitors are presented with the artist’s notebooks, research and art materials in order to really get into her head.

Until 31 December 2021 @ Manchester Art Gallery. Tickets are free.


Mit Jai Inn: Dreamworld

For Thai artist, Mit Jain Inn, art is not just a physical practice but also a meditative one. He uses hands, fingers and other tools to play with paint across the gallery space. “When I paint, it’s not only with my eyes, but with all of my senses: touch, smell, movement. The whole entity,” he says. Ikon presents his first major solo exhibition, showcasing most recent works made from layers of canvas and paint, which fills the gallery with blotches of bright colour.

Until 21 November 2021 @ IKON Gallery. Tickets are free.


Arnolfini at 60: Sutapa Biswas

Sutapa Biswas’ work touches on themes of identity, race and gender in relation to time, space and history. She is inspired by oral histories, literature and art history, as well as the role of narratives within storytelling. For the gallery’s 60th birthday, the British Indian artist is being invited to present new and existing work at the Arnolfini. Her work was included in two exhibitions presented in the gallery during the 1990s, both of which “played an important role in promoting decolonial discourses within British art”. 

5 November 2021 – 13 February 2022 @ Arnolfini. Tickets are free.


Hyojun Hyun and Rodrigo Red Sandoval: Scattered Sights

Scattered Sights is an exhibition showcasing paintings and sculptures by Hyojun Hyun and Rodrigo Red Sandoval about mining the present. The artwork asks the central questions: Where are we while we are walking? Where are we when we are looking? 

“Contemporary archeologists is what we are; we dig the mountains looking for pieces of glass to look through, to look at the world. We try to make sense of what we are really looking at, on what we are really focusing on – is it the green of glass, is it the landscape, or is the knowledge that the glass once was a beer container. How do all of this connect?”

Until 23 October 2021 @ Glasgow CCA. Tickets are free.


REFLECTIVE JESTER, Christian Noelle Charles

Christian Noelle Charles’ first solo exhibition takes on the presence of the Jester, defined as a professional fool or clown. The New York-born artist considers the modern day entertainer as a resemblance to the Jester role and its circulation within the Black community. The exhibition touches on today’s pop culture, modern performance techniques and the artist’s personal experiences.

Until 16 October 2021 @ Glasgow CCA. Tickets are free.