The exhibitions you must see this May
From the art of the album cover to the wonderful world of ASMR, this month’s must-see exhibitions are as delightfully varied as the changeable spring weather.
Women lead the way at exhibitions across the UK this month. At the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich we’re treated to a look at centuries of women’s creativity in Scotland, while at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Lubaina Himid curates an exhibition exploring women’s experiences in the city.
And at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, Lebanese-Dutch artist Mounira Al Solh investigates powerful themes of migration and trauma.
May also welcomes the anticipated opening of Weird Sensation Feels Good at the Design Museum in London, where you can immerse yourself in a feast for the senses – while other exhibitions explore everything from album covers and British landscapes to artists' studios.
Don’t forget, as well as new openings there are some brilliant exhibitions closing their doors this month. It's your last chance to see Louise Bourgeois: The Woven Child at the Hayward Gallery, closing 15 May, and Through the Lens of Masterji at Compton Verney in Stratford-upon-Avon, closing 22 May.
Most of our must-see exhibitions are free or 50% off with a National Art Pass. You can also check out our guide to the must-see exhibitions of 2022 and our full exhibition listings for more inspiration.
- Sainsbury Centre, Norwich
- 9 April – 3 July 2022
Celebrating a century of women’s creativity in Scotland, this exhibition features paintings, drawings, assemblages and photographs from over 30 incredible artists. The exhibition challenges the historic absence of women artists in academia and art institutions, shining a light on the trailblazing women artists who breathed new life into old artistic traditions. Some highlights include contemporary visual artist and photographer Sekai Machache and mid-century painter Joan Eardley.
- The Photographers' Gallery, London
- 8 April – 12 June 2022
Featuring some of the most iconic album covers in history, such as Grace Jones’ Island Life and Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, this exhibition is a love letter to the art of the album cover. Track some of the most significant moments in music history through images produced by visionaries including Andy Warhol, Helen Levitt and David Bailey, and discover the integral role that art and photography play in defining artists and bands.
- Design Museum, London
- From 13 May 2022
ASMR – defined as a physical sensation people can sometimes experience in response to sound, touch or movement – has become increasingly popular in recent years, with thousands of YouTube videos aiming to give viewers that tingling feeling. In some cases it can help to reduce anxiety, ignite relaxation and provide a rare feeling of euphoria. The Design Museum is the first to investigate ASMR in an exhibition context, as this immersive space allows you to experience a highly tuned world of sights, sounds and sensations first-hand.
- Whitechapel Gallery, London
- 24 February – 5 June 2022
What really goes on in the artist's studio? This eclectic exhibition features over 100 works by 80 international artists including Pablo Picasso, Lisa Brice and Andy Warhol, and looks at the artist’s studio as a work of art in its own right. A particular highlight is the collection of ‘studio corners’, revealing the actual environments where some of the greatest art of our time has been produced.
- Tate Liverpool, Liverpool
- 5 May – 4 September 2022
This exhibition explores how landscape art has been shaped by humanity's relationship to the natural world. From Ruth Ewan’s lush installation featuring live plants to Ingrid Pollard’s photographs of arrival and departure points on the coast, the artists featured explore how landscape art can drive powerful political and social themes.
- Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham
- 14 May – 4 September 2022
Curated by Turner Prize winning artist Lubaina Himid, this exhibition looks at women’s experiences in cities, featuring photography from Hannah Starkey, work by Cornelia Parker and embroidered textiles from Sophie Calle, plus much more. Some highlights include an investigation into maps and how they have shaped city life, and work exploring what a city designed solely for women might look like.
- Turner Contemporary, Margate
- 12 March – 19 June 2022
Artist Larry Achiampong’s work often incorporates moving image, audio and film – and this exhibition features the film Wayfinder, following the journey of a young girl across England. The film explores challenging themes such as class, economic exclusion, displacement and the meaning of home. Other parts of the exhibition include a curated selection of paintings by Romantic artist JMW Turner and a gaming room.
- Dulwich Picture Gallery, London
- 4 May – 4 September 2022
A recurring theme in art from ancient times to the present day, the 'woman in the window' has appeared in work by artists including Rembrandt, David Hockney and Louise Bourgeois. This exhibition explores how this motif has evolved over time to fit with our contemporary world, and focuses on the women artists who are reclaiming it as their own. Interestingly, the exhibition also looks at how lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic gave this image yet another new meaning.