What are the best art exhibitions and art workshops for kids in London this year? We asked art expert mums who live, laugh, love art with their kids in tow on a regular basis which exhibitions and hands-on activities they were most looking forward to so far in 2023.
Read on for inspiration for art outings and activities with kids in London (and one big one in Manchester they are ALL excited for!) this year from mums who canvas the city’s art scene.
Sally Webb: Curator & creator @kidsingalleries; Heritage Research & Engagement Coordinator at the Scouts
I am so excited as the Museum of Childhood, now known as Young V&A, is opening in the Summer. I have missed this museum so much and the transformation sounds incredible with three new galleries called Imagine, Play and Design with displays entirely dedicated to children from birth to early teens.
The exhibition I am most excited about this year, is, unusually, not in London – it’s the the Yayoi Kusama exhibition You, Me and the Balloons at Factory International in Manchester. It will be Kusama’s largest immersive environment of all time and the kids will love it! A lot of the works will be over 10m tall and include giant dolls, spectacular tendrilled landscapes and a vast constellation of polka-dot spheres.
The Imagine Festival is back at Southbank in February and the awesome artist STIK, in collaboration with the festival, are inviting families to a pop up gallery to create their own version of STIK’s open edition print, STAMP. We can’t wait for this one! This is running 8th to 16th February.
Georgina Wedderburn: Art experiences with 3 kids @bigfatsatsuma; artist
It’s hard to pick a single upcoming London exhibition to get excited about, when there is so much variety, but one that I know most children will find intriguing is Mike Nelson: Extinction Beckons opening at the Hayward Gallery in late February.
Anyone who remembers Neslon’s 2019 Duveen commission at Tate Britain (The Asset Strippers – pictured) will know what to expect; the Hayward Gallery is set to be transformed by large scale industrial installations using materials salvaged from scrap yards and junk shops.
Despite the bleak title, I’m expecting this show to be big, bold and engaging for smaller viewers and can also visualise some simple spin-off crafting opportunities – what child doesn’t like junk modelling after all?
We’re all looking forward to the Let Sound Inspire You family festival on 18 February at beautiful Dulwich Picture Gallery. This will be a full day of activities exploring colour and sound, inspired by the current M.K. Čiurlionis exhibition (Lithuania’s best loved artist).
RELATED CONTENT > Top 5 Tips for Taking Children to Art Galleries
For free family activities keep an eye on the Tate Galleries and the Royal Academy – both run an extensive programme of free engagement activities. We don’t yet know what Tate Modern has in store for the summer, but last year’s Kusama obliteration room will be a hard act to follow.
And for a fun free art trail, Canary Wharf’s Winter Lights returns from 18-28 January and will include Luke Jerram’s Floating Earth.
If you’re interested in our most exciting 2023 exhibition outside London, then it would have to be Yayoi Kusama’s largest ever immersive installation at the newly opened Factory International in Manchester – You, Me and the Balloons.
Christina Brown: @christinarosebrown; artist; art workshop leader; author of ‘Art London’
I think the exhibition I am most excited about taking my kids to this year is the Yayoi Kusama installation in Manchester. It’s set to the largest ever immersive environment she’s created and is dedicated to her inflatable work, so will be visually incredible and also super exciting for my young children to experience as well.
Personally I am most excited about the Hilma Af Klint/Mondrian exhibition coming to the Tate as I am obsessed with Klint and have only seen a few small watercolours by her before. I can’t wait to see her bigger paintings. She was a pioneer of abstract painting but didn’t show her work publicly during her lifetime, so she isn’t as well known as the male painters who came after her. Hopefully this exhibition will change that!
My youngest daughter is two and obsessed with drawing and painting. Even though I run lots of workshops, I also really love taking her to taking her to art classes and she is so into it and she doesn’t normally come to the ones I organise. She has really loved Mini Picassos and Art Play. I am hoping to take her to the PopBox Make Shop at some point this year. As for the workshops I am running, I am beyond excited to be working with Zabludowicz Collection this year on their Family Creates programme. My first event with them is 14th January and we will be making cardboard pinball machines inspired by the games arcade in the current YuLang exhibition.
I’m also about to announce a couple of workshops at Fitzrovia Chapel to tie in with the exhibition The Ward Revisited. The exhibition is based around photographs of the AIDS ward of the Middlesex hospital (of which the chapel is the only remaining building). It’s not immediately child-friendly subject-matter but we have a gorgeous workshop lined up based on story-telling, celebrating the people we love and coming together to create collaborative work inspired by the AIDs quilts. Hopefully we will show that all art can be presented to kids, even if it seems challenging at first – I can’t wait.
Featured photo from @kidsingalleries taken at the Victoria Miro Yayoi Kusama exhibition in 2018.