The best art exhibitions to see in the South East of England during 2015

By Richard Moss | 24 September 2015 | Updated: 03 November 2015

Get your diary out - it's Culture24's constantly updated guide to the best exhibitions to see in the south east in 2015

Ox, Bucks, Berks

A head of a young man in charcoal or oiled crayon with white on faded blue paper
Bernardo Strozzi (1581‒1644), Head of a Young Man © Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, Florence
What better place could there possibly be than a museum of art and archaeology? Step forward the Ashmolean in Oxford, whose strapline is exactly that but whose autumn show sees the accent firmly on the art with  (October 15 2015 – January 10 2016).

Developed with the Uffizi in Florence the show traces the role of drawing in Venice and its importance over three centuries. The Ashmolean is promising to dispel the myth that Venetian artists, including their greatest painter, Titian, had no interest in drawing.

While you’re there, take a look at the display  (until January 24 2016) which explores the various representations of the popular, Elephant headed, Hindu deity.

Modern Art Oxford turn over the gallery to a series of landscapes constructed from wood, concrete, carpet and all manner of detritus. (November 2015 - January 10 2016) is an exhibition of major new work by acclaimed British artist Anne Hardy (b. 1970) who makes environments which incorporate sculptural installation, photography and audio.

One of the south’s most adventurous galleries, MKG in Milton Keynes, is currently revamping and expanding, but you can still catch some art this autumn in its project space with  (until January 7 2016), which is a series of archival exhibitions reflecting on the Gallery’s history by reviewing its exhibitions, events and projects of the past 16 years.

And if you have never visited the Stanley Spencer Gallery, in Cookham, perhaps Autumn will be the time to catch their ongoing Spencer overview, (until March 2016), which displays an unprecedented combination of fine Spencer paintings, including the full permanent Spencer collections of Aberdeen City Art Gallery and Leeds City Art Gallery.

Sussex by the sea

a painting of women and men bundling up hay in a field
Evelyn Dunbar, Men Stooking and Girls Learning to Stook (1940). Oil on canvas © The Artist's Estate, courtesy of Liss Llewellyn Fine Art
In Chichester, Pallant House provides ample reason to head to West Sussex, with the autumn/winter highlight (October 24 2015 — February 1 2016) - a welcome re-assessment of an elusive but fascinating literary and visual artist.

Pallant have collected together some 80 works from throughout his creative life, ranging from early sketches from the trenches of the Western Front to his late, great chalice paintings and inscriptions; a set of artworks that the gallery says “will surely be a revelation when seen together here”. 

Alongside,  (until February 14 2016) includes some of her famous 'Women during wartime' artworks and a range of highlights from an extraordinary hoard of previously unrecorded work recently discovered in the attic of a house on the Kent Coast.

The beautiful Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft has created a companion piece to Pallant's David Jones show with  (October 24 2015 – March 6 2016). There’s also the chance to catch  (until January 3 2016) in which the American uses traditional letterpress tools and materials to create stunning, and purely abstract, compositions.

Journeying coastward across the Downs, the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings hosts (until January 3 2016), which sees three-quarters of the gallery given over to the touring collection from Kettle’s Yard with the mid-20th century art treasures on loan, while the former house of Jim and Helen Ede undergoes a major redevelopment in Cambridge.

a painting of a sailing ship on a river passing an inlet lined with an orchard
Alfred Wallis, Sailing Ship and Orchard (circa 1935-37)© Copyright Angela Verren Taunt
At Towner Art Gallery, in Eastbourne, the big autumn show is a feast of 19th and 20th century painting: (until January 24 2016) brings paintings from one of the UK’s most northerly galleries (currently refurbishing) to one of the most southerly with works by artists such as George Clausen, Paul Nash, Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden, Duncan Grant, Christopher Wood, Charles Conder, Joan Eardley and Alexander Nasmyth.

There's an intriguing show in store in the shape of (November 29 2015 - January 31 2016), which brings the world of theatre design and art together and into the gallery for an unlikely-sounding immersive installation that draws on the skills of artist/designer/sculptor Napier who has worked on theatre productions ranging from Miss Saigon to Starlight Express.

While you're there, also check , (October 10 2015 - January 10 2016), which explores the universal themes of school and childhood through film and photography, showing portraits of school children from 19 countries around the world.

And if you’re in Brighton, the exhibitions at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery worth catching are Simon Roberts’ photographic paean to the British pier,  (until February 21 2016).


a painting of a group of leaves turning brown on the branch against a grey sky
Julian Perry, When Yellow Leaves© Julian Perry
In Margate, Turner Contemporary’s season of Mexican artworks continues with (until January 10 2016) in which Reyes makes automatic music from crushed revolvers, shot-guns and machine-guns.

The major autumn show is (October 10 2015 – January 17 2016) which will be the first major UK exhibition exploring the world of creative risk-taking.

Over in Canterbury, The Beaney celebrate the release of the latest film in the Star Wars franchise. (December 5 - March 6) brings together vintage toys and cinema posters from the epic's 40-odd year history.

And at the wonderful Mascalls Gallery at Paddock Wood (until December 12) seems at first glance to be an autumnally inspired exhibition of beautiful leaf paintings, but is actually about the pathogens and changing weather patterns that threaten Britain's woodland.

Despite the worrying subtext, Perry’s paintings effuse a beautiful radiance recalling the Ladybird book illustrations of the 1960s.


a painting showing three female figures with wings flying across the clouds
Evelyn De Morgan, The Storm Spirits (1900). Oil on Canvas© De Morgan Foundation
The wonderful Watts Gallery in Compton near Guildford has (until April 13 2016), which explores the partnership of the famous Victorian artist couple alongside the partnership of GF and Mary Watts.

At The Lightbox in Woking, (October 10 - January 17) is a landmark show of illustrations offering an insight into some of his most important creations.

Hampshire and the Isle of Wight

a photo of a man on a step ladder holding up a ruler across a painting of a baroque room interior
Ben Johnson putting the finishing touches to 'Room of the Revolutionary', 2014© Ben Johnson
Southampton Art Gallery is the place to check out the remarkable hyperrealist paintings of British artist Ben Johnson for (until January 23 2016) - the first ever retrospective exhibition to examine his 54-year career and a rare opportunity to see many of his works together.

Across the Solent there's an interesting show at Quay Arts, Newport Harbour, where they are exploring (October 10 2015 - January 9 2015) via a show of of over 40 drawings, prints and paintings by the likes of Frank Auerbach, David Hockney, Elizabeth Frink, Graham Sutherland and Gillian Ayres.

And finally, back in Hampshire, at The Crafts Study Centre in Farnham,  (until December 12 2015) reflects on the development of slipware in English studio ceramics by journeying from its genesis in the works of Bernard Leach and Michael Cardew to work of the present day.

Have we missed something? Use the comment box below to let us know.

You might also like:

The best exhibitions to see in London in 2015

Check back for more regional exhibition guides during the coming week.
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