Go West: The best exhibitions to see in the South West in 2016

By Kate McNab Published: 01 January 2016

From John Craxton in Salisbury to Grayson Perry in Bath, we bring you our guide to the best 2016 exhibitions to see in the South West


A photograph taken of Vestrahorn in Iceland, by Tim Rudman.
Tim Rudman, Storm over Vestrahorn© Tim Rudman

Lacock Abbey, Fox Talbot Museum and Village kicks off the year with a display of photographs detailing the incredible volcanic landscapes of Iceland. Using purely analogue processes, Tim Rudman’s (January 9 – July 10) keeps the medium alive with sublime hand printed photographs of Icelandic vistas.

At Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, continues (until April 9) with a look into how modern artists were influenced by urban life and landscapes, and includes work from Sylvia Gosse, John Nash and Robert Bevan.

charts 150 years of local history through rarely-seen photographs, paintings and postcards from the Museum's collection.

They follow up with (March 30 – July 16), which features British modern art from the museum’s collection. This time, light, landscape and the weather is the theme uniting the pieces on display.

The museum's major summer show is (June 20 - September 10), bringing some of the artist's magical drawings to the gallery for a celebration of life, love and relationships.

Down at The Salisbury Museum, (January 20 – May 7) charts the life of the vibrant Neo-Romantic painter whose wanderlust saw him produce paintings across the continent, before he eventually settled in Greece.


Nature in Art have (September 13 – November 13), followed by (November 22 – December 18), a celebration of the iconic Gloucestershire Slad Valley through glass sculpture and sound art.


colourful tapestry showing man and woman walking away from street, into a dinner party
Grayson Perry, Expulsion From Number 8 Eden Close, 2012© Grayson Perry

Heading south to Somerset and Bath's Victoria Art Gallery start their 2016 with the touring exhibition (January 9 – April 10), which takes a tongue in cheek look at British class through early renaissance inspired tapestries created by Perry for Channel 4 series  In the Best Possible Taste. The vibrant tapestries tell the story of character Tim Rakewell as he battles through modern British life.

This is followed by the popular (April 23 – June 4). Now in its 111th year, the open exhibition welcomes submissions from any artist and showcases the diverse talent the region has to offer.

At the Holburne Museum, (until June 5) brings together a charming selection of impressionist paintings from British public collections. The show features masterpieces from the likes of Pissaro, Renior and Degas, and celebrates the elegant way in which the Impressionists captured humankind.

And apt accompaniment, (until September 18) is an exquisite show, highlighting some of the museum's rarely-seen 18th Century British pastel portraits.


oil painting of Rembrandt at the age of 63
Rembrandt, Self Portrait at the Age of 63© The National Gallery, London
If you're visiting Bristol Museum and Art Gallery in the late spring, make sure you get a look at (May 21 – July 17), one of Rembrandt's final, and most moving masterpieces.

(April 22 – July 17) is a carefully-curated exhibition of works recently purchased by UK institutions under the Art Fund's initiative to fund six museums to collect art created by international artists. The exhibition travels to each of the institutions, exploring common themes found throughout the varied pieces. It comes to Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and the Arnolfini from April to July.

The brilliant Royal West of England Academy has got another great show for fans of twentieth century British painting in  (February 6 - June 12) which reveals for the first time the importance of the Wessex landscape at a pivotal moment in British art.

Expect luscious landscapes by the likes William Orpen, Augustus John and John Everett who for a time made Purbeck in Dorset into an artist colony to rival Newlyn and St Ives.

The Arnofini opens the year with  (January 16 - April 10) a mesmerising film that tells a lyrical tale of whaling, the perils of migration and environmental catastrophe.

Later in the year, Arnolfini present a major survey exhibition of work by sculptor and installation artist, Daphne Wright. (October 21 – January 15 2017) sees the gallery populated with unsettling sculptures that examine everyday experiences such as aging, parenting and our relationship with animals.

At Spike Island, they're cerebrating 40 years of bringing affordable studio space to the artists of Bristol with (April 30 - June 19). The exhibition celebrates the life of the pioneering artists' collective through archive material and a new film piece.

Alongside, German artist Michael Buetler presents his first solo show in the UK. (April 16 - June 19) presents a specially commissioned, site-specific piece to celebrate the Spike Island building's past and present.

A little later in the year, artist presents a solo show of his work (July 9 - September 18), including a new film alongside connected objects, drawings and photographs.

Devon and Dorset

In Exeter, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum has (until April 10) explores the often unpredictable, but ever-uniting theme of the weather through historical paintings, prints from several UK art collections and artefacts from the Met Office and Royal Meteorological Society.

Peninsula Arts host (January 16 – March 19), a collection of artworks by international artists who work with, or in response to, soil as a medium or theme.Including work by David Nash, Claire Pentecost and Richard Long.


Tate St Ives re-opens on May 21 with  (May 21 – October 2) a major showcase of an international range of ceramic works, from St Ives in the 1920s, via Japan and LA through the 20th century, to London in the present day.
(21 May – 2 October) will present new films, sculptures and large-scale paintings, including specially-commissioned work created along the Cornish coast.

In the autumn, Gauguin, Nashashibi, Skaer (October 15 2016 - January 8 2017) will bring together work by Paul Gauguin alongside an ambitious new film by contemporary British artists Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer, retracing Gauguin’s voyage to Tahiti.

And if you have never been to Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, perhaps 2016 will be the year, as in April 2016 it celebrates its 40th anniversary, having opened to the public in 1976 following the artist’s death, showcasing the world’s largest permanent display of Hepworth’s works.

Heading up To Penzance, The Exchange is playing host to by David Blandy (February 13 – April 23), featuring a hypnotically rotating video and sound installation and a celebration of popular culture though the artist's own archive of books, music and video.

We'll be updating this guide as more exhibitions are announced throughout the year - check back often to discover more amazing art near you.

Anything we've missed? Let us know in the comments below.

Explore more of our regional guides:

The best exhibitions to see in the East of England in 2016
The best exhibitions to see in London in 2016
The best exhibitions to see in the Midlands in 2016
The best exhibitions to see in the North in 2016
The best exhibitions to see in Scotland in 2016
The best exhibitions to see in the South East in 2016
The best exhibitions to see in Wales in 2016