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8 best exhibitions in 2023

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

From fine art to fashion, the year ahead is packed with exciting shows at museums and galleries across the UK. Here are eight of the most must-see exhibitions for you to book in 2023.

Donatello: Sculpting the Renaissance

The Renaissance master Donatello is getting his first major UK exhibition. One of the greatest sculptors of all time, many of these works will have never been seen in Britain before. A highlight will be Donatello’s early marble David which he made when he was in his 20s, but there’s over 130 other pieces including the bronze Attis-Amorino, the reliquary bust of San Rossore, and bronzes from the High Altar of the Basilica of St Anthony in Padua. Opens 11 February at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Golden Mummies of Egypt

After a hugely successful tour across the USA and China, this stunning exhibition offers unparalleled access to the Egypt and Sudan collections of Manchester Museum. And to make it extra special, it’s the very first show after the museum’s £15 million revamp.

Featuring more than 100 objects and eight mummies, it will present a rich perspective on beliefs about the afterlife in ancient Egypt. The latest cutting edge science will use non-intrusive techniques to explore mummified bodies and their elaborate wrappings. Opens 18 February at Manchester Museum

Beyond the Little Black Dress

A fashion staple, the little black dress is getting the exhibition treatment. Over 60 striking looks from around the world will be brought together in Edinburgh to tell the story of this enduring classic which was first designed by Coco Chanel nearly 100 years ago. The exhibition will explore how the colour black’s complexities have made the LBD simultaneously expressive of piety and perversion, as well as respect and rebellion. Other highlights will include iconic early pieces by Yves Saint Laurent, Dior and Jean Muir, which will be juxtaposed with modern looks by trailblazing contemporary designers and brands like Gareth Pugh, Simone Rocha and Off-White. Opens 1 July at the National Museum of Scotland


Was Mariah Carey’s refusal to 'do stairs' the ultimate diva behaviour? Maybe we’ll find out in the V&A’s major exhibition celebrating the power and creativity of iconic divas. From the Opera goddesses of the Victorian era to today’s global megastars, it'll explore and redefine what it means to be a diva and how this has been subverted or embraced over time. On display will be objects from fashion, design, photography, music, costumes and live performance, brought together from the V&A collection and loans from across the world. Opens 24 June at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Black and white photo of Whitney Houston singing into microphone under a spotlight
Whitney Houston performing at Wembley Arena, London, UK 5 May 1988. Photo © David Corio

The Rossettis

The stunning and radical work of the Rossetti generation is going under the spotlight at Tate Britain. This exhibition will follow the romance and radicalism of the Rossettis: Dante Gabriel, Christina and Elizabeth (née Siddal). Visitors will get to experience world-renowned works from their boundary-pushing careers. It’ll be the largest Dante Gabriel Rossetti exhibition in two decades, as well as the most comprehensive exhibition of Elizabeth Siddal’s work for 30 years. Opens 6 April at Tate Britain

Luxury and power: Persia to Greece

Travel back 2,500 years to see how bling was used to wield power in one of the world's most influential ancient empires. This exhibition promises to display a "dazzaling array" of objects of exquisite luxury, highlighting how the First Persian Empire used them as markers of authority. A highlight will be the Panagyurishte Treasure, on a rare loan from Bulgaria. Accidentally discovered by three brothers in 1949, these precious items are outstanding examples of ancient metalworking and consist of nine richly decorated gold vessels used for pouring and drinking wine. Opens 4 May at the British Museum

9 golden objects including jugs and a plate arranged in a black background
Panagyurishte Treasure (c) National Museum of History Bulgaria

BIG WOMEN: Curated by Sarah Lucas

Brilliant British artist and OG YBA Sarah Lucas is curating a BIG exhibition in 2023. BIG WOMEN will be both an endorsement and a celebration of women’s achievement in the creative fields, which Lucas says “aspires to be thought provoking, funny, serious, attractive and fun.” It’ll showcase a range of artworks, film and fashion including Maggi Hambling, Pam Hogg, Gillian Wearing, Sue Webster and Lucas herself. Opens 11 February at Firstsite, Colchester

The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Frans Hals

The first major retrospective of Frans Hals in more than thirty years will let a new generation discover the brilliant work of one the greatest ever European artists. Some fifty of Hals’s finest works will be brought together, including the exceptional, first-ever loan of his most famous picture, The Laughing Cavalier (1624), from the Wallace Collection. From small works to large group portraits, genre scenes, and marriage portraits reunited for the first time from international collections, visitors will see the very best of this rich, earthy, yet comic artist. It’s a mirror of humanity on canvas. Opens 30 September at the National Gallery

Portrait painting of a moustached man in a hat looking at the viewer with a smile
Frans Hals The Laughing Cavalier, 1624 © Trustees of the Wallace Collection, London

Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto

She's a design icon, and her legacy is one of the world's biggest fashion houses. Now, the V&A is giving Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel is getting a retrospective. This show will be the first UK exhibition dedicated to the work of the French designer, and it'll chart the evolution of Coco Chanel's iconic design style and the establishment of the House of CHANEL. Visitors will get to explore over 180 looks alongside jewellery, accessories, cosmetics and perfumes, all helping to explore Chanel’s pioneering approach to fashion design. It would be no surprise if this ends up being 2023's most visited exhibition. Opens 16 September at the V&A

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