From RGB bars to giant murals of vintage book covers: Five free exhibitions to see in London this May

Carnovsky: RGB Universe Waves of the Modern Age. Image courtesy of Mothership Group.

London is an expensive city, no doubt. But there are plenty of shows and exhibitions to enjoy if you fancy a little more art and culture this May, without having to dip your hand in your pocket.

Here, we've rounded up some of the best free events currently open to the public across the capital. From cafe and bars to venues as renowned as The Whitechapel Gallery, these recommended shows cover a range of different creative disciplines. But hurry! Some finish in the next week or two.

Carnovsky: RGB Universe Waves of the Modern Age

Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen – Until the end of June 2019

Fancy taking in some art while dancing with a cocktail in hand? This free exhibition at Hoxton Square Bar, open both day and night, features walls that appear to come alive with trippy mutating scenes of jungles, animals, skulls, sea creatures and flowers when different red, green and blue hues (RGB) are shone onto the walls.

In each image, three layers live together resulting in an unexpected and psychedelic world where the colours mix up and the lines and shapes entwine becoming oneiric and not completely clear. Definitely one for Instagram lovers.

Carnovsky: RGB Universe Waves of the Modern Age. Image courtesy of Mothership Group.

Carnovsky: RGB Universe Waves of the Modern Age. Image courtesy of Mothership Group.

Unforsaken by Jimmy Turrell

The Book Club – Until 16 May 2019

Hit up Shoreditch brunch hotspot The Book Club for some eggs and coffee while you take in this free show. Graphic artist Jimmy Turrell has taken over the Shoreditch space with his exhibition, Unforsaken. Jimmy most recently worked on videos, live visuals and artwork for the musician Beck, and also designed Aretha Franklin’s very last album cover. The antithesis to Marie Kondo’s modern "throw away therapy", this new show is about finding the true beauty in old forgotten or discarded objects.

By creating a giant mural in The Book Club (incorporating vintage book covers, framed magazine pages, blown up scans of the original material, screenprints and typography) Jimmy hopes to explore the ideas of loss, rebirth and salvation.

Jimmy Turrell. Photograph courtesy of Mothership Group

Jimmy Turrell. Photograph courtesy of Mothership Group

Queer Spaces: London, 1980s – Today

The Whitechapel Gallery – Until 25 August 2019

This exhibition casts a celebratory and defiant eye over the history of London’s queer spaces. Combining rarely-seen archival material with original work by artists concerned with the vibrancy and importance of LGBTQ+ cultural life, the show considers how market-led redevelopment of spaces around London is rapidly transforming the capital’s queer scenes.

In the decade between 2006 and 2016, more than half of venues for the LGBTQ+ community in London have closed, falling from 125 to 53. In 2017/2018 this figure stabilised, but what has been the effect of these changes on the lives of queer people? Queer Spaces: London, 1980s – Today attempts to explore this question. Go check it out.

Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings: The Scarcity of Liberty #2 2016 Cork board mounted on wooden frame, magazine pages, pins. Courtesy the artists and Arcadia Missa

Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings: The Scarcity of Liberty #2 2016 Cork board mounted on wooden frame, magazine pages, pins. Courtesy the artists and Arcadia Missa

Emma Kunz: Visionary Drawings

Serpentine Gallery – Until 19 May 2019

The Serpentine is presenting the first UK solo exhibition by the late Swiss visionary artist, healer and researcher Emma Kunz that features over 40 of her rarely seen drawings.

Systematic yet expansive in their compositions, her "energy-field" drawings simultaneously contain micro and macro perspectives of nature, chiming with current discourses on ecology, as well as a desire to forge meaningful connections with our environment. Never shown in her lifetime, Kunz predicted her drawings were destined for the 21st Century. Definitely worth a look.

Emma Kunz: Visionary Drawings, An exhibition conceived with artist Christodoulos Panayiotou, (Installation view, 23 March – 19 May 2019, Serpentine Galleries), © 2019

Emma Kunz: Visionary Drawings, An exhibition conceived with artist Christodoulos Panayiotou, (Installation view, 23 March – 19 May 2019, Serpentine Galleries), © 2019

Visions of the Self: Rembrandt and Now

Gagosian Grosvenor Hill – Until 18 May 2019

Rembrandt’s masterpiece Self-Portrait with Two Circles (c. 1665) is the centrepiece of an exhibition of self-portraits at Gagosian Grosvenor Hill this month, which also includes works by Francis Bacon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Lucian Freud, and Pablo Picasso, as well as leading contemporary artists such as Georg Baselitz, Glenn Brown, Urs Fischer, Damien Hirst, Howard Hodgkin, Giuseppe Penone, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, and Rudolf Stingel, among others.