London Exhibitions 2021


Looking forward to a brighter 2021, and dreaming of open galleries and enthralling shows, I have collected some of the best exhibitions hoping to open this year.
All of these include textiles in various ways – from garments and pattern, to interiors and photography.
If not physically open, let’s hope that these exhibitions will be available online in some form:

Zanele Muholi
Tate Modern, 5 November 2020 – 31 May 2021
Zanele Muholi Calls herself a visual activist – one who focuses on South Africa’s gay, trans, intersex and queer communities. The LBGTQIA+ communities still remain a target in South Africa, despite equality being promised in 1996. The photographs are intense, with the sitters gaze being an important aspect. The images also contain characteristic textiles, hair pieces, garments and make up.


Jean Dubuffet
Barbican Art Gallery, 11 Feb – 23 May 2021
This will be a retrospective exhibition of Dubuffet’s work showing his tireless experimentation. Butterfly assemblages, enamel paintings, colourful canvases and lithographs will be among the type of work shown. He is famously the founder of Art Brut movement and his work rallies against conventional standards of beauty.


Epic Iran
V&A, 13 Feb – 30 Aug
This exhibition will explore 5,000 years of art – from 3,000 BCE to the present day. Art and culture will be shown through 300 objects, which includes sculpture, textiles, carpets, film and photography. This is a landmark exhibition on one of the greatest civilisations in history. Knowing the V&A’s past shows, this will surely be a remarkable display.


Chintz: Cotton in Bloom
Fashion and Textile Museum, 12 March – 15 August 2021
The Fashion and Textile Museum spans hundreds of years and miles with this exhibition that explores Chintz fabric. This material bears multicoloured patterns and designs that became sensations throughout 18th century England and Europe. Some 150 examples of this textile will be on show, from Japanese dresses to wall hangings and sun hats.


Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser
V&A, from 27 March 2021
This immersive and theatrical exhibition takes you down the rabbit hole into a magical new world. It is the most comprehensive exhibition ever held on Alice and Wonderland. It looks at the huge impact Lewis Caroll’s story has had in the history of art, fashion, design performance and more. Salvador Dali, Walt Disney, Tim Walker and Vivienne Westwood are among those included.


Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Rooms
Tate Modern, 29 March 2021 – 27 March 2022
The Infinity Rooms are immersive installations of endless reflections. Kusama is famous for her obsessive and repetitive dots. Her work uses a variety of media such as painting, sculpture, drawing and performance. There has never been a Kusama exhibition of this size before in the Uk, so it’s not to be missed.


Beautiful People: The Boutique in 1960s Counterculture
Fashion and Textile Museum, 3 September 2021 – 1 January 2022
Beautiful People explores fabulous examples from Chelsea’s iconic boutiques that sparked a 1960’s fashion revolution. Creative exploration led designers to sell radical clothing to counterculture youth. The flamboyant ‘flower power’ style emerged with an explosion of colour and pattern. Styles from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Jimmy Hendrix will be displayed alongside garments from iconic boutiques like the ‘Kings Road shop Granny Takes a Trip’.


Impressionist Decorations: the Birth of Modern Decor
National Gallery, 11 Sept 2021 – 9 Jan 2022
This is the first ever exhibition dedicated to the Impressionist’s impact on the decorative arts. These painters sought to bring the outdoors inside and turned their eye for landscapes into objects that could decorate the home. Interior elements such as panels, painted doors, tapestries, ceramics and paintings will be shown. Impressionists such as Renoir, Pissarro, Degas, Manet and Cezanne are included.

Lubaina Himid
Tate Modern, 24 Nov – 22 May 2022
The 2017 Turner Prize winning artist Lubaina Himid exhibits on a large scale, showing recent work and highlights from her career. Himid is known for her approaches on painting and social engagement. Her long career has contributed to the British Black arts movement and recognising women’s creativity. Taking inspiration from the Himid’s interest in theatre, this exhibition will unfold a series of scenes designed to put visitors both on the stage and backstage.

Tales of Guatemalan Worry Dolls


As we enter a new year, we hope to leave our worries behind us. With that in mind, I remembered a small oval wooden box gifted to me as a child. Inside were six tiny wooden dolls from Guatemala, known as Worry Dolls. I remember them being fascinatingly miniature, placing one in the palm of my hand and telling it my worries before sleeping.


Worry dolls are known to have been created by the Mayan’s over 2,000 years ago. There are two trains of thought assigned to their beginnings: the first is that they are modelled on one of the creator gods; the other (and more common idea) is that the dolls are based on a Mayan legendary princess called Ixmucane. In this myth, the sun god gifted Ixmucane the power to solve any human problem.

worry dolls


According to tradition, Guatemalan children tell the dolls their worries before placing them under a pillow. With six dolls included in the oval box, each night should be a different doll, with one days rest. By the morning, the children will be gifted with knowledge of how to overcome their worries, allowing them to sleep soundly. In the morning, it is advised to rub the dolls tummy, so that the pain of carrying bad thoughts is relieved. The ritual of acknowledging anxieties before sleep is seen as beneficial, particularly for children. Worry dolls have now been recognised by paediatric and child therapists as a way of relaying concerns to a trustworthy listener.

Guatemalan Indigenous Clothing


The Worry dolls themselves are between 1-3cm tall and made out of wood, wire and fabric from Mayan garments. The face of the doll can be cotton, cardboard and paper, or clay and the outer clothing from wool or “aguayo” – a traditional Guatemalan cloth. This is all held in place with colourful yarn that is wrapped around each part. Moreover, the fabric used is offcuts from handmade clothes, as a way to reduce waste.

Indigenous Clothing


In Guatemala traditional clothing is bright and colourful, depicting local flowers, animals, geometric shapes and figures. The textiles are woven by hand and the yarns are dyed naturally with flowers, vegetables, herbs and bark for their vibrant colours. There are over 800 different styles of indigenous Guatemalan clothing, known as the traje tipico. The traje is still commonly worn by women, and there are various communities where men also wear traditional embroidered clothing. The most common parts of the women’s traje are the huipil (blouse), the faja (belt/sash), and the corte (skirt). Depending on the region, head accessories include the cinta (a type of headband), the tocoyal (a ribbon that is wound around the head ), and the tzute, which is worn on the head, or as a cloth to carry infants on their back. Wearing the traje is a way for indigenous women to keep culture and heritage alive.

Worry Dolls

The women who make these Worry Dolls live mostly in the rural areas of Guatemala. This provides them with an important supplement to the income they get from agriculture. Now these dolls are famous in Guatemalan culture and are sold as souvenirs to travellers passing through.


I find Worry Dolls magical, both in their significance and aesthetic. They are tiny replicas of Guatemalan people in indigenous cloth, and a reminder of their vibrant culture. In this way they bring a small part of Guatemalan magic into our home and dreams.

Worry Dolls and box