Bronze helmet lying on the earth.

What's on at the British Museum in 2023/24?

Get the lowdown on the British Museum's upcoming special exhibitions about Michelangelo's last decades, life in the Roman army, the Silk Roads and 1,500 years of Burma to Myanmar.

What's on at the British Museum in 2023/24?

We also have dates in your diary for our ever thought-provoking and wide-ranging free displays on subjects from Ed Ruscha's roads and insects to the women silversmiths from Oman. Plus, if you can't get to London, the Museum has touring exhibitions which you can see at our partner venues – find out what's on in the UK.

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Special exhibitions

Burma to Myanmar

2 November 2023 – 11 February 2024
The Joseph Hotung Great Court Gallery, Room 35

Supported by Zemen Paulos and Jack Ryan

Detail from a textile hanging showing colourful figures and landscapes on a black background
Textile hanging (detail) with scenes from the Ramayana, Myanmar, early 1900s.

Interconnected yet cut-off, rich in natural resources but with many of its people living in poverty, Myanmar is a country that defies categorisation. This exhibition offers the chance to see the history behind the headlines.

Experiencing decades of civil war and now ruled again by a military dictatorship, Myanmar – also known as Burma – is an isolated figure on the world stage today, and its story is relatively little known in the West. However, the extraordinary artistic output of its peoples, over more than a millennium of cross-cultural interactions and political change, attests to its pivotal role at a crossroads of Asia.

Bringing together extraordinary objects, including the UNESCO Memory of the World gold- and ruby-studded letter sent by King Alaungpaya to King George II in 1756 and an exquisitely embroidered wall hanging illustrating scenes from the Ramayana, the exhibition explores how Myanmar's interactions through trade, faith and empire-building have shaped the country's histories over the past 1500 years.

Find out more about Burma to Myanmar.


Legion: life in the Roman army

1 February – 23 June 2024
The Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery, Room 30

Supported by Graham and Joanna Barker, Hugh and Catherine Stevenson and Christian Levett

Bronze helmet lying on the earth.
Bronze gladiator helmet, Pompeii, Italy, 1st century AD.

This major new exhibition explores the everyday life as part of the force which allowed Rome to keep and control its vast empire.

Protecting a superpower for over half a millennium, the imperial Roman army acted as a military, naval and police force to around a quarter of the Earth's population. However, life for the majority of those serving was surprisingly domestic, with many living in settled military communities stretching from Scotland to the Red Sea.

Legion will share the stories of real soldiers and will challenge some of the modern perceptions about what it meant to be a Roman soldier by showing the army was as much an engine of social change as a formidable war machine. Recruits came from almost all walks of life and joined to advance themselves, a regular job with a pension for some and for others the transformational chance to acquire Roman citizenship. Many supported families despite a general ban on marriage for ordinary soldiers at the time. 

Made up of over 200 objects including loans from 28 lenders, the large scale of the exhibition enables contributions from a wide collection of national and international institutions, as well as supporting material from the collection. It features iconic Roman military objects alongside evidence of the real lives of men, women, and children – citizens and non-citizens, free or enslaved – in forts and frontiers across the empire. 

Find out more about Legion: life in the Roman army.


Michelangelo: the last decades

2 May – 28 July 2024
The Joseph Hotung Great Court Gallery, Room 35

Supported by James Bartos, Dunard Fund and a gift in memory of Melvin R. Seiden.

Drawing on aged paper showing a detailed study of a seated male figure.
Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564), Study for The Last Judgment. Chalk on paper, 1540.

In 1534, Michelangelo left Florence for Rome, never to see his native city again. He was 59, which many contemporaries regarded as old, but for Michelangelo this move marked the beginning of a dramatic new chapter which would fundamentally shape his experiences as an artist and as a man.

This exhibition looks at the last 30 years of Michelangelo's remarkable life, when his return to Rome brought him new commissions and reunited him with some of his closest friends. Forceful preparatory drawings for the monumental Last Judgment fresco as well as the newly conserved cartoon of the Epifania will be displayed alongside studies for Michelangelo's grand architectural projects, including the rebuilding of St Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Intimate letters, poems and drawings will offer powerful insights into his faith, relationships and experiences of old age.

Funding for the conservation of the Epifania cartoon was generously provided through a grant from the Bank of America Art Conservation Project.

Find out more about Michelangelo: the last decades.


Silk Roads (title tbc)

26 September 2024 – 23 February 2025
The Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery, Room 30

White-haired camel figure with patches of brown hair shown holding it's neck and head up high
Ceramic tomb figure of a camel, Luoyang, China, about AD 728.

This major exhibition explores a pivotal period in the history of the 'Silk Road'. Going beyond the idea of the Silk Road as a simple trade route between 'East' and 'West', it follows how the journeys of people, objects and ideas shaped cultures and histories in the period AD 500–1000. This rich story of connection spans Afro-Eurasia, from Japan to Britain, highlighting the fruits and perils of cross-cultural exchanges while inspiring reflections on global connections today.


Hew Locke (title tbc)

17 October 2024 – 9 February 2025                  
The Joseph Hotung Great Court Gallery, Room 35

Portrait of Hew Locke in a checked jacket, with a black padded jacket and deep purple roll-neck underneath.
Hew Locke photographed by John McKenzie © 2023 Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art

The British Museum is collaborating with renowned Guyanese-British artist Hew Locke for a major new exhibition exploring how the Museum collection reflects the legacies of British imperial power, from the early modern period to the present day. This exciting co-curated exhibition will include well-known objects from across the collection alongside specially commissioned new works by Locke.

Throughout his career Locke has had an intense fascination with objects and the stories they tell. His interest in the British Museum collection goes back to his days as a student in London when he would visit the Museum of Mankind (where the British Museum's ethnography department was housed from 1970 to 1997) to draw from the collections. This will be Locke's first artist-curated museum exhibition, and an opportunity for him to engage more deeply with a museum collection than previously in his career.

The British Museum's history and collections are closely linked to those of the British Empire. The exhibition will examine these histories alongside a consideration of today's often contentious and deeply felt debates around cultural heritage.

Focusing on Britain's historic interactions with Africa, India and the Caribbean, all of which had an impact on Guyana where Locke grew up, the exhibition will be his personal exploration using interventionist techniques to reframe the collection's historical objects.


Picasso: printmaker (title tbc)

7 November 2024 – 16 March 2025
Room 90

Colourful abstract print of fruit and a vessel under lamplight
Pablo Picasso (1881–1973). Still Life under the Lamp, colour linocut in black over green, red and yellow on white background, 1962. © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2024

Picasso (1881–1973) was one of the most creative and influential talents ever to explore the medium of print. As well as a painter and sculptor, he was a master printmaker, working collaboratively with professional printers to push the boundaries of the medium, producing experimental and unconventional prints throughout his long career.

This exhibition offers unique insights into Picasso's life, loves and complex relationships. Spanning the entire length of his career, the exhibition follows Picasso as he develops his print practice and reflects his most important influences, experiences and interests.

The British Museum has by far the UK's largest and most representative collection of Picasso's prints. The exhibition will feature prints from his Paris years in the early 1900s, leading up to his breakthrough painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907), which paved the way for Cubism. The celebrated 1930s etchings of the Vollard Suite, influenced by classical themes and mythology, and works examining Picasso's reaction to the civil war in Spain – his home country – will also feature.

After the Second World War, Picasso focused on making lithographs, with themes including love and sex, and drawing on influences from Old Masters, including Lucas Cranach the Elder and Velázquez. The late 1950s brought an explosion of colourful linocuts, which he made while living in the south of France. The exhibition will end with a selection of prints from the 347 Suite – his largest print series, named after the number of works in the series – which he made in seven months in 1968, aged 86, showing Picasso's creative energy continued into the last years of his remarkable life.


Free display

Artists making books: poetry to politics

27 October 2022 – 18 February 2024 
Room 43a

Pieces of paper laid out on the floor on top of each other.
Issam Kourbaj (b. 1963), Sound Palimpsest. Mixed media on second-hand book fragments, 2003.

This small yet powerful display explores the history of artists taking on the medium of books, with works by artists from New York to Damascus and beyond. It highlights the relationship between artists and poets and the influences that inform their work, from family to politics and everything in between. Lebanese artist Abed Al Kadiri (b. 1984) conceived his book during the first month of the pandemic to explore his family history, while through the eyes of Iraqi artist Kareem Risan (b. 1960) we see the shocking aftermath of a deadly explosion on the streets of Baghdad in 2005.

Find out more about Artists making books: poetry to politics.


The genius of nature: botanical drawings by Jacque Le Moyne de Morgues

19 September 2023 – 28 January 2024
Room 90a

A drawing of two apples on a branch, surrounded by deep green leaves
Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues (about 1533–88), drawings of apples on a branch. Watercolour and bodycolour over traces of black chalk, about 1585.

One of the most gifted botanical artists of his age, Le Moyne (about 1553–88) created remarkable watercolours of plants, flowers, fruit and vegetables which captivate the eye with their extraordinary naturalism. As a Protestant, Le Moyne was persecuted in his native France and later moved to London, where he settled along with many fellow Huguenots. His work attracted the attention of Sir Walter Raleigh, who may have introduced Le Moyne to other figures at the Elizabethan court, including Lady Mary Sidney.

The British Museum has 50 botanical drawings by Le Moyne, originally part of an album created for Lady Mary. This display presents a selection of the watercolours, intended to be admired not only for their scientific accuracy but also for their aesthetic beauty.

Find out more about The genius of nature: botanical drawings by Jacque Le Moyne de Morgues.


Ed Ruscha: roads and insects

19 September 2023 – 28 January 2024
Room 90a

Dark red ants gather in a cluster on a peach-coloured background.
Ed Ruscha (b. 1937), Swarm of Red Ants, from the series Insects. Screenprint on paper, 1972. Gift of a Private Collector in Memory of Paul Thomson to the American Friends of the British Museum. Reproduced by permission of the artist.

This display of prints by American artist Ed Ruscha (b. 1937) focuses on his interest in the physical world around him. Insects, a portfolio of six colour screenprints, depicts life-sized flies, ants and cockroaches. The display also includes seven etchings from 2001, Los Francisco San Angeles, in which Ruscha creates imaginary maps that intersect the principal roads of LA and San Francisco, and two prints from the 2014 series, Rusty Signs, which appear to comment on the fading of the American Dream. 

Aged just 18, Ruscha moved from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles, where he has been based ever since. The journey along Route 66 would become very familiar to him over years of travelling back and forth. Roads, cars, gas stations, signs and billboard advertisements have occurred frequently in Ruscha's art across a variety of media including painting, printmaking, photography, drawing and film.

Find out more about Ed Ruscha: roads and insects.


Admonitions of the instructress to the court ladies

5 October – 15 November 2023
8 July – 18 August 2024
Room 91a

Three figures and upon an ancient scroll.
Traditionally attributed to Gu Kaizhi (AD 345–406), 'The Admonitions Scroll' ('Admonitions of the Instructress to the Court Ladies'). Handscroll painting, China, 5–7th century AD.

This masterpiece is considered a milestone in Chinese painting history. Traditionally attributed to Gu Kaizhi (about AD 345–406), it probably dates to between AD 400–700. To ensure its preservation it is only displayed for six weeks each year.

The Admonitions Scroll depicts a poetic text composed by an official Zhang Hua (about AD 232–300) aimed at correcting the behaviour of an empress. The British Museum purchased the Scroll from Captain Clarence Johnson (1870–1937) who was in Beijing in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion (1899–1901). Originally a handscroll, the painting and later inscriptions were separated and mounted onto panels in 1914.

Find out more about Admonitions of the instructress to the court ladies.


Gesture and line: four post-war German and Austrian artists

From the Duerckheim Collection
5 October 2023 – 1 April 2024
Room 90

An abstract artwork with three vertical streaks of blue oil pastel against a yellow wash, with rust-red and pencil markings.
Carl-Heinz Wegert (1926–2007), Untitled. Blue oil pastel, yellow wash and pencil on white paper, 1986. Reproduced by permission of the artist's estate.

This display explores the work of four artists who spearheaded the practice of drawing in the post-war years. 

From the 1960s drawing assumed a prominent position among a rising generation of post-war artists in Germany and Austria. This exhibition examines works on paper by four of these artists, still comparatively little known in the UK.

The work of the three German artists – Rudi Tröger (b. 1929), Karl Bohrmann (1928–98) and Carl-Heinz Wegert (1926–2007) – is characterised by a quiet introspection and they largely shunned the limelight of the art world. The Austrian Hermann Nitsch (1938–2022), by contrast, attracted public controversy through his highly provocative performances, or 'Actions', involving nudity, blood and Christian symbolism.

This exhibition celebrates a major recent gift of 67 works on paper to the British Museum from the collection of Count Christian Duerckheim.

Find out more about Gesture and line: four post-war German and Austrian artists.


Superb line: prints and drawings from Genoa 1500–1800

5 October 2023 – 1 April 2024
Room 90

A scene of shepherds and animals, and a woman on a horse, depicted in red-brown oil paint.
Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609–64), shepherds and animals, brush and red-brown oil paint on paper, about 1650.

This display puts the spotlight on Genoa, an artistic powerhouse that rivalled Venice, Florence and Rome. From the 16th to the 18th centuries, the port city was one of Italy's major artistic centres and among the wealthiest cities on the Italian peninsula, with strong trade links across Europe and beyond.  

These links and the riches they brought made Genoa a desirable destination for painters and sculptors wanting to study or find lucrative work. Superb line opens with works by the first major arrival, Raphael's pupil Perino del Vaga. Over the next 150 years the city continued to attract even bigger names such as Rubens and Van Dyck. This constant injection of new blood kept Genoa at the cutting edge of new artistic trends, creating a nurturing environment for homegrown talents to develop. Featuring highlights from the British Museum's holdings of Genoese prints and drawings, this display celebrates the virtuosity and originality of the city's artists. 

Find out more about Superb line: prints and drawings from Genoa 1500–1800.


The Asahi Shimbun Displays

The Asahi Shimbun Displays are a series of regularly changing displays that allow the Museum to showcase important objects, to create small exhibits of topical interest and to learn more about improving the future display of objects elsewhere in the Museum. These displays have been made possible by the generous sponsorship of The Asahi Shimbun Company, who are long-standing supporters of the British Museum.

The Asahi Shimbun Displays

Making their mark: women silversmiths from Oman

19 October – 17 December 2023
Room 3

A hand with fingertips that are painted black with henna and fingernails painted a deep red. The hand holds two intricate silver chains, which incorporates flower and diamond-shaped designs.
Photo of Tuful Ramadan brushing handcrafted silver chain, Oman, 1990s. © HH Sayyid Shihab bin Tariq Al Said. Photo: Neil Richardson and Marcia Dorr.

This display celebrates three entrepreneurial Omani women silversmiths from different generations, showcasing their beautiful silver creations. Their personal testimonies highlight their knowledge and technical skills, as well as their dedication to and passion for their profession in a region where silversmithing is usually done by men. The last two decades have witnessed a revival of the craft as the women have adapted centuries-old silver jewellery designs to contemporary tastes. 

Making their mark also presents the results of fieldwork carried out from 2019–2022 as part of an ongoing, all-women-led research project launched by the British Museum in collaboration with scholars from Oman, Canada and the USA. Scientific analysis conducted at the British Museum using a digital microscope and scanning electron microscope presents close-up images of the pieces. These images reveal the variety of production techniques, tools and skills used by the women to create their intricate designs. The display also features iconic examples of 1950s Omani silver jewellery from the collection at the British Museum.

Find out more about Making their mark: women silversmiths from Oman.


The British Museum across the UK:
National Touring Exhibitions and Spotlight Loans

The British Museum works with partner museums and galleries in every part of the UK. The Museum is committed to sharing the collection and our knowledge as widely as possible to create a positive educational, social and economic impact across the UK. Through our programme of touring exhibitions and loans, between April 2022 and March 2023, the British Museum lent more than 1,600 objects to 102 venues around the UK, reaching more than six million visitors outside of London.

A British Museum Touring Exhibition

Egyptian hieroglyphs: unlock the mystery

Torquay Museum, Devon: 21 October 2023 – 18 February 2024

Carved rectangular block of limestone with a winged sun-disk at the top and two lines of hieroglyphs below.
Limestone lintel of Ramses III, Egyptian, 20th Dynasty.

In 2023, British Museum National Touring Exhibitions include Egyptian hieroglyphs: unlock the mystery, exploring the fascinating story of how hieroglyphs were decoded. This follows the critically acclaimed, blockbuster show at the British Museum, marking the bicentenary of this breakthrough. This family-friendly exhibition incorporates interactive elements to tell the story, introducing visitors to great pioneers like Jean-François Champollion. Objects on display include an extract from the Book of the Dead and a large limestone lintel revealing the name of Pharaoh Ramses III.


A British Museum Touring Exhibition

For the curious and interested

Down County Museum, Downpatrick: 20 January – 13 April 2024
Amgueddfa Ceredigion Museum, Aberystwyth: 27 April – 7 September 2024

Graphic Chinese print of a Kingfisher with a yellow belly and long orange beak perched on a branch between a flourish of foliage and hydrangea flowers. Two columns of Chinese characters have been written on the top left corner of the print.
Woodblock print of a bird and hydrangeas, Suzhou, Jiangsu province, China, about 1690–1720.

This touring exhibition will take a collection assembled more than 250 years ago to explore new connections and different perspectives. Using a range of objects, including natural history rarities, books and cultural objects from the collection of physician and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753), we ask why this collection was created and what this – and other historic collections – can offer to audiences today. Originally held entirely at the British Museum, Sloane's collection is now spread across the British Museum, the British Library and Natural History Museum. With funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council Sloane Lab project, the touring exhibition will reconnect objects from the original collection to explore stories old and new.

Find out more about For the curious and interested.


A British Museum Touring Exhibition

Drawing attention: emerging artists in dialogue

York Art Gallery: 27 October 2023 – 28 January 2024
Wolverhampton Art Gallery: 10 February – 6 May 2024
Hartlepool Art Gallery: 18 May – 24 August 2024

Supported by the Dorset Foundation in memory of Harry M Weinrebe.

A female, neck up visible, wearing a flower petal necklace, looking out. Behind her are green leaves.
Charmaine Watkiss (b. 1964), Double Consciousness: Be Aware of One's Intentions, 2021. Graphite, pencil, watercolour and ink on paper. Acquired with Art Fund support and funds from the Rootstein Hopkins Foundation. Reproduced by permission of the artist.

Some of the most compelling up-and-coming names in the field of contemporary drawing will be displayed alongside highlight of the British Museum collection in this touring exhibition. 

These new acquisitions include some of the youngest artists to be collected by the British Museum, presented alongside works by celebrated artists from Mary Delany, Andy Warhol and Barbara Hepworth to Édouard Manet.

In this surprising and thought-provoking selection, emerging artists are taking the medium of drawing in new directions. A wide range of techniques and practices are represented, including drawings using make-up on face wipes by Sin Wai Kin, to a drawing made with chalk collected from the White Cliffs of Dover by Josephine Baker. 

This tour has evolved from an exhibition at the British Museum. Each individual show in the tour will offer a unique experience and new perspective, as each venue adds works from their own collections, making meaningful connections with those from the British Museum.

Find out more about Drawing attention: emerging artists in dialogue.


 

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