The Natural History Museum has Sensational Butterflies back on the East Lawn (in front of the museum) for the ninth year. This is definitely an immersive exhibition as you get to walk through the tropical butterfly house.
Butterflies species found in the tropical forests of Central and South America, Africa and Asia fly freely, and you can see chomping caterpillars plus glistening (and hatching) chrysalises.
The exhibition is inspired by the Museum’s world-leading butterfly and moth collection of more than 10 million specimens assembled over 200 years. The collection is used by scientists around the world studying the diversity of the species and how they are affected by environmental changes.
Sensational Butterflies is on until 17 September.
Playing the Fool
Hampton Court Palace is always a good day out but go on Tuesday 23 May and you can stay for an evening talk. Playing the Fool is part of the palace’s Power and Performance season.
‘Natural fools’ were prized as entertainers and had favour and authority with the king. In this after-hours talk with historian Dr Suzannah Lipscomb, uncover how the ‘foolish things of the world’ had the power to confound the wise and learned at court, and the unique access afforded to Henry VIII’s court jester Will Somers.
California – designing freedom
Opening on 24 May at the Design Museum, California – designing freedom explores how “designed in California” expresses a distinctive approach to design and life.
While California’s mid-century modernism is well documented, this is the first exhibition to examine the state’s current global reach. Picking up the story in the 1960s, the exhibition charts the journey from the counterculture to Silicon Valley’s tech culture.
Its central idea is that California has pioneered tools of personal liberation, from LSD to skateboards and iPhones. This ambitious survey brings together political posters, personal computers and self-driving cars but also looks beyond hardware to explore how user interface designers in the Bay Area are shaping some of our most common daily experiences. The exhibition reveals how this culture of design and technology has made us all Californians.
Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave
From 25 May (to 13 August), the British Museum has an exhibition of one of Japan’s greatest artists. Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave explores the artistic journey through the last 30 years of Katsushika Hokusai’s life, when he produced some of his most famous masterpieces.
Prints and paintings are are on loan from across the world making this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these works together.
Artworks include intimate domestic scenes that capture fleeting moments in private lives, plus exquisite depictions of flora and fauna display an innate skill in representing the natural world. The artist’s imagination is given full rein in the portrayal of supernatural creatures such as ghosts and deities. Through all of these works, explore Hokusai’s personal beliefs and gain a fascinating insight into the artist’s spiritual and artistic quest in his later years.
The bluebells in the conservation area at Kew Gardens are in full bloom in May and make for a stunning day out.
What’s more, the Great Broad Walk Borders, whose installation was completed in 2016, will be at peak bloom between late May and September. It is Europe’s longest double herbaceous border stretching 320m and has around 30,000 plants full of vibrant summer colour.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
This is the last full month of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in the West End at it leaves The Gielgud Theatre on 3 June 2017.
The Olivier and Tony Award®-winning play was adapted from Mark Haddon’s best-selling book by Simon Stephens and directed by Marianne Elliott. It is the recipient of a record-breaking seven Olivier Awards, including Best New Play, Best Director, Best Design, Best Lighting Design and Best Sound Design – more Oliviers than any other single play in the history of the West End.
The show tells the story of 15 year old Christopher Boone, who has an extraordinary brain; and is exceptional at maths while ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. He sets out to solve a mystery of who killed his neighbour’s dog, but his detective work takes him on a frightening journey that upturns his world.
Ticket are priced from £18 (100 seats at £18 for every performance) also with an allocation of £15 Day Seats available for every performance from the Gielgud Theatre box office from 10am.
Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion
The V&A has the first ever UK exhibition exploring the work of Cristóbal Balenciaga and his continuing influence on modern fashion. Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion opens on 27 May and is a must-visit for any fashion enthusiasts as it includes never before seen couture gowns from this influential Spanish designer.
The exhibition marks the centenary of the opening of Balenciaga’s first fashion house in San Sebastian and the 80th anniversary of the opening of his famous fashion house in Paris. On display are over 100 garments and 20 hats, many of which have never been on public display before.
Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion focuses on the latter part of Balenciaga’s long career in the 1950s and 1960s, arguably one of his most creative periods. It was during these years that he not only dressed some of the most renowned women of the time, but also introduced revolutionary shapes including the tunic, the sack, ‘baby doll’ and shift dress – all of which remain style staples today.
While tickets for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show are near impossible to get, The Chelsea Fringe features a wonderful mix of horticultural happenings and celebrations across London.
Back for its sixth year, the Festival is on from 20 May to 4 June.
The Fringe is all about harnessing and spreading some of the excitement and energy that fizzes around gardens and gardening at this time of year. Its events encompass everything from grassroots community garden projects to avant-garde art installations. There’s a Musical Garden Party, London’s first floating park, a dog show, art, perfume, picnics and more.
Selfie to Self-Expression
Selfie to Self-Expression is at The Saatchi Gallery until 30 May and looks at this worldwide cultural phenomenon. This is the world’s first exhibition exploring the history of the selfie from the old masters to the present day, and celebrates the truly creative potential of a form of expression often derided for its inanity.
The show highlights the emerging role of the mobile phone as an artistic medium for self-expression by commissioning ten exciting young British photographers to create new works using Huawei’s newest breakthrough dual lens smartphones co-engineered with Leica. There was also an international competition for the most creative selfies to be included in the exhibition.
Restless Shadow: Dickens the Campaigner is the next exhibition at the Charles Dickens Museum opening on 9 May. It explore Dickens’s work as an investigative journalist and campaigner, looking at his epic walks into all corners of London and the causes and injustices he brought to his massive audience.
He campaigned on behalf of many charities, several of which are still going today. This exhibition throws light on Dickens’s uncelebrated other career and some of the key pieces of his journalism.
If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the May 2017 in London blog post from our sister hotel, London Bridge Hotel.
After the roaring success of Wolfgang Buttress’ stunning Hive installation last summer – a beacon for the importance of bee health – summer 2017 will see the unveiling of the world’s largest Insect Hotel at Kew Gardens.
Next month also sees Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! open at the Serpentine Gallery. The wonderfully flamboyant ceramic artist reminds us why he is one of the greatest artists of our time.
And the Hampton Court Palace Festival means amazing concerts at this royal palace. This year’s performers include Michael Ball, Bryan Ferry, Van Morrison and Will Young in the 25th anniversary of this iconic summer festival.
Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while maintaining an impressive afternoon tea addiction. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.