As our museums and galleries begin to welcome visitors again, we take a look at a handful of the most exciting exhibitions coming to Bristol this year – from M Shed’s showcase of Bristol’s street art story to a moon landing at Bristol Cathedral.

Project What If at We The Curious 

The city’s interactive science museum is reopening with a bold new exhibition uniquely inspired by questions from real people here in Bristol. Visitors are invited to play with 68 new exhibits and 25 art pieces clustered around seven questions on very different themes: rainbows, sand, universe, time, invisibility, illness and soul. Through these, you’ll learn about topics related to the human side of science as well as traditional science.

Boy playing with colourful exhibit at We The Curious

Image - We The Curious, credit Lisa Whiting

Bristol Photo Festival (18 May onwards)

The new biennial Bristol Photo Festival actually encompasses a whole range of photography exhibitions and events throughout the second half of the year and beyond. It will showcase work by both local and international artists across the city’s major visual arts institutions as well as independent and unconventional spaces.

The festival has launched with exhibitions at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, Martin Parr Foundation, Underfall Yard, The Royal Photographic Society and Royal Fort Gardens at the University of Bristol. Look out for news of a book fair, film programme, talks series and symposiums in the autumn months.

Bristol Photo Festival, credit Chloe Dewe Matthews

Image - Bristol Photo Festival, credit Chloe Dewe Matthews

Veronica Ryan at Spike Island (19 May – 5 September)  

View Veronica Ryan’s largest and most ambitious UK exhibition to date at Spike Island this summer. Best known for her sculpture evoking shapes, forms and objects from the natural world, it features new works using a typically wide range of techniques and materials – from cast forms in plaster, clay, bronze and aluminium to dried flowers, fruit, feathers and even dust.

Veronica Ryan sculpture

Image - Veronica Ryan sculpture

Varekai (Wherever) with RWA (18 June - 6 January)

This roving exhibition from the Royal West of England Academy will be popping up at community venues across Bristol while the gallery is closed. Intended to inspire and delight, eight vibrant and colourful paintings from their permanent collection will be on show. Free family art workshops will also be running at each venue, using the artworks on display as inspiration.

Painting from RWA's Varekai exhibition

Image - Painting from Varekai, RWA

Vanguard | Bristol Street Art: The Evolution of a Global Movement at M Shed (26 June – 31 October) 

Explore the leading role of Bristol creatives in the development of British street art at this much-anticipated exhibition featuring seminal works from Banksy, Robert Del Naja (3D) and a host of other Bristolian, British and Irish artists. Vanguard will chart the genre’s anarchist origins, its stylistic development over the last three decades and much more, ending with a spotlight on how global artists are using street art to affect meaningful change today.

People at St Paul's Carnival in 1986, in front of graffiti

Image - St Paul's Carnival, 1986, credit C.Beezer

Frank Bowling at Arnolfini (3 July – 26 September) 

See new work from Sir Frank Bowling, OBE RA, the pioneering painter who’s hailed as one of Britain’s greatest living abstract painters. This is Bowling’s first exhibition since his widely applauded retrospective at Tate Britain in 2019 and will showcase his continued exploration of the painted surface and innovative techniques.

Frank Bowling OBE RA

Image - Sir Frank Bowling OBE RA

Museum of the Moon at Bristol Cathedral (11 – 31 August)

Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon is landing at Bristol Cathedral in August. Marvel at a moon that’s seven metres in diameter and features NASA lunar imagery, moonlight and a bespoke surround sound composition by award-winning Bristol-based composer Dan Jones.

The Cathedral is just one stop on this travelling exhibition’s tour – it’s collecting new personal responses, stories and mythologies along the way as well as highlighting the latest moon science. Donations and proceeds from the display of the artwork will go to Bristol-based homelessness charity St Mungo’s. 

There's also a programme of events happening in line with the exhibition, from Gromit model-making sessions with Aardman, to science talks with the Royal and Bristol Astronomical Societies, to folk music from Lady Nade.

Luke Jerram's Museum of the Moon

Image - Luke Jerram's Museum of the Moon

Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year at The RPS (20 November – 12 December)

See the tenth exhibition from the world’s leading food photography and film awards at The Royal Photographic Society in Bristol this year. Categories in the awards cover an amazing array of food stories and cultures – everything from the Politics of Food, to Food Portraiture – and will be judged by a global panel of experts, chaired by legendary food photographer David Loftus.

Drying Okra - photo by F.Dilek Uyar - Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year

Image - Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year - Drying Okra, credit F.Dilek Uyar

Upfest (15 May – 29 August)

Watch as pieces of art come to life in the lead up to this year’s Upfest, Europe’s largest street art festival. Over 75 days from 15 May, artists will be brightening up Bedminster with new murals ahead of the festival, which takes place over the August bank holiday weekend.

Greta Thunberg mural by Jody for Upfest 2019 Summer Editions, credit Plaster

Image - Greta Thunberg mural by Jody for Upfest 2019 Summer Editions, credit Plaster

Find more things to do in Bristol:

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We The Curious
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We The Curious is a state-of-the-art visitor attraction, offering an amazing world of hands-on discovery for you, your friends and family.

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
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Museum and art gallery exhibiting some outstanding collections of art, archaeology, Egyptology and natural history in a magnificent building

Martin Parr Foundation
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The Martin Parr Foundation supports and promotes photography from the British Isles through a regular programme of exhibitions and events. Events include artist talks, educational workshops, book signings and seminars.

Underfall Yard
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Underfall Yard – the heart of Bristol’s harbour since 1809 and the machines that powered a port.

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A dedicated centre for photography which comprises of a high-quality exhibition space, 101-seat auditorium, an education and resource centre and offices for the RPS staff.

Private Garden Tours at Royal Fort Gardens
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Normally closed to the public, the University of Bristol’s historic gardens at Royal Fort are now available for the public to explore.

Spike Island
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Spike Island Bristol

A unique centre devoted to the production and exhibition of the contemporary visual arts, as well as a great café space

Royal West of England Academy
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Bristol's first art gallery, housing over 1200 works of art from 19th century to the present day, a coffee shop and a small gift shop.

M Shed
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M Shed is an exciting and innovative flagship museum for Bristol with gallery space and a packed events schedule.

Arnolfini
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Arnolfini at Bristol Harbourside

Arnolfini is a centre for contemporary arts based on Bristol’s Harbourside. The organisation is dedicated to producing and presenting visual arts, performance, film, music and events.

Bristol Cathedral
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Bristol Cathedral

Much more than a fascinating building, being a fine example of a hall church, it is a centre of Bristol's history, civic life and culture.