London is a city of culture, museums and art galleries and with well over one hundred galleries in its midst, from relatively small shop fronted hanging spaces to the enormous monoliths like the Tate Modern, it’s definitely worth taking some time to explore the creative side of life. With so many galleries to choose from, it can be difficult to decide where to go. South of the River Thames, along the Southbank close to Waterloo, is the Hayward and Tate Modern. North of the river, the other galleries are situated close to other popular tourist destinations. The London underground will keep you connected to all of the destinations, but if you have time and want to take in more than one gallery, then they are also walkable. The galleries are listed in this order with those south of the river first.
1. The Hayward
Part of the Southbank Centre, this raw concrete architectural building that opened in 1968 is currently undergoing a bit of a facelift and is due to be closed for two years. So you’ll have to wait a while for more of its inspiring artworks and installations. Understandably, it’s a long wait but I assure you it will definitely be worth it.
Exhibitions have included sound, light and interactive installations that challenge perceptions. Artists such as Carsten Höller, Antony Gormley and Tracey Emin are among those that have exhibited there. Often the artworks extend beyond the gallery space itself. Carsten Höller’s ‘Decision’ had visitors donning a pair of upside down goggles to explore the outside space that overlooks the Thames. The exhibition’s final decision involved choosing between taking the stairs or the faster and more exciting route down one of the isomeric slides that fronted the building.
The Hayward, Southbank Centre can be found on Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX. However, please note that the gallery is currently CLOSED until 2018 for refurbishment.
2. Tate Modern
Another gallery that has undergone a bit of building work recently is Tate Modern. Situated further along the Southbank, the gallery’s Turbine Hall is not only the grand entrance to the building but is also an art space in its own right. An iconic new building has been added to the existing shape so when viewed from a distance, it now looks like it has given birth to two pyramids that hug the side away from the river. Fitting perfectly with the unusual architecture of a new London skyline, the expansion was due to the whopping five million visitors that it receives each year whilst allowing for more tailored spaces to house the changing media of modern art. Housing international modern and contemporary art, Tate Modern also gives visitors a complete experience that includes restaurant, café, bar and shop. What better way to spend a rainy day in London?
The Tate Modern can be found on Bankside, London, SE1 9TG and is open from Sunday to Thursday from 10 am – 6 pm and Friday – Saturday 10 am – 10 pm.
3. White Cube
This international gallery has spaces in London and Hong Kong. Although the original white cubed building situated in Hoxton Square was closed in 2012, the new space nestled in Bermondsey houses its own installation spaces, bookshop and auditorium. Having exhibited famous artists work such as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin this gallery’s current location in Bermondsey, although not as architecturally unique as its original in Hoxton, is an exciting new home that’s more centrally located.
The White Cube can be found at 144-152 Bermodsey Street, London, SE1 3TQ and it is open from Tuesday – Saturday from 10 am – 6 pm and Sunday from 12 noon – 6 pm.
4. Institute of Contemporary Arts
Very centrally located, the Institute of Contemporary Art is located on The Mall minutes from Big Ben, Piccadilly Circus and Buckingham Palace. Founded in 1946, it aims to promote and encourage understanding of radical art and culture. Its list of exhibitors includes Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and Pablo Picasso. The gallery has also delved into the other senses, embracing the art of sound. Admission is by Day Membership, which is a token amount that makes their art accessible. It’s worth a visit just for its bookshop, café and cinema. One can sit in the café looking up through the glass ceiling at the architecture of the building above.
The Institute of Contemporary Arts is located on The Mall, London SW1Y 5AH. Its opening times are Monday – Closed, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday 11 am – 6 pm and Thursday 11 am – 9 pm.
5. Royal Academy of Arts
Being an academy, this art gallery also aims to promote the practice of art making. Home to Britain’s first art school, the Royal Academy has trained artists such as William Blake and Richard Hamilton. The school, founded in 1769, also houses a restaurant, café, cocktail bar and relaxing garden. As it is a charity and isn’t funded by the government, the RA relies on visitors (among other sources) for its revenue. The historic building in which the Royal Academy resides is accessed under a large archway, via a courtyard from Piccadilly. The architecture and grand entrance are worth pausing at before entering the gallery itself. Inside, the high ceilings make this a grandiose gallery, where its pristine white walls have also been splattered with their fair share of art materials. Sculptor Anish Kapoor’s work ‘Shooting into the Corner’ consisted of a large cannon that blasted wax into the space.
Find the Royal Academy of Arts at Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD. Its opening times are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday & Sunday from 10 am – 6 pm. Friday the gallery is open from 10 am – 10 pm.
6. Saatchi Gallery
Opened over 25 years ago, the Saatchi Gallery aims to present work by unseen artists and relatively unknown international individuals. Part of this aim to open the work up to a wider audience is reflected in the absence of an admission fee. Situated in one of the most expensive regions of London and within walking distance of the famous Harrods department store, the Saatchi Gallery’s grand colonnade entrance overlooks a green on King’s Road and is the perfect location for chilling out in the summer.
Find the Saatchi Gallery at Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, Chelsea, London, SW3 4RY. Its opening times are Monday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
7. The Serpentine Sackler Gallery
With one gallery housed in a Grade II listed building, the Serpentine is actually divided into two exhibition spaces situated on either side of the lake of the same name in London’s beautiful Kensington Gardens. The Serpentine Sackler Gallery has a very different architectural feel, having been designed by the architect Zaha Hadid. An audio walk is available, which takes you on the 5-minute journey between the two galleries. The outside space also becomes a creative space in the summer where architectural pavilions are showcased for three months for the public to explore. Presently, the gallery is celebrating the early works of the late Hadid and with free entry, it is definitely worth a visit any time.
The Serpentine is found at Kensington Gardens, London, W2 3XA and the Serpentine Sackler is located on West Carriage Drive, London, W2 2AR. The opening hours are the same for both galleries; Tuesday to Sunday 10 am till 6 pm. The gallery is closed on Mondays.
8. The Design Museum
The Design Museum has now bedded itself into its new location in Kensington High Street. The 83-million-pound home opened to the public in November last year within the shell of an old 1960’s Grade II listed building and if hyperbolic paraboloid roofs are your thing, then it’s definitely worth a visit. The permanent collections are free to enter, but if you prefer cutting edge design then there’s always the annual Beazley Designs of the year which, as their website suggests, may hold design that will be shown in museums of the future. Design is everywhere shaping our homes and our lives. Just as architecture is art, so this museum is a gallery of sorts that also asks questions about many of the things that surround us. Upcoming work includes Hella Jongerious’s installation on colour. If it’s a cultural and informative day that you are after, then the Design Museum is ideally situated within a short distance from the V&A Museum and the Science Museum.
The Design Museum is found on 224-238 Kensington High Street, Kensington, London W8 6AG. It is open daily from 10 am – 6 pm.
9. Wellcome Gallery
The Wellcome collection was established in 1936 by Sir Henry Wellcome, a philanthropist, pharmacist, and collector. As a charitable foundation, Wellcome’s aim is to improve health for everyone and with his interest in medicine he was a pioneer in the field, being the first to introduce medicines in tablet form. It turns out this curious man’s work has led to the creation of a gallery containing a collection of artefacts relating to health and medicine throughout history. The Gallery houses two permanent exhibitions here relating to his life, science and medicine while the temporary exhibitions delve into this further. ‘Sleeping and Dreaming’, which aimed to investigate the relatively unexplored realms of sleep, posed such questions as is a life without sleep possible? One of the current exhibitions that runs until May 2017 delves into humankind’s relationship with animals, looking at such aspects as how we have attempted to control and alter nature. The exhibitions are bound to provoke thought and if you need time to digest it all, there’s a great café and bookshop where you can mull it all over.
The Welcome Gallery is found at 183 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE. Its hours are Thursday 10 am – 10 pm, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10 am – 6 pm. The gallery is closed on Mondays.
10. The Gallery of Everything
This tiny gallery (in comparison to the rest of those mentioned), based in an old barber’s shop, is located in the affluent area of Westminster in central London. The building has retained much of its original charm and objects such as an old barber’s chair have been retained. The gallery plays host to self-taught, non-academic artists. There is a sense of privacy to the venue and the artworks of those who have essentially laid bare their souls on the walls of this quirky little space. The gallery’s first show featured artists visited by famous musician Jarvis Cocker in his 1988 documentary exploring artist environments; the current exhibition “Dedicated To The One I Love”, presents three lesser known but supremely talented contemporary artists. Wonder at the intricate detailed, meditative marks of Japanese artist Hiroyuki Doi, whose response to the loss of his brother reflect a trance like quality. Despite its size, this gallery has a lot to say and with its ever changing exhibitions, it is a refreshing change from the larger London galleries.
The Gallery of Everything can be found on 4 Chiltern Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 7PS. It is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 11 am until 7 pm. On Sundays it is open from 2 pm to 6 pm.
Get in touch with your artistic side
There are many great galleries in London and most have a relaxed atmosphere, perfect for whiling away the hours on a rainy day, or as a place to soak up the atmosphere and get sketching in the summer. Exhibitions change and it is always worth checking out where you plan to visit and what is on at the time, you can be sure with so many galleries to choose from there will always be something worth a visit. All galleries are easily accessible on foot, via the London underground or taxi. It is worth reiterating that there are many other galleries to see and if you have the time, you can really indulge your creative side.
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