Whether they’re on-trend or offbeat, classic or contemporary, London’s galleries are thrillingly diverse. They’re also much more accessible than you might think; even in well-heeled Mayfair, entry’s free at private galleries. Art aficionados will already be acquainted with the mighty Tate Modern, set in a soaring former power station by the Thames. Its collections are a who’s-who of art’s biggest hitters, from Warhol to Picasso; the terrace, with its wraparound skyline views, is worth the visit alone. With that ticked off, take your pick from a dizzying array of galleries, showcasing show-stealing modern and contemporary art. To get you started, we’ve picked ten standout addresses.
Art dealer Larry Gagosian’s behind this Mayfair gallery – his third London outpost. Its exhibitions find fresh perspectives on even the biggest artists (Cy Twombly, say, or Francis Bacon), as well as showcasing hotly tipped, up-and-coming talents. It’s worth dropping by just to admire the state-of-the-art space, whose LED-lit glass ceiling cleverly adapts to the artwork on show.
Set by the Thames, in the brutalist Southbank Centre, the Hayward’s remit remains confidently avant-garde. From Andreas Gurksy’s super-sized photographs to Bridget Riley’s perspective-bending paintings, its programme favours the bold. Leave plenty of time for a browse in the shop, with its expertly curated collection of coffee-table books, dainty ceramics and lust-worthy stationery.
This North London gallery has become a cult address, thanks to its clued-up programming and bucolic waterfront setting. It occupies a former factory on the banks of Regent’s Canal, where exhibitions often extend into its romantic garden. It makes for a tranquil backdrop for some world-famous names, from rebel ceramist Grayson Perry to the dots-obsessed Yayoi Kusama.
The Pop Art movement was born at this freewheeling cultural hub, founded in 1946 and set just off Trafalgar Square. It still showcases boundary-pushing talents, like experimental artist Stuart Middleton or Berlin collective the Honey-Suckle Company. A small cinema screens arthouse films and documentaries, while its café – run by the Rochelle Canteen – is famous for its pies.
An impressive roster of artists reflects the White Cube’s stellar reputation; think Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Anselm Kiefer. There are three coolly modern exhibition spaces in its Bermondsey gallery, which sprawls across a vast converted warehouse. After a morning’s art appreciation, stop for lunch at José – a tiny neighbourhood tapas joint, two minutes’ walk away.
Home to Turner’s powerful paintings and Henry Moore’s curvaceous sculptures, the Tate Britain shows both classic and modern masterpieces.
Tate Modern’s older brother also boasts outstanding architectural features such as its marbled black-and-white staircase, standing as a work of art in itself.
Nestled in the heart of Kensington Gardens, the Serpentine Gallery welcomes colourful performances from emerging and established modern artists, be they painters, poets, musicians or sculptors.
A treat for the whole family!
The Soho temple for photography was the first public venue in London to show the early work of the likes of Robert Capa and Juergen Teller.
Today, the 6-storey, brick building offers a vast selection of expos that presents subjects like the debut of photography as well as the representation of women in the media.
Opened in 1985, the Saatchi Gallery aims to present the innovative work of the contemporary art scene’s newcomers in its contrasting, Palladian-style building.
The venue’s neat and orderly gardens set a great backdrop for a post-expo walk.
Last but not least , Barbican Art Gallery overlooks The City with its eclectic line-up, mixing art exhibitions, live theatre and all things cultural.
A great place to bring your kids, this large venue aims to attract young visitors by offering competitive prices.
The East End’s come a long way since its days as the heartland of working-class London, and there’s something for everyone in this hothouse for the capital’s latest trends.
See stars from Dada to Pop movements, ogle London’s panorama from the top floors and tour the geometric extension. See our guide to London's Tate Modern.
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