London for Art Lovers

If you love art then you're positively spoiled for choice in London... we'll take you on a tour which is sure to appeal to everyone with an interest in the arts...

It’s very difficult to condense all the art in London into one simple itinerary, therefore we’ve split this guide into the main hotspots for you to dip in and out of at will.

West End and Mayfair

If you’re curious to see the inside of a 19th century aristocratic townhouse, the Wallace Collection, in the heart of Marylebone, has works by Titian and Rembrandt that once belonged to collector Sir Richard Wallace, who also lived here. There are some magnificent ceramics and items of furniture in display too.

From here you can walk into the West End via Thayer Street. The Photographer’s Gallery is on Ramillies Street, just off Oxford Street, where you’ll find a mixture of renowned photographers and newcomers. If you head west into Mayfair you’ll notice numerous small fine art galleries, most of which host contemporary artists, like at Sadie Coles HQ. The Halcyon Gallery also has works by Renoir and Cezanne.

The Royal Academy of Arts is located on Piccadilly. Founded in 1768, this independent gallery has a broad remit, with exhibited artists ranging from impressionists to the contemporary (Degas, Turner, Van Gogh). Exhibitions are usually around £10 per ticket, which provides funding for the institution. Nearby is the original White Cube gallery, which has played a big part in promoting the work of the Young British Artists since its opening in 1993.

If you walk along Piccadilly to Hyde Park you’ll be able to visit the Serpentine, which is among London’s most forward thinking galleries, having featured Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons and Matthew Barney previously.
Strand and Southbank

The biggest collection of pre-20th century Western art is at the National Gallery just off Trafalgar Square. Here you will find paintings and sculpture from the 13th century onwards, including all the masters. As with all the major museums, you will need at least half a day, if not longer to get to see everything. Right next door is the National Portrait Gallery, which has portraits from the 16th century to the present day, and gives an insight into the famous figures of the last few centuries.

The Institute of Contemporary Arts is located on The Mall, just passed Trafalgar Square. There are films and plays as well as exhibits from emerging artists. Somerset House is in the opposite direction, along the Strand. This cultural hub hosts visual arts and fashion exhibits, as well as film screenings and outdoor concerts in the summer. It is also the home of The Courtauld Gallery, which has a concise collection of fine art, encompassing the Renaissance period, Gothic art, and the Impressionists. Tickets are £6, however entry is free on Mondays till 2 pm.

A visit must be paid to the Tate Modern on the other side of the river. Since opening in 2000 this museum has become one of London’s favourite attractions, and the thematically arranged displays are fantastic, featuring all the masters of 20th century art. The Tate Modern deserves several hours, but if you’re still hungry for art after this, take a stroll over to the Southbank to check out what’s on at the Hayward Gallery. Past exhibitions have featured photographer Ansel Adams, pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, and the acclaimed group show ‘Walking in My Mind’, where artists attempted to display the inner workings of their minds via installations and other mediums.

South Kensington and Chelsea
The Tate Britain in Pimlico has a very comprehensive collection of British art from 1500 to the present day. Next door is the Chelsea College of Art and Design; while it may lack the kudos Central Saint Martins is currently enjoying (and that Goldsmiths once had) it counts Edward Burra, David Hockney, Patrick Caulfield, Anish Kapoor and Steve McQueen as former pupils.

The at times controversial Saatchi Gallery is situated just off Chelsea’s King’s Road, and presents work by up and coming artists, alongside established ones like Jake and Dinos Chapman. Charles Saatchi helped catapult YBAs like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin to fame, making him one of the most influential figures of the late 20th century British art world.

Another excellent museum is the Whitechapel and Shoreditch

Over in Farringdon, the
Barbican’s art programming is always noteworthy; past shows have included the magnificent ‘The Surreal House’, where the house was used as the starting point for a study of surrealism. Further east, the Whitechapel Art Gallery has hosted many major artists such as Jackson Pollock, Nan Goldin and Mark Rothko. And should you feel peckish both these venues have very good restaurants.

Another established gallery in the East End is the White Cube’s second branch on Hoxton Square (a third opened recently in Bermondsey). Otherwise there are dozens of smaller venues, the majority of which cater to the current trend for street art and graffiti art. Check out these of-the-moment galleries here.


Still not satisfied? Fear not, there is always more. Chisenhale Gallery in Bow may be a little off the beaten track, but its programme of under-represented artists steers clear of fashion and is a breath of fresh air. The charming in Highbury & Islington has a small, but wonderful collection of works by Giorgio de Chirico and prominent Futurists like Umberto Boccioni and Giacomo Balla. The Lisson Gallery, quirkily divided into two buildings on opposite sides of the road, was instrumental in shaping the careers of Julian Opie, Sol LeWitt and Anish Kapoor, and is also well worth a visit.


See more...