The capital boasts enough galleries to satisfy every artistic preference, and with many national collections offering free entry, a day out at the art galleries is always a great idea. Here are just a few suggestions.
The centre piece of the famous Trafalgar square, the National Gallery is impressive from both the outside and in. Housing one of the greatest collections of paintings in the world, this is an essential art gallery to visit whilst in London. It has a lovely café and gift shop, and entrance to the gallery is completely free. The National Portrait Gallery next door is also worth a visit, however it is currently under renovation until 2023.
2. Tate Britain
The oldest of the two London Tate galleries, Tate Britain opened in1897 in Millbank, Westminster. The gallery houses a national collection of British art as well as international modern and contemporary art from the year 1500 to modern day, a collection which consists of nearly 70000 artworks. Entrance to this gallery is also free .
3. Tate Modern
Standing in the former Bankside Power Station in Southwark Borough, Tate Modern was the sixth most visited art gallery in the world in 2018, and the most visited in Britain. As the name suggests, this gallery is all about the modern, with all British artwork dating back no further than 1900. It also houses a range of international modern and contemporary art. However, if this is not your thing, it is still worth looking up the temporary exhibitions, as these vary in content and are not all quite so dramatically modern. The main gallery space is free to enter although you will have to pay to visit temporary exhibitions.
One of my personal favourites. Despite being named a museum, the V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design, so is a must see for art enthusiasts. It houses a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects from a time period spanning 5000 years, including many of the UK’s national collections. Its setting of beautiful Victorian buildings was originally a Museum of Manufactures in 1852. In 1899 the foundation stone for the museum itself was laid by Queen Victoria and since then it has developed into the state-of-the-art galleries we see now.
Founded in 1768 in London’s West End on Piccadilly, the renowned Royal Academy of Arts is the oldest fine arts institution in Britain. Focusing on temporary and touring exhibitions, it has a continuously changing and ever fresh programme of exhibitions. The Summer Exhibition showcases particular works from up and coming artists and by academicians.
Established in 1970 and housed in a former 1930s tea pavilion in the middle of Hyde Park, Serpentine Gallery offers a range of contemporary art and architecture. The Serpentine Pavillion is also a site for international architectural experimentation and changes each year.
7. Serpentine Sackler Gallery
In 2013 the Serpentine Sackler Gallery was built from The Magazine, a former gunpowder store dating back to 1805. Just a few minutes walk from the Serpentine Gallery via its namesake, Serpentine Bridge, this gallery offers 900 square metres of exhibition space as well as a shop, restaurant and social space.
Located in Dulwich, Southwark, this was the world’s first purpose built art gallery was built over 200 years ago by founders who wanted to make art accessible to the many. Today it houses an amazing collection of painters, from British Tudor portraits to 19th century British paintings, with plenty of French, Spanish and Italian Baroque paintings too.
The Barbican Art Gallery forms part of the larger Barbican arts centre. The gallery has a constantly changing programme featuring work by major photographers and fine artists, and also hosts design exhibitions. The Barbican’s Curve, home to an exciting series of new art commissions which have been created especially for the space, is also worth a visit.
Founded in 1901 with the goal to provide accessible art for the east London community, Whitechapel Gallery houses a great collection of contemporary art. It has become internationally acclaimed for its exhibitions, as well as its event and education programmes. It has also premiered some big names in the art world, including Frida Kahlo, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko.