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Culture

18 Of The Very Best Art Galleries In London

By April Curtin

best-art-galleries-london

All of these London art galleries are free to enter, so expect a priceless experience in both senses of the word.

For a full-on art attack, London has you covered. Below, we’ve rounded up all the best art galleries London has to offer. [Featured image: Tate Modern]

See also: our guide to art exhibitions in London right now.  

1. The National Gallery

best-art-galleries-london

Location: Trafalgar Square

One of London’s most iconic galleries takes centre stage in London’s most iconic square! While The National Gallery houses one of the greatest collections of paintings in the world, this 200-year old building also stands as a work of art and piece of history itself.

2. The National Portrait Gallery

best-art-galleries-london
Photo: Roman Boed

Location: Charing Cross

Not to be confused with the preceding listing, this gallery does what it says on the tin: housing a huge collection of portraits that depict important and famous British people from throughout history. It was the first portrait gallery in the whole world when it opened in 1856, so this place really is the OG. The gallery is set to close for three years, so if you want to see it before 2023, you better get there sharp-ish.

2. Royal Academy of Arts

Gormley Exhibition London
Photo: David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

Location: Piccadilly, Mayfair

An even more ancient ancestor in London’s collection of galleries, the Royal Gallery has been run by artists since 1768. Since celebrating 250 years of championing art and its artists, the Royal Academy has opened up a newly expanded campus with free displays, new spots to eat, drink, shop, and much more. Their exhibitions often present the work of some of the world’s most renowned artists. Most recently it was the Antony Gormley exhibition that took London art enthusiasts by storm – it even inspired an art-themed afternoon tea.

3. Museum of London

london-calling-exhibition

Location: Barbican

Bringing the history of London to the people of London. The greatest stories from the greatest city are spread across nine permanent galleries, taking you on a huge journey from London before London, through Roman and Medieval London, to key historic moments such as The Great Fire, and the evolution of London as the People’s City and a World City. Keeping with the theme of London education, guest exhibitions include Beast of London, which explores the fascinating role animals have played in shaping the capital, and The Clash: London Calling, where over 150 items showcase the history of London’s most iconic band.

4. Tate Britain

best-art-galleries-london

Location: Bankside

The oldest of the country’s network of Tate galleries, and one of two in London, the Tate Britain is the home of British Art from 1500 to present day. Its miraculous dome and grand, porticoed entranceway set the scene for what is sure to be a splendid afternoon exploring British history through art. And you’ll often find this beautiful building boasting works of art inside and out – see its most recent transformation into a beautiful winter temple!

5. Tate Modern

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Location: Millbank, Westminster

Modern art finds its spiritual home at Tate Modern – the most popular art gallery in the world and the UK’s most-visited attraction. Unlike Tate Britain, which houses a permanent collection of historic British art, Tate Modern is all about the here and now. Everything you’ll find within the gallery is modern art, dating only as far back as 1900. Get there before January 5 2020 to catch Olafur Eliasson’s gorgeous exhibition, featuring a room full of rainbows.

Read The Secret London Guide to Tate Modern here.

6. Serpentine Gallery

best-art-galleries-london
Photo: @serpentineuk

Location: Kensington Gardens

You’ll find a range of contemporary art and architecture at the beautiful Serpentine Gallery. Make sure to also check out the Serpentine Pavillion – a site for international architectural experimentation that changes every year!

7. Serpentine Sackler Gallery

best-art-galleries-london
Photo: @gnns_arch

Location: Kensington Gardens

Cross over Serpentine Bridge and you’ll find Serpentine Gallery’s little sister, living in a former 1805 gunpowder store.

10. Zabludowicz Collection

best-art-galleries-london
Rachel Rossin: Stalking the Trace. Photo: @zabludowicz_collection

Location: Belsize Park

It is a Grade II listed, former Methodist chapel that houses the Zabludowicz Collection in London. Though the building was built over 150 years ago, the art you will find in here is nothing short of modern mastery, and its historical and layered architecture provides a rich and challenging space for the presentation of contemporary art.

11. Hauser & Wirth

best-art-galleries-london
Photo: @ihavethisthingwithmuseumpics

Location: Mayfair

This international chain of galleries lands its London branch on Saville Row, spread across two exhibition spaces: the North Gallery and the South Gallery. Enjoy a range of engaging events with Hauser & Wirth; from artist talks, film screenings and workshops, to their dynamic exhibition programme that showcases modern art from emerging and established artists around the world.

12. Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art

best-art-galleries-london
Photo: @goldsmithscca

Location: New Cross

Known as one of the edgiest, artiest universities in London, it’s no surprise that Goldsmiths has opened its very own contemporary arts institution. And to be fair to them, it’s pretty damn cool. This Grade II-listed, former Victorian bathhouse boasts a deliciously diverse range of art – from world-class exhibitions by international artists, to new projects and emergent practices. Check out Tony Cokes: ‘If UR Reading This It’s 2 Late: Vol I’, where Donald Trump, David Bowie and Malcolm X are just some of the characters that voice Cokes’ videos – bringing together music, colour and texts in the US-based artist’s first UK solo exhibition (as featured in our exhibition guide).

13. Dulwich Picture Gallery

best-art-galleries-london
Photo: @dulwichgallery

Location: Dulwich, Southwark

The world’s first purpose-built public art gallery was established more than 200 years ago, because its founders believed as many people as possible should see great paintings. A philosophy that will never get old! Today, Dulwich Picture Gallery houses one of the finest collections of Old Masters in the world, especially rich in French, Italian and Spanish Baroque paintings, as well as in British portraits from Tudor times to the 19th century. Come and take a look at exceptional art inside an intimate, welcoming setting – one of Britain’s most valued architectural treasures.

14. 180 The Strand

best-art-galleries-london
Other Spaces. Photo: @wollheimmusic

Location: The Strand

This iconic Brutalist building is currently undergoing a transformation, and is soon to become a creative hub for the lovely people of London. The building is already home to The Store X, who collaborate with other creative buildings in the company such as The Vinyl Factory to produce contemporary, immersive and free exhibitions, such as Other Spaces

15. Hayward Gallery

best-art-galleries-london
Mike Nelson’s installation ’To the Memory of H.P. Lovecraft’ from the ‘Psycho Buildings’ exhibition at Hayward Gallery in 2008. Photo: @hayward.gallery

Location: Southbank Centre

A world-renowned contemporary art gallery, and a landmark of beautifully Brutalist architecture. You’ll find some really ‘out there’ exhibitions at Hayward, and it’s certainly worth a visit to check out what else the Southbank Centre has got going on (which is, at any time of year, a lot of cool stuff)!

16. Saatchi Gallery

Tutankhamun London Exhibition
Photo: Saatchi Gallery

Location: Duke of York’s Headquarters, King’s Road

In the last five years, Saatchi Gallery has presented 15 of the 20 most visited museum exhibitions in London. Oh and they’re also hosting the last ever tour of Tutankhamun’s treasures. Need we say more?

17. Whitechapel Gallery

best-art-galleries-london
Photo: Installation view, Eileen Simpson & Ben White (Open Music Archive): Once Heard Before at Whitechapel Gallery. Photo by Stephen White.

Location: Shadwell

Aldgate East’s next door neighbour may look traditional from the outside, but step inside and you’ll be blown away by this hub for talent, where ‘history has always been the future’. The gallery has premiered world-class artists, from modern masters Pablo Picasso and Mark Rothko, to contemporaries such as Sophie Calle and Sarah Lucas.

18. NOW Gallery

best-art-galleries-london
NOW Gallery immersed in @hattiestewart illustrations in 2008. Photo: @nowgalleryse10

Location: Greenwich Peninsula

The grooviest gallery on the Greenwich Peninsula presents three solo shows each year. The glass facade frames this 7m high space, creating a window into an artistic world. A key feature of NOW’s artist interventions is their immersive nature, so expect some wild and wonderful exhibitions. Stay for NOW Later events, where live art, music and performances invite you to experience artists’ work from an alternative perspective…

Don’t forget to check out our list of art exhibitions in London right now! 🎨

Tags: art, exhibitions