If you live in London, one of the most common phrases is: “what do you think about the art gallery in St. ######?”
Yes, it sounds like a cliche but 85% of the Londoners at least once per week talk about an art gallery – Unbelievable? For us, probably, for them, ordinary routine!
London, the capital of the British empire, “founded” by Romans in the 43 A.C. on the banks of the Thames, has always been a really peculiar city, a center in the middle of the British countryside with a direct canal to the ocean, not a port, not a castle nor a fortress.
British have been able along the centuries to exploit this unique situation to build one of the biggest fleets, able to be protected but also able to go everywhere else in the world!
Thanks to this huge fleet and its port, merchants from all over Europe moved there to build their fortunes.
Century after century the port became more and more important, a really efficient exchange center of goods and products, first European and after, with the development of the British empire from all over the globe.
For centuries ships arrived full of everything, from the middle east, north and south America, from Africa, Asia, and Oceania. Collectors, sellers, art historians, auction houses developed and developed because this was one of the richest places to find these treasures.
Like everything thing else, when you have too much, you lose interest, this happened to some of these huge collectors.
These people started to create instead museums or to give to the museums their collections, bored to live a life spent just collecting. From the second part of the nineteenth century, London started to create public buildings dedicated to the citizens to appreciate art, objects, and beauty.
The World Wars arrived and with them all the sadness, problems, difficulties that the story has shown, what historians wrote is terrible and we will not talk about it now but it’s important to think about the consequences of them.
Everything was grey, and for a British person it’s really common, it rains almost every day!
But life was different, was harder, generations destroyed by the fear and the pain.. just with the “reconstruction phase” something started to change again.
New jobs, new salaries, new possibilities, new opportunities, life in less than 20 years was, once again different, was faster, was brilliant, was divided between the “old generation” more conservative and the “new generation” more rebellious, more dynamic, a generation that started to share more, to pass the older one, with the world, again, another time, doing what the British are really good at, absorbing, buying, having amazing things and sharing them, selling them, giving them.
London re-became that port that used to be in its golden age but more modern, more connected to new kinds of markets, more linked to business, and fewer boats.
London, like a tree after the winter, at the beginning of the spring, started to bloom, one more time.
When a tree blooms, colors, smells, beauty surrounds everyone close and when you have beauty you want to keep it or you want even more.
This has also been the moment, the “spring” of a “new” activity: the art gallery in London.
You don’t believe me!
Well, how would you feel, if I tell you, that there are around 200 art galleries in London?
And this number is made by the most famous ones, probably there are even more, the smaller ones, the hidden ones, the secret ones or the ones that are something else and they don’t know yet that soon, even they will be an art gallery!
Let’s start by showing a few of these “beauties”!!!!
Art Gallery In London: List Of Top 10 Galleries
BARBICAN ART GALLERY IN LONDON
It’s the biggest art center in Europe; therefore, it has to be on top of our London art gallery list.
It is so big that inside it has two galleries! It sounds like a joke but it’s true: there is the Barbican Art Gallery where you can see really important expositions of important artists from all over the world, winner of important prizes but also interesting architects and their projects; The Curve is the second one, and it hosts a private collection of pieces made exclusively for the gallery by different artists.
The opening was in 1982 as a sort of gift to the nation by the London city and it’s famous also for its brutalist architecture.
HAYWARD ART GALLERY IN LONDON
A must-visit art gallery in London, it’s part of the Southbank Centre, an architectural complex made of three big buildings, Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, and the Hayward Gallery.
If the Barbican was the biggest European art center, the Southern Centre is the largest European center for arts. It’s so massive with its cement structure that you can really like or completely dislike it!
This London art gallery works with important international artists, it doesn’t focus on just one kind but it is specialized with modern art and some of the most famous contemporary artists.
The gallery doesn’t have a permanent collection and every year since the opening, in 1968, it tends to host between two to four huge exhibitions.
Space also offers the possibility to host conferences inside, special events, and workshops.
NATIONAL ART GALLERY IN LONDON
Another beautiful art gallery in London!
Situated in Trafalgar Square inside the city center of the city, this huge building founded in 1824, houses a collection of more than 2300 western European paintings from XIII to the XXI century.
Inside there are art works made by artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Tiziano, Botticelli, Van Gogh, Renoir and Stubbs.
The building has kept just the facade unchanged from the original project because along the centuries several architects have worked to expand the structure due to the increasing number of operas received.
This Art Gallery in London started buying paintings but after the initial purchases the majority of the operas inside have been donated, we can affirm that the number is more than 2/3 of the total of the operas.
Something unusual is the fact that the gallery is free, you don’t have to pay for a ticket to enter.
NATIONAL PORTRAIT ART GALLERY IN LONDON
Close to the National Gallery, there is this second London art gallery that owns a peculiarity, really really interesting: inside is the biggest collection of face paintings in the world!
The collections have operas from the Tudor dynasty till today; you can see inside represented important and famous British people like Shakespeare, Kings, Queens but also modern icons! It has expanded twice since the inauguration of the place in Trafalgar Square.
You can also find inside a huge photographic collection and a restaurant with one of the best views of the whole city!
At the moment the gallery is closed due to an important renovation, the third one, of the space and a change of the aim of the structure.
A new designed project named “Inspiring People” will be complete in 2023.
SAATCHI ART GALLERY IN LONDON
If we move to Chelsea, King’s Road, inside the towering building Duke of York HQ, you can find the Saatchi Gallery of contemporary art.
The Gallery works mostly with young and emergent local artists or with the international ones that are not exposed in the other galleries of the city.
The idea behind is to give a voice to any soul with a loud secret voice, to anyone else who can have an important message to express but for many reasons, no-one has found that person already.
Typical characteristics are the several activities inside that connect not just the artist to the viewers but also anyone who could be interested in exploring or developing a new expression form with the most contemporary forms, helping them, in a way, to find their voice.
WHITECHAPEL ART GALLERY IN LONDON
“Opposite” side of the Saatchi Gallery, we have another really important contemporary gallery, the Whitechapel one.
This art gallery in London was founded in 1901 to literally bring art to the East London people and nowadays it is famous and well recognized for its commitment to continue with the initial vision.
Its programs of events, expositions but also training are few of the most updated of London and probably of all Europe.
Their desire to be futuristic, innovators but remaining connected to the locals has always been a key point also to the kind of artists the gallery has worked with; the gallery gave the possibility to artists like Frida Khalo, Jackson Pollock, or Mark Rothko to debut in Europe, in London but more than everything in East London.
CECILIA BRUNSON PROJECTS
Founded in 2013, Cecilia Brunson Projects is a contemporary commercial gallery space that focuses on Latin American Art.
This art gallery in London is located in Bermondsey. It was originally started in curator Cecilia Brunson’s home that later evolved into a gallery space.
The mission of the gallery is to increase the visibility and understanding of Latin American artists and their role in global art movements.
GRAFFIK ART GALLERY IN LONDON
From unpleasant sights to works of art, graffiti has come a long way. Thanks to Banksy, street art gained its credibility in the art world.
A gallery displaying various works of reputable street art is Graffik London located on Portobello Road. In fact, work by Banksy is also included in their collection.
Graffik was the first street art gallery in West London and the first to bring graffiti workshops to the world.
This art gallery in London is open year-round so be sure to visit Graffik to see interesting works of art created by the expressive medium.
LARGE GLASS: BEAUTIFUL LONDON ART GALLERY
Situated on the Caledonian Road, between Kings Cross and Islington, is the quirky Large Glass Gallery founded by Charlotte Schepke in 2011.
This commercial gallery takes its name from a lifelong work by artist Marcel Duchamp.
The aim of the gallery is to display contemporary art through an uncommon lens as it presents individually conceived and curated exhibitions on many themes.
Large Glass is not only a gallery to go to contemplate and discuss art, but a place where you can go to buy it!
LARIOT COLLECTIVE ART GALLERY IN LONDON
As we said London has a lot of old galleries, a lot of new galleries and a lot of emerging ones! Well, let me show you one of the newest projects the city has to offer!
Lariot Collective, as they describe themselves, is a nomadic art gallery in London. It started, literally a few months ago, in January, founded by two super talented people, Carla Lariot and Luca Sandigliano!
The gallery is a complete revolution, their aim is to work with an itinerant model, always moving, always changing, removing those spiderwebs that sometimes (for someone) art could have, promoting, representing, and working with young talented artists.
For them, the dialogue and the exchanges between different fields, important for them, like art, architecture or design and people that could be clients, friends, artists, or anyone else is the key point for creating their dream made by this brilliant synergy.
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