The Artistic Scene in London and Its Most Amazing Galleries

The rich choice of art galleries in London, more than 1500, gives a parallel world to New York or Paris. It leads to the top museums and galleries in the world. Museums and exhibitions have their own rhythm and the Mayfair neighbourhood opens the treasure.

Contemporary art has risen from the 1970s till today and it’s a tricky question to define it. It’s something that we can see and feel from artists living in present days. More precisely, it’s the art of the late 20th and 21st century.

It’s art in all its sense, including painting, sculpture, photography, performance and much more. The contemporary art actually has a long history. Pop art at the throne with Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein appeared in Great Britain and America. Portraying mass culture was its main etiquette.

Conceptualism was born from the experimental movement rejecting art as the frame. Minimalism unites abstract ideas away from art.

Tate Modern

The Tate Art Museum represents the largest mirror of modern art in London. Tate Modern unites four galleries together with Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives. The impressive building stands at the former Bankside Power Station, beautifully illuminated in the night. Sitting on the river Thames, it hosts the largest collection of modern art in the world.

Tate Modern Museum on the bank of Thames in London
Tate Modern Museum on the bank of Thames in London- Credit: Timeout.com

The free entrance pours the treasure of artwork by  Cézanne, Bonnard, Matisse, Picasso, Rothko, DalÍ­, Pollock, Warhol, Bourgeois and more. The tickets go in the flow during specific exhibitions.

The contemporary art in Tate Modern covers the time from the 1900s until today. The chronological order leads the collections at Tate Modern. The major temporary exhibitions happen in the Boiler House, lasting for three or four months. The closest underground station is Blackfriars.

History of Tate Modern

The first Tate Gallery opened in 1897 thanks to the industrialist Henry Tate. With a small collection of British artworks, he started Tate Britain at Millbank in London.

The Duveen family enriched the original gallery at Millbank, especially considering the sculptures. Tate Britain was established in the former prison and grew pretty quickly. In 1932, the gallery got its official name, Tate Gallery.

Modern art gained its exquisite place in the separate gallery. Tate Modern began its story on 11 May 2000 when the Queen inaugurated the place. The decision to shape a new gallery at Bankside Power station took power in April 1994.

More than 5,25 million visitors enlightened the first year. The documentary from 2008 shows a conversion from Bankside Power Station to a large gallery building. The Switch House developed as a tower above oil tanks and opened in 2016, afterwards known as the Blavatnik Building.

Saatchi Gallery

Saatchi Gallery owns a large edifice at the Duke of York Square in Chelsea. The contemporary art glorifies young and international artists. Appearing in the Saatchi gallery is a threshold to success for them. Usually it’s their unique place in the UK to show the artwork.

The Saatchi Gallery in London
The Saatchi Gallery in London- Credit: Visitlondon.com

Saatchi Gallery opened its doors by Charles Saatchi in 1985 with his own collection. Charles Saatchi is an Iraqi-British businessman who owns the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi.

Saatchi Gallery exists as a registered charity, which means that it’s self-funded. Private donations are their greatest source of income. Admission is mostly free, which gives wings to contemporary art. Saatchi Gallery initially took the locations in North London and then the South Bank. Fine art schools found an exquisite place for their teachings for several years.

Daniel Hirst is one of the leading artists that organized the movement Young British Artists.

The National Gallery

The National Gallery covers the largest collection of European paintings from the 13th till the 19th century. Visitors can enjoy free entrance every day at its location in Trafalgar Square.

The most famous artists like Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Turner, Renoir and Van Gogh inspire the numeral enthusiasts. Entitled by exquisite quality, more than 2300 paintings are on permanent display.

The National Gallery at Trafalgar Square in London
The National Gallery at Trafalgar Square in London- Credit: Timeout.com

The Gallery was established in 1824 when the British Government bought 38 paintings from the banker John Julius Angerstein. Firstly, they were displayed in his home in Pall Mall, but in 1838 moved to Trafalgar Square.

The Italian Renaissance collection is truly a gem, one of the largest outside of Italy. Dutch and Flemish art represent the 17th century with the works by Rubens, Van Dyck and Cuyp. The 18th century brings the most different sources of art.

Somerset House

Somerset House is nestled in one of the most beautiful courtyards in London. This Neoclassical complex stays on the Strand near Waterloo Bridge. The Somerset house was designed by Sir William Chambers in 1776. Before building the Victora Embankment parkway, Somerset House was sitting directly on the river Thames.

Somerset House in London with its beautiful courtyard
Somerset House in London with its beautiful courtyard- Credit: Somersethouse.org.uk

Somerset House hosts a rich cultural program, exhibitions and events. This is a modern creative community inside the historic structure. Several festivals during the year include the London Design Biennale, Now Play This, African Art Fair and Photo London. The plays offer a lovely ambience for many concerts, movie screenings and ice skating during the winter months. Five restaurants and caffes delight the treasure of Somerset House.

Somerset House was once a royal palace and providing accommodation and education developed it further.

The London Art Fair

The London Art Fair is the annual event happening at the Business Design Centre in Islington. It unites more than 100 galleries of modern and contemporary art. The programme features inspiring talks and exhibitions for all tastes.

The building of Business Design Centre which hosts London Art Fair
The building of Business Design Centre which hosts London Art Fair- Credit: Ownart.org.uk

London Art Fair pulls its roots in 1989, starting with only 36 galleries. Bringing modern and contemporary art close to the public is the main goal of the event.

The London Art Fair brings together renowned artists as well as young talents. Every year, London Art Fair partners with one museum, giving the regional collections a unique experience. The critical approach to contemporary art takes place on different platforms, like Art Projects or Photo50.

The vast scope of the London Art Fair includes sculptures, paintings, photography and ceramics.

V & A- The Exquisite Museum of Art and Design

The Victoria & Albert Museum is the world’s leading museum of decorative arts and design. It was founded in 1852 as the Museum of Manufactures in Marlborough House. It was renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1899 after transferring to South Kensington.

The stunning Victoria & Albert Museum in London dedicat to decorative art
The stunning Victoria & Albert Museum in London dedicated to decorative art- Credit: Visitlondon.com

145 galleries cover the space of this elegant museum. The international collection drives back to ancient times. The treasure of the V&A museum include paintings, sculpture, fashion, textiles, ceramics and jewellery. Theatre, photography, glass and metalwork joins this rich collection.

In the Cast Courts you’ll find copies of Michelangelo’s David and Trajan’s Column. One of the outstanding sculptures in the museum is the Three Graces by Antonio Canova. Paintings of Hampstead represent London as it was once as an oasis of nature.

The cafe inside amazes by its elegance and gigantic chandeliers. The East-Asian art is the most comprehensive in whole Europe. The entrance is free.

The Royal College of Art

The Royal College of Art is the world’s leading university of art and design. It was established in 1837 in Somerset House as the Government School of Design. It received its current name in 1896. Instead of the previous focus on teaching, it turned on the practice of art and design.

Royal College of Art in London
Royal College of Art in London- Credit: Kickstartstudentcareer.com

The Royal College of Art is spread throughout the three campuses in London: in South Kensington, Battersea and White City. The four schools enlighten the college: architecture, arts & humanities, communication, and design.

The London Art Biennale

The London Art Biennale celebrates contemporary art in the Chelsea Old Town Hall. The edifice was designed by John Brydon in 1885. Artists from all around the world get the chance to win monetary prizes and other awards. Other rewards include professional critiques, group shows and all-inclusive retreats in Italy.

The exhibition are at London Art Biennale
The exhibition are at London Art Biennale- Credit: Londonbiennale.co.uk

The London Art Biennale gives a chance for artists to shape their success. Art enthusiasts can enjoy the large palette of marvels. The Gagliardi Gallery organizes this fantastic event in collaboration with the Chianciano Art Museum.

Mayfair Neighbourhood- The Hive of Art Galleries

London deserves a splendid title of the art capital with its rich art scene. The Mayfair area offers a dozen of places where galleries dwell like in a hive.

Albemarle Gallery opened in 1986 with hyper-realist artwork in Mayfair. It was temporary closed from 1993 till 1996 when it changed location on Albemarle Street. In 2017, it moved to Cadogan Gardens in Chelsea. Albemarle Gallery now shares the space with Pontone Gallery.

Skarstedt Gallery showcases contemporary American and European artists. Its elegant white doors on Bennet Street open the world of historical exhibitions. It’s actually a chain of galleries in London, East Hampton, Paris and New York.

Elegant building and white windows on Skarsted gallery in London
Elegant building and white windows on Skarsted gallery in London- Credit: Slad.org.uk

White Cube glorified the artwork of Damien Hirst and Young British Artist during the 1990s.

Pace Gallery in Burlington Gardens amazes by contemporary and influential artists. The Royal Academy of Arts touches the throne of artistic beauty in Mayfair.

Estorick Collection- Modern Italian Gallery

The Estorick Collection of modern Italian art takes place in a Georgian villa in Islington’s beautiful Canonbury Square. The edifice was previously a home of the British architect Sir Basil Spence. It was founded by the American sociologist Eric Estorick and opened the doors in 1998.

Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art and its indoor space
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art and its indoor space- Credit: Daysoutguide.co.uk

The collection focuses on Futurist works, including paintings by Balla, Boccioni, Carrà, Russolo and Severini. The figurative paintings and sculptures from 1890 to the 1950s represent the most impressive part.

The wax work by Medardo Rosso covers the earliest date of the Museum. The empty towns by Georgio de Chirico are quite dreamy. The landscape paintings by Zoran Music were inspired by his travels in Italy and Dalmatia.

The library is dedicated mostly to Italian art of the 20th century. The Museum also features six galleries, a cafe and a bookshop.

Public Art in London

If you don’t feel like exploring galleries, the stunning artwork fills the streets. This is a great way to discover London, getting a new perspective.

The Line Art Walk stretches between Stratford and Greenwich. London’s first public art trail was opened in 2015. It covers 7,5 km and includes cable cars and walking paths. It’s a trail of sculptures that change every year. Ten different artists created the unique sculptures, each with their own story. For instance, ArcelorMittal Orbit by Anish Kapoor represents the Olympic Games.

The fascinating sculpture ArcelorMittal Orbit by Anish Kapoor dedicated to Olympic Games, London
The fascinating sculpture ArcelorMittal Orbit by Anish Kapoor dedicated to Olympic Games, London- Credit: Londonxlondon.com

Sculpture in the City is an annual event that enlightens London’s urban area colouring street vibes.  The first edition in 2011 saw only four artists and now we have 19 in 21 locations.

E17 Art Trail is an 18-day art festival happening in Walthamstow. Each year comes with a different theme regarding current events.

The Wander Art Walk

The Wander Art Walk scatters along the streets of Mayfair and Belgravia. The colourful installations by 12 renowned artists cheer up the winter days. This outdoor gallery covers different trails from cartoon-style houses to vibrant murals.

The cartoon-style house in the projest Wander Art Walk in Belgravia, London
The cartoon-style house in the projest Wander Art Walk in Belgravia, London- Credit: Artoflondon.co.uk

Since 30 November 2020, these eye-catching sculptures show a way to know the London. Celebrating architecture and creativity, we can see the artwork by Ricardo Cavolo, Emily Forgot, Yinka Ilori, Fernando Laposse, Morag Myerscough and Richard Woods.

Art in the Underground

Art in the Underground exists from 2000 as the largest public contemporary art programme. Platform for Art was its original name. Permanent and temporary artworks enrich the journey of millions of people every day. The leading artists gathered to create paintings, posters and various installations.

The poster campaigns started already in the late 1900s. Some of them include tile artwork at King’s Cross St Pancrass, Brixton or Blackhorse Road. Creating covers for the pocket tube map was one of the activities.

"5 more minutes" by Joy Labinjo in the Broxton tube station, London
“5 more minutes” by Joy Labinjo in the Broxton tube station, London- Credit: Art.tfl.gov.uk

London Transport Museum in Covent Garden was given the possibility to purchase the posters. An elephant sculpture by Kendra Haste was the first artwork, now staying permanently at Waterloo station. One of the most fascinating artworks is „5 more minutes“ by Joy Labinjo at Brixton tube station and it represents a hair saloon.

Conclusion- The Artistic Scene in London

The hidden treasure of London’s art comes in packages through more than 1500 galleries. London truly deserves the title of the artistic capital, which opens the throne to amazing museums in UK. The free entrance to most of them is the unique charm that belongs to London.

Having replicas of Italian art gives the chance to discover the true heart of the art. London bursts with every aspect of art.

Not only in the museums and galleries, the artistic scene dwells in the streets and underground stations.

 

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