If you are into art and are planning a trip to London, you’ll be positively spoiled for choice in the UK’s capital city; from world-famous galleries displaying amazing masterpieces of internationally renowned artists to chic, independent photography exhibitions. Here are Travel Vivi’s top picks when it comes to exploring the city’s extensive art scene.
The National Gallery
Open to public 361 days a year, The National Gallery is the fourth most visited art gallery in the world and one of the most important museums in London, housing one of the finest collections of western European painting, with more than 2300 works of art from virtually all renowned artists of the era (Leonardo da Vinci, Degas, Michelangelo, Raphael, Van Gogh, Renoir, Matisse, Rubens, Monet, Manet, Titian, Caravaggio among others), embracing the years between 1250 and 1900. The entire collection is on display in four wings on the main floor where they are arranged periodically, but half the beauty is the setting of the museum, a neoclassical building completed by English architect William Wikins. The museum is free of charge and is considered the crowning glory of the Trafalgar Square piazza.
The Serpentine Gallery
If you love modern art, then London’s Serpentine Gallery is right for you. Boasting a fine program of modern and contemporary art exhibitions, this is one of the city’s best-loved art galleries, which appeals more than 800 000 visitors a year. Over 1600 artists have exhibited at Serpentine Gallery over its 43-year history, from the latest emerging artists to world-famous names, including Louise Bourgeois, Man Ray, Frankgehry, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Yoko Ono and Andy Warhol. The highlight of the art gallery is the Serpentine Pavilion; every spring a different internationally known architect is chosen to design a temporary building for the lawn outside the gallery, which opens to public June through September. Ideally located in the picturesque Kensington Gardens, this art gallery is one of the few in London who manage to maintain a free admission policy.
The Photographers’ Gallery
Another must-see venue for art lovers, The Photographers’ Gallery is the largest public gallery in London devoted to contemporary and historical photography in all its forms. Found in the heart of London’s West End, the gallery was established in 1971 and runs 3 exhibition spaces, as well as a café, specialist bookshop, educational space and an area selling prints. There are also various events including artist talks, guided tours and workshops available at The Photographers’ Gallery and the full calendar and schedule is on their website.
The home of British art from 1500 to the present day, the charming Tate Britain first opened its doors in 1897, starting as a single gallery of 65 paintings dedicated solely to British art. Today it has expanded and diversified greatly, with nearly seventy thousand works on display, spread across four separate museums: Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St. Ives. In the broad spectrum of artworks, visitors will find masterpieces by Hogarth, Millais, and Gainsborough, as well as outstanding modern and contemporary artists, including Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Damien Hirst. Tate Britain lends itself to all manner of entertaining with no end to day and evening events.
The Wallace Collection
With superb displays of French 18th century painting, furniture, porcelain, and armory in an historic palatial town house, The Wallace Collection is another free national museum, which art lovers will surely appreciate. In the 25 glamorous galleries visitors will find an extraordinary array of masterpieces by some of the greatest names of European art, including Rembrandt,Velazquez, Titian, Rubens, Hals (The Laughing Cavalier) and Lawrence. Of great interest is also the armory, with pieces of armor dating back to 14th century. After enjoying the collections, make sure to enjoy a fine dinner in the beautifully glazed courtyard restaurant.
Do not think that the list of London’s most famous museums and art galleries ends with The Wallace Collection; no. London has more than 300 art venues, offering some of the finest and most varied art in the world; and once you explore the art scene of this lovely destination, you are sure to return.