London is a world capital of art. With world-renowned venues such as the British Museum, the Tate Modern, and the Tate Britain, as well as a vibrant art market, it attracts art lovers and professionals from all over the world. For your convenience, this article selects for you 10 places not to be missed if you want to explore London’s contemporary art scene.
Tip: make sure you bring good shoes!
No need to introduce you to the Tate Modern would you tell us! This museum, created only 15 years ago, is now a legend in the art world, ranking among the Top 3 most influential museums in the world. To exhibit at the Tate is to have a foot in the history of art…
The building, a former disused power station, is in the centre of London. It is part of the obligatory tourist circuit for all visitors. The Millennium Bridge will connect St. Paul’s Cathedral with the museum.
However, it is regrettable that the Tate Modern is sometimes too closely linked to the market. An article in The Art Newspaper reveals that the exhibitions organized by the major contemporary art museums mainly show artists represented by the same 3 galleries: Gagosian, Zwirner, Goodman & Pace. These galleries even go so far as to finance exhibitions when public funds dry up… Far from being a generality, this is a trend that proves disappointing and corrupts the institution’s avant-garde mission.
The Royal Academy is one of the oldest museums in the world. Founded by order of King George III in 1768, its mission was to promote British arts through education and exhibition.
250 years later, the Anglo-Saxon arts are still in the spotlight. The Royal Academy organises two major series of exhibitions a year: one in winter devoted to ancient art and one in summer devoted to the works of living artists.
From 14 March to 7 June there is an exhibition on Richard Diebenkorn, a major artist of American contemporary art. The exhibition shows his work on abstraction and figuration.
White Chapel Gallery
Existing since 1901, the White Chapel Gallery became famous in the 1930s for its innovative art exhibitions. Today, it hasn’t lost any of its youth. Completely renovated in 2009, the White Chapel Gallery remains at the forefront of contemporary art. It has exhibited artists such as Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Frida Khalo and Mark Rothko from the very beginning.
Southbank Centre is a space of great diversity. Comprising the Royal Festival Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Hayward Gallery, the Southbank Centre is a place of great artistic activity: 1,000 performances of dance, music and literature, 300 educational events, 3 to 6 major exhibitions a year, generating approximately 3 million visitors a year. A crossroads not to be missed in the world of the arts.
Merchant Art Galleries
London is the second largest market for contemporary art (22% of the market) behind New York. Galleries and auction houses are swarming everywhere and often present exhibitions of museum quality. Strolling through the Mayfair and St. James districts, or even the more emerging districts of Fitzrovia and Bermondsey, are great opportunities to discover contemporary art in London from a new angle.
This article offers you a small selection of London’s best galleries:
– Gagosian Gallery, a monumental space for monumental works next to King’s Cross.
– White Cube: with three different spaces in London, it is one of the heavyweights of the London scene. Don’t miss the Hoxton space and the Bermondsey space (with its 5000m2 of exhibition space).
– Signal Gallery in London. She is interested in figurative artists and especially in street art and urban art.
– Tony’s Gallery is located near Brick Lane. This space proposes to explore the relationship between art and the street. About seven new exhibitions a year.
– Marian Goodman: World famous and very internationalized gallery, it has a beautiful space just a stone’s throw from the British Museum.
– Pace London. One of the world’s largest galleries, it represents 70 major artists of the 21st century.
– The Saatchi Gallery, which we have given a special place in our Top 10 of contemporary art in London.
A stroll through Kensington’s beautiful gardens along the Serpentine River will take you to the Serpentine Gallery. Inspired by the tea rooms of the 1930s, it has exhibited Damien Hirst, Andreas Gursky, Louise Bourgeois, Gabriel Orozco, Tomoko Takahashi and Jeff Koons, among others.
Every year since 2000, an internationally renowned architect has been invited to build a summer pavilion next to the gallery. This year, the pavilion opens on June 25th and will be designed by Selgas Cano. Architects chosen in previous years include Alvaro Siza, Oscar Niemeyer, Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid and Jean Nouvel.
Throughout the summer, this temporary pavilion will become a museum of contemporary art in London, with lectures, discussions and open-air film screenings. A great way to showcase London in summer!
ICA, The Institute of Contemporary Art
The Institute of Contemporary Art or ICA is a modern art centre that includes several exhibition galleries, two cinemas and a bar. It has exhibited the greatest artists of the 20th and 21st century such as Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Yves Klein, Jeff Koons, Nan Goldin, Keith Haring, Cindy Sherman, Cartier-Bresson, Yoko Ono, or Damien Hirst…
From 22 April to 21 June 2015 the Looks exhibition takes place. This group exhibition explores the construction of identity in a world massively flooded by information and digital culture. Looks is an exhibition that includes artists such as Juliette Bonneviot, Andrea Crespo, Morag Keil, Wu Tsang and Stewart Uoo.
The Barbarican Center is the largest arts and entertainment center in Europe. Concerts, theatres, screenings and exhibitions coexist in this huge creative space in East London.
If only one emblematic merchant art gallery in the city of London were to be chosen, it would probably be the one founded in 1985 by Charles Saatchi. Having initially exhibited minimalist artists, the gallery has had a major influence on British contemporary art. Charles Saatchi was one of the first to discover a new generation of artists: the YBA (Young British Artist). This includes artists such as Damien Hirst or Sarah Lucas and all saw their careers take off afterwards.
Even today, the gallery still presents a very qualitative range of emerging contemporary art in London. Its latest exhibition USA Today at the Royal Academy was also widely criticized and admired.
The Saatchi Gallery also organises awards, events and museum collaborations.
The Bank side gallery
In a building right next door to the Tate Britain, this gallery opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1980 specialises in watercolours and prints of contemporary art and presents an innovative and promising selection of contemporary art in London.