London has some fantastic art galleries. While the National Gallery and the Tates (Britain and Modern) generally take the plaudits, as well as the Saatchi Collection and White Cube for the modern art fancier, there are plenty of less well-known art galleries in London.
UCL Art Museum different take on what a gallery is all about; it’s an archive of art education, as well as art. Since the Slade was the first art school to admit women, it has a good collection of work by women artists, such as Gwen John, Paula Rego, and Dora Carrington, and also has the neoclassical artist Flaxman’s copy of plaster casts, spectacularly displayed under the dome of the library.
Portrait of Frederick the Wise at UCL Art Museum by Jisc
The Estorick Collection specialises in modern Italian art – Futurists, Surrealists, even the occasional figurative artist. It’s housed in a Georgian mansion, though the white-walled, bare gallery inside feels quite contemporary.
The Wallace Collection is another not-quite-secret gallery, with an offbeat selection of works including fine French art (Watteau in particular) as well as arms and armour and porcelain, all displayed in a fine mansion that retains much of its original furnishings and atmosphere.
Large drawing room at the Wallace Collection by megoizzy
The Pump House Gallery in Battersea Park is one of the capital’s most unusual art spaces, in a restored Victorian water tower. Contemporary art exhibitions are complemented by talks and workshops.
The Pump House Gallery in Battersea Parik by Jim Linwood
The Queen’s Gallery, entered by the side of Buckingham Palace, is far more deserving of a visit than the palace. There are some masterpieces, particularly old master drawings, and temporary exhibitions highlight aspects of the royal collections. To continue the royal team, I recommend afternoon tea afterwards in the regal London luxury suites of the Milestone Hotel in Kensington.
Queen’s Gallery by Bex Walton
Viktor Wynd Fine Art in Mare Street, Hackney, is more a curiosity shop than an art gallery, but worth a visit for its eccentric ambience, lectures, events and meetings of the Last Tuesday Society. It’s like nothing else in London, that’s for sure.
Viktor Wynd Gallery by Goodnight London
The Wapping Project, Bankside, is focused on the art of photography and holds regularly changing exhibitions. It’s close to Tate Modern, so you can make a nice afternoon of the South Bank, perhaps finishing off with a trip to the British Film Institute, or if you’re fed up with art and fancy a drink instead, you could spend the evening at Vinopolis.
I’m going to put the Soane Museum in here; that’s because it’s just really good. It’s eclectic – architectural models and drawings, Hogarth paintings, Egyptian sarcophagi – it’s full of character, and it’s free.
Soane Museum by stusmith_uk
Goldsmiths Hall isn’t an art gallery, but it holds regular exhibitions of the goldsmith’s art; if there’s one on, it’s worth checking out. I remember one amazing show there, with baroque soup tureens, huge salvers crawling with eels and lobsters and goblets with chubby cherubs teetering on the rim; and some interesting contemporary work, too, from tableware to jewellery and fine pens.
Ornamental gate at Goldsmiths Hall by Rev Sta
The Whitechapel Gallery isn’t a secret, but its awkward position – near nothing else except Jack the Ripper walks – prevents many tourists finding it. A regularly changing series of contemporary art exhibitions makes it a fascinating place to drop into; you can also borrow an audio tour with a difference to experience the Whitechapel streets a different way.
If you want to soak up some more culture, read our tips on seven of the best London museums.