There’s a lot to see and do in London, so it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But, for art lovers, we have the must-see London art galleries, including several hidden gems that don’t get the attention they deserve.
- Halcyon Gallery
- Hayward Gallery
- Guildhall Art Gallery
- Dulwich Picture Gallery
- Graffik Gallery
- Photographers’ Gallery
- Mall Galleries
- Whitechapel Gallery
- God’s Own Junkyard
- Pollock’s Toy Museum
Our last trip to London was hot, so some are still marked for our next visit to the city. Check out our research about why these should be on your next itinerary.
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Founded in 1982, The Halcyon Gallery provides visitors with an examination of modern art. Patrons will experience works from emerging artists through well-established creatives. The gallery holds new exhibits every 2-3 months and has three locations throughout London.
The gallery displays unique pieces that will delight and immerse you in contemporary artists’ perspectives. The founder, Paul Green, has a passion for making art available for all. This desire has become a core value for the gallery.
144-146 New Bond Street
The Hayward Gallery is one of those galleries that has your attention from the moment you lay eyes on the building. The brutalist architecture gives it a raw and solid look, and a clear glass entrance contrasts it.
The gallery opened its doors in 1968 and has never had any permanent exhibitions. It houses 3-4 temporary modern or contemporary art exhibitions per year, so there will always be something new to see to keep the appreciative eye entertained.
Southbank Centre, Belvedere
Guildhall Art Gallery was built in 1885 and is magnificently situated in the center of The City of London. It richly displays the art collection of The City of London Corporation. These artworks date back from 1670 to the present day. They include historic scenes of The City of London, Pre-Raphaelite pieces, and modern masterpieces.
During the 1988 renovations, archaeologists rediscovered London’s Roman amphitheater, which is now viewable at Guildhall Gallery, alongside a rotating display of about 250 artworks from their collection of over 4500. The gallery also hosts limited-time exhibitions throughout the year.
Highlighting one specific piece as a must-see in this gallery is quite tricky. You most definitely won’t miss John Singleton Copley’s immense ‘The Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar, September 1782’, but also look for William Logsdail’s ‘The Ninth of November, 1888’, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s ‘La Ghirlandata.’
Once you’re done at the art gallery and Roman Amphitheatre, there are six more venues to explore on the Guildhall premises: Guildhall Great Hall, City of London Heritage Gallery, Guildhall Library, City of London Police Museum, The City Centre, and St Lawrence Jewry.
Guildhall, Gresham Street
Walking through Dulwich Picture Gallery, even the most amateur art viewer will recognize the artists’ names. Founded in 1811, it was the earliest purpose-built art gallery that was open to the public. It houses a collection of more than 600 European masterpieces, including Rembrandt, Canaletto, and Poussin.
Dulwich Picture Gallery is one of the smaller museums, making it possible to appreciate all its works in just a day. Two particularly noteworthy artworks are Rembrandt’s ‘Girl at a Window’ (1645) and Poussin’s ‘The Nurture of Jupiter’ (c1646-7).
Something unique about Dulwich Picture Gallery is that it has a mausoleum in the center of the building containing the tombs of its founders. After contemplating the art collection at the gallery, pay the founders a visit of appreciation.
Venturing into the more controversial styles, we now encounter urban art. The more conservative art lovers don’t always appreciate graffiti and street art. Suppose you’re looking for something other than the classic masterpieces, head over to Graffik Gallery. Specializing in the urban art genre, Graffik Gallery displays works by the mysterious Banksy, the unidentified Alec Monopoly, and Stik, amongst others.
Graffik Gallery hosts a range of exhibits throughout the year. Artists are given free reins and can express themselves on the inside and outside walls of the gallery. It’s a place where artworks usually painted for free on the streets gains value and the chance to be sold.
Apart from displaying urban art, Graffik Gallery also hosts a range of graffiti workshops. It’s a good two hours to create a piece of art for yourself and maybe even surprise yourself with your talent.
Before you go, you can find some inspiration for your art by checking out our 31 ideas for finding your creative muse.
If that is too time-consuming for you, head over to Graffik Gallery to see what the top street artists in London are currently creating.
284 Portobello Road
Another first in the UK was the opening of The Photographers’ Gallery on 14 January 1971 as the first public gallery dedicated to photography. The gallery occupying a corner spot holds 20-30 exhibitions every year and covers all possible styles that you can imagine.
The Photographers’ Gallery has brought many international artists to the UK and has also championed British photographers’ work. Photographic works can be examined in three exhibition spaces and bought at their print sales gallery. They have a dedicated learning and education studio where they deliver talks and activities about photography to promote engagement and learning.
16-18 Ramillies Street
Mall Galleries is the home of the Federation of British Artists (FBA). Established in 1961, the FBA comprises nine of the UK’s top art societies, each specializing in a specific genre or medium.
As the focal point of the country’s contemporary figurative art, Mall Galleries is the host to the annual Royal Society of British Artists Exhibition. This exhibition proudly displays more than 100 top UK painters, sculptors, and printmakers’ artworks.
17 Carlton House Terrace
With the aim of bringing exceptional art to the East Londoners, Whitechapel Gallery was founded in 1901. The gallery has since displayed many well-known artists’ artwork in its halls, including Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ and Pollock’s first major show in Britain.
Whitechapel Gallery is proud of its history of firsts and continues to be the benchmark for contemporary art internationally. The gallery was one of the first publicly funded art galleries for temporary exhibitions in London. The gallery plays a vital role in the city’s cultural landscape and is central to the growth of east London’s reputation of being the leading modern art quarter.
77-82 Whitechapel High St, Shadwel
In need of something to brighten and spark your day? Look no further. God’s Own Junkyard is a psychedelic neon paradise. Take your pick at which ‘signs’ you need in your life right now; there’s bound to be a sign saying just what you want to hear.
God’s Own Junkyard has a family history that started in the 1950s, but the present-day gallery was opened in 1978 by the late Chris Bracey. The Bracey family collection comprises over 10,000 neon signs, of which about 1000 are on display.
Make a morning, afternoon, or even an evening out of your visit and pop into Rolling Scones cafe. At the same time, you try to wrap your head around the vibrant scenes your eyes just experienced. Pieces are not only for admiring but are also on sale or for rent.
Unit 12, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street
When last did you lose yourself in a toy wonderland? Pollock’s Toy Museum is home to more toys than your 4-year-old self could ever have imagined, toys that you never even thought were around anymore.
Benjamin Pollock, a toy theatre maker in the 1800s, was the inspiration behind the museums naming. Apart from the teddy bears, dollhouses, and tin toys, the toy collection includes toys hand-printed, constructed, and colored by Mr. Pollock himself back in the 1850s. The museum was established in 1956 by the Fawdry family and continues to be run by the same family.
The lost art of toy theatre is very much alive in this museum. At the center of the museum, you will find the entire collection of toy theatres displayed—a place where good old-fashioned family entertainment replaces modern-day technological noise.
1 Scala Street