From the beginning it is worth mentioning that this list could have had twenty items and there would still have been some places missing, especially in the eyes of those people that are particularly fond of them. A city as massive as London always has hidden gems that take, even for the people born in London, a while to be discover.
This list is meant to be a list of the top five most famous and most important art galleries in London. Admittedly, there will be some places that will be left out that have a particular importance for some of the readers but I am sure that even the most critical reader can agree that these places could not have been omitted from this list.
Undoubtedly the best choice to begin the list with. If you come to London for one day and want to see an art gallery this will probably be the best place to go. Granted, if you are a fan of contemporary art this will not be the place for you and you should keep reading the list. Nonetheless, the National Gallery is home for more than 2.000 paintings from artists ranging from Botticelli to Van Gogh with his famous “Sunflowers” which appear everywhere in the gift shop, including all the paper bags that you get. My favorite room is the one that displays works of Monet and Cezanne amongst others. Monet’s “The water lily pond” is definitely one of my favorite paintings.
Generally free, the National Gallery has some exhibitions that you have to pay for. Usually the fees are small and worth paying.
This is the one promised for the fans of contemporary art as it is half of the heart of contemporary art in London. Saatchi gallery is in itself an experience. Situated in a beautiful building somewhere in west London, the Saatchi offers a variety of exhibitions throughout the year, one more colorful and more interesting than the other. There is only one permanent installation, the only one not to have moved from the Saatchi from 1991, Richard Wilson’s 20:50. Although I could talk about the way I perceived it and experienced it, truth is it would probably be different from what any of you would experience. Thus, I leave it for you to discover.
Right now the main event at Saatchi is “Exhibitionism: The Rolling Stones Exhibition” which I have not been to visit yet but the reviews are quite impressive.
3. Tate Modern
The second half of the heart of contemporary art in London, Tate modern is housed in an impressive building facing Saint Paul’s cathedral being connected to this one by the famous Millennium Bridge. Tate modern is right now in renovations and in a process of getting bigger (and probably better). The new building is a piece of art in itself. Being nicknamed “the pyramid”, it will be dedicated to live art, films and installations and will definetly be a stunning addition to the London Skyline.
Here you can find some very interesting exhibitions that you have to pay for (again, totally worth it if you are a fan of contemporary art) but there are parts that you can visit for free. Definitely, Tate Modern is something that you rather experience than just admire. I remember that when I was at the Tate for the first time I left there thinking about life and death seeing one art exhibit that truly moved me. More than the building, more than its fame or the prices you pay to see some exhibitions, even more than the confusion of not getting some pieces, some experiences you can get there stay with you.
What also stayed with me, and I can see it vividly in my mind even now, after more than a year from seeing it is this:
4. The Courtauld Gallery
A personal favourite as it displays impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces. Situated in the Sommerset House which is a truly beautiful place, both in winter when it houses and ice rink and in the summer when the massive court offers places to stay in the sun and enjoy a cold drink, the Courtauld Gallery is considerably smaller from the two of the giants discussed before (tate and national gallery) but that does not mean that it is any less impressive.
Although it does not have the fame of the National Gallery, the almost luxurious “chic” of the Saatchi or the recognition of the Tate, The Courtauld Gallery is an amazing, somehow intimate, art gallery where the fans of colour and impressionist and post-impressionist paintings will definitely feel good. Van Gogh, Manet, Gaugain are all there waiting.
If I had to put a feeling to it, it was like going somewhere where you feel inspired, welcomed and free.
Video from Towards the Mean – Sampling Britishness Today, 16 March 2016 – 19 June 2016, Fountain Room
Barbican has it all. It’s all about the arts, whatever form they take. Photography, films, theater, dance, you can find them all there. On top of that, Barbican is also the home of the London Symphony Orchestra. It has multiple restaurants and bars so you can enjoy a treat in between enjoying two different types of arts. Barbican just has a fresh feeling to it, it seems to be a representation of nowadays artists that seem to do a little bit of everything, expressing themselves in various ways. It is a home for arts and inspiration, of whatever kind.
What I particularly love is that you can go there for various events and learn a lot of new things from amazing people. To give just an example these are amongst the next events: “Promote yourself as a musician”, “Artful Sparks #03 Sensors” and “Art Safari: This was the future”. Maybe not your first go to if you stay in London just for a little while, but if you are looking forward to meet some new interesting people, probably Barbican is your go to.
Written by William Alec
Poet and writer, William Alec is currently pursuing a degree in law and he is deeply passionate about human rights and humanity. He is also a full time art lover and dreamer that never says no to long conversations about life, love and humans. His latest novel is called A hospital four souls.