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50 best galleries in London 2019

The 50 best galleries in London

From institutions like the National Gallery to indies like the White Cube, we pick the greatest galleries in London

By Eddy Frankel
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Art plays an essential role in London’s unparalleled and inimitable culture scene. There are an estimated 1,500 permanent exhibition spaces, most of which are free, in the city.

Indeed, whether you’re looking for something contemporary or classical, filled with modernity or the masters, there are a plethora of galleries catering to your next art outing. But after you’ve exhausted the latest art exhibitions in London, choosing a gallery to go to can be tricky business.

To help ease your frantic Googling about which art emporium to visit, we’ve created a shortlist of all the galleries you need to visit. Separated by size and including institutions like the National Gallery to integral upstarters like the White Cube, we present the 50 best galleries in London. 

RECOMMENDED: All the best art, reviews and listings in London 

The best major art institutions

Barbican

Cinemas Barbican

Between the regular commissions for the Curve gallery and the always interesting shows in its main exhibition space, the Barbican is a serious destination for art lovers. Whether it’s an endless torrent of rain that you won’t get wet in or a passionately in-depth look at Jean-Michel Basquiat, these concrete halls always come up with the goods.

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Art Galleries Dulwich

This (relatively) bijou building is the oldest public art gallery in the UK and its bright spaces house a brilliant collection including work by Rembrandt, Rubens, Poussin and Gainsborough. It has recently branched out with an annual pavilion commission, just to give the Serpentine a run for its money, and its temporary shows are well worth a trip across town.

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Hayward Gallery

Art Performance art South Bank

After closing for a two-year refurbishment, the South Bank’s greatest heap of concrete brutalism thankfully reopened its doors in 2018. The refurb has brought light spilling into its spaces, and the programming – Diane Arbus, Lee Bul and Andreas Gursky, among others – is as brilliant as ever. Plus, Prince Charles hates the building. If that doesn’t make you love it, nothing will.

Institute of Contemporary Arts

Art Contemporary art The Mall

If you’re going to call yourself the Institute of Contemporary Arts, you’d better be delivering some seriously edgy, forward-thinking exhibitions, and boy does the ICA deliver. This is the place where pop art was invented – if you catch the right show here, you just might spot the next big art movement.

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National Gallery

Art Galleries Trafalgar Square

Da Vinci! Velázquez! Van Gogh! Rubens! Hoooo, mama, the National Gallery is full of huge names. You can’t walk through its calming rooms without falling completely in love with art. And (except for its fantastic blockbuster exhibitions of work by the likes of Caravaggio and Michelangelo) it won’t cost you a penny. 

National Portrait Galley_Front Entrance_MUST CAPTION_National Portrait Gallery, London Front Entrance_MUST CREDIT_© National Portrait Gallery, London.JPG
National Portrait Galley_Front Entrance_MUST CAPTION_National Portrait Gallery, London Front Entrance_MUST CREDIT_© National Portrait Gallery, London.JPG
© National Portrait Gallery, London

National Portrait Gallery

Art Galleries Charing Cross Road

If you’ve ever wanted to see a blurry painting of Ed Sheeran (and maybe you have, who are we to judge?!) the NPG is the place to be. And when you’re done admiring all that ginger paint, enjoy the rest of the collection, which is a who’s who of great Britons and brilliant artists.

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Royal Academy of Arts

Art Galleries Mayfair

For 250 years, Britain’s first art school has been a hotbed of artistic talent. You name ’em, they were an Academician. But the RA’s also got serious pedigree when it comes to putting on big shows, like 2016’s totally incredible ‘Abstract Expressionism’ show. Now, it’s got a big old extension, including its first free permanent collection display – and it’s just as important as it’s ever been.

Serpentine Gallery

Art Galleries Hyde Park

Nestled deep in Hyde Park, the Serpentine puts on some of the most adventurous temporary art exhibitions in town. Marina Abramović, Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons have all graced its tranquil west London buildings. Combine that with its annual pavilion commission and you have pretty much the best thing in all of Kensington.

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Tate Britain

Art Sculpture Millbank

Tate Modern’s older, more refined sibling may be a little stuffier, but it’s still full of amazing work. Focusing on the history of British art, it’s a treasure trove of works by Bridget Riley, John Martin and JMW Turner. Sure, it can feel like we’re a country full of xenophobes who can’t let go of the Empire sometimes, but it’s nice to know we’ve made some good art over the years.

Tate Modern

Art Galleries Bankside

As well as having an international collection of modern and contemporary artworks that few can beat, Tate Modern is a historic piece of architecture worth visiting in its own right. It’s hard to imagine how empty London’s modern art scene must have been before this place opened in 2000, but we’re sure glad it did.

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Wallace Collection
Wallace Collection
Rob Greig

Wallace Collection

Museums History Marylebone

Forget all that fancy modern art with its highfalutin conceptualism and performance shenanigans. Sometimes you just need a nice old painting of a lady on a swing. The Wallace Collection has a great one – by Fragonard – alongside tons of other lovely old paintings in its swanky townhouse off Oxford Street.

Whitechapel Gallery

Art Galleries Whitechapel

For more than a hundred years, the Whitechapel has championed major names in art – helping introduce Londoners to stars like Jackson Pollock and Frida Kahlo. Years later, it’s still putting on world-beating exhibitions.

Incredible mini museums

Camden Arts Centre

Art Galleries Finchley Road

Way up on Finchley Road, Camden Arts Centre has been quietly ploughing its own artistic furrow since 1965 (it was Hampstead Central Library before that). It used to provide arts and crafts classes to the local community; now it’s north London’s go-to for contemporary art by the likes of Haroon Mirza, Eva Hesse and Doris Salcedo.

Chisenhale Gallery

Art Galleries Bow

The Chiz has been one of London’s most radical commissioners of new art for the past few years. It’s always a challenge, and always surprising. You never know what you’re going to get, but you know it’ll get the old noggin ticking.

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Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art

Museums Art and design New Cross

Designed by Turner Prize-winning architecture collective Assemble, this brand new gallery in a grade II-listed former Victorian bathhouse seems hellbent on ignoring the usual art conventions and putting on whatever shows it bloody wants. Which is a really, really good thing.

Newport Street Gallery

Art Galleries Vauxhall

Ever wanted to know what’s in Damien Hirst’s house? Probably a lot of the stuff you’ll find at this gorgeous Vauxhall gallery, which was built specifically to put on shows of Hirst’s art collection. Jeff Koons and abstract maestro John Hoyland were among the first artists to get shown in this amazing vaulted space. Thanks, Damo.

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Parasol Unit

Art Galleries Islington

This not-for-profit gallery puts on contemporary art shows that you’re not meant to walk away from confused, exploring often complicated work in an approachable way. Situated next to Victoria Miro gallery, it’s a big building full of nice art that we can all understand – what more could you want?

The Photographers' Gallery

Art Galleries Soho

Six storeys of nothing but photography: this Soho gallery is heaven for art fans who’ve had enough of paintings and sculptures, and want a bit of reality in their culture. Its programming is forward-thinking, its exhibitions are great, and there’s nowhere else like it in town.

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South London Gallery

Art Galleries Camberwell

Nestled next to Camberwell School of Art and with Goldsmiths to the east, you’d expect the South London Gallery to know its art onions – and you’d be right. With its new fire-station building, and a history of shows by artists including Katharina Grosse and Lawrence Weiner, it’s fast becoming one of the city’s most important art spaces.

Studio Voltaire

Art Clapham

In the cultural wilds of Clapham, Studio Voltaire – non-profit gallery and artist studios – is a beacon of artistic hope. The gallery puts on shows worth travelling for, all of which seem to have an edge of cultural criticism that is not just welcome but very needed. More of this, please

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The Vinyl Factory

Art Strand

Some of the best shows in London over the past decade have been put on by The Vinyl Factory, and now it finally has a permanent home: a huge brutalist office block on The Strand. Concentrating on relentlessly ambitious AV work, it has collaborated with the Hayward Gallery and New York’s New Museum to put on immersive exhibitions that are genuine must-sees.

Zabludowicz Collection

Art Galleries Kentish Town

Anita Zabludowicz is a major art collector and has turned an incredible nineteenth-century chapel into a focal point for experimental contemporary art. The remarkable neoclassical building has hosted shows by some of the best young artists in the world, and has become a proper hub for the London art scene in the process.

Amazing small galleries

Alison Jacques

Art Galleries Fitzrovia

This Fitzrovia gallery has some serious art clout, representing Juergen Teller plus the estates of Robert Mapplethorpe and Ana Mendieta.

Annka Kultys

Art Hackney Road

All alone, out on Cambridge Heath Road, this gallery concentrates on digital and internet-focused work by young artists – one of the only places in London that does it, and does it well.

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Arcadia Missa

Art Soho

This radical gallery has recently upped sticks from Peckham to Soho – all because it didn’t want to contribute any further to the gentrification of south London. Too late for that, but it still puts on properly interesting shows.

Blain Southern

Art Galleries Mayfair

Now home to those incorrigible art world cheeky chappies the Chapman Brothers, BS deals in edgy contemporary art, no funny business.

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Cabinet Gallery

Art Vauxhall

In a lonely building in a south London park, Cabinet is a bit of a London art hermit, doing its own thing with shows by artists like Ed Atkins. 

Carlos/Ishikawa

Art Galleries Stepney

In what can charitably be described as the back end of nowhere, this Mile End gallery has become one of the best places for contemporary art in London. Previous artists shown here include Ed Fornieles and Oscar Murillo.

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David Zwirner

Art Galleries Mayfair

A towering Mayfair townhouse of a gallery, Zwirner always delivers, whether it’s with the cartoon pop of Rose Wylie or the mid-century modernist classicism of Josef Albers.

Gagosian Gallery

Art Galleries Mayfair

Larry Gagosian is essentially the biggest gallerist in the world. He has two enormous spaces in London and one little piddler – for shows by artists like, oh, you know, Picasso.

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Hauser & Wirth

Art Galleries Mayfair

A Pierre Huyghe monkey film and gorgeous Lee Lozano paintings are just two of the impeccably curated shows this mega-swanky Savile Row space has put on  recently. It’s become one of the most important galleries in town.

Hollybush Gardens

Art Clerkenwell

This Clerkenwell gallery has managed to produce a whole bunch of Turner Prize winners and nominees, including Lubaina Himid and Charlotte Prodger – a pretty good guarantee that it knows what it’s doing.

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Lisson Gallery

Art Galleries Marylebone

Still going strong after more than 50 years, Lisson is one of this list’s oldest UK galleries, having introduced the world to Anish Kapoor, Julian Opie and Douglas Gordon. 

Marian Goodman Gallery

Art Galleries Soho

From a show by the legendary John Baldessari to an incredibly in-depth exploration of animals in art, this London spin-off of the New York gallery puts on some of the capital’s most ambitious contemporary exhibitions.

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Matt's Gallery

Art Galleries Bermondsey

Robin Klassnik, who runs this gallery, does things his own way, and always has. This is a London institution that never stops moving.

Michael Werner Gallery

Art Galleries Mayfair

Walking into this gallery is a bit like walking into a flat owned by the richest person on earth. It might be a little intimidating, but Werner puts on top-quality shows by the likes of Peter Doig and the legendary Sigmar Polke.

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Modern Art

Art Galleries Bethnal Green

Having recently taken over a big, pristine, warehouse-like space on Vyner Street, Stuart Shave’s Modern Art gallery now has the surroundings to match its artists, including the brilliantly confrontational Linder.

Pace

Art Galleries Mayfair

Tucked in at the back of the Royal Academy is the UK outpost of the Pace international gallery chain, the perfect place to spot artists such as James Turrell and Richard Tuttle.

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Project Native Informant

Art Bethnal Green

Housed in an intimidating office block – but soon to move to new digs in Bethnal Green – this tiny gallery focuses on art that questions and undermines gender and identity norms.

Richard Saltoun

Art Galleries Mayfair

This Mayfair gallery, which moved recently from Fitzrovia, is the best place in town for radical feminist art, heavy-theory conceptualism and classic performance.

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Sadie Coles HQ

Art Galleries Soho

Flooded with light, Sadie Coles’s big Soho warehouse is the perfect place to catch her fantastic roster of artists – Martine Syms, Raymond Pettibon and Monster Chetwynd among them.

Simon Lee

Art Galleries Mayfair

A brilliant Mayfair gallery, Simon Lee deals in all sorts of contemporary art, including the militaristic brutality of Mai-Thu Perret and the shocking photographs of Larry Clark.

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Soft Opening

Art Piccadilly Circus

Probably London’s only 24-hour gallery, Soft Opening is a window space in Piccadilly Circus station that puts on contemporary art for the commuting hordes.

Sprüth Magers

Art Galleries Mayfair

The London outpost of this major German gallery hosts exhibitions spanning classic minimalism to contemporary art by the likes of Cindy Sherman and Donald Judd.

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Stephen Friedman

Art Galleries Mayfair

This Mayfair gallery knows how to delight the old eyeballs, showing work like the gorgeous blue paintings of Lisa Brice and the shocking steel sculptures of Melvin Edwards.

The Sunday Painter

Art Stockwell

Having moved on from its roots in Peckham to a fancy new space in Vauxhall, The Sunday Painter brilliantly puts on shows of fascinating contemporary art, and is nailed-on to be one of the big galleries of the future.

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Thaddaeus Ropac

Art Mayfair

This huge Mayfair townhouse looks like a spa, but the only things getting a treat here are your eyes, with exhibitions by big names such as Robert Rauschenberg and Joseph Beuys.

Thomas Dane

Art Galleries St James’s

These two spaces in the poshest bit of town host shows by major names like Oscar winner Steve McQueen. In 2017 Thomas Dane showed Anya Gallaccio’s enormous clay 3D printer that splodged out a mountain over the course of several weeks.

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Victoria Miro

Art Galleries Islington

You’ll know this cavernous Old Street gallery as the place everyone queues round the block to get into whenever it puts on a Yayoi Kusama show. But there’s more to this beautiful space than dotty pumpkins and infinity mirrors. Come for artists like Alice Neel, Do Ho Suh and Idris Khan too.

White Cube Bermondsey

Art Galleries Bermondsey

The one that started it all. White Cube brought us Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and loads of other YBAs. After moving into its huge Bermondsey space, it became one of the first museum-quality commercial galleries in the world. Seriously impressive.

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