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Image courtesy of DKUK. Photo © Jim Stephenson

Five London galleries in weird spaces

Forget the hallowed white-walls of most London galleries and head to these unusual spaces dotted around the city for a totally different art experience instead

By Louise Benson

The best things come in small packages - and sometimes quite surprising ones too. That's certainly the case when it comes to London's art galleries. While there's no short supply of famous institutions and independent hotspots to visit (not to mention the annual flowering of outdoor sculpture parks), the keenest of gallery-goers need to know about the quirkiest, most unusual exhibition spaces. So whether you're wandering through the park, stopping for a haircut or waiting for a train, here's where you can also see some brilliant art.

London art galleries in unusual spaces

Image courtesy of DKUK. Photo © Jim Stephenson

The one in a hairdressers

Busy day? Get a haircut while you contemplate works of art at DKUK, a colourful salon that doubles as a gallery in Peckham, founded in 2014 by hairdresser-turned-artist Daniel Kelly. Mirrors have been replaced by art, allowing clients a good long stare at the ever-changing walls – a captive audience if ever there was one. Kelly estimates that 70 percent of their visitors don’t usually go to galleries, so he’s using the familiar, welcoming atmosphere of the salon to help art take root.
DKUK. Peckham Rye Overground. Free.

Michael Pybus installation view. Image courtesy of the gallery, copyright the artist

The one in a pub basement

Tucked away in the basement of The Haggerston pub on Kingsland Road is Lungley, a pint-sized space dedicated to some of the best contemporary art the capital has to offer. The unsuspecting after-work crowd upstairs might be surprised to find anything from a rainbow ball pit to an oversized polystyrene chain down below. Opened just last year and with a focus on UK-based emerging artists, it offers some additional refreshment when a large glass of house wine just won’t do.
Lungley Gallery. Haggerston Overground. Free.

Image courtesy and copyright the gallery

The one in a toilet

Don’t get caught with your pants down at The Bower, a gallery housed in a former bog. The derelict toilet block has been transformed into a gallery with a feminist slant to its programme, while the old park keepers hut is now a cafe. It offers exhibitions and events, including a weaving workshop and film nights, as well as producing books with artists and writers on site with a Riso printer. No need to wash your hands after visiting.
The Bower. Denmark Hill Overground. Free.

David Shrigley Skip Gallery. Photo courtesy of the gallery. © David Shrigley

The one in a bin

Perfectly portable, as well as a comment on the cycle of waste and renewal in the capital, Skip Gallery is housed in a big yellow skip that has popped up in locations as diverse as Hoxton Square and Selfridges. The irony of chucking a load of artworks in the bin is not lost on the artist duo behind the project, Catherine Borowski and Lee Baker, who have invited such names as David Shrigley and Gavin Turk to collaborate on site-specific art.   
SKIP Gallery. Various locations. Free.

© Ami Clarke

The one on a train platform

Passengers awaiting their next train at Hackney Downs are unlikely to find themselves mindlessly scrolling Instagram. Banner Repeater, located on Platform one, is an experimental project space and bookshop offering free exhibitions to commuters travelling through the station. Run by artist Ami Clarke, and with a publishing imprint and reading room to boot, the gallery turns ten next year. Meanwhile, an upcoming initiative to digitise its artists’ publishing archive is sure to bring more new visitors to the gallery than even the daily rush-hour crush.
Banner Repeater. Hackney Downs Overground. Free.


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