In 1999, the Royal Academy of Arts became the first British gallery to open for 24 hours, sparking a lasting trend in London’s nightlife: the museum ‘late’. The V&A launched a Friday lates series three years later, with most major museums and galleries soon following suit. But after a decade of them, things got a bit samey. Most lates became little more than after-hours drinks where you’d get in trouble for taking your plastic cup of wine into the wrong gallery.
That all changed in 2016, when gal-dem, a new magazine by and for women of colour, took over the V&A to launch its first print issue, and broke the mould for what a late could really be. BBZ brought its club night into the Fashion Gallery, and the foyer became a heaving dancefloor as grime artist Melz killed it on stage. More than 4,000 people showed up, and every inch of the museum felt alive. It turned a traditional institution into a radical, political party space.
Since then, lates have got more ambitious in their reflection of what’s really happening in the city. Instead of hosting string quartets and cheese-and-wine nights, galleries are booking drag artists, political activists and people like Resis’Dance and Pxssy Palace. Lates really are better than ever. Now we just need the RA to bring back that 24-hour opening…
RECOMMENDED: our full guide to exhibitions in London
Museum lates in London: what's on?
What’s the vibe? This is where the grand dames and duchesses of the art world come to let their (immaculately groomed) hair down. Tickets are pricy, but you get your money’s worth with free entry to the exhibitions, DJ sets and the chance to meet the art-collecting sugar daddy/mummy of your dreams.
When do they happen? Arty parties happen every few months.
What’s coming up? Deep Earth (November 23) is inspired by Antony Gormley’s ‘Eco-Visionaries’ exhibition. The space will be decked with natural forms like rocks, moss and seaweed, and will house an unbe-leaf-able line-up of nature-inspired performances, including Aszyk’s ‘Floral Intensities’, which mixes psychedelic plant visuals with botanical-inspired sounds. Trippy.
Prefer your culture during daylight hours?
Get ready culture vultures: some of London's best museums are showcasing an abundance of cracking exhibitions on now and throughout the year's events calendar. Whatever the day, week or season, there's always an exciting show to delve into, on subjects as varied as history, fashion, art and the natural world.
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