London is known worldwide to be a Mecca for art lovers; from Classical Greek sculpture to the most eccentric modern art, it’s all available in London. Michelangelo, Turner, Constable, Vermeer, Caravaggio, Emin and Hirst are all featured in the galleries featured below. Our advice is to not try to visit all of these galleries in one trip – that would be overload. Instead, pick a couple that you think might interest you, and combine a visit there with a visit to another great London attraction. That way, you can take in the art you see and don’t get overloaded.
So here’s a few of the best and most famous art galleries in London:
1) National Gallery – Located in a dominating position just off Trafalgar Square, The National Gallery is probably the biggest and most famous Art Gallery in London, and indeed the UK. Worldwide, it is eclipsed perhaps only by The Louvre in Paris, or the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The museum contains a fabulous collection of Western European painting from 1250-1900, and contains works by Botticelli, Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Turner, Renoir, Cezanne and Van Gogh. Gallery entrance is free, but there are charges for special exhibitions. The National Gallery says how a trip to the gallery can involve: “being inspired, learning about art, relaxing, meeting, lunching and shopping.” Nearest tube: Westminster.
2) National Portrait Gallery – Located in the same huge building as the National Gallery, this gallery contains the world’s largest selection of portraits and faces, from early medieval times to today. The gallery contains pictures of people from a vast number of fields, including politics, the arts, business, showbiz and religious figures. The current main exhibition is a series of portraits by Lucien Freud. The gallery is open daily from 10am to 6pm. Free entry.
3) Tate Britain – Tate Britain holds the largest collection of British art in the world. Its galleries show art from 1500 to today, from late medieval works to modern and contemporary art. Tate’s collection includes masterpieces by British artists such as Hogarth, Gainsborough, Constable, Millais, Burne Jones, Whistler, Sargent, Sickert, Hepworth and Bacon. The current main exhibition is “Picasso and British Art” – “A rare opportunity to see Picasso’s legacy and influence on British art.” Opening hours 10am – 6pm. Nearest tube is Pimlico.
4) Tate Modern – This gallery contains the best in British modern and contemporary art. Its located just down the river from the Tate Britain. The current exhibition is notably a Damien Hirst retrospective featuring all of Hirst’s notable works to date, including his famous shark in formaldehyde, titled “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.” The theme of death runs through Hirst’s introspective display, and been seen to the key to unlocking Hirst’s work. There are plenty of things to do in Tate modern, including taking a guided tour, enjoying the displays, using the multimedia guides, plus learning to sketch in the gallery. Admission to Tate Modern is free, and the gallery is open 10am-6pm. Nearest tube is Pimlico.
5) Royal Academy of Arts – This well respected institution describes itself on its website thus: “The Royal Academy of Arts has a unique position of being an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects, whose purpose is to promote the creation, enjoyment and appreciation of the visual arts through exhibitions, education and debate.” The British artist David Hockney has an exhibition of his colourful works currently at the gallery. As with most London galleries, many of the permanent galleries are free, with there being a fee for the special exhibitions. The gallery is open 10am – 6pm, the nearest tube is Piccadilly Circus.
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