The London Art & Architecture Guide
You can’t really walk a block without stumbling across a cultural monument, a great gallery, or one of the world’s best museums—and thanks to its long and storied history, most of its shops and restaurants occupy pretty notable environs, too.
David Zwirner Gallery24 Grafton St., Mayfair | +44.20.3538.3165
The London branch of this NYC-based gallery operates out of an elegantly restored Georgian townhouse in Mayfair. It's a fittingly grand setting considering David Zwirner's stable of contemporary artists is impressive to say the least: Francys Alÿs, Jockum Nordström, and Luc Tuymans have all shown here.
Dulwich Picture GalleryGallery Rd., South London | +44.20.8693.5254
Situated in a particularly green neighborhood in South London, the Dulwich Picture Gallery is the first of its kind in England, and houses a stellar collection of masters' work from Rubens to Poussin, along with an always-exciting rotation of contemporary and classic exhibitions.
Victoria & Albert MuseumCromwell Rd., Knightsbridge | +44.207.942.2000
The considerable permanent collection at the V&A has been scrupulously curated over the course of almost 200 years—and spans thousands—to fit the museum's design and fashion slant. The visiting exhibit program is just as exciting (like the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibit). With its Victorian flourishes, the actual space that contains the 140-plus galleries is one giant piece of art in and of itself.
Saatchi GalleryDuke of York's HQ, King's Rd., Chelsea | +44.20.7811.3070
Charles Saatchi's gallery is famous for championing artists before the rest of the art world catches on. Legendary for his early support of Damien Hirst and the rest of the YBAs (that's Young British Artists, for the uninitiated), Saatchi's roster is still one of the most forward-thinking in contemporary art. The excellent on-site Gallery Mess Cafe and its daily afternoon tea service (there's a boozy version that involves a jug of Pimm's and an option for kids, too) deserve mention.
Hauser & Wirth23 Savile Row, Mayfair | +44.207.287.2300
With successful gallery outposts in New York, Zurich, and London, Hauser & Wirth is one of the most respected names in contemporary art. Rather than rely solely on the heavy hitters (Louise Bourgeoise, Dan Graham, Eva Hesse's estate), they give wall space to up-and-coming talent like Rashid Johnson and Bharti Kher, too.
White Cube Gallery144-152 Bermondsey St., Bermondsey | +44.207.930.5373
Credited with bringing London back to the fore of the contemporary art scene, White Cube offers a taste of the best and biggest artists and exhibitions. Owned by Jay Jopling, White Cube is famed for giving many of the Young British Artists their first solo shows and for representing the likes of Gilbert and George, Antony Gormley, Andreas Gursky, and Anselm Kiefer. The original Duke Street space closed back in 2002, but their two newer London locations (including a very large gallery on Bermondsey) certainly won't disappoint.
Royal AcademyBurlington House, Picadilly | +44.20.7300.8000
With graduates like J.M.W. Turner, David Hockney, John Constable and many, many others, The Royal Academy is simultaneously one of England's most competitive art schools and also one of its most inventive exhibition spaces. The students and remarkable-in-their-own-right faculty make the Academy more of a community rather than just a space to experience great art. Don't miss their annual Summer Exhibition: A tradition since 1769(!), it's an enormous open-entry show with submissions from around the world that's meant to offer insight into future art-world trends.
Geffrye Museum136 Kingsland Rd., Shoreditch | +44.20.7739.9893
If you find yourself in Shoreditch, consider taking a quick trip to the Geffrye Museum. The focus here is on homes and home décor, specifically how both have changed over the span of 40 years. Situated in a series of original almshouses, the buildings and grounds have been lovingly restored to showcase original antiques and furnishings from London's past, as well as an enormous garden. The period rooms (if you're the nostalgic type, you'll love the '90s-style loft) take visitors on a journey through British life starting in 1690. It's the sort of place that's great to visit with kids: there's plenty of roaming room within the gardens, so they can burn off excess energy between learning.
Tate BritainWestminster | +44.20.7887.8888
After the 2013 restoration of the grand Victorian building and the chronological rehanging of the permanent collection, it's all the more paramount you make the trip to this classic art institution. You'll find all the British masters here.
Tate ModernSouthwark | +44.20.7887.8888
The Tate features modern and contemporary art from 1900 to the present day in a huge renovated power station on the Bankside of the Thames. The outstanding Tate Collection, which is free to visit, is complemented by a series of contemporary art exhibitions that rotate through. Of course, London has it’s fair share of quality museums, but the Tate Modern is at the top of the list, especially following the museum’s recent renovation and expansion, which were completed this summer. After browsing the galleries here, follow GP’s favorite London walk: Head down to the river and then meander east along it toward Westminster Bridge. Take the foot path over the iconic bridge (you’ll see Big Ben on the other side), and then continue into historic, beautiful St. James Park, which leads to Buckingham Palace. After you see the royal home, head back in the other direction, taking Pall Mall, which connects to the central hub of Trafalgar Square.
Turner ContemporaryRendezvous, Margate | +44.18.4323.3000
Margate resident John Croft envisioned the Turner Contemporary as a gallery that celebrated artist J.M.W. Turner's relationship to the town. What's so special about the space, though, is that Croft and his supporters built on Turner's legacy to celebrate the future of art, welcoming young (mostly living) artists to show in their space and energizing the town with visitors and tourism dollars. Architecture buffs will definitely want to make the trek to Margate to marvel at Turner's seaside through the windows of architect David Chipperfield's modern, elegant gallery spaces. Photo: Nick Gutteridge
Bold Tendencies7th-10th Floors Multi-Storey Car Park, 95a Rye Ln., Peckham | +44.20.7732.5453
Bold Tendencies founder Hannah Barry is responsible for much of Peckham’s transformation into a culture—and counterculture—hub. At this point there are few corners of this diverse, buzzing neighborhood that Barry and her organization haven’t touched. Take the parking lot: The rooftop you walk over is covered in undulating lines of weather-reflecting paint by artist Richard Wentworth. The once-grimy stairwell has been transformed by Simon Whybray into a trippy, bubble-gum-pink tunnel. The Derek Jarman roof garden converts drab concrete into a lush, landscaped escape. And we would be remiss not to mention the multistory orchestra, a collective of accomplished musicians hosting folk and classical performances in unexpected places (like that parking lot).
South London Gallery65-67 Peckham Rd., Peckham | +44.20.7703.6120
Somewhat off the beaten path, the South London Gallery is in a stretch of South London—straddling Camberwell and Peckham—that is known for pushing the envelope. It’s a multifunctional space that has created a community with its interactive programs (for adults and kids), a garden, and an excellent café that’s reliably packed with creative types and local mums tucking into baked eggs. After coffee, wander into the shop for a great selection of books, magazines, jewelry, and ceramics from local artisans.
Lyndsey Ingram20 Bourdon St., Mayfair | +44.20.7629.8849
London is so packed with incredible galleries and cultural institutions that it’s daunting to know even where to begin. Which is why we’d point you here. Lynsey Ingram’s tiny gallery is almost hidden down Bourdon Street, but once you find it, you’ll discover an exciting collection of post-war prints from artists like Francis Bacon, Will Cotton, and Peter Doig. Ingram worked for Sotheby’s for years before going it alone, and her knowledge and eye is evident here. And aside from the art, it’s stocked with catalogues and comfy chairs, and Ingram herself is usually on hand for any questions about the works you find most interesting.