In 2014 London played host to a record breaking 17.8bn overseas visitors – that’s 2bn more visitors than in 2012 when London spectacularly hosted the Olympics!
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson attributes London’s success to it’s diversity suggesting that the record-breaking figures are a tribute to “the outstanding mix of culture, art, music and sport” that’s found in the city. We agree and thought it would be nice to give a little insight into some of the city’s greatest gems – it’s art collections.
London is home to more than 300 galleries and has even been described as the centre of the world for contemporary and modern art. There’s something for everyone whether you’re an art connoisseur or if you just enjoy street scenes or the more obscure modern art…
If you are looking for a quintessentially British experience then the National Portrait gallery in Trafalgar Square is a great starting point. With a fabulous collection of famous faces and personalities that have shaped British history from King Henry VIII to Richard Branson its a must see. As possibly London’s most famous gallery you do not need to be a connoisseur to enjoy it, entry is free (some exhibitions are charged) and there is also roof top restaurant where you can enjoy stunning views over the City too.
If contemporary art is more your bag then perhaps London’s widest collections are found in the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern. The Tate Modern sits proudly on London’s Riverbank in a former power station – and this incredible space lends itself to famous work from Cézanne, Bonnard, Matisse, Picasso, Rothko, Dalí, Pollock, Warhol and Bourgeois. Entry is also free and if things get too heavy you can always have a pit stop in the rooftop restaurant, which is well worth a visit in its own right.
Off the beaten track is the Whitechapel Gallery in East London. Although less well known than the Tate, this gallery has showcased world class artists such as Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. A hub for contemporary art internationally, it plays a central role in London’s cultural landscape and is key to this emerging contemporary art quarter. The gallery is free to enter and even offers art classes for those inspired to pick up a brush!
Further away from the main stream galleries is the Old Police Station in Deptford that houses 42 DIY studios and a number of cells for intimate exhibitions run by emerging artists. The old station’s former mess hall has also become the official watering hole for South London’s after hours gallery gatherings.
We have only scratched the surface for on what’s out there, but it’s safe to say that there’s plenty to see for a beautiful and inspiring day in London. The good news is that most galleries are free to enter so there’s no excuse to miss out.