10 cutting-edge contemporary art galleries in London
Explore 10 of the most cutting-edge contemporary art spaces in London to find thought-provoking works in a variety of disciplines.
We've scoured the capital to bring you this round-up of galleries with their fingers placed firmly on the pulse of innovation in the art world.
These venues are living in the here and now, with film, photography, sculpture, multimedia and even virtual reality works by contemporary artists from all over the world.
Explore our full listings for more museums, galleries and exhibitions across London.
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South London Gallery has been bringing contemporary art to the inhabitants of south London for over a century, and is particularly known for exhibiting exciting young and emerging artists, such as Julian Schnabel in 1999, Tracey Emin in 1997 and Marc Quinn and Gavin Turk in 1998. Not only is it an exhibition space, often hosting the Bloomberg New Contemporaries exhibitions, it also has an inspired education programme that runs throughout the year, working with residents and supporting local initiatives. In 2018 the gallery raised money through our crowdfunding platform, Art Happens, to take over the newly restored Fire Station opposite the main building, nearly doubling the size of the gallery as a whole.
A cultural titan set in the heart of London's east end, Whitechapel Gallery was founded in 1901 to bring great art to the people of east London. In 1939 Picasso's masterpiece painting Guernica came here and other international art stars followed in more recent years: Jackson Pollock, Sol LeWitt and Nan Goldin, to name a few. Today the Whitechapel Gallery is a fixture on London's cultural map, bringing emerging and modern artists to light. It also runs the London Open, a contemporary exhibition open to any artist or collective over the age of 26 living in the capital, and Artists’ Film International, a collaborative project featuring film, video and animation from around the world.
Surrounded by embassies, MI5 and numerous civic bureaus, the ICA is a curious anomaly on the Mall. Founded in 1946, it has been a great promoter of radical outsiders since its inception. Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi had exhibitions here in the 1950s, and it showed groundbreaking exhibitions from contemporary artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Damien Hirst. It also runs an arthouse cinema, puts on live music events and works with writers, poets, musicians and other creatives on residencies.
The building that rewrote the rule book of what an art gallery should be, Tate Modern is one of London's best-loved attractions. Tate Modern's opening in 2000 was one of the most hotly anticipated events of the millennium and the gallery continues to inspire and excite with its innovative exhibitions. It leads the way in performance art and has an excellent permanent collection of modern art which includes great pioneers like Jackson Pollock and Eva Hesse. The Turbine Hall is a huge space designed to display large-scale sculpture and site-specific installations, and has housed some of the most talked-about works of contemporary art of the 21st century.
A dynamic exhibition venue set in an architecturally ambitious development, the Barbican presents a rich mix of international art stars. Based in the centre of the City of London, the Barbican hosts exhibitions by cutting-edge designers, architects and artists. Opened in 1982 in the iconic concrete building, the gallery strives to push the boundaries of all major art forms through the work it exhibits. This has produced a vibrant programme of exhibitions by architects and designers like Le Corbusier, Charles and Ray Eames and Avar Alto. Artists to exhibit in the vibrant second space, The Curve, include techno-pioneer Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, conceptual artist Bedwyr Williams and radical performance artist Carolee Schneemann.
Set in the beautiful Kensington Gardens, the Serpentine North Gallery and Serpentine South Gallery are magical venues for contemporary art. The South Gallery opened in 1970 in a former tea pavilion in Kensington Gardens. Its secluded location coupled with its proximity to Kensington High Street makes it an attractive destination for sightseers. The addition of the North Gallery in 2013 just over the bridge has meant an expanded exhibition programme that champions contemporary and emerging artists. The gallery has had a glittering array of art stars over the years including Jake and Dinos Chapman, Marina Abramović, Damien Hirst, Grayson Perry, Shirin Neshat and Christan Boltanski.
Housed in a former public library in Hampstead, the Camden Art Centre was originally founded to provide art classes for the local community. A much-loved venue by the inhabitants of north London, its light, airy gallery spaces, combined with a charming café and shop, make it an enticing weekend haunt. The exhibitions on show are always cutting-edge, and have included a retrospective of the Dutch conceptual artist Bas Jan Ader, and shows by visual artist and curator Richard Wentworth and Turner Prize nominee Tacita Dean.
Located on the campus of Goldsmiths, University of London, the Grade II former Victorian bathhouse has been redeveloped by Turner Prize-winning architecture collective Assemble to house exhibitions across eight galleries, including on the rooftop. Expect a wide range of exhibition-making, including new commissions, historical presentations, survey exhibitions and long-term research projects. Artistic collectives and initiatives including local community and student/alumni groups take up residence in the front gallery space as part of the Residents programme.
London's largest public gallery dedicated solely to the medium of photography, the five-storey Photographers' Gallery supports global photographic talent. Every year it hosts the annual Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize, a prestigious award given to a living artist who has made the most significant contribution to the medium in Europe in the past year. Previous winners include Richard Billingham, Susan Meiselas and Mohamed Bourouissa. It has exhibited a range of international artists including Robert Capa, Sebastião Salgado and Taryn Simon, as well as UK-based photographers such as fashion photographer and model Corinne Day.
Gasworks is a non-profit contemporary visual art organisation that commissions emerging artists for their first major UK exhibitions, provides studios for London-based artists, and offers a highly-respected international residency programme. Over 25 years, Gasworks has supported over 500 artists from 80 countries, many of whom have gone on to exhibit at major institutions and win prestigious awards such as the Turner Prize. Alumni include Yinka Shonibare, The Otolith Group, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Tania Bruguera, and many more.
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