The London contemporary art scene has taken off; it’s never been more vibrant with top galleries exhibiting works by some of the world’s leading artists. My Insider, Sofia Urbina, an independent art consultant and passionate photographer, is an aficionado on London’s art scene and shared her top picks for the must-see galleries. Some of these are in less obvious locations, but if you are fascinated by modern art and want to find the real gems, it is worth venturing slightly further afield where many galleries have moved or sprung up to avoid the sky-high London rents.
Edgware Road, London
This modern, minimalist gallery, in two sections on opposite sides of a road, is almost surreal. Its blank white walls and parquet floor lend each piece a three-dimensional frame. The shows are mainly solo efforts depicting challenging sculpture and video. It heavily promotes young, upcoming artists making it popular with students and London’s alternative/media crowd. Previous exhibitors include Turner Prize winners Richard Deacon and Anish Kapoor. Because you’ll only need an hour to cover this, consider combining it with the Wallace Collection—only a 5-minute taxi ride away.
Tip: The area has nothing much else to rave about so it’s worth checking the comprehensive Website to see which artists are exhibiting and whether they’re to your taste.
http://www.lissongallery.com | Phone: + 44 (0) 20 7724 2739
52-54 Bell Street | London, London NW1 5DA United Kingdom
Trendy, audacious and often quick to spot burgeoning talent on the horizon. White Cube Hoxton Square—in tandem with its sister gallery, White Cube Mason’s Yard, in St. James’s—has been exhibiting controversial contemporary artists, painters and sculptors since 2000. It’s particularly well-known for giving introductory solo opportunities to the Young British Artists collective which included Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and the Chapman brothers, Dino and Jake. Turner Prize winners Gilbert & George and Anthony Gormley have also shown their works here which means it’s quite a fashionable hangout, and the area itself is known for its colorful, edgy vibe. Many bohemian bars and restaurants are sprinkled around the neighborhood.
Tip: A bar worth noting is the cocktail bar, Loungelover, just a few blocks away.
http://www.whitecube.com | Phone: +44 (0) 20 7930 5373
48 Hoxton Square | London N1 6PB United Kingdom
Victoria Miro Gallery
Old Street, London
The Victoria Miro, once a resident of Mayfair, is now housed in a converted, shabby-chic Victorian furniture factory in Hoxton. A bright and airy maze inside, it’s a large exhibition space spread over two floors. In terms of art, for a contemporary gallery to be of any real worth these days it needs the ubiquitous Turner Prize stamped somewhere in its marketing blurb, and the Victoria Miro does just that with names of winners and nominees aplenty, but it also likes to represent young artists and usually has a sense of humor: a fake toilet cubicle is one of the eclectic artworks. You have been warned!
http://www.victoria-miro.com | Phone: +44 (0) 20 7336 8109
16 Wharf Road | London N1 7RW United Kingdom
King’s Cross, London
A bright, cavernous space, the Gagosian always seems to pull the big art names—Takashi Murakami, Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Frank Stella, the Chapman brothers and Gilbert & George, to name a mere handful—and as such the Gagosian brand stretches as far afield as New York, Beverly Hills, Rome and Moscow. Basically, they know their stuff. Choose the Britannia Street residence over the Mayfair gallery as it’s a lot bigger and has outstanding natural light to complement the works. The latter gallery is essentially to maintain the Gagosian name in London’s West End; a show pony, if you will.
http://www.gagosian.com | Phone: +44 (0) 20 7841 9960
6-24 Britannia Street | London WC1X 9JD United Kingdom
The Garden Gallery is a neat and charming little gallery set in the 18th century walled garden of a National Trust property. Exhibiting a broad range of contemporary art mediums, you’ll see anything from pencil portraits to photography and video installations to abstract Lithuanian oil paintings. Solo artists—some professional, others amateur, many local to the area—usually exhibit for a week or two at a time. The mansion itself is neo-classical and looks out to a vast swathe of landscaped parklands and a lake; there’s also a farm shop selling produce from the estate’s own farmlands.
http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk | Phone: +44 (0) 20 8232 5050
Osterley Park and House, Jersey Road | London TW7 4RB United Kingdom
A treasure trove of 20th century art, Waddington Galleries comprises three separate venues in the same Mayfair street—incredible art AND real estate!—the largest of which is No.11, where works are focused on the art greats such as Giorgio de Chirico, Henri Matisse, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso, and Donald Judd. The other galleries are predominantly reserved for young emerging artists from around the world, the major themes being sculpture and painting.
http://www.waddington-galleries.com | Phone: +44 (0)20 7851 2200
11 Cork Street | London W1S 3LT United Kingdom
Michael Hoppen Galleries
Michael Hoppen Galleries deals only in photographic art—something I love as I always think the world appears more poignant when viewed in black-and-white pictures. The gallery knows a thing or two about capturing images with clients ranging from British Airways to Citibank, as well as consulting the Victoria & Albert Museum and The Guggenheim. This converted warehouse has three floors brimming with vintage and contemporary works. The variety is outstanding and so, too, is the subject matter, jumping from documentary to nudes to seascapes in the blink of an eye. There is a modicum of color photography, but it is sparse. The shows segue between mixed and solo offerings to maintain a freshness, and it’s great they don’t always favor the established photographers just because it might add star value. Having said that, there are occasional unexpected works by the likes of Annie Liebovitz and Hunter S. Thompson.
http://www.michaelhoppengallery.com | Phone: +44 (0) 207 352 3649
3 Jubilee Place | London SW3 3TD United Kingdom
Hauser & Wirth
An obsession with blue (Louise Bourgeois); art inspired by architecture (Dan Graham); barren landscapes etched, drawn or made from unusual materials (Michael Raedecker)—it must be said, Hauser & Wirth represents a wealth of diverse artists. The primary exhibition space is an elegant Edwardian building right on Piccadilly. This former bank is lined with oak panels which provide an eye-pleasing alternative to the typical stark white walls so synonymous with contemporary art galleries. Old meets new in great style. Hauser & Wirth also has a presence on Old Bond Street where it has joined forces with venerable art experts Colnaghi. That venue holds important annual exhibitions from 19th and 20th century artists, and the Red Room is especially geared towards an Old Masters set-up. Note that works on the upper floors can only be viewed by appointment.
http://www.hauserwirth.com | Phone: +44 (0) 207 287 2300
196a Piccadilly | London W1J 9DY United Kingdom
Suzanne Aaronson, Co-founder of Suzanne’s Files, is our Travel Curator. Stay in-the-know on her latest finds and insider tips by signing up to receive Notes from Suzanne’s Files, a free e-newsletter.