What are the best galleries in London? Artists choose their favorites


Contemporary galleries — and an upscale hotel

Multidisciplinary artist Lauren Baker, who is exhibiting at the Venice Biennale until November, named contemporary galleries — and a hotel — as her favorite places to see art in London.

“Alice Black Gallery offers daring fine art with deeply conceptual works,” she told CNBC via email. “It’s not all pretty, there’s often some dark and strange pieces that get you contemplating the meaning of life,” she said. The gallery is in London’s Soho and represents artists such as Rachael Louise Bailey, who works in a variety of mediums including sculpture, and abstract artist Matthew Harris.

Baker also likes Woolff Gallery in Fitzrovia, describing its collection as joyful. “With a real focus on texture and tactile works and many sculptural elements, the works are fun and colorful, and you just want to touch everything,” she said. The gallery represents artists including Apolline Bokkerink, whose work focuses on snowscapes and forests, and Joanne Tinker, who repurposes candy wrappers, discarded foils and champagne cork cages in her work.

Upscale Mayfair hotel Claridge’s opened its ArtSpace gallery in 2021, and Baker likes to visit it for its “cool art crowd” in the evening, or goes during the day and takes tea afterward. The gallery has its own café, or visitors can head to the hotel’s grand Foyer and Reading Room for traditional afternoon tea.

Artist and costume designer Machine Dazzle (born Matthew Flower), likes east London contemporary galleries Amanda Wilkinson — for its “impeccable” taste — and Maureen Paley, which has shown work from the likes of Turner Prize winning artists Gillian Wearing and Wolfgang Tillmans. He also recommends Fitzrovia gallery Niru Ratnam for its “forward-thinking and intelligent exhibitions,” he told CNBC by email.

Tate Galleries and Italian futurism

Landscape painter Katharine Edwards, currently working on pieces inspired by the “heat scorched” vistas of Andalusia, Spain, will exhibit at Cricket Fine Art in London’s Chelsea in September.

Her top London galleries include the Royal Academy of Arts, for its “wonderful” exhibitions, she told CNBC by email. The gallery is showing its Summer Exhibition, which features more than 1,700 works chosen by seven Royal Academicians, some of which are available to purchase.

Edwards also likes major London galleries Tate Modern and Tate Britain. “One of my favourite rooms at the Tate Modern is the Mark Rothko room, showing Rothko’s huge series of paintings which were made for the Seagram building in New York. They are almost architectural in structure with vibrating colour combinations. They are contemplative, meditative works which I find profoundly affecting,” Edwards said.

Multidisciplinary artist Komal Madar is also a fan of Tate Modern, and is looking forward to seeing its “Expressionists: Kandinsky, Munter and The Blue Rider” exhibition, which runs until October 20. In an email to CNBC, Komal recommended checking out the gallery’s free exhibits too, including its vast turbine hall — the gallery is housed in a former power station. Madar also suggested feminist artist Judy Chicago’s “Revelations” at Serpentine North in Hyde Park (running until September 1) and the White Cube galleries in London’s Bermondsey and Mayfair areas.

Edwards also picked the Estorick Collection, which displays futurist Italian art in an Islington town house. “Futurism was a movement that came about in the early 1900s as a way for Italian artists (primarily) to express the energy of the modern world. There are Modigliani sculptures, incredible abstracts and rooms for rotating shows,” Edwards told CNBC.

A photographer’s favorites

London-based portrait photographer Tom Oldham has taken pictures of musicians such as Dave Grohl and sports stars including Usain Bolt, and his project The Hopefuls aims to encourage young people to vote in the U.K.’s general election on July 4.

The Photographers’ Gallery in Soho is a favorite for its “powerful and edgy selections,” Oldham told CNBC by email, and he recommended its bookshop and café. He also likes The Gilbert & George Centre, a free-to-enter gallery run by artist couple Gilbert Prousch and George Passmore, for its “three vast rooms showing different works, young and old.” Oldham suggested a drink afterward at neighboring pub the Pride of Spitalfields.

Finally, Oldham described London’s auction houses as an “art hack you can’t ignore.” “I often will go see rolling exhibitions of the best work in the world, be it art prints, photography, ceramics or design at auction houses like Phillips on Berkeley Square,” he said — the auction house is in London’s upscale Mayfair district. Phillips and auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s often exhibit work for several days ahead of a sale. “Viewing is free and it’s magical to see so much work of this quality up close,” Oldham said.



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