Top 5 Best London Art Galleries

best london art galleries

London is known as a vibrant centre for culture, and sports some of the world’s finest museums and galleries. If you want to know where to go to experience the best art London has to offer, whether traditional or modern, try one of our  Top 5 London art galleries.

1. The Royal Academy of Arts

The Royal Academy of Arts was founded in 1768 with the aim of raising the professional status of artists and displaying works of art that met an exacting standard of excellence. This tradition is carried on today, led by the Royal Academicians, a select team of artists and architects. The Academy is famous for its temporary loan exhibitions and its open-submission summer show, as well as for its grand Palladian architecture.

Gallery highlight

Taddei Tondo by Michaelangelo, a marble sculpture of the Madonna and Child, and the only Michaelangelo marble in the UK.

Exhibitions for 2016

Painting the Modern Garden. The exhibition starts with Monet’s paintings of his garden at Giverny, and traces the the growing popularity of gardens as subject matter for art, and the development of the concept modern gardens.  The exhibition includes works by Matisse, Van Gogh, Bonnard, Cezanne and Kandinsky.

In the Age of Giorgione explores 16th century Venice through the works of Giorgione (1478-1510) and his contemporaries. Little is known about Giorgione, and the exhibition aims to show the influence of his work and that of his Venetian Renaissance contemporaries. It includes some of the earliest landscape art and features works by Giorgione, Titian, Lorenzo Potto, and Palma Vecchio, among others.

Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House
0207 300 8090
Opening times: Sat – Th 10:00 – 18:00 Fri 10:00 – 22:00

2. The Courtauld Gallery

The Courtauld Gallery was founded in 1932, and is named after art collector Samuel Courtauld, whose generous donation of French Impressionist and Post-impressionist paintings formed the backbone of its first exhibitions. The Courtauld has gone on to amass paintings, drawings and sculptures from medieval times onward, mainly through donations and bequests.

Gallery Highlight

Landscape with the Flight into Egypt by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, which presents a Biblical theme set in one of the earliest European landscape paintings.

Exhibitions for 2016

Bruegel, Not Bruegel: (16th Jan – 17th April) Works by Bruegel and works that have been previously attributed to Bruegel have been brought together in this exhibition. This is an opportunity to enjoy his incredible attention to detail and his skill depicting both people and landscapes, and to see the influence he had on other artists.

Botticelli and Treasures from the Hamilton Collection (18th Feb – 15th May) The exhibition features Sandra Boticelli’s illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy and illuminated Renaissance manuscripts.

Bruegel in Black & White: Three Grisailles Reunited (4th Feb – 8th May) This small exhibition brings together three of Bruegel’s grisaille paintings. The grisaille technique uses a monochrome colour palette to produce a three dimensional trompe l’oeil effect that mimics sculpture. Bruegel’s Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, The Death of the Virgin and Three Soldiers are quite extraordinary examples of Bruegel’s mastery of the technique

The Courtauld Gallery
Somerset House Strand
0207 848 2526
Opening times: Mon – Sun 10:00 – 18:00

3. Guildhall Art Gallery

Guildhall Art Gallery was built in 1885 as a home for the City of London Corporation’s art collections. Unsurprisingly, many of the works have a London theme, but there is also a large collection of Victorian art, including some Pre-Raphelites. Although the collection has around 4000 items, around 250 are on display, and the exhibitions change. The Guildhall is built on the site of a Roman amphitheatre, which was discovered in 1988, and remains are displayed in the basement of the gallery.

Gallery Highlight

The Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar by John Singleton Copley

Exhibitions for 2016

Visscher Redrawn: 1616 – 2016 Claes Janz Visscher’s engraving of London before the Great Fire of 1666 is one of the only records of the city as it would have been during the lifetime of William Shakespeare, when spires and steeples were the highest points in the landscape. To mark the 350th anniversary of the Fire of London and the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, artist Robin Reynolds has recreated the Visscher landscape as it is today, and included various references to the works of Shakespeare among the tower blocks and high rise buildings. The two landscapes are hung side by side.

Unseen City: Photos by Martin Parr Renowned photographer Martin Parr has been the City of London’s official photographer in residence since 2013. In this capacity, he has exceptional access to official functions and important state occasions. His unique perspective and candid and unusual shots of private ceremonies, parades, banquets and traditions gives a refreshing alternative insight into the character and quirks of the city and people of London.

Guildhall Art Gallery
Guildhall Yard
0207 332 3700
Opening times: M-Sat 10:00 – 17:00 Sun 12:00 – 16:00

4. Tate Modern

Tate Modern was established in 2000 in the former Bankside Power Station. The redevelopment of the old power station was deliberately planned to keep the industrial style of the building, and concrete and steel are much in evidence. Tate Modern is one of the largest modern and contemporary art museums in the world and houses the British national collection of art from 1900 onward.

Gallery Highlight

Windows Open Simultaneously (First Part, Third Motif) by Robert Delaunay

Exhibitions for 2016

Georgia O’Keeffe (6th Jul – 30th Oct) O’Keeffe is best known in the UK for her floral works, and her Jimson Weed, White Flower No 1 is the most expensive work by a female artist ever sold at auction. However, she is also a prolific painter of American landscapes, and some of her famous animal skull paintings also feature in this exhibition, along with portraits by her photographer husband, Alfred Stieglitz. As there are no O’Keeffe works in public collections in the UK, this is a rare opportunity to see many of her works on display, including Jimson Weed, White Flower No 1.

Robert Rauschenberg (1st Dec – 2nd April 2017) Rauschenberg was a forerunner of the pop art movement, whose experiments with materials and subject matter render his work difficult to categorise. This exhibition brings together works from different periods of his life. His refusal to identify with previous genres and conventions, along with his declared lack of interest in artistic struggle and pain, gives his work a unique vocabulary and vibrancy.

Tate Modern
0207 887 8888
Opening hours: Sun – Fri 10:00- 18:00 Sat 10:00 – 22:00

5. Saatchi Gallery

Saatchi Gallery was opened in 1985 by Charles Saatchi. It exhibits his art collection to the public, and aims to provide a forum for up and coming contemporary artists, often launching previously unknown artists’ careers. There is only one work permanently on display at the Saatchi Gallery, so this has to be the Gallery Highlight! 20:50 by Richard Wilson is a huge optical illusion composed of sump oil, from which it derives its name. Viewing is from a platform that extends into the room in which it is housed, and which was constructed especially for it.

Exhibition for 2016

The gallery is currently closed for work on its new exhibition, and will re-open on April 5th with Exhibitionism: The Rolling Stones (5th Apr – 4th Sept). The huge effect of the Rolling Stones on popular culture is explored through works by artists, designers, writers and musicians such as Andy Warhol, Alexander McQueen, Tom Stoppard and Martin Scorsese. The band’s own archives of lyrics, record artwork, and memorabilia also features heavily.

Saatchi Gallery
Duke of York’s HQ
King’s Road
London SW3 4RY
0207 811 3070
Opening hours: Mon – Sun 10:00 – 18:00 last entry 17:30