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hayward gallery

The Best London Galleries to Visit

London is home to some pretty impressive galleries that attract tourists and locals alike. Now open from May 17 we list some of the best galleries to visit from Tates Modern to the Hayward Gallery. 

Tate Britain

Tate Britain contains a collection of art from 1500 to modern-day in rooms organised chronologically by historical period, allowing you to quite literally stroll through a timeline of British art. There’s work to appeal to everyone’s tastes – there’s Millais’s painting of drowned Ophelia to contrast Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. Special exhibitions aren’t free, but there’s many that are worth paying for nevertheless. At the moment, the gallery is hosting the largest collection of Aubrey Beardsley’s works in fifty years, luckily an exhibition that has been extended because of lockdown closures.

Tate Modern

If your aesthetic interests lie more in the direction of the brutal and abstract than in the impressionist, Tate Modern is a great alternative to the Tate Britain. Based in the old Bankside Power Station in Southwark, it’s one of the largest contemporary art museums in the world. The collection is very international, some notable artists featured here include the Japanese artist Masami Teraoka and American pop-art and photography by Andy Warhol. With a new exhibition of Warhol’s works extended until November, there’s no better time to book a timeslot and visit this searingly modern space.

Located in Trafalgar Square and therefore central to most of London’s main tourist attractions, this gallery is one of the most convenient to drop into casually, whilst also being worthy of a specific excursion. The National Gallery’s collection is vast (containing over 2,300 works) and a consequence of this is that essentially every major art movement finds representation in its rooms. Household names of the art world like Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Da Vinci all have work exhibited here, so if you’re still undecided about the nature of your art preferences, then this is a good place to examine many different styles in one place.

Victoria and Albert Museum

Although containing its own impressive collection of paintings, the V&A Museum is predominantly known for its collection of applied arts and design. At the moment, a display on the concealed history of Nazi Looting is available to view for free, as well as all its permanent collection. This is a gallery with a strong history dating back to 1851 when Queen Victoria herself contributed to the original collection. Even stopping for coffee here is an engagement with history – it’s café is actually the first museum café in the world!

Perhaps the least famous on this list, Hayward Gallery is still absolutely worth visiting. It’s part of the Southbank Centre (which also hosts live events and workshops) and is unique for its outside gallery space. After lockdown, Hayward Gallery opened with a topical and relevant photography exhibition entitled ‘Everyday Heroes’, which celebrates the key workers throughout the pandemic. Another current exhibition ‘Among the Trees’ explores the human relationship to the natural world, and looking around it is a fantastic way to mentally escape the confines of the city.

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