If you’re a fan of art then there are certain places that stick out in your mind when you think of European cities. For example, Paris has Le Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay, Barcelona has the Museu Picasso and London has the National Portrait Gallery and of course the various Tate venues.
When visiting the Big Smoke, these absolutely have to be on your list, particularly as they have specialist and part-time exhibitions that change frequently, but real art lovers will want to explore beyond these galleries and into the hidden corners of London’s art life.
There are so many small, independent collections that are tucked away down the city’s side streets and most of them aren’t even that far from the heart of London. Although you might not know where to look, you’ll be surprised at where these galleries are and just how beautiful the art is that lies within them.
We’ve picked out six lesser-spotted galleries in the city that you are sure to love, whether you have a passion for photography or are looking for the best works from big-name artists.
The Drawing Room
Located in Bermondsey, the Drawing Room is the only public, not-for-profit gallery in Europe that has its focus solely on contemporary drawing. What you will find here is pencil drawings on paper and nothing else.
Exhibitions from this gallery have toured to museums and other spaces all over the world including works from both emerging and historical artists. There are events held at the gallery that you can join in with, and the curators are always keen to encourage outside participation.
Bermondsey is just 22 minutes from M by Montcalm Shoreditch London Tech City Hotel, which is a contemporary representation of the city itself. To get to Bermondsey from the hotel, take the Northern line from Old Street Station for three stops to London Bridge, then swap to the Jubilee line to arrive at Bermondsey Station. From here, it’s a pleasant 15-minute walk to the Drawing Room and we highly recommend you do walk, as this is a particularly creative area of the city.
While you’re in Bermondsey, we recommend that you also take a look at the White Cube gallery space. This one is more widely recognised than the Drawing Room but its displays are more wide-ranging, from sculpture to films and lectures.
There are also private viewing rooms if you should like to organise an event and who wouldn’t considering this space hosted the first UK showing of work from American artist Theaster Gates, among many others.
If you’re interested, there is another White Cube space on Duke Street in St James’s London, which offers artists the chance to display a singular piece of work for optimum reflection.
Kate MacGarry is located in the Shoreditch district of London, so you can easily go to see Drawing Room and this gallery in the same day.
The gallery hosts a range of artists, most of whom are emerging – if you are a keen art lover then you will be likely to recognise the names hosted on their website, which is updated frequently. Otherwise, this gallery will serve as a great learning tool that will add to your knowledge of underground artists.
Regarding the space itself, it’s quite small but the gallery also attends art fairs, so make sure you ask the curators about these when you visit. Even better is that M by Montcalm Shoreditch London Tech City Hotel is just 15 minutes from the gallery.
Rose Issa – owned and curated by the woman of the same name – is a fascinating collection of Middle Eastern artists. The exhibitions and events that are put on by Rose aren’t located in the one spot, instead they are dispersed among other private and public institutions.
Perhaps one of the best things about these projects is that you can see them outside London too in the likes of Liverpool or as far as Moscow.
For the most up to date program of events – which fluctuates and updates regularly – we would advise you look at the Rose Issa website.
We’re taking you to Soho now to Sprovieri on Heddon Street, which is a constant showcase of interesting photographers from all over the world. There is a lot of Italian and Brazilian influence on this gallery, particularly as there are sites in Rio de Janiero and Rome. You will see this for yourself as you peruse the gallery’s different collections.
It’s quite a small space, which makes it intimate and quiet; the perfect place for artistic reflection. It can be great food for thought too, which is handy because Soho is full to the brim with restaurants and cafes where you can discuss what you’ve seen.
Just a five-minute walk from the Sprovieri photography gallery lies Belgravia Gallery on Maddox Street. This mother and daughter-run space places its emphasis on art for charity and in particular raising funds for the Sebastian Hunter Memorial Trust, which helps to build schools in south-east India.
Exhibitions range from a focus on Greek art to movement of the human form and all are sure to encapsulate your interest.