London may be an expensive city to live in, but many of its best art galleries are completely free. From the National Gallery to the Tate Modern to the Saatchi, these institutions contain some of the most famous paintings and sculptures in the world, offering the rare opportunity to see works by Van Gogh, Titian and Monet for nothing. Here’s my guide to the top five. By Matt Lindley
The National Gallery
Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN
The National Gallery would have to rank number one on the list of top London galleries. The collection spans European painting from the Middle Ages right up to French Impressionism and contains many masterpieces such as Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ and Velazquez’s ‘The Rockeby Venus’. It’s a good idea to plan what to see in advance, perhaps using an audio guide to learn more about the work.
Bankside, London SE1 9TG
Overlooking the Thames, the Tate Modern attracts more visitors than any other modern art gallery in the world, displaying works from twentieth century artistic movements like Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. Highlights include Mark Rothko’s giant atmospheric canvases – which have a room all to themselves – and Francis Bacon’s tortured paintings. The new Tate Modern Tanks performance space offers to bring a new dimension to this already exciting gallery.
National Portrait Gallery
St Martin’s Place, London WC2H 0HE
It may not be quite as well known as the National Gallery but the nearby National Portrait Gallery is equally worth visiting. The collection focuses on portraits of historically important British people with the emphasis on the sitter rather than the artist. This means you get amateur portraits alongside professional ones, which can be equally revealing. My favourites are the Tudor kings like Henry VIII and Richard III, and the more recent ones of twentieth century cultural figures like James Joyce and Paul McCartney.
Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London SW3 4RY
If you’re looking for contemporary artwork, one of the best places to start is the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. Advertising guru Charles Saatchi’s collection of contemporary art succeeds in bringing young and unknown artists from across the globe out of the artworld and into the mainstream. The works on display are often challenging and thought-provoking, such as Jon Rafman’s enlarged photos of Google Street View, which depict strange events captured by Google’s roving ‘nine eyes’.
77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX
Opened in 1901 to bring modern art to one of the more deprived areas of the East End, Whitechapel Gallery is the most established modern art gallery in London. It was the first to showcase work by the likes of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, and continues to push the boundaries with its exhibitions of modern and contemporary artists, often with a local focus. The current London Open showcases the most dynamic work being created in the city right now.
About The Author
Matt Lindley lives in London and writes for HotelClub, a website for booking cheap London hotels and more. When he isn’t working, he enjoys listening to music and experiencing modern art.
This post was submitted by Matt Lindley.