London's 10 Coolest Galleries (That Tourists Will Never Find)



There’s no denying the awesomeness that is London’s art scene. Schools like the Royal College of Art, Goldsmiths, Chelsea, and Central Saint Martins ensure that the creative talent pool is always overflowing — plus, the city is unmatched when it comes to free public art spaces.

But, while we love the Tate Modern and co., a weekend visit can sometimes feel more stress-fest than cerebral day out. The solution to this troubling issue: The city's excellent alternative art spaces. Here, we present the definitive guide to our favourite secret spots. Some are right off the beaten track, while others are smack-bang in the centre of town, but all miraculously manage to stay unscathed by the hoards. Read and learn...

slide1Victoria Miro
The gallery has its own landscaped garden that overlooks the Regent’s Canal, making it a true sanctuary— and it’s just a stone’s throw from the City. Victoria Miro represents high-rolling artists like William Eggleston, Yayoi Kusama and Grayson Perry, as well as many emerging names, ensuring you’ll always be in for a treat whenever you pay her a visit.

Where: 16 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW; 020 7336 8109

Chisenhale Gallery
At the end of a quiet terrace of houses in Mile End right by Victoria Park, this single-room exhibition space is just the job if you’re in the market for seeing art’s next big thing. Chisenhale is a place where art is not just collected for presentation, but where it is actually created, and the gallery prides itself on commissioning new works from up-and-coming names like Helen Marten. The upshot means you will always stumble across something utterly new.

Where: 64 Chisenhale Road, E3 5QZ; 020 8981 4518

DRAF
Behind an inauspicious frontage in Camden Town lies a humungous former furniture factory that has been gutted and painted white to house the impressive art swag collected by property developer David Roberts. He set up the David Roberts Art Foundation (DRAF) back in 2007 — the non-profit organisation is responsible for a collection of more than 1800 works, spanning more than 700 international artists. DRAF has recently upped sticks from Fitzrovia to Camden so that some of the larger works in the collection can be accommodated. The space is genuinely jaw-dropping, as is the Camden gallery’s inaugural exhibition "House of Leaves", which allows Roberts to truly flex his art collection’s muscles with pieces from Man Ray, Gerhard Richter and Louise Bourgeois. Perfect if you’re in the mood for a bit of mental ping-pong.

Where: David Roberts Art Foundation, Symes Mews, NW1 7JE; 020 7383 3004

Bearspace
With Goldsmiths just around the corner, it’s perhaps no surprise that this unassuming shop front on Deptford High Street is the place to find works by the city’s hotter-than-now talent. True, the total gallery space is only marginally larger than the average living room, but Bearspace makes every inch count by working with the freshest emerging artists, and displaying a mix of medias. They even manage to fit in a killer gallery shop.

Where: 152 Deptford High Street, SE8 3PQ; 020 8694 8097

Bold Tendencies
No summer should be complete without a trip to this fabulous Peckham multi-storey-cum-seasonal-art-space. The disused car-park has become a true hipster hang, and the endless (and slightly eerie) floor space makes for the perfect place for showing large-scale installations. When you've had your share of culture, you can always head to Frank’s Campari Bar on the top floor and take in one of the best views of London.

Where: Levels 7-10, Peckham Multi-Story, 95A Rye Lane, SE15 5ST; check the website for seasonal opening hours

Photos courtesy of Bearspace, Bold Tendencies, DRAF and the Chisenhale Gallery.
slide2South London Gallery
Opened in 1891 to culturally enrich the local Peckham folk, this elegant building has an A-list collection featuring Anish Kapoor, Gavin Turk, Gillian Wearing and Tracey Emin. In 2010 it was given a complete overhaul by superstar architects 6A, and now has more smaller galleries, landscaped gardens and a cafe. Trust us, you won’t want to leave.

Where: 65 Peckham Road, SE5 8UH; 020 7703 6120

Raven Row
Let us count the ways we love the Spitalfields house. The building that dates right back to 1690, the ornate stucco ceilings, the marble fireplaces — and we haven't even gotten to the art. The non-profit exhibition space is devoted to the talents of lesser-known contemporary artists and manages to display pieces in a way that strikes up conversation utilizing the building’s fascinating architecture.

Where: 56 Artillery Lane, E1 7LS; 020 7377 4300

Dulwich Picture Gallery
If you feel like kicking it old-school, but can’t quite face the hoards at the National Gallery, this is the place to head. This is England’s oldest public art gallery— it was designed by Sir John Soane, no less, back in 1811. Visiting feels like you’re entering a Downton-worthy stately home, complete with vast landscaped gardens. The leafy Dulwich Village location means that London Proper feels a very long way away. Art (unsurprisingly) majors on 17th and 18th works, and names like Rubens, Reynolds and Rembrandt get top billing.

Where: Gallery Road, Dulwich Village, SE21 7AD; 020 8693 5254

White Cube Bermondsey
Transformed from a 1970s warehouse into an endless white space at the tail-end of last year, this is the largest gallery in Jay Jopling’s White Cube family. In fact it’s the largest commercial gallery in Europe — not that you’d see anything so vulgar as a price tag. Head down now and you’ll catch the current Gormley exhibition. The all-important gallery shop is also pretty special, especially if you’re a sucker for limited-edition coffee table books. Sadly, there’s no cafe, but if you do fancy some post-gallery refreshments, you’ve got the coffee shops and bars of Bermondsey Street at your disposal.

Where: 144 – 152 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3TQ; 020 7930 5373

Hauser & Wirth
We love this European super-gallery’s Savile Row outpost, which despite churning out killer exhibition after killer exhibition, inexplicably never seems to have more than a handful of people wandering around it. The gallery has also gained a reputation for supporting radical installation artists. We can’t wait for the Bruce Nauman exhibition, opening its doors at the end of the month.

Where: 23 Savile Row, London W1S 2ET; 0207 287 2300

Photos courtesy of Hauser & Wirth, Ben Westoby/White Cube Bermondsey, David Grandorge/Raven Row and Stuart Leech/Dulwich Picture Gallery.