London is a city famed for its art galleries. People travel the world to come and see the latest Tate exhibition, Hayward shows or National Gallery collection. But these big names all too often overshadow the smaller, sometimes more interesting, exhibitions of the more cutting edge gallery scene that goes on here. We at One Stop Arts have compiled a list of ten contemporary galleries that offer a different art experience than the road so often travelled.
First up is possibly the most stunning gallery space I have ever entered: Raven Row is an architectural museum in itself. The building stands on the once-named Artillery Lane and dates back to 1690. It has housed many different things from artillery, to monks, to luxury garments and eventually families who worked in the local food markets. It would be worth a visit even if they didn't do art that well, but luckily, they do. You can expect to find contemporary art often with socio-political themes. The medium of work is often video or archival, and artists tend to have international reputations but may be relatively new to London.
• Wilkinson Gallery
Cool and slick, Wilkinson Gallery lies at the far end of Vyner Street, the East London hub of contemporary art. The high ceilings and sheer expanse of the space lends itself well to video projections and large-scale projects. It represents artists such as Renzo Martens and installation artists Clegg and Guttman. It takes part in the monthly First Thursdays private views and openings that Vyner street has become so famous for, when crowds of people descend on the area to enjoy new exhibitions and a few drinks.
• Parasol Unit
Operating purely for the public interest, this not-for-profit venue started in 2004, so it is a relatively new operation. The gallery has a four-per-year exhibition rotation and is funded both privately and through public funding. They have recently started an exciting extension of their gallery space called Parasol Public, a project which takes the artwork out of the gallery and into the public domain. Currently, Parasol Public features Argentinian artist Ana Gallardo and involves elderly Mexicans providing dance performances and tuition to anyone who fancies trying their much-loved hobby of Danzon, a form of dancing practised in the streets of Mexico city.
• Victoria Miro
This is not by any means a mystery gallery, but Victoria Miro’s Wharf Road gallery has some great names in its exhibitions, ones to rival the bigger galleries like the Tate. At the moment they are exhibiting Grayson Perry, but in the past they have had Phil Collins (not the drummer), Chris Offili and most recently photographer Stan Douglas. The space is huge and the gallery has a good bookshop on site.
Established in 1994, Gasworks is a contemporary art organisation based in South London, near the Oval cricket ground. It has artists in residence, artist international exchange programmes and exhibition events, and educational projects. Eight studios are rented to London-based artists whilst four are reserved for an International Residency Programme for non-UK based artists. The nurturing and collaborative style of this gallery makes the trip down south all the more rewarding.
• The Outsiders Gallery
Here’s something a bit different. Housed in Greek Street, Soho, and set up in 2006, The Outsiders is less fine art, and more print room. The exhibitions are generally illustration work, and graphic in a very cool, street style. It may not surprise you to hear they have Banksy on their books, which gives you a good idea of what they are about. The gallery has 3 spaces and always has quite amazing, eye-catching work on its walls. What’s surprising about these prints is that you can buy them for a reasonable amount – I’m talking hundreds rather than thousands. If you are looking for some affordable wall art this could be the place to go.
• Hauser and Wirth
3 different sites make up the Hauser and Wirth experience in London. It may not be an unknown gallery but the breadth and experience they bring make them worthy of a mention. Having been around since 1992, and with galleries in London, New York and Zurich, the gallery has quite a reputation already. It represents 40 artists such as Eva Hesse and Allan Kapraw, so they have big names to draw in the crowds. One of my all-time favourite exhibitions was put on by Hauser and Wirth – entitled Simply Botiful by artist Christoph Buchel, the work was a huge installation in which the viewer went from room to room in an alternative reality, addressing huge ideas and making for a very unsettling experience. This proved that dispite their status, they aren’t afraid to push the boundaries. That’s puts them firmly in my good books.
• The Approach
A room above a pub may not be the first place you would imagine a gallery to be, but The Approach has managed to incorporate this unique location into their organisation’s identity. The gallery started in 1997 as a project space and without any commercial motivation. Since then it has developed into a commercial gallery and now represents 21 artists. Despite this, exhibitions are still curatorially driven as opposed to simple one-man shows, and are always contemporary with a variety of media. Located in the East London art scene (Bethnal Green), the gallery reflects the experimental, edgy nature of the area.
• The South London Gallery
Much more than just an art gallery, the South London Gallery features events, a programme to get local people involved, live art and film as well as talks and events that complement it's exhibitions. It’s grown in popularity and importance since many artists have moved into Peckham, but is a long established institution, and has been around since 1891.
• Rebecca Hossack
Run by Australian Rebecca Hossack, champion of non-Western and aboriginal art, this gallery has been around for quite some time, opening its doors back in 1987 just before the infamous Black Monday. It may have started in the worst economic climate this side of the Great Depression, but the gallery has been a huge success and now consists of two London spaces and a New York space. The owner is a hugely respected figure in her field, which adds extra weight to whatever they do. The gallery window is always a treat too, offering tempting morsels of the current exhibition to draw in passers-by.