From its world-famous museums to the large communities of artists for whom the capital is both home and source of inspiration, London is an ever-flowing font of creativity.
But it’s in the many contemporary art galleries in London where the city’s artistic pulse is perhaps closest to the surface. Across London, there are many clusters of arty streets and neighbourhoods that each host their own clutch of galleries: from the quiet sophistication and utter exclusivity of Mayfair to the bright young things of the East End.
Cork Street in manicured Mayfair has long been a destination for art lovers with well-lined wallets thanks to its collection of high-end galleries. Among them, Waddington Custot Galleries (11 Cork Street, W1S 3LT), a Cork Street staple since 1966, represents a number of high-profile modern artists ranging from Bill Woodrow to Jean Dubuffet. Another mainstay is Browse and Darby (19 Cork Street, W1S 3LP), which showcases contemporary English painting alongside 18th and 19th century European pieces: you’ll find work from the likes of Bonnard, Picasso, and Henry Moore here, and some great window shopping opportunities, for those not feeling quite so flush.
Beyond Cork Street, the West End is home to some seriously high-profile contemporary art galleries in London. Swiss import Hauser & Wirth (23 Savile Row, W1S 2ET), with its glittering stable of modern and contemporary artists the likes of Louise Bourgeois and Roni Horn, opened in 2003. Gagosian Gallery, one of the world’s best-known contemporary galleries, operates two London spaces (one at 17-19 Davies Street, W1K 3DE, and one at 6-24 Britannia Street, WC1X 9JD) and shows works from artists such as Alexander Calder and Jeff Koons as well as Ed Ruscha and Diane Arbus. Pace Gallery and Blain|Southern are two more big name neighbourhood highlights, while Victoria Miro, who opened her first venue on Cork Street, launched a new Mayfair space late last year.
But it’d be foolhardy to consign your wanderings strictly to the West End – East End, the Berlin of London, is all about the scruffy, young upstarts. The environs around Vyner Street in Bethnal Green have long been a hotspot for contemporary art galleries in London, with spaces like the artist-run Vyner Street Gallery, Wilkinson Gallery, and art lab Limewharf among those repping for all things East.