In addition to the globally-acclaimed theatre, world-renowned retail options and planet-wide celebrated nightlife, London’s also rightly respected in every corner of the world for its fantastic galleries and their incredible artworks. Yet, let’s be honest, most visitors to the UK capital only tend to check out the likes of the National Gallery and the Tate Modern. There must be some lesser known hidden gems in a city like London, mustn’t there? Indeed there are – and these are some of the best…
Dulwich Picture Gallery
(Gallery Road SE21 7AD)
Where better to start than with the world’s first purpose-built art gallery? Yes, really; this exquisite brickwork building set in landscaped grounds may back date more than 200 years, but it was the very first constructed merely as a means to make fabulous artwork available to the public – and it still does exactly that more than admirably to this day. Principally because it’s packed full of Old Masters like Rembrandts, Canalettos and Gainsboroughs, but it’s also more than happy to move with the times by hosting temporary exhibits showcasing the works of new and emerging talents – not bad for a place that survived the bombs of World War Two. Take that, Adolf!
(St Pancras Church, Euston Road NW1 2BA)
A gallery space worth experiencing for, well, the space itself as much as for the artwork it contains, as this ‘crypt’ was once – and technically still is – a wartime air raid shelter . Located beneath the somewhat uniquely caryatid-featuring St Pancras Church (the caryatids being explained by its Greek Revival architecture), the gallery then does share its space with a one-time Victorian crypt – where 500 bodies were buried in years past. Don’t let that scare you off, though; as this idiosyncratic place makes the perfect venue for all manner of intriguing exhibitions, installations and art-based performances – check to see what’s on; you may find yourself curious enough to pop along and check it out as something of a contrast (and thus a complement) to your stay in one of the 5 star hotels London.
The Photographers’ Gallery
(16–18 Ramillies Street W1F 7LW)
Another first here (back in the day, at least), as this fine gallery to be found behind the mega- retail-thoroughfare that’s Oxford Street was the original space opened merely to exhibit photography, way back in 1971. Happily enough, since then it’s stayed true to its roots and still showcases photos and nothing more – and blazes a trail in doing so to this day. Indeed, you’ll find that it hosts an annual programme of both solo and group exhibitions for not just established photographers from across the world but also newly emerging snappers. Moreover, its (obligatory) shop’s second-to-none for getting hold of rare photo books – perfect for the coffee table when you’ve returned home from your stay in one of the Montcalm hotels – while the on-site café’s great for an atmospheric beverage after all that photo-viewing.
(Rivington Place, London, EC2A 3BA)
Finally, from the old and established to somewhere new – this East London art gallery’s a mere snip compared to the others, being just 10 years old; in fact, it was the first one built anywhere in the capital for more than 40 years. Its remit is all about cultural diversity, which means a dazzling array of contemporary local and global visual art, as well as an excellent and fascinating photographic archive.