Top Five Smaller London Galleries

Anita Mistry

We in London are spoilt for choice when it comes to many things, and art galleries are no exception. On any given day you can visit galleries of all shapes and sizes, exhibiting work from artists dead and alive, and countries from around the world. And most of these galleries are free to visit. Here is our pick of great London galleries.

Black Rat Gallery
The unassuming entrance to this gallery is found through the garden of Shoreditch’s popular bar Cargo. Under a huge railway arch, the gallery occasionally rumbles with the sounds of a train over head. Aside from that you would hardly know you were in the busy and bustling hub of east London that is Shoreditch. Black Rat Gallery promotes an eclectic mix of contemporary artists usually of the street/ urban art ilk. The gallery space is wonderfully cavernous, airy and pleasingly sparse. The bare brick walls give the space an authentic east London artsy feel and is a great space for seeing large and installation pieces. An über-cool Shoreditch gallery - well worth a visit.  
Rook and Raven Gallery
Opening in November 2011, Rook and Raven hosts alternative contemporary art produced by artists from both home and abroad. In Fitzrovia/ Soho and just a few steps away from the crowds of Oxford Street, the gallery is in a prime location for visitors from all over; it also boasts a huge 3500 square feet and a fantastic lounge area. Not only is this space airy, large and in central London, but they already have some amazing artists on their books including David Walker, Terry O’Neill and Penny. Rook and Raven is definitely the cool new kid on the block.
Hayward Gallery
The Hayward Gallery is known as a prime example of sixties brutalist architecture. The gallery has become an iconic structure on London’s skyline and is part of the fantastic Southbank Centre. Exhibiting groundbreaking contemporary artists since day one, the Hayward opened in 1968 with a Henri Matisse show, and since then it has exhibited show after show of some of the most famous contemporary artists in the world. The gallery is split into various sized rooms on different levels, allowing the shows to display works in an assortment of medias and sizes. One of my personal favourites was Anthony Gormley’s piece Blind Light in 2007, which comprised of a glass room filled with cold, wet vapour. On entering, the viewer became apart of the piece, disorientated, hands thrust forward, feeling their way. Making use of it’s outside space a boating lake was even installed on the roof for Psycho Buildings in 2008. The Hayward makes this list for it’s innovative, creative use of space and fantastic location with the great views of London and the Thames.
White Cube, Hoxton Square
I remember reading ‘Inside the White Cube’ at university and then visiting the White Cube in Hoxton for the first time shortly after. Although the original White Cube was in Duke Street, (a white cube shaped exhibition space which caused a sensation), Hoxton Square opened in 2000 and was meant to be an expansion of the Duke Street idea: a space where the artists could display a single piece or body of work in a focused environment. The gallery has been associated with some of the world’s most famous contemporary artists including Gilbert & George, Marc Quinn, Mona Hatoum and the Chapman Brothers. The book by Brian O’Doherty opened my eyes to this question about how art should be displayed. The space is a large and spacious 2000 square feet and allows the art to take centre stage. The quintessential gallery space. 
Camden Arts Centre
Camden Arts Centre is a north London institution. And although it’s technically in Hampstead, it’s in the borough of Camden, so we’ll let that slide. This gallery is a lovely building with a really pleasant vibe to it. Camden Arts Centre exhibits emerging contemporary artists in its spaces with clean white walls and expansive wooden floors. The Grade II listed building perches at the bottom of Arkwright Road, one of Hampstead’s steepest roads and has a lovely outside space and café. It’s always a pleasure visiting this gallery especially when the sun is streaming through the large Victorian windows. Idyllic.

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