Destination: England: London
Tip: A good way to stay abreast of what’s happening in the art world in this dynamic capital is to check out Art Update (www.artupdate.com), as well as pick up a free map from any of the major galleries to orient yourself with what’s showing where.
The massive museum in Bloomsbury grew out of a private collection of manuscripts purchased in the mid-18th-century. The offerings include treasures like Chinese porcelain, a major Egyptian wing, Indian sculpture, and prehistoric and Romano-British collections. It also hosts major traveling exhibitions.
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
The foundation of Erick Estorick, an American political scientist and writer, displays his collection of early 20th-century Italian art as well as temporary exhibitions. The collection includes works by Boccioni, Carrá, Serverini, as well as Modigliani, Sironi, and de Chirico.
The neighborhood north of Oxford Street known as Fitzrovia (near the West End, between Marleybone and Bloomsbury), which was once home to writers such as Virginia Woolf and George Bernard Shaw, is fast becoming a new cultural mecca with dozens art galleries and cafés opening. Fitzrovia Lates is a new cultural ritual when on the last Thursday of the month the Fitzrovia galleries stay open until 9pm and a series of curator-led tours, performances and artists talks lends an art lovers’ block party air to the whole area.
ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts)
With two galleries, two cinemas, a theatre, bookshop, bar and café—all with free admission—the Institute of Contemporary Arts is a one-stop showcase of the best new art from Britain and around the world. Covering visual arts, music, cinema, educational talks and events, it is the perfect forum for all sorts of creative industries. Located in central London on The Mall, the institute hums until late at night thanks to extended hours on Thursday evening.
Imperial War Museum
The giant iron battleship gun that sits in front of the entry to the Imperial War Museum clearly proclaims the mission and the material of what lies within: weapons and war. And while boys who love tanks, planes and guns will be mesmerized by the collection, anyone interested in 20th century history can spend hours touring the exhibits. The ground floor contains a selection of World War I and II tanks and fighter jets, but the most compelling permanent exhibits are in the basement (the Trench Experience, World War I and II displays and the Blitz Experience) and the upper floors (the Holocaust and Hero exhibits). For families visiting London with boys 6 to 16, this is a must-stop. (To extend the visit, consider visiting the affiliated Churchill War Rooms at Whitehall.) Open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Museum of London
The museum has emerged from a three-year, £20 million overhaul. Five new galleries tell the story of London and its people from 1066 to today, with all the accompanying grit and glam. Films and interactive displays take visitors through time from an 18th-century prison cell to a 1920’s Art Deco lift from Selfridges. Don’t miss the spectacular Lord Mayor’s gilded coach (which leaves the museum and tours the city every November) or the Victorian walk through a recreated street with shop fronts and real objects behind the various store windows.
Located in Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery is London’s premier art gallery; thanks to free admission, it aims to educate and enrich as many people as possible. Spanning seven centuries and with masterpieces by the likes of Rembrandt, Leonardo and Picasso, it houses one of the greatest collections of Western European paintings in the world.
Pilar Ordovas made a name for herself at Christie’s, where she worked for more than thirteen years, specializing in post-War and Contemporary Art in Europe, then spent two years running Gagosian Gallery. Now she has opened her own gallery in Mayfair, on Saville Row opposite rival Hauser & Wirth. Her exhibitions are sure to be interesting, challenging, smart. A must for art fans in this area.
The city’s only public gallery dedicated solely to photography, this space hosts frequently changing exhibits, promoting and showing the works of exciting up-and-coming artists.
Opened in 2002 to coincide with the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, this gallery showcases changing exhibitions as well as pieces culled from the Royal Collection, including painting, furniture, porcelain and jewelry. The gallery also hosts special temporary exhibitions. Nearby restaurants include renowned Indian eater Amaya, Sardinian seafood restaurant Oliviomare and the Boxwood Cafe at classic The Berkeley Hotel.
Royal Academy of Arts
The Academy, founded in the 18th century, has a sizable collection, with treasures including works by Michelangelo, Constable and Blake. There are also excellent temporary exhibitions throughout the year. If you’re looking for a nearby place for lunch or dinner, try relaxed biut refined Cecconi’s, classic Le Caprice or newcomer Murano.
Charles Saatchi’s gallery, in a 70,000 square-foot Duke of York HQ building in Chelsea, remains one of the most cutting-edge places to see contemporary art. Admission is free. Open daily, from 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.
A much-loved gallery for modern and contemporary art, the Serpentine showcases a wide variety of special exhibitions. The Serpentine Sackler Gallery, designed by Pritzker-prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid, opened in Fall 2013. The building is a transformation of the 1805 Magazine, a gunpowder storehouse in Kensington Gardens.
Sir John Soane’s Museum
The former private home of British architect Sir John Soane, this museum is notable for its whimsical multi-level interiors. An avid collector of art, Soane filled his picture gallery to the brim, with such works as William Hogarth’s satirical series The Rake’s Progress. There are also sculptures, antiquities and architectural drawings on display.
Located at Millbank near Vauxhall Bridge in Pimlico, the Tate Britain is the most prestigious of the Tate’s. It houses the British national collections, ranging from the 16th Century to present day, and some international works. Older Highlights might include Gainsborough, Blake, Constable, and Reynolds and 19th and 20th century painters like Matisse, Paul Nash, Dali, and Picasso. In an attempt to avoid the crowds visit on the first Friday of every month when the museum is open until 10pm.
Update: The Tate Britain is now offering ‘private tours for two’ from £100 for a daytime tour, and £120 for an evening tour. A Tate guide will take you and a guest through the highlights of the permanent collection, or an exhibition of your choice. Bookings can be made at the ticket desk (note: this is on the lower ground floor), over the phone or via the website.
This museum is a definite must-see. Housed in a former power station that was beautifully redone in 2000 by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron (who will start work on a new addition soon), Tate Modern was recently voted the capital’s favorite building. A scenic way to approach it is to take a taxi to the north side of Lord Norman Foster’s graceful, pedestrian-only Millennium Bridge, which links the museum with St. Paul’s Cathedral. Those with children should ask for Tate Teasers, a set of questions and clue spotting about the art that will fascinate even the most jaded offspring. Get ready to look, listen and draw while exploring the works on display. The latest offering, “Dalí and Film,” is the first exhibition to focus on Dalí’s movie images, including avant-garde scenes he created for Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney. And the museum stays open late on Fridays, so it’s a perfect spot for drinks in the glam café.
Don’t miss this gallery, part of the Southbank Centre art complex’s $181 million renovation and relaunch. It does not house a permanent collection; rather it displays major changing exhibits throughout the year and also commissions original installations and funds projects by international artists. Open daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m.
Tower of London
Founded by William the Conqueror and added on to by successive British monarchs, over 900 years, the Tower of London is a landmark that provides a dramatic way to explore the history of England, and in particular, life in London. The complex encompasses palaces, prisons, torture chambers and the royal treasury where the Crown Jewels are kept. A visit can include seeing Henry VIII’s armor, the Sceptre of the Cross with the world’s largest uncut diamond, the execution block where Sir Thomas More and two of Henry the VIII’s wives (Ann Boleyn and Catherine Howard) were beheaded, cells carved with prisoner’s pleas as well as moats, Beefeaters, the legendary seven ravens and 21 towers. Given how rich its history is, the Tower is best toured with a knowledgeable guide but be sure to leave plenty of time for exploring. Contact our booking service for a recommended guide. Open Tuesday to Saturday 9:30 to 17:30; Sunday to Monday 10 to 17:30. You can purchase tickets online.
Tip: We can arrange for private parties and visits to the Tower of London before or after regular closing times, which can be very memorable experiences. Contact our booking service for details and prices.
Victoria and Albert
You should plan in at least a half-day to visit this, the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design. More than 140 galleries hold objects that include textiles, costumes, jewelry, furniture and ceramics. There are also massive changing exhibits that are years in the works.
This little known gem of a museum was established from the private collection of Sir Richard Wallace (1818-1890), an art collector and philanthropist. See paintings by Old Masters Rembrandt, Velázquez and Titian, along with superb collections of arms and armour, gold boxes, porcelain and furniture.
One of the world’s most renowned commercial galleries, White Cube represents artists like Tracey Emin, Andreas Gursky and Chuck Close. There are three locations: 48 Hoxton Square; 25–26 Mason’s Yard, off Duke Street and south of the Thames at 144-152 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3TQ. White Cube offers free admission.
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