Top 10 Galleries to Visit this Summer
By Joshua Neil
London: capital of art, culture, and knife crime. Forgetting that last part, our greatest city has always been host to some of the most beautiful, thought-provoking, and memorable art around, and this summer is no different, with London museums and art galleries around the city opening their doors on some fascinating and must-see stuff. And after all that, you’re still not going to see it, right? Whatever your reasons- money, distance, laziness- hopefully this article will change your mind. From June to August, there are enough free or cheap, prominent and just plain awe-inspiring exhibitions around to get everyone out of the house and into some galleries. Maybe it’ll even stop you stabbing people, you hoodlums.
#1 Art and Life: 1920 – 1931 | June 4th-September 21nd
Where: Dulwich Picture Gallery
When: June 4 – September 21
Cost: £10 per person
One for the traditionalists out there (me), Art and Life, showing in the Dulwich Picture Gallery, features the work of some of the most prominent Modernist painters of the Twenties at their finest. Filled with gentle landscapes and subtle abstraction, the gallery provides a style that is no longer seen in the art world, and can provide great relief from the harsher realities of day-to-day living. Coming in at about £10 per person– cheap for the collections you’re getting, and the prominence of the artists themselves- the exhibition is perfect place to get some modern art culture and view artwork which sits well in a (hopefully) hot and hazy summer.
#2 Disobedient Objects | July 26th-February 1st 2015
Where: Victoria and Albert Museum
When: July 26 – February 1
One for the hipster among you (me), The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Disobedient Objects is at the other end of the spectrum to Art and Life, a gallery giving audiences a look into the objects that defined social movements and revolution– from defaced currency to political video games, the collection will give an alternate perspective on the iconography of change and subversion from around the world. Completely free, the gallery provides thought-provoking insight into real situations around the world, and while it is on until next year, should definitely be viewed this summer: open until ten on Fridays, this gallery is the perfect evening out with friends or dates, with a café-bar on site to unwind and discuss after you’ve seen all there is to see.
#3 The Refugee’s Gift | St. Martin in the Fields | May 27th-June 20thThe Refugee’s Gift at St. Martin in the Fields
Where: St. Martin in the Fields
When: May 27 – June 20
For the socially conscious among us (me- I really do just like anything) comes The Refugee’s Gift at St. Martin in the Fields, a collection of photographs from Bill Knight, showcasing the impact refugees can have both at home and in exile, their lives and struggles across the globe. From young refugees who came from nothing to earn dozens of GCSEs, to prize-winning writers and scientists, the gallery could not come at a time when thoughts of political asylum and refugee immigration are more in the minds of the public. A must-see free exhibition for those with a political bent, or simply an interest in the lives of others, both far-removed and very near.
#4 Pangaea: New Art from Africa and Latin America | April 2nd-November 2nd
Where: Saatchi Gallery
When: April 2 – November 2
Following on in this theme, the Saatchi Gallery’s latest exhibit brings together the art of two continents, linked historically as the landmass Pangaea- with demonstrations of the similarities between them, and the cultural implications of both their likenesses and division. For those not interested in political and cultural commentary on the nature of human beings or the problems inherent in the world today, there are also massive ants that are actually skulls. Free to enter, the gallery promises a high-brow and thought-provoking arrangement of two cultures brought together as one. And massive skull ants.
#5 Obliteration Device | IMT Gallery | June 6th-July 6th
Where: IMT Gallery
When: June 6 – July 6
Obliteration Device is one of the more obscure entries on this list: known only by the surrealist manifesto on the IMT Gallery site, it is identified as an ‘exhibition of collaborations and solo works of art’ by a number of different abstract artists from around London. Looking up the artists however reveals a kaleidoscope of strange and unique artwork, making Obliteration Device look more and more of an exhibition to watch. Bizarre, unique, and free, this low-profile gallery looks to be one anybody with an interest in art should go to.
#6 Truth and Memory: British Art of the First World War | July 19th-March 8th 2015
Where: The Imperial War Museum
When: July 19 – March 8
Truth and Memory has a great deal going for it. The largest exhibition of World War One art in almost 100 years, loving or understanding complex art is not a necessity for someone to enjoy this gallery: simply, one only has to be fascinated by life itself. The Imperial War Museum exhibition attempts to show how artists on the front lines tried to define and set down on paper the realities of what they were seeing, struggling to create new styles and forms that captured the horrors of the war. Spanning a number of major wartime artists, the art of Truth and Memory shows a turning point in humanity captured by those witnessing it first-hand, giving a unique insight into the times, and into humanity as a whole. The gallery is free, and runs long enough that nobody should be excused in not seeing it.
#7 The Human Factor: The Figure in Contemporary Sculpture | June 17th-September 7th
Where: The Hayward Gallery
When: June 17 -September 7
Cost: £12 per person
Another gallery examining the human condition, The Human Factor, showcased by the Hayward Gallery, takes a look at how the body has been reflected in art in the last thirty years, attempting to draw conclusions about society and human ideals through art. With 25 leading artists from around the world, the gallery is a fascinating study into how the body is viewed through the years, and how changes in culture affect the art of the time. From almost life-like sculptures to the abstract and surreal, the gallery is a fascinating look at the world we live in, and the bodies we inhabit. £12 per person is a small price to pay for such a unique study.
#8: Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK | May 2nd-August 19th
Where: The British Library
When: May 2 – August 19
With the average ticket at £9.50, this is another gallery that you’ll have to pay for- but once again is well worth the price of admission. The British Library’s Comics Unmasked is a glimpse at history through the refracting lens of comic book art: a social commentary seen through a medium both sneered at as child-like and often reviled for its adult content. Featuring reflections on the violence, sexual imagery and rebellion in comics through the years, this is an exhibition to appeal to even those with limited interest in art, providing a history of Britain alongside the excitement and fantasy of comics. Booking is highly recommended to avoid disappointment, so this is one to act fast on before the summer is over.
#9 Half Life | June 23rd-July 16th
Where: Fieldgate Gallery
When: June 23 – July 16
From the lesser-known, new Fieldgate Gallery, this exhibition explores the idea of decay in art, and the impossibility of remaining present and relevant in a medium which is constantly moving forwards. With a number of new or underground artists, this exhibition in a run-down warehouse is definitely a unique and unknown place to visit, a place not recommended on most tourist sites. With a high quality of avant-garde artwork and no price tag, Half Life is definitely an exhibition to check out for those who like to go against the crowd.
#10 The Royal Academy of Arts’ Summer Exhibition 2014 | June 9th-August 17thThe Royal Academy of Arts’ Summer Exhibition 2014
Where: The Royal Academy of Arts
When: June 9 – August 17
Cost: £13.50 per person
Okay, so this is a bit of a cheeky one: with prices around £13.50 (or £12 if you’re too stingy to give a donation), The Royal Academy of Arts’ summer exhibition is the most expensive on this list, but one that no art lover can really afford to miss. With hundreds of collaborators chosen by the world’s leading artists, the exhibition is, in their own words, ‘a powerful barometer of the art of each age’. Even for those of you broke in London- and let’s be fair here, all artists are broke, so you’re all probably reading this page- fourteen-odd pounds is a small amount to pay for the amount and excellence of the art presented by the Royal Academy, and a day out that you might never forget. Hey, long-time readers of the site must have saved thousands by now; use it here, or have it wasted.
For real-time updates on each gallery:
Dulwich Picture Gallery: @dulwichgallery
Victoria and Albert Museum: @V_and_A
St. Martin in the Fields: @smitf_london
Saatchi Gallery: @saatchi_gallery
IMT Gallery: @imtgallery
Imperial War Museum: @I_W_M
Hayward Gallery: @southbankcentre
The British Library: @britishlibrary
Royal Academy of Arts: @royalacademy
You may also want to check our post about London’s Public Art.