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2 September 2014
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Simon Schama's, Power of Art

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Your guide to art in London

Artists on Show in London

Galleries / Art Spaces / Organisations

With so much to do and see in London, where is one to start? Below is a back-of-an-envelope sketch of the capital's present scene, with links as further pointers. For more, see or As they say, when a man is tired of London...


Officially rebranded for the millennium, the organisation now called "Tate" comprises four parts: London's Tate Britain and Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St. Ives. One of the art world's international powerhouses, Tate guards a large chunk of the nation's visual arts heritage, curates, commissions, collects, educates, fundraises, archives and networks internationally. And it continues to expand: plans are underway to open up further areas of Tate Modern's Bankside building, adding thousands more square metres to its already capacious galleries.

London's publicly funded, medium scale contemporary art venues comprise the Serpentine Gallery, the Camden Arts Centre, the South London Gallery the Whitechapel Art Gallery (currently fundraising towards a major expansion of its Aldgate premises) and the Institute of Contemporary Arts. This last differs a little: its visual and digital arts programme shares equal status with performance, dance, music and film. There's also talks on potentially any subject of topical interest from arts and literature via politics and philosophy to science, technology and beyond.

Striking out in somewhat different directions are the
Photographers' Gallery and inIVA, the International Visual Arts Archive. Soon to move to purpose-built premises, inIVA focuses on the interaction of British and global cultures, historically and in the present.

Part of the public funded South Bank Centre, the
Hayward Gallery runs a large scale temporary exhibition space and organises a range of national touring exhibitions. Out east, the Corporation of London-supported Barbican art galleries likewise host large-scale changing exhibitions, often of contemporary art.

The Arts Council helps fund various smaller scale, not-for-profit galleries, several of them artist-led. Some key names here are
Beaconsfield, Showroom, Chisenhale, Gasworks and, last but not least, Matts Gallery, now twenty-five years old. Amongst other achievements, Matts is famous for helping Richard Wilson realise his unforgettable installation 20:50 - a room apparently flooded with darkly reflective sump-oil, now a favourite sight at the Saatchi Collection's galleries.

In the last five years art trading in London has boomed and commercial spaces have expanded to match. For evidence of the big bucks flying around, check out
Hauser and Wirth, Gagosian in Kings Cross, Haunch of Venison, White Cube, Albion, Victoria Miro or Bloomberg Space - this last not a 'trade space' but a seriously classy window display for the Bloomberg news organisation.

Equally successful but less grandiose commercial spaces abound, including
Lisson, Anthony Reynolds, Sadie Coles, Emily Tsingou and Stephen Friedman or, out east, Maureen Paley, Modern Art and The Approach, to give a very selective list.

What about the cutting edge? Interestingly, emerging gallerists' ever-increasing professionalism and the recent flow of cash into the system have nibbled away at the establishment/underground divide. Low budget shows often come with high production values and livings can be made from front rooms. To sample London's trendier fringe, try
Hotel, Ibid Projects, MOT, Herald St, Keith Talent, Store, Rachmaninoff's or Alma Enterprises.

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