london public art galleries – top ten
13 September 2010 § 2 Comments
It is a cliché I know. Nowadays one can hardly open a newspaper or switch on the TV without being assaulted with yet another ‘best/worst of’ listing. As soon as something enters the public realm it is instantly categorised, tabulated and graded – from Rooney’s indiscretions to ways of cooking artichoke, nothing is allowed to escape the ratings police.
My excuse is a visiting friend from San Francisco, interested in modern & contemporary art, has asked me to send him a list of those galleries that he should definitely take time out to visit. Any guilt in populist list-making thereby assuaged by the potential education of an American philistine. Here then are my very personal top ten public galleries (private galleries listed tomorrow) – starting at ten and working up to the (overly long and unnecessary pause to build up an unconvincing and unjustified tension that was previously totally lacking) ‘winner’;
10. Zabludowicz Collection. A messy collection of future ’emerging’ artists, most of whom never quite fully ’emerged’. Put together by a curator employed by a multi-millionaires wife. Anita Zabludowicz seems to have no knowledge of art (is she more interested in social status?) but she has found a handful of good works, put them in a converted church and created a very interesting place to visit.
9. Dulwich Picture Gallery. A lovely gallery with a fine permanant collection (pre-twentieth century). Temporary exhibitions hit and miss. Recent Paul Nash was a cracker. Current Wyeth so-so. After the long hike out to Dulwich you will be glad to find an exceptionally nice restaurant and terrace.
8. National Portrait Gallery. It is always a pleasure to wander around their peaceful galleries finding a new gem. Some interesting temporary exhibitions (currently there is the annual BP Portrait Award and Camille Silvy, 19th century documentary photographer) and a local secret – a wonderful top-floor bar with views of Trafalgar Square.
7. Saatchi Collection. The exhibitions here always seem to be frustrating and fascinating in equal measure. The work is of uneven quality, but is nevertheless always worth visiting and is shown in an excellent space. Enjoy a break at the cafe/restaurant on the pretty square afterwards or stroll down Kings Road.
6. Tate Modern. Of course it has to be there. Sometimes frustrates with messy curation, has some big chunks missing from its collection and thinks that teaching children about art involves playing facile games that fill galleries with noisy groups. Membership benefits include a cramped lounge busier and less pleasant than the public facilities. Visit weekdays outside school holidays.
5. Camden Arts Centre. Has a knack of putting on exhibitions of artists that have been overlooked, misunderstood or simply long overdue. A must-visit gallery if you want to keep one step ahead. This autumn Rene Daniels on the 23 September is followed by Simon Starling on the 16 December 2010.
4. Whitechapel Gallery. This is a gallery that is always worth a visit. The home of always excellent, often ground-breaking, exhibitions. This is Tomorrow in 1956 was so iconic and memorable that a current small show looks at some plans, letters and posters -quite interestsing. It has the best gallery restaurant in London – alternatively pop around the corner for a Brick Lane curry.
3. Serpentine Gallery. Take a relaxing stroll through Hyde Park (ie: don’t take a taxi!) to reach one of my favourites. The exhibitions, usually monographic, are invariably interesting and well-curated. An excellent Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition is on until the 19th September 2010. And then there is the pavilion to enjoy – this year Jean Nouvel’s red construction makes an uneasy contrast to the green of the park!
2. Courtauld Gallery. Step a few yards off the hustle and bustle of the Strand in to an oasis of calm. A must-visit gallery that is often overlooked. Go to see the amazing Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works as well as their Fauvist, Bloomsbury and German Expressionist collections – and much much more. And dont forget the cafe.
1.Estorick Collection. A delight. A north london townhouse in a peaceful back street holds a fine collection of Italian 2oth century art. The futurist works are especially good and there is always an interesting temporary exhibition. Coming up is Against Mussolini on the 22 September 2010. I hardly need to add that they do a great cappuccino.