The Barefoot Gallery has existed under several guises, known as the Colombo Gallery from 1967 to 1972, then reopening in 1991 as Gallery 706 Colombo, and finally adopting its current name in 1999. It is now one of the most dynamic galleries in Sri Lanka, and home to art exhibitions featuring local and international artists, installations, concerts, poetry readings, performances and film nights. With its ever-changing roster of exhibitions, it has remained an influential member of the city’s art scene and continues to champion the avant-garde and cultivate the city’s artistic talent. The space also includes a bookshop, boutique and café – the meeting place for Colombo’s hip, creative types.
Barefoot Gallery, 704 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka, +94 (0)11 250 5559
Located in Sri Jayawardena Pura Kotte, a suburb that is often called the new capital of Sri Lanka, the Red Dot Gallery displays the most experimental and innovative art in the country. Opened in 2007, the gallery is run by the Theertha International Artists Collective, an independent non-profit organisation that facilitates the innovation, exchange and dialogue of the local arts community. To that end, the gallery focuses on contemporary artists working in the post-1990s Trend arena. Sheltered within the Theertha office, Red Dot hosts a solid variety of group and solo exhibitions, as well as an ambitious international residency programme.
Red Dot Gallery, 39/4A D.S. Senanayake Mawatha, Borella, Colombo 8, Sri Lanka, +94 (0)11 2698130
Located in the suburb of Nugegoda, in a striking colonial manor house known as a ‘Walauwa’, you will find one of Sri Lanka’s most impressive and exciting art spaces. Since its opening in 2009 by artists Sudath Abeysekara and Achala Gunawardene, Art Way Gallery has worked to showcase the diversity of Sri Lankan contemporary and traditional art, from abstract art and installations to still life, portraits, sculpture, and everything in between. Locally, the gallery provides workshops and classes at its in-house institute, training budding artists of all ages. Internationally, it has promoted Sri Lankan art by organising exhibitions and workshops in institutions across the world.
Art Way Gallery, No.66 Old Kesbewa Road, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka, + 94 (0)112 852 606 or + 94 (0)755 958 301 (mobile)
This commercial operation has two galleries, one at Barnes Place in Colombo and another in Galle Fort. Since its launch in 2010, Hempel has played an active part in the development of Sri Lankan arts, both at home and abroad, through its presence at international festivals and through founder Annoushka Hempel’s organisational role at the Colombo Art Biennale. The galleries host the work of the nation’s most prominent artists, as well as undiscovered talent, representing artists such as Anoli Perera, Pradeep Chandrasiri and Cora De Lang. The main space at Barnes Place hosts regular exhibitions, whereas the Galle Fort apartment is a small but welcoming affair.
The Paradise Road Gallery Café, opened in 1998 in the former office of renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa, is one of Colombo’s best eateries, and part of Sri Lanka’s premier lifestyle empire. Run by famous hotelier and design icon Shanth Fernando, father of the aforementioned Saskia Fernando, the al fresco restaurant is also one of the city’s most important art spaces. Art works are beautifully exhibited along the entrance hall and courtyard, and are personally curated by Shanth, who is a known supporter of the local contemporary arts scene. This means that both the art on the walls and the food on the tables has been selected and prepared with an extraordinary attention to detail, making this establishment well worth a visit.
Paradise Road Galleries, 2 Alfred House Road, Colombo, Sri Lanka, +94 (0)11 2582162 or +94 (0)11 2556563
The city is known for its huge annual, open-air art fair, Kala Pola, which offers an explosion of colour and creativity in the heart of the city every January. But for the rest of the year, there is a small, informal kala pola, or art market, held every day at the Viharamahadevi public park, along the Green Path, opposite the National Art Gallery. At this market, you will find artists – mainly local art students – displaying their wares on the park’s green railings, and selling them at affordable prices. Though the standard of work may not yet be gallery-level, this is certainly a pleasant and accessible place to view the vibrant art of the city, and perhaps pick up a piece from an artist before they hit the big time. Viharamahadevi Park, Colombo, Sri Lanka, +94 (0)11 2 426900