An Art Lover's Guide to East London

Graffiti on Hanbury Street | Photo by Jim Linwood
Graffiti on Hanbury Street | Photo by Jim Linwood
Photo of Holly Black
20 September 2018

The East End is a power house of creativity, so it’s hardly surprising that there are a huge number of galleries and other artistic endeavours to enjoy in the area. With this guide you can seek out best art the area has to offer, whether you’re into street art or traditional museums.

Must-visit galleries

Whitechapel Gallery

Just a stone’s throw from the bottom of Brick Lane you can find East London’s largest single devotion to contemporary art. The gallery is known for hosting ground breaking thematic exhibitions such as the 1956 show This Is Tomorrow, as well as retrospectives of formidable artists such as Eduardo Paolozzi and Sarah Lucas.

Insider tip: If you get lost, just remember that gallery is instantly recognisable by the permanent Cornelia Parker sculpture that adorns the building’s façade. It takes the form of hundreds of golden leaves.

Whitechapel Gallery | Courtesy Whitechapel Gallery

Raven Row

Nestled between the Huguenot houses that cluster around the border between Spitalfields and The City you can find this contemporary gallery, which is housed in a beautifully transformed 18th-century town house. Piper Keys gallery are currently running a temporary programme open Friday to Sunday while Raven Row continues to operate its own publishing imprint, called Four Corner Books.

The Ulm Model at Raven Row | Photo by John Kannenberg

Chisenhale Gallery

Just across the canal from Victoria Park you can find Chisenhale Gallery, which has been championing contemporary art for 34 years. This artist-funded enterprise gained infamy for exhibiting a new range of innovative young artists in the 1990s, including Wolfgang Tillmans, Rachel Whiteread and Gillian Wearing.

V&A Museum of Childhood

Miles away from its more famed museum counterpart, the V&A Museum of Childhood is situated moments from Bethnal Green station. Although the institution originally held objects that had been donated following the Great Exhibition it gradually began to focus on pieces relating to childhood in the 1920s, after the head curator noticed the number of bored children roaming around the building. It is now a fantastic resource for everything relating to child education and play throughout Britain’s history.

Insider tip: Look out for the beautiful mosaics that adorn the museum’s exterior. The depict scenes of agriculture, arts and science, in keeping with the Victorian notion that all parts of the mind, body and soul should be nourished.

Interior at the Museum of Childhood | Courtesy V&A Museum of Childhood

Take an art tour

First Thursdays

This infamous evening art event sees every gallery in the area (approximately 150) open its doors to showcase the latest exhibitions, on the first Thursday of every month. Clusters of spaces throughout Bethnal Green, Hackney and Spitalfields mean that it’s easy to hop from one venue to another, although an official tour is arranged by the Whitechapel Gallery, in partnership with Time Out.

East London Street Art Tour

For those who want to look beyond the galleries there is a fantastic amount of street art to be found throughout East London. Learn about these local and international artists and the stories behind their work with a guided tour around some of the most famous spots, covering everything from Stik to Roa.

Graffiti on Hanbury Street | Photo by Jim Linwood

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