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The Library at Kenwood House | Courtesy Kenwood House
The Library at Kenwood House | Courtesy Kenwood House
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The Best Art Galleries in North London

Picture of Holly Black
Updated: 22 August 2017
From neo-classical mansions to contemporary performance spaces, North London has some of the most vibrant and diverse galleries in the capital. Here’s our list of must-see venues for every type of art lover.

Camden Arts Centre

Housed in the old Hampstead Central Library on Finchley Road, Camden Arts Centre began life as a local initiative, providing painting, printing and life drawing classes to the community. Now it is a powerhouse of contemporary art, showing ambitious exhibitions by the likes of Kara Walker, Rose English and Ben Rivers. However it is also keen to continue its outreach, demonstrated by its free studio spaces for schools, a residency programme and an enviable book shop that stocks a range of artists’ editions.

Installation view of Jennifer Tee: Let It Come Down at Camden Arts Centre, 2017
Installation view of Jennifer Tee: Let It Come Down at Camden Arts Centre, 2017 | Photo: Mark Blower

Freud Museum

Sigmund Freud made this Hampstead property his home after his family fled Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938. Inside his perfectly preserved study – featuring the famous psychoanalytical couch – there is a huge collection of antiquities from Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Far East. Freud was known to sit at his desk late into the night, surrounded by these fascinating objects. Beyond preserving the family’s original belongings the museum also features a fantastic art programme, often inviting artists to engage directly with the space and its history. Recent installations have included Bharti Kher’s Bloodline sculpture, which consisted of a glowing, red column running through the centre of the house and Mark Wallinger’s Self Reflection, which incorporated an entirely mirrored ceiling into the famed study. His intervention also resulted in a permanent sculptural work being installed in the garden. The work, called Self mimics an upper case ‘I’ and alludes to Freud’s theories of individuality and the human condition.

‘Self’ by Mark Wallinger, in the gardens of the Freud Museum
‘Self’ by Mark Wallinger, in the gardens of the Freud Museum | © Freud Museum

Kenwood House

Following extensive refurbishment in 2013, this impressive Georgian house has been restored to its former glory on top of Hampstead Heath. Although its footprint dates back to the 17th century it wasn’t until 1776 that the Earl of Mansfield commissioned prolific neoclassical architect Robert Adam to create a series of opulent ‘social’ rooms, complete with ornate mouldings and powder blue walls. Nestled among these lavish interiors is a priceless collection of art, featuring a Vermeer, a Turner, two Van Dycks and Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait with Two Circles, arguably the artist’s greatest image of himself.

The Library at Kenwood House
The Library at Kenwood House | Courtesy Kenwood House

Zabludowicz Collection

Now celebrating a decade in the capital, the Zabludowicz Collection is housed in a former Methodist chapel and specialises in art from the 1970s onwards, with a specific focus on supporting emerging artists. The varied programme is all borne out of – or affiliated with – the collection of Anita and Poju Zabludowicz. It includes contemporary commissions, residencies and exhibitions, as well as outreach initiatives such as ‘Testing Ground’, which invites young artists to join intensive workshops with influential contemporary artists such as Joseph Kosuth and Marvin Gaye Chetwynd.

Donna Huanca’s 2016 installation at Zabludowicz Collection
Donna Huanca’s 2016 installation at Zabludowicz Collection | Photo Thierry Bal

David Roberts Art Foundation

Since making the move from Fitzrovia to Camden, the not-for-profit David Roberts Arts Foundation (DRAF) has continued its dedication to performance by including a studio for ‘live projects’, in addition to its revolving exhibition programme. There are over 2,000 works in the collection, covering every conceivable medium. As a result you can expect to see shows covering every facet of contemporary art, from performance and installation to sound and video, as well as collaborations with leading organisations such as Frieze Academy. The foundation also incorporates a permanent, site-specific display known as Artworks in Residence, which is referred to as a ‘treasure hunt in the museum’. It features pieces by Martin Boyce, Dora Garci and Marie Lund.

Goshka Macuga, End of Line, 2016 (score by Mira Calix, choreography by Mbulelo Ndabeni, Fukiko Takase and Goshka Macuga). Performed at DRAF, 2016
Goshka Macuga, End of Line, 2016 (score by Mira Calix, choreography by Mbulelo Ndabeni, Fukiko Takase and Goshka Macuga). Performed at DRAF, 2016 | Courtesy the artist. Photo: Dan Weill

Ben Uri Gallery

It has been over 100 years since the Ben Uri Gallery began its quest to represent the artistic history of migrant identity in all its myriad forms. The collection is broadly focused on artists of European Jewish ancestry, including Frank Auerbach, David Bomberg and Merk Gertler, but the scope of this unassuming space in St John’s Wood has grown to encompass overarching themes around émigré communities, particularly the important artistic contribution of refugees throughout history.

Ben Uri Gallery
Ben Uri Gallery | © Ben Uri

Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art

Although the Estorick Collection covers a huge cross-section of modern Italian artists it is most well known for its Futurist works. The poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti founded this short-lived but hugely influential movement in 1909, glorifying the wonders of the machine age and technology over the country’s entrenched heritage. Masterpieces from the period such as Umberto Boccioni’s Modern Idol and Gino Severini’s The Boulevard are on permanent display, along with exhibitions covering other Italian-influenced movements such as arte povera and modernist architecture.

The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art | Courtesy the Collection

Cubitt Gallery

Cubitt Gallery is part of a wider artist-led organisation that maintains 32 studio spaces and a curatorial fellowship, designed to help burgeoning curators expand their practice. Based in Islington, it has exhibited work by internationally recognised artists such as Mark Leckey and Leonora Carrington, as well as running interactive educational programmes such as the Institute of Anything, which encourages young people to engage with contemporary art in a hand-on way.

Mark Leckey Affect Bridge Age Regression, 2017. Installation view, Cubitt Gallery, London
Mark Leckey Affect Bridge Age Regression, 2017. Installation view, Cubitt Gallery, London | Photography by Mark Blower, courtesy of Cubitt Artists