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Serpentine Sackler Gallery | © 2013 Luke Hayes
Serpentine Sackler Gallery | © 2013 Luke Hayes
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The Best Galleries in West London

Picture of Holly Black
Updated: 22 August 2017
It’s hard not to be spoilt for choice with West London’s selection of incredible cultural destinations. South Kensington’s Exhibition Road plays host to a collection of world-class museums, while further afield you can expect to find contemporary art in classical settings. Here’s our checklist for the destinations every culture vulture should explore.

V&A

As the largest museum in the world dedicated to the decorative arts and design, the V&A galleries are filled with an exceptional collection that includes the enormous cast courts and the recently refurbished European Galleries, a renowned fashion collection and a brand new photography wing currently under development. The museum was commissioned by Prince Albert, who understood the importance of educating the public about good design practices after seeing the Great Exhibition in 1851. The building itself is also a work of art, the ostentatious interiors of the café were designed by James Gamble, William Morris and Edward Poynter, complete with stained glass windows, painted tiles and elaborate decorative mouldings. The Northern Italian Renaissance style of the building facades, visible from the John Madejski Garden, are also a sight to behold. This beautiful courtyard has recently been joined by the new Exhibition Road Quarter, which finally allows visitors to access the galleries from a new entrance opposite the Science Museum. This is a welcome addition considering the V&A’s hugely popular exhibition schedule (including major sell-out shows on David Bowie, Alexander McQueen and Pink Floyd) that have seen enormous crowds assemble outside the main entrance on an almost daily basis.

The V&A's new Exhibition Road Quarter designed by AL_A | © Hufton+Crow
The V&A’s new Exhibition Road Quarter designed by AL_A | © Hufton+Crow

Saatchi Gallery

Founded by the infamous collector Charles Saatchi, known for his early championing of the Young British Artists, this enormous neoclassical gallery features its own blockbuster exhibition programme as well as hosting independent shows. Its ability to tap into the zeitgeist means that its shows are regularly the most attended in the capital, including the recent Selfie to Self-Expression which charts the history of portraiture, from Old Masters to contemporary interpretations, including images snapped on smartphones.

From Selfie to Self-Expression, Gallery 5, at the Saatchi Gallery | Image Courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London
From Selfie to Self-Expression, Gallery 5, at the Saatchi Gallery | Image Courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London

Serpentine Galleries

With two sites straddling either side of the Serpentine in Kensington Gardens, as well as an annual pavilion commission, this gallery has presented hugely popular contemporary exhibitions including Marina Abramovic’s 512 Hours and Grayson Perry’s The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!. The first gallery was opened in 1970, with the Serpentine Sackler arriving in 2013, converted from a former gunpowder store. Zaha Hadid designed the elaborate, futuristic extension known as The Magazine.

Serpentine Sackler Gallery | © Luke Hayes
Serpentine Sackler Gallery | © Luke Hayes

Pitzhanger Manor

This Ealing mansion was designed by architect and academic Sir John Soane, who also built the Bank of England and Dulwich Picture Gallery. However, this property was designed as his own personal, semi-rural escape, where he entertained guests such as JMW Turner and King Louis Phillipe of France. It was here that he experimented with his revolutionary architectural principles, such as manipulating light through refraction and coloured glass, and canopied dome ceilings. Soane was also an avid collector of art and antiquities, and the dedicated gallery will present a new collection display when the house reopens following renovations in early 2018.

Interior of Pitzhanger Manor
Interior of Pitzhanger Manor | © Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery Trust

Griffin Gallery

This large, industrial space in near Ladbroke Grove is much more than your standard, slick white cube gallery. Griffin also supports an annual art prize, on site residencies, the Fine Art Collective (a global artist network designed to help artists realise research and large-scale projects) and a peripheral ‘Perimeter Space’ that allows artists to experiment with the constraints of presenting work in the 16m window.

In Residence exhibition at Griffin Gallery | Courtesy Griffin Gallery
In Residence exhibition at Griffin Gallery | Courtesy Griffin Gallery