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.
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.
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.
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.
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.