Contemporary Art in Wales: The Best Galleries You Should Visit

Photo of Enrichetta Frezzato
23 October 2016

Besides its enchanting landscapes and historical sites, Wales can pride itself upon a rich and expanding contemporary art scene. Comprised of artists-led spaces, museums, and a variety of galleries, the artistic stage in the region is characterised by its heritage and cultivation of new developments in Welsh art. Following the success of the first article in this series, here is the sequel to Wales’ best contemporary art galleries you should visit.

Cardiff Bay Conference Centre | © Graham Well/Flickr

Fountain Fine Art

The beautiful landscape of Llandeilo, with its hills and quaint and colourful houses, is house to the renowned Fountain Fine Art. Founded in 1989 by Richard Braine, the gallery has built its reputation by exhibiting some of the finest local and national artists, a successful path hailed by the opening of a new branch in Cardiff in 2012. The gallery’s rolling programme has seen paintings, prints, drawings, and sculptures on display in exhibitions like the recent The Welsh Contemporaries 2014. Among other artists represented at the gallery are Naive painter Helen Elliot and Gareth Hugh Davies.

Fountain Fine Art, 115 Rhosmaen St, Llandeilo, Wales, UK, +44 1558 824 244

MOMA Wales

Art Gallery, Museum
Map View
© MOMA Wales
The ancient market town of Machynlleth in Montgomeryshire is home to the Museum of Modern Art Wales (MOMA Wales). It was in 1986 that the Tabernacle, a former Wesleyan Chapel in town, reopened as a performing arts centre after renovation. Five years later, the adjacent Harvey House, a former grocer’s shop, was annexed to the centre and converted into the art galleries that now form MOMA Wales. Since the opening of the complex, the Tabernacle Trust has been acquiring the works of artists who have exhibited in the galleries, assembling a remarkable permanent collection over the years. Characterised by a firm focus on contemporary Welsh art, a dense programme of temporary exhibition complements the collection, which includes artists like Roger Cecil and Dan Llywelyn Hall.

BayArt Gallery

Part of a large renovation project revolving around the refurbishment and transformation of a building into a permanent arts facility, BayArt Gallery occupies the ample ground floor at 54B/C Bute Street, Cardiff Bay. The whole complex is based on the idea of promoting a wider understanding of contemporary art as well as the process of its creation. In addition to showcasing six exhibitions each year, BayArt is also committed to running workshops and educational projects with the collaboration of Butetown Artists, who occupy the sixteen studios above the gallery. Spanning a variety of media, from painting to drawing, sculpture and installations, the work of local and international artists is regularly on display at BayArt. Among recent highlights, artist Becky Whitmore, who was short-listed as part of New British Art to represent Wales at the Venice Biennale in 2011, also exhibited at the gallery in 2013.

BayArt Gallery, 54 Stryd Bute, Cardiff, Wales, UK, +44 29 2065 0016

Martin Tinney Gallery

Martin Tinney Gallery celebrated its 20th year of activity in 2012. Having left behind a career in medicine, owner Martin Tinney first set up his own gallery in Windsor Place, Cardiff, to later move to a new space just a few minutes away, on St Andrews Crescent, where the gallery currently sits. The new premises comprise a vast and light three-storey exhibition space in a 19th century townhouse. Over more than two decades, the gallery has been dedicated to the promotion of Welsh and Wales-based art, exhibiting the work of prominent and up-and-coming artists alike. Priding itself on an ample collection of paintings and prints and its own rolling programme of exhibitions, the gallery has established itself as one of the leading art spaces in the UK. Displaying both 20th century and contemporary art, the rooms at Martin Tinney Gallery have seen shows by artists like Sir Cedric Morris, Ceri Richards, Shani Rhys James, and Harry Holland, amongst many others.

Martin Tinney Gallery 18 St. Andrew’s Crescent, Cardiff, Wales, UK, +44 2920 641 411

Plas Glyn y Weddw

Art Gallery, Museum
Map View
A former dower house built around 1856, Plas Glyn y Weddw makes for an intriguing arts location. Erected specifically to house the private collection of Lady Elizabeth Love Jones-Parry of Madryn Estate, the beam roof of this Victorian Gothic mansion now encloses ten spacious galleries. The place was first used as a public art gallery in 1896, when Solomon Andrews bought it and opened it to exhibit some the finest local art of the time. Closed at the outbreak of the Second World War, Plas Glyn y Weddw was subsequently reopened and nowadays still hosts some of the best art from Wales as well as serving as a multifunctional venue for workshops, talks, and concerts. Alongside the promotion of well-established artists, the gallery displays selected works by emerging artist in its annual Summer Exhibition, this year including the work of Judith Hay alongside that of internationally renowned artist and poet Heather Phillipson.

Oriel Davies Gallery

Art Gallery
Map View
Oriel Davies
Oriel Davies | © Eirian Evans/WikiCommons
Among the largest and most active art venues in Wales, Oriel Davies Gallery is located in Newtown, right in the heart of the Welsh countryside. Surrounded by a green area and only a few steps away from the river Severn, every year the thee gallery spaces at Oriel Davies become the setting of a series of ten exhibitions. The gallery is committed to promote the appreciation of contemporary art as well as to exploring the work of emerging artists. A dedicated space named Test Bed displays exclusively cutting-edge art by upcoming artists, an initiative that is complemented by regular exhibitions featuring new pieces by established artists as well as works from various national collections. Artists who have recently been showcased at the gallery include Caroline Allen, Jessie Brennan, and Ruaidhri Ryan.

The Albany Gallery

Opened in 1965, the Albany Gallery is among the longest-established galleries in Cardiff. With a considerable collection of works by some of the most prominent artists in Wales and Britain, the gallery showcases a monthly programme of solo and collective exhibitions. With a successful history of promotion of contemporary art, the Albany Gallery also prides itself on a substantial collection of works by Sir Kyffin Williams, a landscape painter widely considered to be among the artists who shaped the essence of Welsh art during the 20th century. Despite the main focus of the gallery being on paintings, the works on display also include a selection of ceramics, jewellery, bronze and sculpture.

Albany Gallery, 74B Albany Rd, Cardiff, Wales, UK, +44 2920 487 158

The Lion Street Gallery

Hay-on-Wye is renowned for its widely acclaimed book festival and regarded as the UK’s bookshop capital. Just a few meters away from its Victorian clock tower sits the Lion Street Gallery. Mainly devoted to the promotion of artists either from Wales or working in Wales, the gallery showcases the work of both established artists like Aneurin Jones, and younger talents, such as Beth Fletcher. Within its rich programme of solo and collective exhibitions, the gallery displays a selection of Kate Milsom’s bright and vivid mixed media paintings to celebrate Hay Festival.

The Lion Street Gallery, 6 Lion St, Hay-on-Wye, Wales, UK, +44 1497 822 900