hoo's Top 10 Free Art Galleries in London
London is known for its history, buildings and its expansive culture, so it's not surprising to know it's full of museums and galleries all to be explored. It's no wonder why thousands flock to visit for either the day, a weekend or a mini-break, but with so much to see and do, it can quickly become a costly trip to the capital.
However, unbeknown to many, there is a wide range of places with free admission, and we wanted to share with you our top pick of free art galleries found within London. So you can take in the art, enjoy the culture and save yourself a few quid here and there too.
Here we've picked ten art galleries in London which all have free admission. Be on the lookout though, some charge for specific exhibitions, and some require pre-booking, so ensure you check out their websites before visiting.
Having been founded in 1967, Lisson Gallery has grown to being one of the most influential galleries and supporting more than 60 international artists. Since 200, Lisson Gallery has shone a spotlight on leading international artists such as Marina Abramović, Susan Hiller, and Sean Scully. And it's all completely free, with additional locations in New York and Shanghai. Often, the gallery is host to several exhibitions at once, so be sure to check out their website before visiting.
The South London Gallery, which has been free and open to the public for more than 125 years, presents contemporary art exhibitions, films and performances. The gallery focuses on delivering new work by British and international artists, especially those who have rarely had a solo show in a London institution. All the regularly run exhibitions are free, but some of the events, talks and classes come at a cost. The architecture of the building itself is well worth a look, as the gallery is set in a Victorian Grade-II building.
Located in Mayfair, Pace Gallery has been showcasing contemporary art since 1960 with galleries all over the world. The art inside is cast in gentle lighting and held in lofty ceilings. The gallery has relationships with international artists such as Jean Dubuffet, Barbara Hepworth, Louise Nevelson, and Mark Rothko. Pace Gallery hosts events, exhibitions and art, with the Mark Rothko Soundbath Meditation exhibition, beginning mid-October.
One of London's most beloved contemporary galleries is the Serpentine Gallery. Opened in 1970, it welcomes over 750,000 visitors a year while showcasing exhibitions and architecture. They're also home to permanent work by artist Ian Hamilton Finlay, dedicated to the Serpentine's former Patron, Diana, Princess of Wales. It gives a platform to both famous and emerging artists, with two sites only five minutes apart.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the gallery asks people to pre-book their free tickets.
Found in the centre of London, The Photographers' Gallery is one of the most extensive public galleries dedicated to photography in London. Open six days a week, it presents emerging talent and established artists with diverse photography exhibitions, events, workshops and courses. Since 1997, The Photographers' Gallery has further supported photographic talent with its annual Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Award, giving the most groundbreaking artists and projects a prestigious £30,000 award.
Founded in 1901, Whitechapel Gallery has been known for hosting exhibitions and formidable artists within its doors. Initially launched to bring art and culture to the Whitechapel community, it has free admission and showcases international collections of modern and contemporary art. The gallery has since introduced Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock and Frida Kahlo to a London audience.
Having opened in 1985, Saatchi Gallery showcases contemporary art exhibitions of emerging artists. Originally, exhibitions drew upon the collection of Charles Saatchi, which led the gallery to be recognised globally for contemporary art. Since then, Saatchi's eyes for art have acquired a strong reputation for introducing artists who would later become global recognition, making the exhibitions here a must-visit. Open seven days a week. Admission is free for most exhibitions, with often only a small price to pay for exclusive exhibitions.
White Cube is home to contemporary art in two locations across London, Bermondsey in South London and Mason's Yard in St. James's, and several across the world. Since opening in 1993, White Cube has exhibited the work of many of the world's most highly acclaimed contemporary artists such as Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley, Jake and Dinos Chapman. It regularly hosts exhibitions, with several running throughout October and into November.
Housed within a renovated Victorian scenery-painting studio in South London, Newport Street Gallery has big names from the art world within its wall. Most famously, it hosts Damien Hirst's pieces from his entire career. Not only that, but it frequently hosts exhibitions showcasing art from other collections, with the most recent exhibition being Richard Estes: Voyages. On top of all of that, admission is entirely free.
Maybe one of the more famous galleries on our list, the Tate Modern, remains free for everyone, only charging for select exhibitions. It showcases both modern and contemporary art, spanning from 1900 to now. Since 2000, 40 million people have visited the former Bankside Power Station experiencing art from famous artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Jeff Koons, and Andy Warhol.
Advanced booking is advised, even for free tickets.
Although it is closed until 2023 for significant redevelopment, the National Portrait Gallery is home to portraits in all mediums, from oil and watercolour. It depicts the art of Tudor kings and queens moving up to modern times, showcasing contemporary artists in a range of mediums from sculptures, paintings up to drawings. Founded in 1856, the gallery aimed to promote understanding of the people who have made and are making British history and culture and now hosts exhibitions, tours, and a unique holiday programme for children.
All of the galleries from our list above showcase art from the UK and international artists, spotlighting both new and emerging well-known artists. With the list above covering most areas of London, it means wherever you find yourself for the day, there's a good chance you can fill a few hours with culture and art, all the while saving a bit of money as you do. Where’s your favourite free spot to take in the arts around London? Let us know on Insta or tweet us @justhooit!