London's reputation as being a hub for the arts is one of the reasons I chose to study abroad there last spring. I managed to visit several museums and galleries during my time living in England, whether on my own or with my British Art History class. I loved breathing in artwork that I had only previously enjoyed on the pages of textbooks or musing over pieces by relatively unknown names. The following places are my recommendations for art lovers in London.
The Tate Modern is an essential stop for anyone interested in contemporary art. The art gallery was created in 2000 in an old power station. With over 4.7 million visitors a year, it is one of the most popular modern art galleries in the world. I actually wrote a case study on the opening of the Tate Modern for my public relations class last semester, and learned how the goal of the communications team was to convey the idea that art should be accessible to everyone, not just the "snobby, art-interested elite." From Rothko to Kandinsky and Lichentstein to Picasso, the Tate boasts amazing modern works in its four exhibits: Material Gestures, Poetry and Dream, Energy and Process, and States of Flux.
The Saatchi Gallery showcases the personal art collection of the wealthy Charles Saatchi. It often features controversial pieces and receives a lot of critical attention. Works by relatively unknown artists are often featured, allowing their careers to take off. If you want to see some truly intriguing and off-the-wall art, the Saatchi Gallery should be your first stop.
THE VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM
When I interned at the Royal College of Art, my office was situated right near the Victoria and Albert Museum. With over 4.5 million objects, it is the world's largest museum of art and design. Just like the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the lobby of the V&A presents a stunning lime-green glass sculpture by Chihuly. I could spend hours perusing the many galleries here; I particularly enjoyed the theatre exhibit which showcases one of Shakespeare's first folios, among other things.
THE BRITISH MUSEUM
Who could resist going to one place to see both the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon? These famous pieces are two of the many amazing works on display at the British Museum. I visited this museum with my British Art History class, but I came back for more soon after. You could spend days in this museum and still have more to see. I even enjoyed a fancy afternoon tea in the cafe here (I'll post about that adventure soon!).
THE NATIONAL GALLERY
I wasn't able to sneak any pictures while inside the National Gallery, but I promise it houses some breathtaking works. This free museum showcases Western European paintings from the 13th to 19th centuries. As I passed through galleries, I glimpsed works by DaVinci, Rousseau, Caravaggio, Vermeer, and Turner. This is another massive museum that allows an intimate look at the world's greatest artwork.
Oh, and the best part? All of these museums and galleries are FREE to the public! So what are you waiting for?? (Besides to save money for a plane ticket to London...)