Some of the best opportunities to enjoy art in one, small area of London
Chelsea has been a place for artists since the middle of the 19th century. It’s no coincidence that The Chelsea Arts Club, formed in 1891, still thrives in Old Church Street and has a waiting list of artists, writers and musicians wanting to join its 3,700 members worldwide. Choosing art galleries in Chelsea is less a matter of finding places to include as deciding what to leave out.
The Gagliardi Gallery has been on the King’s Road since 1978. It has built a remarkable reputation and a strong relationship both with artists and clients who trust it as an ethical and knowledgeable partner in the building of a collection. Strong in both figurative and abstract works, it has a pronounced Italian connection, as you might expect from its founder, Italian art dealer Roberto Gagliardi. What makes the Gagliardi stand out from the crowd is that this is a gallery for and about artists and art, and not a place to push people into buying. You’ll be as warmly received if all you want to do is browse, as if you are looking for a statement piece for your new home.
This is also on the King’s Road and, like the Gagliardi Gallery, is a place unified by a single vision of art. Charles Saatchi built a major collection of contemporary art and opened this gallery in 1985 to allow the public to view this collection. One of the excitements of the Saatchi is the chance to see work by artists so new they can’t even be described as ’emerging’, as well as by well-established names. Saatchi is not afraid to back his early judgements. That theme can be seen in the name of two exhibitions currently being planned:
- Iconoclasts: Art Out of the Mainstream
- Known Unknowns
There’s also a rather good restaurant and bar.
Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A)
On Cromwell Road, the V&A describes itself as, ‘the world’s leading museum of art and design’. Exhibits range from the contemporary to the 5,000 years old, and there’s a rolling and varied exhibition programme. It’s a good idea to check out what exactly is on before you go, and to re-check from time to time, because there’s always a risk of missing something you’d like to have seen. The café offers plenty of choice and, if you have young ones with you, there’s a children’s menu. (There’s also the Museum of Childhood, which they’ll probably want to spend half a day in).
Leighton House Museum
Leighton House Museum is in what was the home of the artist Lord Frederic Leighton (1830 – 1896). It was built as a house and artist’s studio, and has a stunning collection of 76 paintings by Leighton as well as paintings and sculpture by other artists of his time. For anyone whose idea of Victorian art is coloured by what hung on their grandparents’ walls, this exhibition will be a revelation: ‘Stag at Bay’ these paintings are not.
Michael Hoppen Gallery
This is fine art photography with avengeance. On the second floor, you’ll find contemporary work selected on the same basis as Charles Saatchi selects paintings: a mix of the well-established and the completely new, while the floor below is dedicated to exhibitions. This month’s exhibition is the work of Mexican photographer Enrique Metinides. We can promise you that you will find his work challenging and mind-expanding. See it while you can.