The Must See London Art Museums
It is no secret that London is home to a huge number of art-related venues and disciplines. Apart from various art gallery spaces, the capital of England is known for its outstanding museums as well. We’ve decided to make a list of some well-known London art museums, but also to include some that might not be the first that you’d come across. As you will have noticed, we tried to stick to museums solely, which means that the few of the most famous galleries in the world – such as Tate, Serpentine or National Gallery, won’t be found on this top list. We figured that you’ll find them on your own anyway, so we concerned ourselves with the 8 interesting museums that display different kinds of art in diverse ways. Whether you’re an incurable museum-goer with a specific passion for modern, classical or contemporary art, or just a beginner who wants to learn something new, we encourage you to scroll down and enjoy our selection, and find something according to your taste.
Here are the top London museums.
Sir John Soane's Museum
According to many people who actually live in London, this is one of the most deeply engaging London-based art vaults. Sir John Soane’s museum is located inside his very own house, a flamboyant 19th century building that was designed by the architect John Soane himself. This puts Sir John Soane’s house on the list of of those amazing places which serve as exhibition venues, while being exposed as separate works of art simultaneously. The house has remained intact since the architect’s death, which means that the state in which we see it today is the same as it was 180 years ago. Apart from the permanent collection, which includes John Soane’s own art collection, architectural drawings and models, the venue is often used to accommodate different sorts of events and exhibitions.
UCL Art Museum
As part of University College London (UCL), the UCL Art Museum displays some of the greatest art treasures, dating from a 70-something long period ranging from the 1940’s until the present day. While the vault of the museum lies in the original Print Room of the university, the works from its collections are displayed and rotated across the entire campus. Parts of the collection which numbers more than 10 000 works are, therefore, made accessible to the public, including drawings, paintings, sculptures and new media works. In addition, the museum pursues the “public art strategy”, which aims to enrich and upgrade the appearance and the social environment at UCL, attracting more visitors, alumni and friends of the institution. It usually involves public installations or virtual media projects, some of which are created as a collaboration between students and visitors, or professors.
It is a bit unfair to write about this particular museum at this moment, since it is currently undergoing a process of relocation. But until it re-opens in November, we will all be able to enjoy the “teasers and trailers” on their website. Design Museum concerns itself with contemporary design and applied arts, including graphic, product and furniture design, as well as architecture and fashion. Nonetheless, it also regards historical examples, offering a selection of the most eminent designs that influenced the discipline in the past. The new location on High Street Kensington will provide a three-times-bigger space for its visitors, and it is estimated to welcome around 500 000 spectators and 50 000 learners during the following year.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum, also known as V&A Museum claims to be “the world’s leading museum of art and design”. It has obviously largely succeeded in affirming this status, being that it has been officially recognized as the Museum of the Year 2016 by Art Fund MOTY. Its program is constantly expanding, offering diverse kinds of events and exhibitions – those that belong to history, and those that follow current trends. One of the most alluring exhibitions that is currently on view is a retrospective of underwear, called Undressed, which examines the design and the “somewhat controversial” aspects of underwear from the 18th century onward to the present day. Beside the temporary exhibitions, its permanent collections are engaging as well, including paintings, photographs, textiles, and hidden gems of European, South-Asian and Japanese history.
Ben Uri Gallery and Museum
Ben Uri Museum is one of the few art institutions dedicated primarily to “emigre art”, which comes as slightly vague today when living in foreign countries isn’t as dramatic as it used to be decades ago. However, in the light of the recent immigrant crisis, the subject becomes prevalent once again, and it is just as important as it used to be a century ago. The collection consists of around 1300 works, made by artists coming from 35 countries. Ben Uri’s mission is to bring together three important elements, and those are art, identity and migration. All three of them are drawn through the collection and symbolically displayed in a city which is one of the most multi-ethnic capitals in the world. In addition, the entire collection is accessible online.
Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising
People have been fascinated with brands and package design ever since the consumerist era had begun, and this museum follows the timeline of the shared guilty pleasure we take in consumerist products. However, the museum itself is open to the public and widely accessible, since its mission is to educate and inform people on the basic aspects and benefits of design, and to promote the aesthetic value of a well-designed product. This unique institution has moved to London only a while ago, in 2005, and has been a remarkable tourist attraction ever since, specifically thanks to its openness and charitable character. So, it may look like a beautifully lit grocery store at first, but it is really so much more than that.
Fashion and Textile Museum
A bit more specifically than the aforementioned Design Museum, Fashion and Textile Museum aims to be a source and a platform for the development and exposure of contemporary fashion, jewelry and textiles. It was founded by Zandra Rhodes, a famous British designer, in 2003. Since it is located in a fashion-oriented area of Bermondsey Street in London, it is surrounded by venues and historical remains of industries that used to be closely related to the production of textiles and fashion in the past. FTM does not have its own permanent collection, but it is suitable for a number of events and exhibitions that serve to inspire both the young and the established creatives. So if you’re a fashion victim or interested in the art of fashion design to any extent, you’ll definitely enjoy the museum and its vibrant neighborhood, whose map you’ll find on FTM’s website.
And here’s another museum that displays art dating from the 18th century, but it focuses on a very specific segment. Cartoon Museum follows the evolution of British cartoons, animations and illustrations, aiming to preserve its history and legacy. It was opened in 2006 by the Duke of Edinburgh, and it served to break a certain ambivalence that reportedly surrounds comic art in Britain. The museum encompasses three galleries, and it has a growing permanent collection, but it is known for the most engaging temporary exhibitions as well. It provides the audiences, including children, adults, groups and schools, with workshops and events related to the program. You’ll get a chance to know about the Victorian cartoonists and their contemporaries, but also to stay in touch with the latest trends related to comic art and animation. It is located in the heart of the city, so we suggest you stop by as you’ll certainly find yourself close to it during your stay in London.