If this isn’t your first visit to the UK capital and you’ve already done a few laps around the big art hitters such as the Tate, the V&A, the National Portrait Gallery… or if you’re just hankering for something a little more intimate, a smaller space, maybe even the chance to chat casually with the owner and/or artists, London has hundreds of independent galleries to please the newcomer and habitué alike. Here are our five favourites within strolling distance of Amba Hotel Charing Cross.
In the creative heart of the West End sits the Coningsby Gallery, established in 1994 and showcasing above all illustration and graphic design from up-and-coming as well as already established artists. Exhibitions range from animated cartoons to printed monotypes and fine art sketches, digital and analogue photography, all split over two beautifully curated floors in a classic Victorian space.
Hidden away beneath St. Pancras Church near the station, the Crypt Gallery was once upon a time the chosen burial ground for hundreds of deceased Londoners. In 2002 however, the ancient mass grave was converted into an exhibition space for contemporary art exhibitions and sound installations (its arches, nooks and crannies are even used as an alternative Santa’s Grotto at Christmas time). Take a deep breath and reward yourself with the sunken treasures buried right here in Bloomsbury.
Institute of Contemporary Art
Founded by a group of artists, critics and collectors in 1946, the Institute of Contemporary Art is located just off the Mall, in an elegant regency building that hosts three separate galleries. Cutting edge and with proven foresight into who will be the next big thing in the London art world, the ICA has consistently supported avant-garde, radical projects from the likes of Damien Hirst to Yoko Ono, Steve McQueen and Luc Tuymans. In addition to the galleries, there are two cinema screens, a theatre, restaurant, bookshop, bar and cafe where they often hold workshops, talks and late night parties too - a great Soho all-rounder.
Jack Bell Gallery
Jack Bell’s travels to the Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Ghana and further afield have brought a raft of previously unseen or heard-of artists high-profile coverage, not just at the Jack Bell Gallery in the UK but as far as New York, South Africa and Paris. From photography, paintings and sculptures, Bell is an investor in all trades. The collections on display are often of an urgent political nature and emphasise encouraging local and international engagement in social issues. Guns from the war-torn hinterlands of Mozambique, barber shop signs recovered from Cameroon, portraits in Burkina Faso - you’d be hard-pressed or hard-nosed to find this breadth of creativity anything less than inspiring of humanity itself.
Beetles and Huxley
Beetles and Huxley is a gallery dedicated to photography of all forms and formats, and one of the art’s most innovative exhibition spaces in Europe. Founded just five years ago, the gallery has on display works from the nineteenth century right through to today’s most technologically advanced practitioners and is currently featuring the previously unheard of but now highly acclaimed street photographer Vivian Meier.
Amba Hotel Charing Cross is in the ideal locations for you to explore all these artistic boltholes and more, so you’ll never miss a trick in this capital of culture.