Once looked upon as much drearier than the Parisian Louvre, too traditional next to the German Bauhaus movement and lacking the historical weight of Madrid’s museums, London has in recent years become a must for the art connoisseur. Home to the famous Tate Modern, the UK capital is now at the forefront of contemporary art and design. Here’s a list of 4 lesser-known (and free admission) modern art galleries worthy of your time.

Photo: Parasol Unit foundation for contemporary art

Photo: Parasol Unit foundation for contemporary art

1.     The Photographers’ Gallery

Championing the work of talented photographers in the UK and around the world, the newly refurbished Photographers’ Gallery displays often radically political and thought-provoking exhibitions. Situated around the corner from Oxford Circus, it’s a surprisingly tranquil and airy space which provides plenty of food for thought. Don’t forget to have a look around the book shop in the basement.

2.     The Wellcome Collection

Located up the street from UCL and Unviersity College Hospital, The Wellcome Collection exhibits an unusual range of medical artefacts and artworks, exploring ideas that interlink medicine, life and art. Despite its original and intelligently curated exhibitions (on, for example, sexology, memory or forensic research), the gallery is often unknown to tourists and instead caters to Londoners and students interested in the complexity of the human body and mind.

The Wellcome Collection exhibits an unusual range of medical artefacts and artworks, exploring ideas that interlink medicine, life and art

3.     Saatchi Gallery

The controversial businessman and art collector Charles Saatchi was one of the first to recognise the potential of the Young British Artists (a group of art graduates including Damien Hirst and Tracy Emin) in the late 1980s. Not long thereafter, he opened the Saatchi Gallery near King’s Road to showcase the latest in contemporary art. The gallery’s reputation has since grown and it is today considered a launchpad for unknown artists.

4.     Parasol Unit

A small gallery near Old Street station in the East End, Parasol Unit was founded in 2004 as a not-for-profit organisation exhibiting contemporary art purely for the benefit of the public. Every year, the gallery runs four challenging exhibitions by international artists working in a variety of media, including film, photography, sculpture and painting.  

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