With millions of sculptures and paintings sourced from different parts of the globe, British museums are essentially meeting points for the various cultures of the world. And these outstanding art galleries are concentrated in Greater London – the destination for the finest delights of England. Sadly, such tradition is nowhere to be found in the Nigerian art scene, where conservation and appreciation seem to be foreign concepts. London is one of the best places in the world to experience the gracious wonders of the world preserved as exquisite art: every corner of the city is stuffed with museums and galleries. You can see everything from the finest arts created hundreds of years ago by the likes of Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Picasso and Michelangelo. Here are five art institutions you should consider visiting:
ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS
“The finest gallery for displaying pictures so far built.” Those were the words used by 18th century critic, Joseph Baretti in describing the Royal Academy of Arts in its early years. That remark, like the classical artworks showcased in the gallery, remains significant even centuries later.
A walk into the Academy is a trip into history through the carefully-curated gallery of pieces across times and cultures. It houses works by the greatest artists and architects the world over. On the walls of the Royal Academy of Arts, beauty has no language or time stamp: there is a variety of picturesque pieces to feast your eyes on. From the sacred symbolism of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Eve to the careless youth of John Constable’s The Leaping Horse, the pieces in the exhibition run the gamut of emotions to experience.
However, its appeal is not limited to the sheer magnetism of its iconic collection, but also extends to the glorious history behind it. Founded in 1768 by King George III, the institution boasts the status of being the first art school in Great Britain. It was established for the dual purpose of raising the status of the arts and showcasing the wealth of talent in the English art scene. It has stayed true to that dream – today, there is no clearer testament to the magnificence of British art than its oldest academic establishment.
London W1J 0BD
Open daily 10am – 6pm
Fridays 10am – 10pm
Open daily 8am – 10pm
Sundays 10am – 6pm
NATIONAL GALLERY, LONDON
Located in Trafalgar Square, Westminster, the National Gallery is one of the world’s most esteemed art museums. That is to be expected, of course; after all, the British establishment is home to some of the most treasured pieces such as Picasso’s “Motherhood”, Monet’s “Bathers at La Grenouillére”, Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” and Da Vinci’s “The Virgin of the Rocks”, to name a few.
Starting with just 38 paintings in 1834, the gallery now houses over 2,300 paintings. While that number is not entirely out of the ordinary, the gallery proves that quality always trumps quantity. The museum is rated among the most visited in the world, with nearly six million visitors yearly. It effortlessly attracts art enthusiasts and even casual appreciators of beauty.
Beyond the breath-taking architecture, the interiors are such intimidating wonders that make you feel as though you are walking on hallowed ground. And that’s not even the best part. The best part is that it’s free of charge, which means you can literally just walk in and stare at a Leonardo da Vinci or a Cézanne for five minutes – or stay all day (the choice is yours, really!). Who could pass on that chance?
London WC2N 5DN, UK
Here is the thing: you could visit the Tate Modern just to admire the building alone. We mean it. Described as an architectural breakthrough, the building is such a pleasing sight that it is an artwork in its own right. None of this is to minimise the grandeur of its art collection, though. Andy Warhol, Barbara Hepworth, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse – some of the greatest artists the world has witnessed over the last century – all have their works displayed on the walls of the Tate Modern.
The Tate Modern caters to a variety of tastes, featuring works by contemporary artists from international backgrounds and is dedicated to gender equality, employing a 50:50 ratio for exhibitions of works by male and female artists. The modernist exhibitions are inspired by a wide range of influences from French impressionism to Picasso’s analytic cubism, to re-interpretations of classic artforms.
Currently rated the most visited art gallery in the United Kingdom (fifth in the world), the Tate Modern is one of the most popular destinations for contemporary art. Such great feat for a museum that was declared open by the Queen only nineteen years ago. Speak of a modern miracle. Unlike your typical Nigerian miracle, though, you don’t have to just watch it on TV or take our word for it. You can go confirm it yourself. For free.
London SE1 9TG
Sunday to Thursday 10.00–18.00
Friday to Saturday 10.00–22.00
Frankly, to be inside the British Museum is to be surrounded by the defining artefacts of human history. The world’s first national museum is a visual journey into humanity’s cultural evolution through its collection of pieces from all over the planet. Acquired during the peak of the British Empire’s colonial quest, the works housed in the gallery are sourced from thousands of ethnicities: including the casting stones of the Great Pyramid of Giza, the bronze statue of Buddha, and Neo-Babylonian stonework to name a few.
The works are neatly grouped into departments, depending on what part of the world they originated from. The Bronze Head from Ife, Asante goldwork, Akan Drum, Igbo-Ukwu art, Benin ivory mask of Queen Idia, Luzira Head from Uganda – these are some of the historic African objects that can be found among the eight million art pieces inside the gallery.
Famed for having the largest online database of art collections among the museums on Earth, the British Museum is where to go when you truly want to see the world. It is both a virtual flight which takes you across geographies and a time-machine which transports you back in time. Isn’t it high time you paid a visit to the gallery?
Great Russell St,
London WC1B 3DG,
Daily – 10.00–17.30
DULWICH PICTURE GALLERY
The oldest public art gallery in England, the Dulwich is an elegant visual library of history. Van Dyck, Poussin, Claude, Rembrandt are among the iconic artists featured in the gallery. The esteemed collection is populated by exquisite pieces from the French, Italian and Spanish baroque eras as well as paintings from the British Tudor period to the 19th century.
“Bigger is not always better”, that is the statement the museum would make if it were a breathing thing. Considerably smaller than other art galleries of its calibre, the Dulwich offers you an intimate experience of serene proximity to the historic works displayed on its walls. It proves that there is a certain sanctity to be found in its compact, lavishly-illuminated building. The game-changing architecture has been a source of wonder since its construction in 1817. It is one of the few buildings given the status of National Heritage of England, for the sake of its lush aesthetic and remarkable innovation.
London SE21 7AD,
Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm (Last Entry 4:30pm)
Closed Mondays (except Bank Holiday Mondays)