East London is a cultural treasure trove of galleries, museums, and grassroots music venues; it is a metropolitan breeding ground for art, fashion, and music that tourists from across the UK flock to for a culture fix.
To help you discover the cultural highlights of East London, we have compiled a list of the top 10 art galleries in East London, which will leave you stepping into iconic galleries, embracing emerging art trends, and gaining a new perspective after witnessing the innovative and cutting-edge exhibitions.
The Top 10 Art Galleries in East London
1. Whitechapel Gallery
Dubbed “the artists’ gallery for everyone”, Whitechapel Gallery houses international art alongside the art created on its doorstep. Whitechapel Gallery is revered for allowing cutting-edge contemporary artists Cindy Sherman, William Kentridge, and Zarina Bhimji to premiere their work, where the artefacts from Frida Kahlo and Pablo Picasso have also been showcased.
On any given day, you can expect to catch film screenings, collection displays, free exhibitions, and even public debates in what is commonly referred to as the UK’s greatest cultural hub. By visiting the gallery, you will support its century-long commitment to providing art education and enrichment to schools, families, and local communities.
2. Hoxton Gallery
Hoxton Gallery has come a long way since its humble beginnings in a basement in 2009. It now boasts two locations, The Arch on 9 Kingsland Road and the chicly ramshackle-d location at 12 – 18 Hoxton Street. Its devotion to urban contemporary art has seen the itinerate institution hosting emerging art forms from an array of up-and-coming artists, including Chris Moon. It is highly frequented by beatniks and art scene elites alike.
The opening nights of the new exhibitions are always something to add to your social calendar. In addition to the art installations, there are spoken word performances, live music sets and sound installation performances.
3. Victoria Miro Gallery
The Victoria Miro Gallery keeps its focus predominantly on British contemporary art. On this list of the top art galleries in East London, The Victoria Miro Gallery is easily the most provocative and daring, as seen through Wangechi Mutu’s Intertwined exhibition, which will easily enamour anyone with a penchant for the dark and dreary sculptures and art pieces from H.R. Giger.
The UK art icon Grayson Perry, who is highly celebrated for his prints and ceramics that challenge the hegemony of heteronormativity, also has an exhibition at the Victoria Miro Gallery that continues to amass Avant Garde aesthetic excellence. Victoria Miro opened her first art space in 1985 on Cork Street before upping sticks and moving to larger premises in Islington in 2000 after her smaller space was a resounding success.
4. The Approach Gallery
The Approach Gallery has been on the East London art scene since 1997; with decades of experience, it has perfected the art of balancing its passion for artists new to the scene and artists that have come to define scenes. The gallery, located in Bethnal Green, just above the Approach Tavern, has helped many artists establish their careers, with help from its loyal patrons who celebrate the inter-generational stance on exhibiting.
While some galleries overlook female artists, The Approach Gallery ensures the worthy always get a platform to premiere their pieces. The co-directors, Emma Robertson and Jake Miller are incredibly keen on the life work of artists such as Heidi Bucher, John Steazaker, Peter Davies and Lisa Oppenheim.
5. Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art
The Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art started as a not-for-profit educational charity and art institution which operates primarily for the public’s benefit. The contemporary gallery on Fitzroy Street was founded by the curator and art historian Dr Ziba Ardalan in 2004. Since its inception, it has exhibited arrays of thought-provoking and challenging exhibitions that defy mainstream discourses.
Recently, the Parasol Foundation has made its modus operandi more international but that shouldn’t stop art fans in East London from venturing to the gallery space, which frequently holds ground-breaking art from artists just finding their prominence in the UK.
6. Maureen Paley Gallery
Adding to the vibrancy of Bethnal Green is the Maureen Paley Gallery, which has been exhibiting contemporary art since 1984. Originally, the art gallery was named the Interim Gallery before Maureen Paley made her life’s work eponymous. Maureen always has her finger on the aesthetic pulse; before Wolfgang Tillmans, Gillian Wearing, and Laurence Abu Hamdan won the Turner Prize she championed their work.
While there are all manners of things weird, provoking and wonderful, the Maureen Paley Gallery has a strong interest in artists addressing social and cultural issues via their work. In 2022 the art gallery was dubbed one of the 15 best galleries in London.
7. Seventeen Gallery
If multimedia art is your scene, find time to step into the Seventeen Gallery on Kingsland Road. The modern gallery space regularly holds everything from contemporary exhibitions to projections of indie and short films to artists’ talks. The Seventeen Gallery is famously the home of established artists, including David Raymond Conroy and Emily Parry; emerging artists also frequently hold space in the gallery to welcome visitors into new visionary worlds.
The director, David Hoyland, has a knack for scouting the best luminaries in the local art scene, curating world-class workshops and well-stocking the art shop with limited edition prints so you can take home a piece of the Seventeen Gallery.
8. Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac’s contributions to the art world can be noted across the globe. In addition to his expanding team in Asia, his galleries in Paris and Salzburg, the Austrian art dealer and curator also established one of the largest art galleries in East London. Ropac frequently showcases works from the world’s most respected contemporary artists. His exhibition calendar always has something new to offer the East End art scene, from sculptures by Rona Pondick to deliciously dark installations by Miquel Barcelo.
9. Kate MacGarry Gallery
From her contemporary art gallery in East London, Kate MacGarry runs an internationally recognised programme which explores interdisciplinary and wide-ranging practices. Her clean and minimalist art gallery, which currently represents 23 established and emerging artists, often represents artists before they pick up some of the most prized accolades in the art game. Most recently, she has represented Helen Hammock, who became the joint winner of the 2019 Turner Prize.
10. Pilar Corrias Gallery
Finishing off the list of the ten best art galleries in East London is the Pilar Corrias Gallery, another contemporary gallery addressing the under-representation of female artists. Currently, two-thirds of the 32 artists he represents in his 3,800-square-foot art gallery identify as female. There is always something new underway at the Pilar Corrias Gallery, which has recently expanded out of the East End into a new location on Saville’s Row.