London is full of galleries caters in one way or another to pretty much every artistic taste. The big and well-known galleries are great to visit – The Tates Modern and Britain, along with the National Gallery, the V&A and the RWA draw zillions of visitors each year and are really stunning to experience. What if you’ve got a bit longer to explore though, or you’re a London resident looking for something a bit different? Here’s my lowdown of a few smaller, quirkier and slightly lesser-known galleries in the city.
The Soane Museum is where neo-classical architect John Soane used to live, and is now a museum, featuring Soane’s own drawings and models, as well as his extensive, eclectic, and jumbled collection of drawings, paintings, classical statues, and antiquities.
There is actually an Act of Parliament stating that the house must be maintained as closely as possible to it’s condition at the time of Soane’s death. He put the act of parliament in place to ensure that his son, with whom he’d had a long-running feud, would not sell off the artefacts or house (which after several developments and architectural experiments is an artefact in itself.)
The museum is packed with quirky art objects and makes for a fascinating visit.
A engaging insight into graphic art and design and branding over the decades, the museum of Brands features the beginnings of familiar brands such as surf, OXO and Corn Flakes, as well as some you’ll never have heard of. Absolutely packed with packets, a visit to the museum is like walking around a supermarket-cum-time tunnel. It’s just off Portobello Road in London’s Notting Hill, and The Telegraph described it as “a place of worship.”
It’s very worth venturing south of the river for this uber-quirky museum and gallery. This fabulous grouping of artefacts amassed by private collectors Richard and Henry Syer contains more or less the same group of objects that it did over 100 years ago. The collection itself actually represents the result of over 100 years of collecting between 1780 and 1900 by the father and son team. Highlights include a Hawaiian gourd bottle dating from one of Captain Cook’s voyages, along with a 19th century dentist’s hat adorned with real teeth.
Central London’s Foundling Museum is near the site of the now-demolished Foundling Hospital, which from 1739 served as a home for London’s abandoned babies and children. The hospital also happened to be the country’s first public art gallery. The Foundling Museum now houses an excellent art collection along with a museum of artefacts and stories related to the original foundlings, along with a collection of the manuscripts of composer George Frederick Handel, who was a founder and benefactor of the hospital.