The UK’s best art galleries you probably haven’t visited yet

Overwhelmed by the snap-happy tourist crowd? Here’s where to go instead…

London’s high-profile, tourist-friendly galleries are lauded the world over – and rightly so. But the UK’s artistic offerings stretch way beyond the capital’s big-name attractions and include a plethora of exceptional bijou-sized galleries and exhibition spaces. So, if you’re in need of an art fix, but want an alternative to The Tate and Turner, here’s our guide to some of the best under-the-radar institutions to check out now.

Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham

The UK’s best art galleries you probably haven’t visited yet

Housed in a Grade II listed Art Deco building at the University of Birmingham and opened by Queen Mary in 1939, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts was once described by architectural historian Sir John Summerson as representing “better than almost any other building (except, perhaps the RIBA in Portland Place) the spirit of English architecture in the 1930s.” To bolster its credentials further, the Barber was also named as one of only five galleries outside London to receive five stars for having “Outstanding collections of international significance” in 2005. It’s currently free to enter and displays work by Monet, Renoir, Picasso and Van Gogh.

On now: The Artist in Art

The UK’s best art galleries you probably haven’t visited yet

Barber Institute of Fine Arts Gallery, Birmingham

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Watts Gallery, Guildford

The UK’s best art galleries you probably haven’t visited yet

George Frederic Watts was renowned as England’s answer to Michelangelo. A portraitist, sculptor, landscape painter and symbolist, Watts, together with his wife Mary, a well-known designer in her own right, built a gallery in an artists’ village to exhibit his own work. It opened in 1904 and has been saturated with huge allegorical paintings and portraits ever since.

On now: Emma Bridgewater: Pomegranates (Watts Studios)

The UK’s best art galleries you probably haven’t visited yet

Watts Gallery, Guildford

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Maureen Paley, London

The UK’s best art galleries you probably haven’t visited yet

Founded in 1984, known as Interim Art during the Nineties and renamed Maureen Paley 14 years ago, this Bethnal Green gem has been championing innovative artists for over two decades and, as a result, is a mainstay for contemporary art in the capital’s East End. Artists on the roster having included Turner Prize winners Wolgang Tillmans and Gillian Wearing.

On now: Maureen Paley Hosting Joségarcía, MX

The UK’s best art galleries you probably haven’t visited yet

Maureen Paley, London

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Common Guild, Glasgow

The UK’s best art galleries you probably haven’t visited yet

The Common Guild in Glasgow – a two-floor exhibition space located in a Victorian townhouse on the edge of Kelvingrove Park – has a sort of intimacy and quality of natural light that few established art houses offer. Noted for its rich programme of artists talks and round-table discussions, the gallery was responsible for directing the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art and has produced distinguished shows by the likes of Ulla von Brandenburg, Phil Collins and Corin Sworn.

On now: No exhibition is currently on. Katinka Bock, ‘Radio Piombino’ will start on 20 April, 2018.

The UK’s best art galleries you probably haven’t visited yet

Common Guild, Glasgow

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One Thoresby Street, Nottingham

The UK’s best art galleries you probably haven’t visited yet

One Thoresby Street is an Aladdin’s Cave full of changing exhibitions, works by unknown, established, local and international artists, project spaces, studios, events and activities. It also housed Moot, a project space for emerging British creatives and run by Matt Jamieson, Candice Jacobs, Tristan Hessing and Tom Godfrey. The extraordinary attic space, which Bruce Asbestos often used for his Trade Gallery, has also shown Artur Zmijewski and Abigail Reynolds, among others.

On now: Castle Open Prize

The UK’s best art galleries you probably haven’t visited yet

One Thoresby Street, Nottingham

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Flowers Gallery, London

The UK’s best art galleries you probably haven’t visited yet

The first Flowers Gallery was founded in 1968 by Angela Flowers on Lisle Street in London’s West End. Today, it boasts an outpost in Mayfair, a 12,000 sq foot industrial space in Shoreditch and a gallery in New York’s Chelsea district, all of which represent over 60 artists, including Eduardo Paolozzi and Tai-Shan Shierenberg.

On now: Renny Tait: Thresholds to Brighter Worlds

The UK’s best art galleries you probably haven’t visited yet

Flowers Gallery, London

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Further Reading