London is, of course, home to many of Britain’s most important galleries and permanent collections. But if you’re fed up with wading through the crowds at the latest blockbusters, look beyond the capital for the galleries that give art-lovers a chance to enjoy majestic works in relative tranquility…
One of the Tate’s London outposts (Tate St Ives is the other), this large gallery is housed in a converted warehouse in Albert Dock. Opened in 1988, this ‘Tate of the North’ focuses on modern and contemporary art by British and international artists, with recent exhibitions including Egon Schiele, Jackson Pollock and Yves Klein. The gallery cafe is worth a visit too – it’s eye-popping design was dreamed up by Sir Peter Blake.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow
This enormous gallery in the West End of Glasgow is one of the city’s most popular attractions – and rightly so. Opened in 1901, it is packed with a wide variety of artworks and historical artefacts. As well as putting on some brilliant exhibitions (the 2017 retrospective of work by comic book artist Frank Quitely was particularly fantastic), art-lovers can spend plenty of time perusing the permanent collection. The star attraction is Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross, and there are also paintings by Rembrandt, Titian, Monet, Turner and Renoir, and furniture and decorative panels by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
The Holburne Museum, Bath
The eclectic collection of Sir William Holburne was bequeathed to the people of Bath in 1882, with this impressive haul of more than 4,000 items added to over the years. The museum where it’s housed is in Sydney Pleasure Gardens, and exhibits include 17th and 18th century silver, bronzes, miniature portraits, books, furniture, Roman coins and paintings. Among the artists who feature are Canaletto, Gainsborough, Turner and Guardi. It’s worth noting that there is an admission charge, but entry is free from 3pm to 5pm every Wednesday and from 5pm to 9pm on the last Friday of every month.
Hauser and Wirth, Somerset
The most ‘off the beaten track’ of all the places on the list, this contemporary art gallery, opened in 2014, is to be found in Durslade Farm in the village of Bruton. As well as regular exhibitions of cutting edge art, there are also family events, workshops, talks and an artist residency programme. The gardens were created by Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf and there’s a highly-rated restaurant, Roth Bar & Grill, onsite, which showcases the produce grown on the farm. The renovated farmhouse, which has six bedrooms, is also available to rent for those who want to make more than a day of it.
The Hepworth, Wakefield
Wakefield, in Yorkshire, is the birthplace of Barbara Hepworth, whose monumental sculptures ensured her position as one of the most prominent British artists of the 20th century. The town is now also home to this purpose-built gallery bearing her name, with displays featuring her work and and exploring her artistic process. There are also regular exhibitions of other modern and contemporary artists and a permanent collection including pieces by Henry Moore, the artist to whom she is most often compared, and others including LS Lowry, Frank Auerbach and Maggi Hambling. The first section of the gallery’s garden, that boasts a rolling programme of outdoor sculptures, is now open to the public, and the building itself is something of a work of contemporary art, thanks to the distinctive design by David Chipperfield Architects.
The Fitzwilliam museum, Cambridge
This museum boasts an enormous collection, which features all kinds of fascinating historical objects (fans of Medieval bladed weapons are really in for the treat) and plenty of wonderful art. Examples of exquisite Islamic art, illuminated manuscripts and prints, including examples by Rembrandt and William Blake, are all worthy of perusal, as are the paintings by big names such as Rubens, Titian, Veronese and Monet, plus Vuillard, Poussin, Delacroix and many more.
Turner Contemporary, Margate
Another building designed by Sir David Chipperfield, this gallery is built on the site where Turner stayed during his regular visits to the town and has been hosting exhibitions since it opened its doors for the first time in 2011. Artists whose work has been on show in recent years include Tracey Emin (whose pieces were displayed alongside Turner paintings), Patrick Heron and Cornelia Parker. Visitors to Turner Contemporary can also take in spectacular sea views, and, when the tide is low, catch site of Anthony Gormley’s Another Time XXI, a solid cast iron figure that is positioned on Fulsam Rock close to the front of the gallery, an installation that will remain in situ until November 2020.
Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge
Kettle’s Yard is the former home of Jim Ede, a Tate curator in the 1920s and 30s, and his wife Helen, who gifted it to Cambridge University in 1966. The couple operated an open house policy for people to view their art collection during the time they lived there, and the gallery continues in that same spirit, with an extra exhibition space added in 1970 and a further major refurbishment completed in 2018. Paintings by Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Alfred Wallis and Joan Miro, and sculptures by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Brancusi are all on display alongside carefully selected furniture, glass and ceramics.