The Tate Modern. The Victoria and Albert Museum. The British Museum. London is full of some of the greatest art museums and art galleries in the world where you'll find works by some of the most noted painters and sculptors who have ever lived.
But enjoying some of London's best art doesn't require standing in a long queue to buy a ticket or making your way through a crowded gallery under the watchful eye of a dour security guard. In fact, some of London's most interesting art can be found outside of the museums and on the street corners, in the parks and on the exterior walls of the city's buildings. In terms of street art and public art, London has some of the most fascinating pieces in the world ' and it's all free and accessible.
London Street Art
From Blank Canvases to Banksy
London is home to people from all over, so it only makes sense that the public art around the city ranges from traditional, commemorative statuary honoring famous monarchs and generals to unusual modern art that makes a strong political statement and features influences from various cultures.
A number of organizations in London sponsor and commission public art, making the work of local and international artists available to everyone. In some cases, the art is displayed thanks to the efforts of local government, such as the work of the Lewisham Council. The Lewisham Council sponsors work from up-and-coming artists in the public spaces of that borough. In other cases, London's street art is spontaneous ' and possibly illegal ' such as the works by controversial graffiti artist Banksy, who has created a number of installations around the city without permission, many of which have been removed or relocated.
Regardless of who sponsors, or creates, the work, London is still a lively hotbed and supporter of public art. All it takes to enjoy it is an open mind and open eyes.
A Few Exhibits
One of the best things about London's street art is that it's always changing ' a Banksy mural that covers a wall one week may be painted over the next or the exhibition in a popular park could be replaced in a few months. It's the ever-changing nature of the street art scene that makes it so appealing and so important to pay attention. Miss it today ' and it could be gone tomorrow.
One of the most popular pieces of changing art is the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. Located at the base of Nelson's Column, the Fourth Plinth was originally meant for the display of a statue of a horse heading into battle, but the builders of the Column ran out of money before the project was completed. Today, the plinth serves as the site of a rotating series of sculptures by noted artists; every few months, the statue changes, renewing interest in the site.
Other 'exhibits' that come and go are the graffiti works of noted taggers Eine and Stik. Eine paints huge, colorful letters throughout the city; Stik's work is mostly limited to the Shoreditch and East London, and features highly stylized stick figures. In the Canary Wharf area, you'll find plenty of commissioned public art pieces; choose a hotel near Canary Warf for easy access to the area's multiple green spaces and free art exhibits.
Take a Tour
While it's certainly possible, and quite easy, to find street art in London on your own, you may miss some of the lesser-known pieces ' or overlook famous works as simple graffiti ' without some guidance. If you have an interest in modern and public art, consider taking a street art tour with an organization like Street Art London. Several days each week, Street Art London leads groups on walking tours throughout the city, identifying important works of art and providing greater insight into the artists, their work and the role street art plays in London culture. Many of the guides are involved in street art themselves and have close relationships with artists, allowing them to provide unique perspectives and information about the pieces you wouldn't find on your own.
Experiencing art is an important part of any visit to London, and the best art isn't only found hanging on museum walls. As you explore the city, keep your eyes open for original and exciting art ' you may be one of the only people to ever see it in person.
Image by London's Attraction Guide From Flickr's Creative Commons
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post
About the Author: Louise Vinciguerra is a fantastic joke teller, has a million and one hobbies, and enjoys matching her fonts with her moods. This Brooklyn native dirties her hands in content on weekdays and as a devout nature lover, dirties them in soil on the weekends. When she's not on Facebook, WordPress or Twitter, she's traveling in search of fun food, dabbling in urban farming or planning nature trips from her resident city of Rome. When she's not doing any of the above, she sleeps.
Photo Credits: London Street Art London Attractions Guide