1. Sleuth for street art in Shoreditch
Cross London’s most famous problem-solver (hint: Sherlock Holmes) with enigmas like Banksy and you’re halfway to understanding the main draw of Shoreditch in East London. Particularly around Great Eastern Street and Brick Lane, it’s possible to play detective by spotting spray-painted shutters, freehand painting, murals, and political stencil art from the likes of guerrilla artists including Shepard Fairey, Eine, Roa, and – of course – Banksy himself. Due to its ephemeral nature (some works are painted over the next day), what you see all comes down to timing.
2. Lose yourself in Arabia at Leighton House
Wedged between the polished attractions of Notting Hill and Kensington, the leafy suburbs of Holland Park are often overlooked. Yet here you’ll find the former home and studio of Victorian artist, Frederic, Lord Leighton. It’s packed with Levantine treasures, including textiles, Persian carpets and pottery, but the mansion’s jaw-dropping highlight is the Arab Hall, adorned with fountains, cupolas and gold mosaics.
3. Appreciate the Masters after-hours
The National Gallery on Trafalgar Square (above) is a favourite art destination for thousands of reasons, the majority explained by the 2,300-odd paintings in its vast collection. Add its exceptional Friday Lates to that list – a series of free and constantly-changing themed after-work tours. The idea is to delve into the stories and styles behind some of the greatest artworks the world has ever seen.
4. Slide down the ArcelorMittal Orbit
First designed for the London 2012 Summer Olympics by sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor, this engineering landmark-cum-attraction has an added talking point this autumn. That’s because Belgian artist Carsten Holler has tacked-on the world’s longest Helter Skelter to its main frame, letting those brave enough fly down while appreciating enough tangled steel to make 265 double-decker buses.
5. Get dirty in an arty burger restaurant
When MEATliquor first opened five years ago off Oxford Street, it changed London’s relationship with the hamburger for good. No longer were they seen as cheap street eats. The brainchild of Yianni Papoutsis has now spawned two other burger restaurant offshoots, the best of which in Hoxton Market. Go for the fantastic beef patties and buns, but stay for its stunning Gilbert and George-inspired stained glass ceiling. For the uninitiated, they’re East London’s most iconic artistic duo and can regularly be seen out and about in nearby Spitalfields.
6. Ponder modern art while waiting for a train
Located on Platform One of Hackney Downs railway station, Banner Repeater is a genuine rarity, not just in London, but anywhere for that matter. One of Europe’s only art venues with a train service delivering visitors directly to and from the gallery door – some who pop in simply while waiting for the next train – it was founded as an art experiment, but now welcomes 4,000 visitors a day. Key to this is rush-hour opening times and a programme that champions local creatives.
7. Give the thumbs up to Trafalgar Square’s unexpected side
Everyone knows Nelson’s Column in the heart of London. But not many understand the backstory and significance of the Fourth Plinth only a few metres away. Located to the square’s northwest, the column was originally intended to hold an equestrian statue of William IV, but insufficient funds meant it remained empty for more than 150 years. Since then, the office of the Mayor of London has stumped-up the cash and the space is now regularly filled with interchanging one-off commissions.
8. Expect the unexpected at the Museum of Curiosities
More a Charles Dickens-style curiosity shop than a conventional art gallery, the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities specialises in skulls, skeletons, and taxidermy. There is a gallery dedicated to surreal art on the first floor, but it’s the assorted oddities that’ll have you thinking of the Little Shop of Horrors. As the official guide says, “the museum has no overreaching aim beyond the theft of its visitors time.” And isn’t that one of the joys of art in the first place?
9. Beat the rich at Frieze London
Where the art crowd meets the insanely well-off, this annual art auction is held in the splendour of Regents Park, with the purpose of bringing the world’s leading galleries together. It works a charm, with works from more than 1,000 contemporary artists being snapped up despite the hefty price-tags. For those who are only able to window shop, it offers a rare chance to ogle stuff that’ll disappear for good into the homes of private collectors.
PHOTOS: SUPPLIED, MEATMISSION FACEBOOK, BANNER REPEATER FACEBOOK, THE LAST TUESDAY SOCIETY & THE VIKTOR WYND MUSEUM OF CURIOSITIES FACEBOOK
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.