Art

All, Art, Arts & Heritage, Blog, Content Creation, Content Tips, Website Tips

5 Art Galleries With The Best Digital Content Strategies


No Comments

As museums and galleries prepare for reopening on July 4th, we think now is a great moment to take a look at the best digital content strategies in the gallery world.

Since digital content will continue to enhance cultural experiences outside of physical exhibitions, it’s important to keep your online audience top of mind. Because as lockdown has shown, remote and virtual experiences are meaningful ways to supplement gallery visits, providing additional information, learning resources, fun activities and DIY interactions which increase engagement and give something extra to your visitors.

In light of this, we’ve rounded up five galleries, big and small, that have made significant strides across the web and social media. These galleries have approached content in different ways that are equally effective, offering distinct and unique online experiences for visitors far and wide.

The Serpentine Galleries

Known for: Pioneering exhibitions of contemporary art across two galleries in Hyde Park

The Serpentine Galleries has just had an extensive digital rebrand, making its website and content better than ever.

Its Art & Ideas section serves as a content hub, collating articles, podcasts and films exploring the ideas behind their displays and the artists who created them. From in-depth discussions on exhibition themes to artist interviews giving behind-the-art exclusives, the ‘Art & Ideas’ tab is a great resource for extra content related to goings-on at the galleries.

Click on the What’s On tab and you’ll find details of current, upcoming and online exhibitions. Each has extensive background information, high-quality images of work on display, and some have video trailers too.

The Serpentine’s most recent online exhibition, which ran from 14th May to 30th June, was called do it (around the world). Its premise was to provide “an ever-expanding set of creative instructions by leading artists – simple enough for anyone to do,” developing since 1993 in various forms.

This year, 30 international creative figures from the fields of art, music, poetry, fashion and design provided instructions, inspiration and tips for people creating art from home. It was hosted by Google Arts & Culture, and the Serpentine is cleverly encouraging people to share their creations with the hashtags #doit and #doitaroundtheworld to boost engagement through user-generated content.

These online resources are currently serving the Serpentine’s audience in lieu of a physical exhibition and will continue once their doors open to the public again. Encouraging engagement and connection beyond the gallery walls creates a tighter-knit community around local exhibitions, and brings the wonders of the gallery into homes around the world.

Over on social media…

The Serpentine Galleries’ Instagram feed is where the action happens. Their colourful grid features artwork, videos, photographs and poetry, each with detailed captions and intriguing insights. The Serpentine also shares interesting third-party content, such as interviews and discussions, related to their exhibition material.

The Wallace Collection

Known for: 18th Century French Art (Rococo and Baroque), 16th-19th Century European Art, Armour and Porcelain

The Wallace Collection’s digital strategy is known for being one of the best in the game. They have an extensive online collection database with high-quality images and expert knowledge provided in the descriptions.

Visitors can explore the collection through highlights selected by staff, or use the detailed search engine to find specific artefacts or paintings. The collection can also be navigated by gallery — so if visitors know where their favourite painting is hung in Hertford House, or just want to see how the collection is arranged room-by-room, this tool adds another layer to the online experience.

The blog is full of detailed articles and videos spotlighting specific artefacts in the collection. It’s organised thematically through blog series, recently covering royalty, animals, light and dark, movement and music, and war and peace. The Wallace Collection also runs a ‘Treasure of the Month’ blog series, highlighting an item in the collection with images you can zoom in on to see its intricacies while learning about the object’s history and significance.

This level of detail, organisation and breadth of online resources sets The Wallace Collection apart from many of its counterparts: its digital experience is distinct from a physical visit, but we think just as insightful and valuable.

Over on social media…

Twitter is where the Wallace Collection’s social presence comes to life. Posting almost daily, they share facts about their paintings, artefacts and artists, providing context as if you were in the gallery space.

Tate

Known for: Historic British art and contemporary art across four galleries in England

The pinnacle of Tate’s online strategy is its learning resources. Front and centre on the main homepage is the ‘Play, Learn and Create’ section, showcasing resources for kids and adults looking to expand their art knowledge.

Tate Kids has its own dedicated website, with activities, games, quizzes, informative articles and videos to help kids learn the importance of creativity and spark an interest in art. There’s also a Kids Gallery showcasing art submitted by children across the world, which is a great way to boost engagement with children and parents alike.

Back on the main site, the Explore Our Galleries Online segment features a selection of galleries from all of Tate’s sites, including a modern art exhibition from St Ives and Walk Through British Art from the Tate Britain in London. The experiences are structured by room with high-quality images of the artwork and matching descriptions.

Visitors can explore 78,000 artworks, 4,000 artists and 22,000 archive items on Tate’s site, navigating by theme, alphabetically, by collection or medium. Finding your way around the website couldn’t be easier.

This is another great example of how online experiences can complement physical visits, with fantastic resources and additional exclusive information for multiple audiences.

Over on social media…

Tate’s Instagram is bright, colourful and informative. It has an intriguing selection of story highlights and IGTV films including ‘Making a Pot like Grayson Perry’ and a behind-the-scenes look at working at Tate during lockdown. They also moved their popular Friday lates series online, “bringing an artist-led programme direct to you, wherever you are.” This Friday (3 July) it’s all about LGBTIQ+ artists, with a mixture of talks, workshops, films and music, all accessible via Facebook.

Courtauld Gallery

Known for: French impressionists and post-impressionist paintings, the collection of the University of London’s Courtauld Institute of Art

The Courtauld Gallery has had some time to make sure its digital content strategy is up to standard: it’s been closed since late 2018 for a major redevelopment. Throughout this time, it’s kept visitors engaged through comprehensive virtual tours through each room of the gallery, digital exhibitions, and thought-leadership articles and webinars led by the Courtauld Institute of Art.

Under the Gallery tab on the Courtauld’s website you’ll find Watch and Listen sections hosting videos and podcasts on a variety of topics, including some famous names and faces discussing art! For those who don’t fancy a virtual tour, they also have high-res images of their collection by medium: paintings, prints and drawings, sculpture and decorative arts.

The variety of ways to explore the collection makes it very accessible to all kinds of audiences. The Courtauld benefits from the expertise of its academics and students when putting on events such as the Open Hour, an online series of lectures and performances on “all things art history.”

Over on social media…

The Courtauld Gallery’s Twitter shares highlights from the collection, online event details both from the Institute of Art and third-party associates, and places to learn more about art history. They post frequently, keeping audiences engaged with thought-out and attention-grabbing messages.

White Cube

Known for: Contemporary art in two small locations in London, Mason’s Yard and Bermondsey, and in Hong Kong.

White Cube’s clean, airy website is both calming and reminiscent of the illuminating gallery spaces in their physical locations.

There is a dedicated tab for online exhibitions, where three are currently on display. The exhibitions are presented in an infinite-scroll format, with high-quality images and informative captions alongside behind-the-scenes photographs of the artist’s studio and inspirations. It feels as immersive as visiting the gallery in person: it’s user-friendly, you don’t have to click around the site for more art or information as it’s presented on one page with an effortless flow.

White Cube’s News and Events page is regularly updated with the latest from the gallery, while the Channel has videos covering a huge range of artists previously or currently exhibited. The videos give the artist’s perspective on their works and guided tours of online exhibitions, providing digital visitors with an extra layer of experience.

Over on social media…

White Cube has a striking Instagram feed of intriguing artworks, in-depth descriptions, and news of upcoming displays and events. On IGTV there are videos from the Channel section of the website, presented with subtitles for accessibility in mobile use, which helps reach an audience that may not have seen them on the website.


The closure of museums and galleries during the coronavirus pandemic has been a catalyst for change in how cultural institutions engage their audiences outside of the exhibition space. Taking the opportunity to develop an online content strategy, keeping up with regular visitors and drawing in new ones through accessible digital resources, has primed these galleries for a successful reopening and a thriving future.

At CBA Content, we’re dedicated to helping museums and cultural organisations build an inspiring and impactful content strategy, no matter where they are on their journey.

We can help by creating a custom content map for your business with market and audience research, content ideas and promotional strategy, or by creating bespoke content for your organisation. Get in touch — we’d love to see how we can help.

All, Art, Content Creation, Content Tips, Cultural heritage

Your Museum’s Online Story Is More Important Than Ever. Here’s How To Get It Right.


No Comments

In London, there has been a 22.5% increase in web traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic. The British Museum has seen a 120% increase in traffic to its website compared to last year. People have more time to spend online during lockdown, and the data shows that they’re using that time to connect with art, culture and history.

Chris Unitt’s article shows the Google Trends data on how people are searching for museum experiences

Having a strong digital presence is important all the time, but with people still largely staying at home, it’s even more important now. Museums are enjoying an attentive audience who are actively seeking out resources. Which means with the right content strategy, it’s easier than ever to engage your audience.

We know it can be overwhelming to kick off a new content plan at the best of times, never mind in the middle of a pandemic. Taking it one step at a time, this blog post will show how easy it can be to begin your museum’s digital journey, or to guide your existing strategy to success.

Getting to know your audience

The vital first step to any content strategy is getting to know your audience. Take the time to find out who they are, where they hang out online, what they’re interested in watching, reading and looking at. This can simply mean listening to their conversations online and staying active in their social media communities.

You might think: ‘I already know my audience — they’re the ones coming into my museum and enjoying our exhibitions.’ While this is true, visitors to your museum often only represent a fraction of what your online audience could be.

One of the many benefits of a good digital strategy is its inclusivity. Online museum resources benefit not only those who would ordinarily visit in person, but those who can’t do so due to geographical limitations, socio-economic barriers, scheduling constraints or disabilities.

The Wallace Collection have an admirable online archive with detailed descriptions for each piece. Here’s Canaletto’s ‘Venice: the Bacino di San Marco from the Canale della Giudecca

An inclusive online story, with resources that cater to all sectors of society, means more people can benefit from what your museum has to offer, and can encourage those who might not ordinarily visit to make the trip.

Where to start

Twitter is a great place to start when getting to know your audience. Its public forum means you can listen to a wide variety of conversations and find out what your audience is passionate about.

There are organised discussions hosted in Twitter’s cultural heritage world — some weekly, some monthly — that orchestrate a dialogue open to all. Museum Hour, Heritage Chat and Archive Hour are three such examples, often hosted on a specific theme and engaging a wide audience from museum curators to visitors.

When tweeting, make sure to use relevant hashtags and tag profiles to increase your reach. Don’t be afraid to join in on conversations: respond to polls, reply to questions, retweet interesting facts or information. Have personality and be human!

Knowing what your audience wants

The easiest way to understand what your audience wants is to ask them. Conduct social media polls, open up Q&A sessions, ask for feedback on your website. As we mentioned in the last section, your online audience doesn’t always hold a mirror to your in-person audience: it’ll be bigger, broader and represent a wider range of voices.

The Museum Hour discussion on Twitter is held weekly, covering different themes each Monday – a great tool for understanding your audience and the museum sector.

Remember that your online resources will never replace a visit to your museum for those who would visit ordinarily. Rather, digital content is an alternative to visiting in person, and a great opportunity to offer something extra that might not be feasible in a physical space.

For example, in our last blog post we wrote about London’s Courtauld Gallery’s Open Hour Zoom series which ran throughout May, with expert speakers addressing audiences of up to 600 people on a range of topics and themes. An event of this scale would be impossible for the Gallery to hold in its premises, with speakers and audiences from across the UK attending for a one-hour seminar.

An opportunity to connect with new people

To create valuable experiences online, keep a clear idea of your target audience in mind: Who is likely to access your digital content, and what are they looking for when they do?

It’s also important to be inclusive. People of all ages, digital literacy levels, and socio-cultural backgrounds will want to get involved, as will people with learning disabilities and mental health conditions that might require information to be presented in different ways.

Don’t be overwhelmed by this breadth of audience, though — it’s an opportunity to reach people you might not have reached before, and provide them with a valuable experience of what your museum has to offer.

Here are some content ideas to spark your inspiration:

  • Kids’ educational content: teaching packs, drawing challenges, treasure hunts and games to keep kids entertained while learning
  • Online book clubs: Suggested readings with video call or Twitter discussions
  • Virtual tours: Get inspired by English Heritage and show your online audience around your museum/heritage site
  • Establish your online archive: Upload high-quality photographs of your artefacts and artworks for people to enjoy from home. It’s even better if they have informative captions!
  • Share your expertise in blog posts: Blog posts are an easy way to break into your content strategy. They don’t take a big team to create or any specialist equipment, and are a valuable platform for sharing knowledge and information.

The Great Fire of London game, sourced from the Museum of London’s schools resource page

Next steps: Building a digital culture

Developing a digital strategy could mean a cultural shift within your museum. Leading the change from the top down and the bottom up is integral to creating a successful digital culture, so every member of staff is informed, knowledgeable and as excited about the change as you are.

There are many helpful digital culture resources available online. As part of the UK Government’s Culture is Digital initiative, Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund have commissioned a Digital Culture Compass tool. It includes a Charter to help cultural organisations lead their digital change with core values centred on people’s needs, and a self-assessment Tracker to help assess organisations’ current use of digital, and set targets for the future.

The Digital Culture Charter helps cultural organisations lead their digital change in a values-led, change-responsive way

Sprout Social offers an Ultimate Social Media for Museums Guide, an extensive handbook specifically for museums looking to build their social media platforms. It’s helpful as it gives particular tips for museums and cultural organisations wherever they are on their journey. Informative and approachable, the guide gives introductions to the most popular social media platforms as well as a tutorial on building a social media strategy.

These tools are a great starting point as you begin enhancing your online presence. Building a digital content strategy is no mean feat, especially in an industry that has traditionally operated within four walls. However cultural activity and engagement during lockdown make one thing clear: people remain passionate about art, history and heritage, seeking out museum resources online and sharing experiences virtually.

At CBA Content, we’re dedicated to helping museums and cultural organisations build an inspiring and impactful content strategy, no matter where they are on their journey.

We can help by creating a custom content map for your business with market and audience research, content ideas and promotional strategy, or by creating bespoke content for your organisation. Get in touch — we’d love to see how we can help.

All, Art, Community, Content Creation, Culture

Experiencing Art and Culture in Lockdown: What’s Changed and How Will We Adapt?


No Comments

Before lockdown, we might have filled our Saturday afternoons with a trip to a museum after brunch with friends, ending the day in a South Kensington pub to discuss the exhibition we’d seen.

Now the galleries, museums, cafes, pubs, and other weekend hangout spots are closed due to COVID-19, we’ve had to make our own fun when it comes to experiencing art and culture.

Fortunately, virtual tours, webinars, podcasts and video series allow us to get our culture fix from home. Museums and galleries across the world are working hard to bring cultural content into our living rooms, keeping that connection with art and history alive.

As we start to look towards the end of lockdown, it’s becoming clear that our relationship with museums will look different for a while yet — potentially changing for good. So how have we adapted and what will art and culture experiences look like in the future? Here are a few ways we see people enjoying and engaging with art, history and heritage in the months and years to come.

Enjoying culture from home

Some gallerists, museum curators, artists, tour guides and culture vultures have seized this opportunity, offering online material to satisfy our cultural cravings. The British Museum, for example, now has nearly 4.5 million objects and 1.9 million photographs in its digital archive, after adding 300,000 new images since their doors closed. The Museum’s online traffic is up 120% on last year, highlighting the importance of a strong digital presence to complement its physical collection.

The British Museum is the world’s largest indoor space on Google Street View.

Google Arts & Culture has been a fantastic resource for exploring museums and galleries around the world during lockdown. Using hi-res image technology, you can wander round an exhibition, looking at high-resolution images of famous artworks and artefacts from your sofa.

You can browse artworks by time period, colour or museum collection, and the platform has editorial pieces highlighting weekly favourites, hidden details, and stories behind pieces of art.

Thanks to Google Arts & Culture, museum curators, historians and art experts, we’ve actually been treated to more content than we might have experienced during a physical visit. Podcasts, mini online festivals and virtual tours offer expert insights, stimulating conversation and a behind-the-scenes look at museums and historical sites.

One such museum creating content waves is the Courtauld Gallery in London. They’ve been hosting an ‘Open Hour’ each Thursday in May: a new, free digital events series with talks by industry leaders, explorations of individual works and live poetry readings.

With live-stream events, conferences and Q&A’s being offered widely for free, it’s easier than ever to join the conversation around art and culture. It only takes a quick hashtag search on Twitter – #MuseumFromHome, #GettyMuseumChallenge, #MuseumMomentOfZen – to see fun, helpful and inspiring updates in real-time.

The power of virtual connections

Since mid-March, the cultural sector’s physical presence has been greatly diminished. At the same time, unsurprisingly, virtual engagement has skyrocketed.

This digital connection has helped fill a void during isolation. It’s provided a means to interact with people and places near and far. More than that, it’s given us the unique opportunity to get to know and learn from museum curators, gallerists and art experts.

Through video and social platforms, they share their favourite artefacts, uncover the story behind paintings and discuss the power of art to move us, entertain us and transport us to another place and another time.

Barnaby Wright speaking at the first Courtauld Gallery ‘Open Hour’

Virtual museum tours aren’t anything new, but there’s been a surge in their popularity since the lockdown began. They’ve allowed us to continue to see and experience art even while doors are closed. And now that, in light of this crisis, we know online tours can be done in a fulfilling, informative way, they could play a vital role in the future of museums.

Online experiences allow people to explore exhibitions and displays that fascinate them regardless of where they’re located. They open up history and culture to all sectors of society: those with disabilities who find some museums and galleries difficult to access, people in rural areas who don’t live near a major exhibition, people with unusual schedules who can’t always visit during opening hours, and many more. This inclusivity and accessibility is essential to the future of the museum industry.

File:Museo Guggenheim, Bilbao (31273245344).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Fancy a visit to Bilbao’s Guggenheim? You can do it from your sofa.

Of course, nothing can truly replace a visit to a museum, experiencing culture with other people, with strangers, and seeing artefacts and art in person. But this renewed online connection will undoubtedly change the way we experience museums for a while yet.

How will museums look post-COVID-19?

In some countries around the world, museum and gallery doors are beginning to reopen, testing the waters for socially distanced visits. At the Brandenburg State Museum for Modern Art in Cottbus, Germany, which reopened on 1st May, lines on the floor in the museum foyer mark the advised distance between visitors, and the total number of visitors at one time is limited to 100.

Neon tape marks social distancing for ticket purchases at the Gropius Bau museum in Berlin, Germany. (Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

In Brussels, Belgium, safety measures planned for reopenings in mid-May include one-way visitor traffic, a quota of hourly admission numbers and a halting of audio guides for hygiene reasons. Sensible suggestions — and they could give an indication of what to expect in the UK once we’re at the stage of reopening museums.

Across the pond, a ‘drive-by art’ exhibition in Long Island, NY last weekend displayed another way we can recreate the gallery experience outside. The works of 52 artists were displayed on front lawns, fences, driveways and pavements, with local residents turning up in their cars to see the exhibition.

The sculptor Monica Banks winked at the signature hedges of the Hamptons with “Brains in Our Arms,”  steel wool octopuses positioned in her own hedge.

Monica Banks’ steel wool octopus sculptures ‘Brains in Our Arms’, in her hedge in Long Island. (Photo: Bryan Derballa for The New York Times)

The organiser, artist and theorist Warren Neidich, is planning another exhibition in Los Angeles later in the month, also based around the question of: “how do we show empathy and solidarity in this new age?”. Whether it’s east London street art or front garden sculptures, community art is something we can all enjoy, safely, while social distancing. 

What about the theme of upcoming exhibitions? Interestingly, the chronicling of this historic pandemic by museums has already begun, with the V&A, Museum of London and the National Portrait Gallery collecting items and photographs of life in lockdown.

Impacting almost every aspect of daily life, it’s likely that COVID-19 will be the subject of artistic and historical exhibitions fairly contemporaneously. The Brandenburg State Museum for Modern Art, for example, has reopened with a video about solutions devised by history’s artists and architects for personal protection in public, such as Weegee’s ‘Boy Meets Girl – From Mars’ (1955).

“Boy meets girl - from Mars” by Weegee (Arthur Fellig), ca. 1955, New York (NY), gelatin silver print, image: 8 1/2 x 7 3/8 in. Accession number: 16855.1993. Credit: Bequest of Wilma Wilcox, 1993. © Getty Images/ICP

Weegee’s ‘Boy Meets Girl – From Mars’ (1955)
(Photo: Bequest of Wilma Wilcox, 1993. © Getty Images/ICP
)

As we tentatively look towards the end of lockdown and the reopening of museums and galleries, it’s difficult to say what the ‘new normal’ will be for the cultural industries. If current trends are anything to go by, the future of museums involves socially distanced visits with reduced numbers. On the business side, a strong digital strategy has and will be more important than ever.

People are still hungry for art, history and heritage: virtual tours, informative content and expert insights continue to keep cultural experiences intact. For museums, now is a great opportunity to reevaluate the accessibility of culture: digital exhibitions have the potential to open up the world of art and history to vast sectors of society that might otherwise miss out. If there is a silver lining in this, let it be a celebration of culture made available to everyone.

All, Art, Arts & Heritage, Blog, Cultural heritage, London

Why Walking in London is The Best Way to Explore Its Past


No Comments

To put it simply: London is a city best explored on foot.

While we have the most comprehensive public transport system in the UK, taking you anywhere in the city (more or less) seamlessly, it’s incredible how much you miss while underground or on a winding bus route.

One of London’s greatest charms is its web of towns and boroughs, enchanting in their individual ways. The boundaries blur as you pass from Hackney to Shoreditch, Soho to Mayfair, Camden to Islington — and each area’s distinctive charisma represents the ebb and flow of city life.

A city of contrasting culture

As the streets entangle, you can experience vastly different architectures and atmospheres in a matter of metres.

Take Oxford Street for example: the Roman road which once led to a gallows is now lined with retail stores, endlessly busy with shoppers and traffic.

Oxford Circus c. 1904
Photo: Louis Levy postcard on Flickr

Step down a side street and you’ll find St Christopher’s Place, a peaceful pedestrian quarter with boutique stores, restaurants and endless Victorian charm.

Fact: St Christopher’s Place was redeveloped in the 1870s under the patronage of social housing advocate Octavia Hill — later a co-founder of the National Trust. It was transformed from a slum into a thriving neighbourhood with local cheesemongers, drapers, lamp and bookmakers setting up shop.

Wimpole Mews, Marylebone
Photo: Rachael Davis

London’s mews, originally built to cater for horses, coachmen and stable-servants of wealthy townhouse residents, are another favourite of ours to explore.

In West London, for instance, swap the tourist-swamped Portobello Road for some cute and cosy Notting Hill mews. The modern owners take pride in their city cottages with beautiful flowers adorning the window boxes – you wouldn’t see these pockets of domesticity from a double-decker bus!

London through the centuries

The ancient city is now unrecognisable amongst the high-rise buildings, busy city life and abundant traffic. Skyscrapers like The Shard, The Gherkin and Walkie-Talkie have changed the way we view the City of London at street-level: they dominate the skyline, altering our perspectives and reshaping the dynamics of the streets.

20 Fenchurch Street (Walkie Talkie) from Lombard Street
Photo: Rachael Davis

Walking through the City of London on a peaceful Sunday morning, however, you can see the fusion of pre-Great Fire buildings with more contemporary, glass-fronted behemoths. Stop by The Olde Wine Shades in Martin Lane, a survivor of the Great Fire built in 1663, for a glass of red that’s gone down in history!

Heading east, see the depth of London’s past on a walk between Hackney’s Tudor National Trust property Sutton House and the 2012 Olympic Park in neighbouring Stratford.

Fact: Built in 1535 when Hackney was a rural village, Sutton House is one of London’s last remaining Tudor houses.

After exploring Sutton House’s rich history, spanning from the 16th century to the 1980s, take a walk across the Hackney Marshes or along Hackney Wick Canal. You’ll end up in the modern, beautifully landscaped Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, an emblem of contemporary London!

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford
Photo: Rachael Davis

How to start your adventure

To curate your own walking tour, a great place to start is English Heritage’s Blue Plaque directory. Search by person, borough or category, and see otherwise unremarkable buildings in a new light.

Or take a leaf out of architectural historian Dan Cruickshank’s book (figuratively and literally: Cruickshank’s London: A Portrait of a City in 13 Walks is a source of inspiration) and uncover the city’s layered history by foot.

Explore world-famous buildings and little-known wonders; bustling roads and tiny streets; townhouses of the rich and famous and East End corner shops of decades past.

London lives and breathes, two millennia from its conception. Walk it, experience it, love it — and let us know where you end up!

All, Art, Arts & Heritage, Cultural heritage, Culture, London

Show Some Love For London: 5 Ways To Celebrate The City’s Culture


No Comments

While Cupid and romantic gestures normally take centre stage on St. Valentine’s Day, we’re here to show some love for the city we call home: an ode to London, one of the world’s great cultural capitals.

Whether you want to illuminate your evenings with rising stars at the National Theatre, or clear your mind with a walk along the River Thames, London has something to warm everyone’s hearts, from the history buff to the foodie, theatre-lover to art connoisseur.

To celebrate its rich and limitless culture, we’ve rounded up our favourite ways to fall in love with London, today and always.

1. Discover unique heritage sites

To love London is to love London’s history, and with two thousand years under its belt, this city has a lot to share.

From UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Maritime Greenwich, Westminster Abbey and Kew Gardens, to preeminent landmarks of Trafalgar Square, Tower Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral, the majestic monuments and buildings certainly throw light upon the history of London.

St Pauls Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral
Photo: Rachael Davis

When it comes to cultural history, however, it’s the stories of ordinary people in ordinary places that are most enlightening. Look off the beaten track for little-known wonders, such as Britain’s smallest police station in Trafalgar Square, the icon of Modernist architecture 2 Willow Road, or a taste of the darker side of London’s history (infamously south of the river) at The Ferryman’s Seat or Cross Bones Graveyard.

2. Trade for wares at a London Market

From Portobello Road to Spitalfields, Borough to Broadway, London is famous for its markets. They are a cultural staple with histories longer than most of the city itself, though they have vastly changed over the years.

Borough Market
Photo: Jonas Bengtsson on Flickr

London Bridge’s Borough Market started over a thousand years ago, after the construction of the first medieval bridge over the Thames. The road which is now Borough High Street was once a vital passageway between London – the walled city on the north bank of the river – to the ports and towns of the south. The market was conceived as a place for farmers, bakers and fishermen to sell their wares to travellers. Now, it’s a foodies’ mecca: “an institution of international renown” where you’ll find street food, produce and restaurants from a variety of cuisines.

Greenwich Market’s beginnings are similar with its start as a market for livestock, meat, fish and animal produce in the 14th century. Now it’s London’s only historic market within a World Heritage Site – Greenwich Maritime – and is known for artisan crafts and street food.

3. Explore London’s greenery and the River Thames

Parks are an essential aspect of London’s culture. They create pockets of greenery, giving Londoners space to reflect, exercise, walk dogs and meet friends while connecting with nature.

London is very green: 47% of Greater London is green space, 33% of which is “natural habitats within open space” according to Greenspace Information for Greater London.

The emphasis on parkland within the city dates back centuries, with the eight Royal Parks being a core aspect of city life since the Tudor period. The Royal Parks were originally Church property until King Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries and seized the land, turning much of it into private hunting ground. The parks gradually became open to the public after Henry VIII’s reign, and now they are open for all to enjoy.

Kyoto Garden, Holland Park
Photo: Rachael Davis

In addition to the grand Royal Parks, there are also dozens of public parks and commons such as Battersea Park, Victoria Park and Holland Park – a must-visit for its Kyoto Garden.

The River Thames and its surrounding canals are another refreshing source of natural inspiration within the city. There’s not much better than a Sunday stroll along Regent’s Canal, or through Little Venice – and if you’re feeling adventurous, the Thames Path walk will guide you from the beautiful Cotswolds countryside to the Thames Barrier in Greenwich, with plenty of sights to see along the way.

4. Experience The World Stage

Since the Elizabethan era, London has been the epicentre of performing arts in the UK. Shakespeare’s legacy is still making waves in the city, not least at the famous Globe Theatre on the south bank of the Thames, which he helped open in 1599. The theatre’s third reconstruction has two stages – one open-air and one indoor – with a year-round calendar of world-class performances.

The Globe Theatre
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Beyond the south bank, London’s performing arts scene is booming: from plays and musicals to ballets and operas, the capital is spoilt for choice when it comes to theatre. Head to the West End and Soho for big-name musicals, the National Theatre for world-class plays on three separate stages, and smaller theatres like Orange Tree, Lyric or The Cockpit for off-beat, independent and fringe shows.

In the summer, be sure to check out one of London’s open-air theatres. There’s one in Regent’s Park with productions of musicals, Shakespeare plays and more, and an outdoor opera theatre in Holland Park. It goes without saying that the open-air performances at The Globe are a delight on summer evenings, with tickets for as little as £5 in the ‘peasant’ stands!

5. Embrace the vibrant art scene

London’s art scene is diverse, wide-reaching and, for the most part, free. Explore art from the Middle Ages to today in galleries ranging from national institutions – such as the National Gallery, Tate Modern and Tate Britain, and Royal Academy of Arts – to smaller contemporary exhibitions on Mayfair’s Cork Street and in the East End.

Royal Academy of Arts
Photo: Rachael Davis

On a day when it isn’t raining (or even when it is, this is London after all), step outside and soak in the vast array of public art that can be found in all corners of the city. The Royal Academy of Art’s Walking Tour is a great place to start: it takes you from Piccadilly Circus to Regent’s Park, Westminster to Battersea, with a fascinating range of sculpture along the way.

Many of London’s famous landmarks also feature intricate sculptures and engravings. Though you might be hard-pushed to make out the details of Edward Hodges Baily’s statue of Lord Nelson, you can always get up-close and personal with Maggi Hambling’s expressionist Oscar Wilde near Charing Cross…

‘A Conversation with Oscar Wilde’ by Maggi Hambling
Photo: Luke McKernan on Flickr

With all of these treasures right in our backyard, how will you choose to celebrate London’s one-of-a-kind culture?

Tell us your favourite way to paint the town red in the comments below.

All, Art, Arts & Heritage, Content Creation, Culture

The New Cork Street: 5 Reasons to Visit Mayfair’s Galleries


1 Comment

For Londoners and visitors alike, Mayfair retains a reputation of opulence, wealth and exclusivity. Take the dozens of art dealerships off Piccadilly, for instance, selling collectors beautiful authentic paintings with seriously steep price tags.

While I certainly wasn’t looking to buy any art when I visited Cork Street for the first time, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would I feel out of place in the swish, upmarket galleries on these quiet Mayfair side streets?

After a recent morning outing to three galleries, however, I needn’t have worried. My visit was a huge success: friendly and unpresuming staff, no entrance fees and a diverse range of people appreciating world-class art.

Antony Gormley’s ‘In Formation’ at White Cube, Mason’s Yard
(Photo: Rachael Davis)

The galleries had a much different atmosphere to that of larger, institutional galleries like the Tate Modern or V&A. Innovative exhibitions, inspiring spaces and the discovery of lesser-known artists were pivotal aspects of the experience.

So whether you’ve been considering a gallery visit that’s a little off the tourist-beaten track, or you’ve previously felt intimidated by the reputation of Cork Street, here are five simple reasons to get down to Mayfair.

#1 They’re free

One major advantage of seeing art in London is that many museums and galleries are completely free. It’s a big part of what makes the cultural scene in this city so great: it’s accessible and open to all who wish to explore it.

You might not expect smaller galleries to be free, such as the chic but ample collections in Mayfair, especially given their premier locations and overhead costs, but wonderfully, they are.

This makes it even easier to pop in at your leisure, pick up a complimentary pamphlet on the current exhibition and artist, and stay for as long or as little as you like.

#2 You don’t need a whole day to visit

A visit to somewhere like the British Museum or National Gallery could comfortably take a whole day. While this is great if you want to immerse yourself in art for an extended time, it can be daunting if you’re busy and don’t have much time to spare.

If you’re in the Mayfair area on the other hand – on a lunch break or visiting nearby attractions – it’s easy to fit in a gallery visit and have a rounded experience in under an hour.

On my recent outing, for instance, I spent around an hour absorbing Alfredo Jaar’s 25 Years Later at the Goodman Gallery: a thought-provoking photography exhibition in commemoration of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. In that time, I watched a 28-minute film installation called We wish to inform you that we didn’t know, based on Clinton’s 1998 speech attempting to justify the US’s apathy for the genocide, while refusing to use the term ‘genocide’ at all.

The Silence of Nduwayezu by Alfredo Jaar
(Photo: Rachael Davis)

In contrast, at the neighbouring Stephen Friedman Gallery, I spent a pleasant 15 minutes with the minimalist work of American artist Ed Baynard. His flat, graphic style is reminiscent of Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, and the exhibition focused on his still-life work from the 1970s.

I could have spent less time at the Goodman, or more at Stephen Friedman – but if all you’ve got is 30 minutes on your lunch break, you can still have a full exhibition experience in one of these Cork Street galleries.

#3 They feel more personal

Everyone’s always talking about the newest exhibition at London’s big-name galleries. And hey, we’re never one to knock them: the V&A’s Mary Quant show was wonderful, and Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawings at Buckingham Palace was a major highlight of 2019. But these displays are often crowded and some times difficult to appreciate when a swarm of people are around.

When you visit a smaller gallery, especially mid-week, you are treated to a more intimate, personal experience with more time to connect with the art.

Wall Number One by Ed Baynard
(Photo: Rachael Davis)

#4 A perfect blend of inclusivity and exclusivity

Everyone’s welcome, but not everyone knows they’re welcome.

Once you leave the bustle of Piccadilly, the streets of Mayfair are peaceful and contemplative. As you step into a gallery it feels like you’ve arrived somewhere special: a carefully-curated exhibition, tucked down an architecturally-stunning street in the most culturally diverse city in the UK. You’re about to witness world-class art that many people don’t know is on display.

To sweeten the experience, friendly and welcoming staff are on hand to help you with any questions you may have, often providing information packs to guide you through the gallery. They invite you to take your time to absorb the art, so when you step back into the world, you know you’ve just witnessed something pretty unique.

#5 The regeneration of Cork Street is promising

Cork Street’s reputation precedes it in some circles: an elitist and traditionalist collection of timeworn exhibitions that isn’t receptive to avant-garde, contemporary projects. But the galleries on and around Cork Street are making a concerted effort to rid themselves of that reputation, and regenerate into a fresh, forward-thinking space that invites radical artists to exhibit.

Burlington Arcade as it reaches Piccadilly
(Photo: Rachael Davis)

This attitude shift can be seen by a physical transformation, too: over the last three years, 60% of the street’s frontage has been redeveloped, increasing gallery space by over 100% to 43,000 sq ft.

The Pollen Estate, as the development is known, seeks to “reignite the spiritual home of modern and contemporary art in London, making it as important in the 21st century as it was in the early 20th when it launched the careers of Francis Bacon, Max Ernst and Paul Klee.”

The fact that galleries are working to shift their out-dated reputation is extremely positive. Mayfair galleries’ new message that art should be accessible and available to all, encouraging fresh ideas and perspectives from international cultures, is one that Londoners will welcome with open arms.

Our city is vast, multicultural and open – all it takes is a trip to Cork Street to see that.


An Art Walk Around Cork Street:

Goodman Gallery, 26 Cork St, W1S 3ND
Stephen Friedman Gallery, 25-28 Old Burlington St, W1S 3AN
White Cube, 25-26 Masons Yard, SW1Y 6BU
Victoria Miro Mayfair, 14 St George St, W1S 1FE
Hauser & Wirth, 23 Savile Row, W1S 2ET