Housed in a Neo-Palladian mansion in the heart of London, the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) has been showing exhibitions for over 250 years and is a must-see museum for art and architecture lovers. Founded in 1768 by a group of 40 artists and architects, the RA is still run by its members – the Royal Academicians – all of whom must be practising artists or architects and elected by their peers. With an international exhibition programme and an annual Summer Exhibition that has been held every year since it began, the RA has survived wars, political turmoil and multiple relocations to rest in its current home at Burlington House, a cultural hub for the arts and sciences. Royal Academicians today include John Akomfrah, Lubaina Himid, Marina Abramović, Sir Frank Bowling, David Hockney, William Kentridge, Tracey Emin and Ai Weiwei.
Address: 6 Burlington Gardens, London W1S 3ET
Housing a stunning array of art and objects including paintings, sculpture, furniture, armoury and porcelain, The Wallace Collection is not only one of the best museums in Mayfair but one of London’s most impressive institutions, and it’s free to visit. Built over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the ornate gallery spaces bring to mind the most opulent scenes from blockbuster series Bridgerton. Soak in the atmosphere and see masterpieces by artists including Canaletto, Rembrandt, Rubens, Velázquez and Vigée Le Brun before relaxing over lunch or afternoon tea in the museum’s serene covered courtyard.
Address: The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN
David Zwirner oversees one of the world’s most influential commercial galleries with locations in New York, London, Paris, and Hong Kong, and representing more than 70 artists and estates. The gallery expanded from New York into London in 2012, taking over an elegant eighteenth century Georgian townhouse in Mayfair. David Zwirner supports an eclectic and impressive range of international artists, with Anni Albers, Bridget Riley, Paul Klee, Donald Judd, Yoyoi Kusama and Kerry James Marshall among them. In 2022 the gallery widened its cultural cache and entered the world of publishing, becoming the new literary magazine The Drift’s lead funder. Keep an eye on their website for exciting happenings and new exhibitions at their Mayfair location and beyond.
Address: 24 Grafton Street, London, W1S 4EZ
From Gagosian’s beginnings in 1980s Los Angeles to a global gallery with 19 locations around the world, today Gagosian is considered a leading specialist in modern and contemporary art, with a publishing house and art editions shop supporting its bluechip exhibition programme. With spaces designed by world-renowned architects such as Caruso St John, Richard Meier, Jean Nouvel, and wHY Architecture, Gagosian is able to show a wide range of artistic practice from the most recognised and established artists in the artworld, including Georg Baselitz, Ellen Gallagher, Anselm Kieffer, Jenny Saville and Theaster Gates. In addition, the gallery presents museum-quality exhibitions of historical artists such as Francis Bacon, Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler and Alberto Giacometti. We recommend dipping into the gallery’s strong cultural programming and events with artists, which includes performances, exhibition tours, public talks, film screenings, and studio visits.
Address: 20 Grosvenor Hill, London, W1K 3QD and 17–19 Davies Street, London, W1K 3DE
No list of the best museums and art galleries in Mayfair would be complete without Hauser & Wirth, located at the heart of the neighbourhood on Savile Row. Founded in Zurich 1992, today the gallery has spaces in 12 locations around the world and is widely respected for its dedication to artists and support of visionary artistic projects. Representing over 90 artists and estates (including the estates of Louise Bourgeois, Philip Guston and Eva Hesse), the gallery collaborates with renowned curators to explore contemporary themes including conservation and sustainability, and runs an ambitious and ongoing artist-in-residence initiative. When you need to feel inspired, we recommend exploring its programme of exhibitions, artist talks, film screenings and workshops.
Address: 23 Savile Row, London, W1S 2ET
Founded in Boston in 1960, Pace is regarded as one of the world’s leading international galleries. Representing top tier contemporary artists such as David Lynch, Fred Wilson, Zhang Yuan, Elmgreen & Dragset and Latifa Echakhch, Pace also represents the estates of some of the most influential names from the past century, including Alexander Calder, Jean Dubuffet, Barbara Hepworth, Agnes Martin and Mark Rothko. Alongside its stellar programming Pace is known for its exploration of art and technology, engaging with experiential artists and Silicon Valley on new initiatives. Its 11,000 sq ft space in London’s Hanover Square was beautifully renovated by Jamie Fobert Architects in 2021 and is a showcase for the gallery’s future-thinking attitude and live events.
Address: 5 Hanover Square, London, W1S 1HQ
In 1997 Sadie Coles HQ’s first show was an exhibition of new works by American painter John Currin alongside an offsite show by British artist Sarah Lucas. This set the tone for Sadie Coles HQ as an international gallery working with provocative artists both inside and outside of the white cube. 25 years later you will find the gallery in Mayfair, championing the best of emerging and established contemporary artists including Alvaro Barrington, Monster Chetwynd, Martine Syms, and Helen Marten. The gallery is particularly noteworthy for its contribution to the development of contemporary art in Britain over the last two decades, representing many of the Young British Artists (YBAs). Exhibitions such as the 2022 show “Conversations on Tomorrow”, which brought four of India’s leading commercial galleries together for a group show, continue to further strengthen the gallery’s international reputation as dynamic and conceptually innovative.
Address: 1 Davies Street, London W1K 3DB
In the picturesque Royal Park of Kensington Gardens, adjacent to Hyde Park, lies Serpentine, an essential inclusion in a list of the best museums and art galleries in Mayfair for its forward-thinking contemporary art programme. Split across two galleries a short walk apart, visit Serpentine for free exhibitions, educational activities and live events. If you are in London over the summer months, don’t miss the Serpentine Pavilion commission which runs each year from June to October and has become an international site for architectural experimentation. Architects are invited to design a Pavilion that is used as a meeting space and café by day and a forum for learning, debate and entertainment at night. The unveiling of the Serpentine Pavilion is one of the most exciting yearly events in London’s cultural calendar and is one of the top ten most-visited architecture and design exhibitions in the world.
Serpentine South Gallery, Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA
Serpentine North Gallery, West Carriage Drive, London W2 2AR
The first White Cube gallery opened in London in 1993, showing some of the art scene’s hottest artists. Representing artists and estates including Tracey Emin, Chuck Close, Damien Hirst, Gilbert & George and Mona Hatoum, White Cube’s exhibitions and events focus on global contemporary talent. The gallery’s Mason’s Yard location – only a couple of streets south of Mayfair – opened in 2006 and was the first new building to be permitted in Piccadilly for over thirty years. The gallery also houses White Cube Editions, offering a series of limited edition prints by famous artists as an affordable step into the world of collecting. “Go to as many shows and museums as you can, the more you absorb, the more your taste will develop”, says Susan May, Global Artistic Director of White Cube.
Address: 25 – 26 Mason’s Yard, London SW1Y 6BU
Ely House used to be the eighteenth century mansion of Bishop Edmund Keene of Ely, but is now Thaddaeus Ropac, offering 16,000 square feet of contemporary art across five floors. It is perhaps Mayfair’s grandest gallery, and earns a spot in a list of the best museums and art galleries in Mayfair for its blue chip exhibition programme. “London is one of the quintessential art centres and there’s a critical mass of cultural activity there that you won’t find anywhere else,” says Thaddaeus Ropac, who founded the gallery in Salzburg when he was only 23. Today Ely House is one of six locations spanning London, Paris, Salzburg and Seoul. Thaddaeus Ropac builds long-standing personal relationships with the gallery’s artists, including Alex Katz, Anselm Kieffer, Sean Scully and Daniel Richter and represents historic artists including Andy Warhol and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.
Address: 37 Dover Street, London, W1S 4NJ
Canadian gallerist Stephen Friedman visited London when he was 22, and after becoming enraptured by the city and its culture, never left. In 1995 he opened the Stephen Friedman Gallery in Mayfair, where it remains today – with three exhibition spaces and an outdoor garden for exhibiting sculpture. The gallery shows solo and group exhibitions of living artists as well the estates of Manuel Espinosa and Jiro Takamatsu. Stephen Friedman Gallery champions emerging artists and has played a role in the careers of artists including David Shrigley, Mamma Andersson, Yinka Shonibare CBE and Kehinde Wiley. Friedman’s travels around the world have brought works to London from exciting artists including Brazilian artists Luiz Zerbini and Tonico Lemos Auad and Leilah Babirye from Uganda.
Address: 25-28 Old Burlington Street, London, W1S 3AN
This international gallery opened a space in London in 2007 and is driven by its commitment to showing groundbreaking modern and contemporary art in a curatorially-led programme. It is known for its strong relationships with artists and works with over 70 artists and estates from the most influential artists such as Bridget Riley and Cindy Sherman, to talents including Kara Walker and Sterling Ruby, to rising stars like Cao Fei, Anne Imhof and Analia Saban. In keeping with its outlook, the gallery commissions new art research and produces innovative artist books which can be bought from the gallery.
Address: 7A Grafton Street, London, W1S 4EJ
We are taking you just outside Mayfair for this last pick, but if you are shopping on Regent Street or Oxford Circus then it would be a shame to miss The Photographer’s Gallery, which is just round the corner from Liberty. Founded in 1971 as the UK’s first public gallery dedicated to photography, it’s a place to discover and explore work from a community of international photographers, from reportage through to fashion and fine art. The gallery offers exhibitions, events, photography courses and an exciting youth programme. If you are looking to collect photography, the gallery has an experienced print sales team who also offer advice and inspiration on new and established names.
Address: 16-18 Ramillies Street, London W1F 7LW