Cultural capital: London’s best independent galleries are making waves in the art world

Public galleries may hog the limelight, but they don’t put London’s commercial galleries in the shade. Charlotte McManus urges us to skip the tourist queues and explore the independents

Synonymous with iconic spaces, inspired curating, and high-profile names, it’s no secret that London has one of the most well-respected art scenes in the world, with millions flocking to the many standout exhibitions scattered across the city each year.  The likes of The National Gallery and Royal Academy may have established prestigious reputations, but some of London’s best independent art galleries, such as Gagosian, Pace, and Victoria Miro, offer an experience just as rich in vibrancy and relevancy.

These cool boutique spaces can prove veritable goldmines for contemporary art, both in the level of talent on display and for a democratic approach to diversity. Glittering names like Ai Weiwei, Yayoi Kusama, and Marina Abramović rub shoulders with some of the industry’s most exciting emerging artists, creating fresh opportunities for discovery for investors and aficionados alike. What’s more, exhibitions at these smaller institutions often come without the tiresome hordes, meaning that visitors can enjoy the art in relative peace.

As the new year approaches, now is the perfect time to expand your horizons. Rather than losing hours in a tedious queue at the Tate Modern, or trying to sneak a peek over a crowd of cold-weather-coated spectators at the Barbican, discover what other gems London has in its artistic arsenal.

Chiharu Shiota: Me Somewhere Else at Blain Southern

Practised culture vultures might know Blain Southern is the joint venture of Harry Blain and Graham Southern, previously of the excellently-named-but-since-closed Mayfair gallery, Haunch of Venison. Launching their own eponymous space on Hanover Square in 2010, the duo has since amassed a stellar collection of contemporary artwork, including pieces by Lucian Freud, Jake and Dinos Chapman, and Lynn Chadwick. Me Somewhere Else will be acclaimed Osaka-born, Berlin-based artist Chiharu Shiota’s debut show, complete with a series of intriguing installations. Three-dimensional thread webs will pose questions around connectedness, the body and its relationship to the mind.

Until 19 January 2019, 4 Hanover Square, London W1S 1BP,

Darren Almond: Time Will Tell at White Cube Bermondsey

Owned by eminent gallerist Jay Jopling, White Cube is one of the best-known independent galleries in the capital. Many a YBA (Young British Artist) – Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, and Marc Quinn among them – owes their household-name success to the inaugural site on Hoxton Square, a cult hotspot in the East End before it closed to make way for shiny new spaces in Bermondsey and Mayfair.

Darren Almond is soon poised to reveal a brand-new series of paintings in a must-see solo show, Time Will Tell (above).The exhibition is the culmination of an impressive year for the Turner Prize-nominated artist, following news that he’s also designing a permanent installation for the Elizabeth Line station at Bond Street.

Until 20 January 2019, 144 – 152 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3TQ,

Winter Contemporary at Maddox Gallery 

Maddox Gallery may be one of the newer names on the scene, but it’s a fast mover, with four locations in West London, an outpost in Gstaad and one in California. Overseen by creative director Jay Rutland, the Winter Contemporary exhibition has a highly collectable mix of well-known and up-and-coming artists. Blue-chip stalwarts Andy Warhol and Roy Lichenstein feature alongside Street Pop pieces by Mr Brainwash, and colourful daubs from Florentine painter Simafra.

21 December 2018 to 28 February 2019, across London,