Exploring London’s Unconventional Art Galleries and Underground Venues

The Tate Modern or the National Gallery often come to mind when you think about London’s incredible art scene. However, London’s vibrant art scene extends far beyond these renowned establishments and into the underground.

The Old Smoke is a haven for creativity and innovation, with a thriving underground culture of unconventional art galleries and hidden venues waiting to be discovered. While you will find the Tate Modern and the National Gallery in the latest travel guides, you may not read about the city’s great, lesser, explored venues.

Just because these unique and off-the-beaten-path art spaces aren’t in the big travel guides, it doesn’t mean you should skip them. Each offers you an unforgettable art experience.

The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret

Hidden in the attic of St. Thomas’ Church, this quirky museum offers visitors a glimpse into the gruesome world of 19th-century surgery. Explore the eerie collection of surgical instruments and learn about the history of medicine while marvelling at the stunning views of London from this unconventional venue. The centrepiece of the museum is the meticulously restored operating theatre. It features tiered seating for observers to witness surgeries, with the surgeon’s table in the centre. Visitors can learn about the history of surgery and the challenges faced by both patients and surgeons in the past.

God’s Own Junkyard

Located in Walthamstow, God’s Own Junkyard is a neon wonderland. The gallery is filled with an incredible array of neon signs, letters, and symbols, creating a dazzling and immersive experience for visitors. The neon artworks cover a wide range of themes and styles, from classic diner signs to abstract designs. This psychedelic gallery boasts a mesmerizing collection of neon signs, vintage movie props, and colourful installations. It’s a visual feast for art lovers and Instagram enthusiasts alike.

The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History

This eccentric museum is a treasure trove of oddities tucked away in East London. From taxidermy to erotica, shrunken heads, and occult artefacts, Viktor Wynd’s collection defies categorization. It’s a place where the strange and unusual find their home. The museum follows the tradition of “cabinets of curiosities,” which were popular in Europe during the Renaissance and contained a wide array of objects, both natural and man-made. In addition to its curiosities, the museum also houses a selection of fine art pieces, often focusing on contemporary and avant-garde artists. These artworks complement the quirky and unusual atmosphere of the museum.

Leake Street Arches

Beneath the railway tracks near Waterloo Station lies Leake Street Arches, also known as the “Banksy Tunnel.” It’s a constantly evolving canvas for street artists from around the world. The ever-changing graffiti and street art here make it a living, breathing art exhibition.

The House of Dreams

Artist Stephen Wright has transformed his South London home into a living work of art. Every inch of this colourful house is covered in a kaleidoscope of found objects, creating a whimsical and immersive experience that challenges traditional notions of art and home decor.

The Horse Hospital

The Horse Hospital is a hub for counterculture art and events in the heart of Bloomsbury. This former veterinary clinic hosts avant-garde exhibitions, film screenings, and performances, making it a haven for London’s underground art scene. The venue regularly hosts art exhibitions featuring works by emerging and established artists, often focusing on contemporary and experimental art forms. These exhibitions cover various media, from visual arts to multimedia installations.

The Crypt Gallery

The Crypt Gallery is a hauntingly beautiful venue for contemporary art exhibitions located beneath St. Pancras Parish Church. Its historic architecture adds a unique ambience to the ever-changing roster of exhibitions, making it a must-visit for art enthusiasts. The gallery’s location in the crypt of a historic church gives it a distinctive character, with its arched ceilings and stone walls providing a contrast to the contemporary art displayed within. The juxtaposition of old and new, sacred and secular, adds depth and interest to the visitor’s experience.

While London’s conventional art institutions offer timeless masterpieces, the city’s unconventional art galleries and underground venues provide a different kind of artistic experience—one that challenges norms, celebrates innovation, and showcases the diverse creative spirit of this dynamic metropolis.

Along with being ideal for art lovers, many of the underground art venues are a hub for London comedy club enthusiasts seeking a laugh. The London comedy scene goes hand-in-hand with the world of art, and many visitors to the city will seek out both forms of entertainment.

So, the next time you are in London, venture off the beaten path to discover these hidden gems of artistic expression and let the city’s underground art scene inspire you in unexpected ways.