Thanks to brightly coloured houses, a thriving graffiti scene, and some amazing local artists, Bristol is a vibrant city. At times it can feel like an outdoor exhibition thanks to the likes of See No Evil and UPFest. But there are plenty of spectacular brick-and-mortar art galleries in Bristol too. Showcasing local and international talent alike, both contemporary and classical, there is art for anyone to enjoy. So we’ve picked out some of the very best Bristol art galleries you must visit.
Located harbourside, Arnolfini has been a part of Bristol’s art scene since 1961. Its ambitious exhibitions feature a range of contemporary artists embracing practices of visual art, performance, dance, film, and music. It has welcomed renowned artists from around the world – sharing works by Paula Rego, Stephen Gill and Grayson Perry, to name just a few – as well as supporting talent from in and around Bristol. The exhibitions are free to visit too, but the gallery does rely on donations. Thanks to its harbourside location, the cafe is also a favourite hangout spot for locals.
16 Narrow Quay, Bristol BS1 4QA
2. Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
At the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery you can discover everything from Egyptian mummies to dinosaur fossils, but it’s the art we come for. On the second floor, you’ll find work both classical and contemporary. From Old Master Italian and Dutch paintings of Lucas Cranach, Giovanni Bellini, Jacob van Ruisdael; Enlightenment and Romantic works of the 18th and early 19th century; An array of ceramics, carvings and glass from China and Japan; And even Modernist work by Victor Pasmore, Peter Lanyon, Roger Hilton, Howard Hodgkin and Tala Madani.
Queens Road, Bristol BS8 1RL
3. Spike Island
Spike Island was founded in the mid-1970s by a group of painters, sculptors and printmakers looking for affordable studio spaces in Bristol. Since then it has remained a cultural hub for the city’s art scene. These days Spike Island provides a home for over 70 artists, designers, makers and artist organizations. For many artists, it has provided a place for their first major UK solo exhibitions. There is always something new and unexpected to discover at the free gallery. While Emmeline Café provides a grand selection of food and drink to guests too.
133 Cumberland Road, Bristol BS1 6UX
4. The Royal West Of England Academy
Just up the road from the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, The RWA was Bristol’s first ever art gallery. It opened all the way back in 1844 and has remained a vital part of championing creative practices in the city ever since. Exhibitions at the RWA always feature work by leading contemporary artists, alongside great works from the past. Bringing together a mix of work that promotes enjoyment of art for the widest possible audience. It’s a grand building for grand pieces of work.
Queens Road, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1PX
The artist-run gallery by St Nicholas’ Market grew out of a collection of artists that occupied the building in the late 1970’s – a similar story to many Bristol art galleries. Since 1987, Centrespace has been run as a co-operative space and these days offers studio space, workshops, events and a gallery to the local artists. It is indebted to DIY culture, so expect a focus on burgeoning talent – particularly those working in fascinating and experimental ways, showing fresh and interesting work across all art forms.
6 Leonard Lane, Bristol BS1 1EA
6. RPS Gallery
The Royal Photographic Society is one of the world’s oldest photographic societies. Since 1864, it was based in various premises around London. But from 2019, however, its headquarters and gallery have been located in Bristol. Highlighting groundbreaking and contemporary work, the RPS Gallery is a dedicated centre for photography. They show four exhibitions annually, with each free exhibition accompanied by an education programme of talks, workshops and screenings.
337 Paintworks, Arno’s Vale, Bristol BS4 3AR
On the other end of spectrum to many Bristol art galleries, Hidden Gallery boasts an impressive collection of original work by major artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Over in the heart of Clifton Village, you can view amazing works of art by the likes of Tracy Emin, Grayson Perry, Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Bristol’s very own Banksy. If your wallet currently feels a little heavy, many of these works are available for purchase too.
6 – 10 The Clifton Arcade, Boyce’s Ave, Clifton Village, Bristol BS8 4AA