While London has no shortage of public galleries, many of the city’s important works are locked away behind private doors or in institutions you would rarely think to visit. The Open Art initiative — part of Art14 London’s Art & The City programme — will unlock some of those doors, allowing us to not only appreciate some hidden art, but to also get a look-see at a few off-limits buildings. Most are free to visit, but need booking in advance.
Wellcome Trust Gibbs Building. If you’ve ever peered into the windows of the Wellcome Trust, just above Euston Square Station, you might have glimpsed parts of a gigantic sculpture. It’s by Thomas Heatherwick, designer of the Olympic Cauldron and New Routemaster, it’s nine-storeys tall, and you can get a proper guided tour as part of Open Art.
Government Art Collection. An anonymous warehouse just off Tottenham Court Road houses works of art in the Government collection. Most of the 13,500 pieces are hanging in embassies around the world, as well as government departments and institutions. But the rest can be glimpsed on a tour of this storage facility.
Royal College of Art. The Senior Common Room on the Kensington campus contains 45 artworks donated by alumni. Tours are available.
Maggies London. The Fulham cancer care facility, designed by Richard Rogers, is a work of art in its own right, but yo can also see a bequest from the late, great Eduardo Paolozzi.
Dover Street Arts Club. A chance to peer inside a prestigious Mayfair members’ club for a tour of its contemporary artwork.
Sketch. Still in Mayfair, take a look at Martin Creed’s temporary transformation of the Sketch restaurant.
House of St Barnabas. The Soho landmark is not only a fascinating Georgian survival, but also includes plenty of modern art, including works by Jeff Koons, Jeremy Deller and Whitney McVeigh.
Aspen. Like many insurance companies, Aspen holds plenty of contemporary art to show off to its clients. Its Fenchurch Street office contains works by Fiona Rae, Anri Sala and Alex Katz.
Please check the Open Art website for more details (including timings), and information on how to book.