This is a sponsored article on behalf of St James's London.
London's not short of fantastic galleries, but there's one area that doesn't always get the credit it deserves when it comes to cultural riches— the central London district of St James's.
The historic London neighbourhood — handily located close to Green Park and Piccadilly Circus — is a haven for art lovers, whether you're after long-established institutions, or contemporary, independent galleries, as they can all be found within close proximity to each other in St James's.
The Royal Academy of Arts on Piccadilly is one of the most prestigious art institutions in the country. It's over 250 years old, and hosts shows all year round, in addition to its famous annual Autumn Exhibition, opening from 6 October this year. Sir Joshua Reynolds was the first RA President, and past students of RA schools include J.M.W. Turner, William Blake and John Soane. These days, contemporary artist Grayson Perry, sculptors Yinka Shonibare, Phyllida Barlow and Conrad Shawcross, painter Tracey Emin and designer Thomas Heatherwick are among the Royal Academicians. There's a café and restaurant on-site too, if you need to refuel between culture doses.
From one legendary institution to another, the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) — down Waterloo Place steps, nestled on The Mall — was founded to promote an understanding of radical art and culture. Exhibitions and events take on many guises, from traditional art forms to films and talks. Check out the programme next time you're in the area.
Leading contemporary art gallery White Cube also has a base in St James's, tucked away in a cobbled courtyard. White Cube Mason's Yard has a regularly changing roster of exhibitions which can be viewed for free, and most of the works are for sale too. It's credited with helping to kickstart the careers of many of the Young British Artists (YBAs), by giving them solo shows.
In fact, St James's has the highest concentration of galleries in the UK! The other gems include Chris Beetles Gallery, which specialises in British watercolours, illustrations and oil paintings, as well as cartoons — it holds the greatest stock of original illustrations and cartoons for sale in the world, including works by William Heath Robinson and E H Shepard. And over on Pall Mall, Philip Mould & Company offers expertise in British and Old Master paintings, with works across its three floors dating back over 500 years.
These are just a handful of the art destinations and experts in St James's, whether you're in the market to buy art, or simply want to browse and appreciate the artworks. So next time you're planning a day out in London or fancy hitting a gallery or two, head to St James's. Follow this Art and Design Walk through the area, or create your own route based on your interests. If it's good enough for Emin, Perry and Heatherwick, it's good enough for us.