It’s no secret that London is full of large, small and unusual art galleries, many of which are free to visit. There’s also a plethora of art walks and outdoor art trails in London. You can explore contemporary art at a leisurely pace whilst visiting the city’s landmarks, parks and walkways at the same time. All of these outdoor trails are free to visit too.
The Line Art Walk
- Website: the-line.org
- Where: Between Stratford and Greenwich
- When: Permanent
The Line is the OG public art trail in London. It opened in 2015 and features large-scale and site specific public art by a mix of established past and contemporary artists like Anish Kapoor, Tracey Emin, and Abigail Fallis, alongside newer works by lesser-known artists. There are currently 20 works and pieces are added every year. The trail runs along the riverside path between the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and The 02 Arena.
It’s great for a weekend wander or leisurely walk, although going at less busy times will be better for art appreciation. Highlights include A Bullet from a Shooting Star, a 35 m sculpture by British artist Alex Chinneck made from an upside down pylon. It looks quite impressively menacing, looming large over a desolate patch of the Greenwich Peninsula. But it’s not just sculpture, there are mixed media and sound pieces too. Check out Sanko-time by British-Ghanaian artist Larry Achiampong, reflecting on the impact of the British Empire on the area local to The Line.
Sculpture in the City
- Website: sculptureinthecity.org.uk
- Where: City of London
- When: Spring
It would be tempting to write off The City of London as a cultural wasteland, inhabited by be-suited bankers. But, it’s also home to the Barbican, the Museum of London and a whole lot of public art. Sculpture in the City is an annual event that uses the financial district as a rotating gallery, turning urban spaces into temporary sculpture park. Download a map from the website or pick up a physical copy from the City Information Centre in St Paul’s or at Blend Café at 22 Bishopsgate where you can grab a coffee and pastry to have on your walk.
E17 Art Trail
- Website: e17arttrail.co.uk
- Where: Walthamstow
- When: 1-18 June
E17 Art Trail is a community festival created by local Walthamstow residents and coordinated by the local arts development organisation, Artillery. It’s been running every July for over 17 years showcasing work by local artists and makers. It’s not just an art trail, it’s also a place for creatives to sell their work. The trail includes studios, artist’s homes, schools, community centres and café. The festival hub and annual exhibition is at Gnome House on Blackhorse Lane where you can pick up a trail guide. You can also join either a walking tour or cycling tour and do something Londoners rarely do – have impromptu conversations with people they don’t know – really, try it! They’re a friendly bunch in E17.
Broadgate Art Trail
- Website: broadgate.co.uk/art/trail
- Where: Broadgate
- When: Permanent
Although Sculpture in the City is a seasonal trail, you can still get your art in the City of London fix all year round at Broadgate Art Trail. There are around 16 artworks displayed inside and outside the buildings around Broadgate, moments away from Liverpool Street Station. They include the large-scale rusting sculpture Fulcrum by Richard Serra that looms large at 55ft high over Broadgate Circle and you walk through it to explore it from any angle.
Morph’s Epic Art Adventure
- Website: morphsadventurelondon.com/art-trail/
- Where: Central London
- When: 19 June-20 August
Morph is a beloved 80s stop-motion clay children’s character who is now enjoying a comeback thanks to a crowdfunding campaign. This summer, children’s wheelchair charity Whizz-Kidz is putting on a free, Morph sculpture trail in wheelchair-accessible locations around London landmarks. The trail will feature 56 human-sized (6ft) brightly-designed, cheery Morphs, around landmarks including St Paul’s, Tate Modern, Tower of London, Shakespeare’s Globe and Borough Market. You can download an app and trail map, and each Morph will have a QR code with facts about the artists who made him. The trail will also feature a series of ‘Mini Morphs’ created by schools.
Kensington and Chelsea Art Week
- Website: kcaw.co.uk/
- Where: Kensington
- When: 22 June-2 July
Kensington and Chelsea Art Week started in 2018 and has become a regular fixture in the west London borough. A big part of the week is the KCAW Art Trail of temporary installations across the borough. This year’s theme is The Art of Change and the committee includes internationally-renowned artists such as Ai WeiWei , Peter Morris, Misha Milovanovich, and Josephine Chime. As well as the Art Trail, there will be guided double-decker bus tours, as well as talks and other events. The event is free, but you can get tickets in advance.
Leytonstone Arts Trail
- Website: leytonstoneartstrail.org/
- Where: Leytonstone
- When: 1-9 July
Like the event in nearby Walthamstow, Leytonstone Arts Trail is a community-focused event. It’s similar to the local open studios events across London, which connects local artists, businesses and residents. Artists’ work will be on display across the area in homes, cafés, shops, community halls and outdoors. Expect a mix of photography, ceramics, sculpture, painting and mixed media. Details of the full trail and participating artists and venues will be published on the event website and social channels.
- Website: frieze.com
- Where: Regent’s Park
- When: 20 Sept-29 Oct 2023
The free part of the annual Frieze London art fair where massively un-Cheapo artworks are exhibited – Frieze Sculpture is a sculture trail in Regent’s Park. Each year, large scale sculptures by international artists are brought to the park. Previous years have included works by Brazilian Artist Solange Pessoa and the late British Sculptor Anthony Caro. Exploring the colourful and interesting sculptures is a great way to enjoy Autumnal London too.
BEAT (Borough of Ealing Art Trail)
- Website: ealingbeat.org.uk
- Where: Ealing
- When: 9-10 and 16-17 September 2023
BEAT is an annual art trail that takes place in Ealing across two consecutive weekends in September. Much like the E17 Art Trail, BEAT has a local art focus. It’s run by local artists who open their homes, studios and other venues to exhibit and sell their work across the west London borough. Over 200 artists are expected to display work across over 63 venues selling a mix of art works including paintings, ceramics, sculptures and photography.
Art On The Estate
- Website: canarywharf.com/whats-on/art-on-the-estate/
- Where: Canary Wharf
- When: Permanent
With its soaring corporate towers and soulless developments, Canary Wharf isn’t the first place you’d think of going to see art. But as well as the high-rise office buildings and bustling, besuited commuters — the area is actually home to London’s largest collection of outdoor public art. There are currently over 100 artworks on permanent display including sculptures and architectural pieces. You can follow the trail and find out about the artists on display by downloading a map from the website. Artworks include a large stone sculpture Vanishing Point by Jay Battle, an intricate metal installation Gate by Giusseppe Lund both on Canary Riverside and a light installation Pattern for Democracy by Emma Biggs in Cabot Place Mall.
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