As much as we love London’s big galleries, a lot of exhibitions come at premium ticket prices (£15-£20). Part of the fun of visiting and living here is discovering culture in small, unusual and little-known places. We’ve already shared some of our tips for unusual free and cheap museums, now we’re on the art trail.  In this city (especially East) sometimes you can pop into an exhibition while you wait for your train, or find an installation in a skip.

london art galleries
Banner Repeater | Photo by Banner

Banner Repeater

London’s creative community finds opportunity in disused spaces and transforms them, and Banner Repeater, based on platform 1 at Hackney Downs train station is one of them. It’s a small, contemporary gallery, reading room and project space led by a community of artists developing. The gallery has an open-door policy, 6 days a week, for the station’s 4000 daily visitors, although exhibitions are only on Sundays. Exhibitions include text-based and 3D/digital projects, events and talks. It’s free to visit, but spaces like this can only develop work with the help of donations, so consider giving a few quid via Local Giving if you can. Pop in if you’re in the area, it beats an overpriced chain shop coffee while you wait for an (inevitably) delayed train.

Where: Hackney Downs Railway Station
Cost: Free
LinkBanner Repeater Website

london art galleries
Photo by Dominic Simpson used under CC

Auto Italia

Another artist-run gallery with transport links, Auto Italia was founded by Kate Cooper, Amanda Dennis and Rachel Pimm in the car garage Auto Italia South East where they were squatting in 2007.  Since then it’s moved to King’s Cross and is now based in Bethnal Green, East London. You’ll find experimental, collaborative and mixed-media work by the likes of Ray Filar, Harley Yeung Kurylowski as well as political art. Work developed through the gallery has been shown internationally and in UK at the ICA and Tate.

Where44 Bonner Rd, London E2 9JS, UK
Cost: Free (some events require pre-booking)
Link: Auto Italia Website

KÖNIG Galerie London

Underground art in its most literal sense here. Berlin’s KÖNIG Galerie is based in a former carpark (spot the theme?), only for once it’s not in East or South East London, it’s actually in moneyed Marylebone. Fortunately, you can eschew the posh vibe of the area, and head down for multi-disciplinary contemporary art from 38 established and emerging international artists. Expect video, sound, painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography and performance pieces.

Where: 259-269 Old Marylebone Road, Winchester House, London NW1 5RA
Cost: Free
Link: Koenig Galerie website

Cecilia Brunson Projects

Bermondsey is already home to White Cube, but nearby is the lessor-known Celia Brunson Projects. Named after its curator Celia Brunson (the space is actually in her home), the gallery supports the work of mid-career and long-practicing artists from Latin America. It has another outpost in Santiago, Chile which works with the London space to bring Latin American art to a European audience with solo shows from artists including Paz Errázuriz, a photographer, renowned for capturing life under the Pinochet regime and still works in Santiago.

Where: Cecilia Brunson Projects, Royal Oak Yard, Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3GD
Cost: Free
Link: Cecilia Brunson Projects website

The Old Police Station

The old Edwardian Police Station in Deptford may no longer contain outlaws, but is now home to creatives, not criminals, who are encouraged to put on their own micro-exhibitions. Some old Police Station decor, holding cells, tiles and equipment still exists, alongside artworks in this DIY. Forty artists rent studio space here, which keeps the place running. As well as revolving exhibitions, the former nick is also a venue for events and parties and is available for filming and photo shoots. It also has its own recording studio.

Where: 114 Amersham Vale, London SE14 6LG (Deptford)
Cost: Free
Link: The Old Police Station website

Amazing #skipgallery inspiration from the wonderful @luzinterruptus

A post shared by SkipGallery (@skipgallery) on

Skip Gallery

“It’s not art, it’s rubbish,” that old cliché thrown around by those who don’t love modern art. Well, friends, Skip Gallery takes one person’s rubbish receptacle and turns it into a mini gallery. London artists Catherine Borowski and Lee Baker wanted to take something mundane and every day and turn into something interesting and inspiring. David Shrigley and Gavin Turk, two British artists with a sardonic sense of humour and tongue-in-cheek treatment of everyday objects. Perfect for peering at over the top of a skip. Skip Gallery is a mobile space, and has pulled up to Hoxton Square, but follow the Skip on its travels at the website or on social media.

Where: Various locations
Cost: Free
Link: Skip Gallery website

Need more unusual in your life? Check out Part 2 of these unique gallery spaces in London.

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