These 5 Galleries Are Worth a Day Trip from London

Art Market

Lucy Howie

Exterior view of Messums Wiltshire. Courtesy of Messums Wiltshire.

While London is arguably the cultural center of the U.K., it’s also an ideal focal point to explore the rest of the country thanks to its extensive transport links. Here, Artsy compiles a list of five must-see galleries outside of London that art lovers can visit on a day trip, with interesting collections, emerging artists, and expansive settings among them.

Interior view of Lee Miller Archives, 2014. Photo by Tony Tree. © Lee Miller Archives. Courtesy of Lee Miller Archives.

Situated in Farleys House & Gallery in East Sussex, approximately two and a half hours from London by train, the Lee Miller Archives are a special collection dedicated to the work of the photographer Lee Miller and her husband, the artist Roland Penrose. The house and gallery is the former home of Miller and Penrose, and it was dubbed “the home of the Surrealists” due to its status as a meeting place of leading figures of the avant-garde, from Pablo Picasso to Leonora Carrington.

The exhibition program is curated across two gallery spaces adjacent to the house: the Farley’s Gallery, a converted 19th-century barn; and the Lee Miller Gallery, which opened in July 2020 and is located in a former warehouse building. Spanning works from the archives of Miller and Penrose, as well as from visiting contemporary artists, the gallery’s program aims to continue the communal legacy of its former residents.

Currently on view in the Lee Miller Gallery, through October 29th, is an intimate exhibition focused on the love letters between Miller and Penrose, accompanied by Miller’s photographs from Egypt taken at the inception of the couple’s long-distance romance. Accompanying the exhibition is the first publication of these letters. Publications like these are part of the Lee Miller Archive’s dedication to promoting scholarship around and disseminating Miller’s work.

Exterior view of Patrick Davies Contemporary Art. Courtesy of Patrick Davies Contemporary Art.

Just under an hour and a half’s journey from London, Patrick Davies Contemporary Art specializes in works dating from 1850 onwards. Davies, the gallery’s namesake, has been working in the art world for more than 30 years, beginning his career at Christie’s in its modern picture department.

The gallery is situated in a beautiful old Victorian schoolhouse built in the 1870s that was converted into a private house in 1975 and acquired by Davies in 2008. The large Victorian windows of the original property contrast with its contemporary interior, designed by Davies and his wife with the display of artworks in mind.

Visitors can book a trip to Patrick Davies Contemporary Art by appointment, as it is in fact the family home. “This is primarily a home rather than a gallery environment, but this is what makes this particular gallery experience so enriching,” explained Davies. “For example, there is a porcelain sculpture made by my daughter placed next to a Damien Hirst [artwork]. This is art as food for the soul.”

Davies prefers to work with only three or four artists at a time with whom he has built strong relationships. These include names such as Will Fice, Hock-Aun Teh, Kendra Haste, and British artist John Virtue, the latter of whom he has worked with “on and off for nearly 25 years.”

Exterior view of Messums Wiltshire. Courtesy of Messums Wiltshire.

Housed in the largest thatched building in the country, Messums Wiltshire is a multipurpose gallery and arts center that hosts a range of exhibitions and events across a complex that features two galleries, a restaurant, a sculpture garden, and creative workshops. The gallery is Messums’s second branch in addition to its Mayfair gallery, and opened in autumn 2016 as part of a two-year restoration project of the 13th-century tithe barn in partnership with the Fonthill Estate.

Messums Wiltshire is dedicated to supporting the work of contemporary artists and hosts international artist residencies. This year, contemporary Japanese artist Kaori Kato spent a short period as an artist in residence to create site-specific sculpture works for the barn exhibition space. “The process of making and using materials, set against the backdrop of an inspiring building, are some of the best routes into connecting and sharing understandings around art and creativity,” said the gallery’s director and founder, Johnathan Messum. Kato’s exhibition of paper-based sculpture works was exhibited in August and September this year.

The gallery can be accessed directly from Waterloo station, and its beautiful rural setting makes it a day visit well worth the trip. Recent shows include a display of works exploring the material of paper by four contemporary women artists: Emilie Pugh, Alice Von Maltzahn, Becky Allen, and Purdey Fitzherbert. Messums continues its focus on paper with the display of a series of constructions in recycled cardboard by Daniel Agdag, on view until November 30th.

Exterior view of Moosey, Norwich. Courtesy of Moosey.

Moosey is a contemporary art gallery based in London and Norwich. A train journey of just under two hours from Liverpool Street station, Moosey’s Norwich Gallery is situated in the trendy Labour in Vain Yard, well placed in the vibrant city that has a bustling artistic community. Since 2013, Moosey has shown monthly exhibitions of young and emerging artists’ work.

“Putting on exhibitions outside of London gives us breathing space to take more risks with artists who haven’t had gallery shows before,” explained Moosey’s director Frazer Bailey. Rather than representing artists, Moosey acts as a platform for lesser-known artists at the beginning of their careers to show their work.

As well as its exhibitions, Moosey hosts a number of artist residencies every year in Norwich, where young artists have the opportunity to make work in a dedicated space and build connections. Often these residencies lead to solo shows.

Visitors to the gallery will find an exciting display of street and graffiti-inspired artwork. Currently on show is the work of 21-year-old Polish artist Maciej Kość, whose work straddles fantasy and reality, depicting absurd and slickly painted characters.

Ana Marie Pacheco, installation view of “Remember” at Pratt Contemporary, 2022. Courtesy of Pratt Contemporary.

Founded in 1977, Pratt Contemporary is a fine art print and publishing studio located in Igtham, a village just outside Sevenoaks in Kent. Reachable from London in under an hour by train, the studio gallery is open by appointment.

The gallery has grown since its inception to represent artists working across sculpture, painting, and drawing. It regularly exhibits at the annual Fine Print Dealers Association New York Print Fair and offers works by artists including Alison Lambert, Frederic Morris, Ana Maria Pacheco, Marcus Rees Roberts, Kristian Krokfors, and Hugo Wilson. Their prints focus on a range of techniques including monotype, etching, drypoint, and chiaroscuro woodcut. In 1987, Pratt Contemporary was the first print studio to be invited to exhibit at the annual London Original Print Fair and has since garnered a strong reputation within the world of printmaking.

Pratt Contemporary’s exhibitions are held off-site, away from its studios. An upcoming exhibition of Pacheco’s most recent sculpture, Remember, will be held at Studio 3 Gallery in the University of Kent’s Jarman Building from October 19th through December 15th. Remember was first exhibited at the 2022 Galway International Arts Festival.

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