London Gallery Weekend kicks off on Friday and it’s bigger than ever before. Now in its fourth edition, it is already the largest initiative of its kind in the world and gathers 134 participating galleries across focused geographical zones: East, South, and Central London. To help steer visitors through a three-day program of openings and events that can at times feel overwhelming, London Gallery Weekend offers a rich selection of curated routes, laid out by some of the city’s leading creative minds, from artists Lubaina Himid and Flora Yukhnovich, to fashion photographer Nick Knight and Vogue’s Global Creative and Cultural Adviser, Edward Enninful. These are set out online and will also be delivered as in-person tours by event assistants.

‘Despite the challenges, London’s gallery sector has bucked the trend, and its landscape continues to grow,’ says Thaddaeus Ropac’s Sarah Rustin, who co-directs London Gallery Weekend with its founder, Edel Assanti’s Jeremy Epstein. ‘This year we have 16 new participants, of which nine are galleries that have opened since 2023.’ First-timers taking part this year include Alice Amati, Haricot Gallery, and Hot Wheels Athens London.

Curator and writer Ekow Eshun leads visitors from East to West, beginning at Victoria Miro, where paintings by brothers Geoffrey and Boscoe Holder, celebrated artists in pre-war Trinidad, are brought together for the first time. Eshun’s route takes in a show of work by Robert Rauschenberg, made during his 1980s cultural exchange with artists from countries including China, Mexico, and Cuba at Thaddaeus Ropac, as well as exhibitions by late British-Indian artist Gurminder Sikand at Maximillian William and Otobong Nkanga at Lisson, before finishing up at Hackelbury Fine Art for Sharon Walters, an artist that Eshun has long admired.

‘London is a tidal city, with the Thames ebbing and flowing each day through its center. The same is true of the city’s art industry,’ says writer and curator Charlie Porter. ‘At the turn of the millennium, it seemed like East London was becoming the epicenter of the city’s gallery activity – a frenetic energy which quickly died away. In its place, serious galleries have established which concentrate on the long-term, rather than short-term hype. To me, this is more rewarding for artist, visitor, and gallerist.’

Porter has chosen to honor the visionary art and culinary landscape of Bethnal Green, Shoreditch, and Clerkenwell. His route begins at Maureen Paley, where photographer Hannah Starkey’s solo show explores the representation of women in contemporary culture, before moving on to Soft Opening, for Dean Sameshima’s intimate photographs taken covertly in Berlin’s adult movie theaters. Porter’s route is peacefully meandering, suggesting a host of eateries for lunch: Campania & Jones, Rochelle Canteen, or Leila’s Shop and Café. He invites visitors to move from Daniel Correa Mejía’s show at Studio M to Kate MacGarry’s Renee So exhibition, to then take a walk to Clerkenwell for Shimabuku at Amanda Wilkinson, and from there to Hollybush Gardens for Andrea Büttner. Porter also suggests stopping by the community garden in Arnold Circus, where he is a trustee and volunteer.

‘I’m obviously totally biased, but I do think London is the most beautiful city anywhere,’ says photographer and food writer Mary McCartney, who lays out a route that can be taken on foot through central London. She suggests beginning in bustling Piccadilly for a coffee in the Royal Academy’s grand courtyard, before moving past the shining jewelers’ shop windows of Burlington Arcade, up Dover Street, Cork Street, and Savile Row for Flowers Gallery’s Tai Shan Schierenberg exhibition, and Hauser & Wirth’s show with Isa Genzken. She then recommends heading to Soho, to Frith Street Gallery for Dayanita Singh’s masterful black and white photographs, and Nan Goldin’s powerful exploration of Christian martyrdom in a deconsecrated church, known as the Welsh chapel on Charing Cross Road (courtesy of Gagosian). A keen fan of London’s restaurant scene, McCartney invites her followers to end at the iconic French House on Dean Street, which she explains has, ‘a welcoming community feel and a rich history of artists who have wet their whistles there’ – including, famously, Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon.

Nick Knight centers his tour around some of the city’s major museums, from Tate Britain to the Serpentine and the V&A, taking in exhibitions at the commercial galleries in their vicinity, including Matthew Barney at Sadie Coles HQ and parallel shows by Hajime Sorayama and Ana Karkar at Almine Rech. Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid, on the other hand, suggests a weaving journey through town, starting with Magda Stawarska’s experimental and transportive exhibition at Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix and ending with what Himid describes as a ‘sensual and seductive’ Harminder Judge double bill at The Sunday Painter and Matt’s Gallery. Painter Flora Yukhnovich puts forth a purposeful schedule which moves from the ‘gorgeous silks and sumptuous brushstrokes’ of John Singer Sergent at Tate Britain to Victoria Miro, stopping off for ‘the best classic fish and chips in London’ at Fish Central, situated between Clerkenwell and Shoreditch.

‘This city can be very isolating, spread out in a way that can hamper connection, dialogue, and community,’ concludes Porter. ‘This is also true of London’s art industry – and even more so after the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union, and the COVID-19 pandemic. London Gallery Weekend offers a chance to break this: to visit, to be welcomed, to re-engage, and hopefully foster a different way of being.’

Credits and captions

London Gallery Weekend takes place for May 31 to June 2, 2024. Find more information here, and follow a curated route.

Emily Steer is an arts journalist and editor based in London.

Caption for top-image: Hannah Starkey, Untitled, April 2024, 2024. © Hannah Starkey, courtesy of Maureen Paley, London.

Published on May 28, 2024.