London has no shortage of Art galleries, but there are two of them I can’t miss especially in the summer: The Serpentine Galleries. Located in the middle of Hyde Park, on both sides of The Serpentine lake (5 minutes’ walk of each other, they are related by the bridge over the Serpentine lake), the Serpentine Galleries showcase contemporary art all year round.
In addition to offering a great opportunity to walk in Hyde Park when the temperature rises and days get longer, these galleries host a not-to-be-missed exhibition from June to October: The Serpentine Pavilion. If this does not ring a bell to you, just read on…
The Serpentine Galleries
These galleries take their name from the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park (but even though it is common to refer to the entire body of water as the Serpentine, the name strictly refers to the eastern half of the lake…but let’s focus on Art).
There are 2 galleries: the Serpentine Gallery (established in 1970) and the Serpentine Sackler Gallery (opened in 2013). The latter offers a gallery space, but also a restaurant, a shop and social space.
Both are completely free, so don’t be scared to waste your money (you won’t even waste your time as it’s always worth seeing what kind of art our century can bring, isn’t it?).
The galleries have welcomed numerous artists, some more famous than others, but whose artworks are always worth thinking about. I remember being touched by some paintings and my kids being surprised by a few objects there … But Art has always been a personal matter, right?
Feel free to look at the Serpentine galleries website before going there, to make sure they are not temporary closed for installation.
The Serpentine Pavilion
The purpose of the Serpentine gallery is to temporary exhibit a project led by “an international architect or design team who has not completed a building in England at the time of the Gallery’s invitation”.
Each Pavilion is completed within six months and installed on the Serpentine Gallery’s lawn for three months for the public to enjoy it during Summer.
The Serpentine Gallery started to commission a summer pavilion by a leading architect in 2000 and it has taken place every year since then.
Unfortunately I missed a few of them as I arrived in London in 2014 and was not yet aware of this outstanding event at that time. The pictures above show each Pavilion from 2015 to 2018.
The 2019 Serpentine Pavilion
This year The Serpentine Gallery showcases the Art of Japanese architect Junya Ishigami until 6 October 2019.
This is a video of the 2019 Pavilion project presentated by Junya Ishigami:
Junya Ishigami is a young architect born in Japan and there is much he has already accomplished, including starting his own business in 2004 and winning several international awards in the architecture field. Despite this flattering biography, I have to say the 2019 Pavilion is not my favorite one…
So far, I have been seduced by the creativity of the architects who combined several materials with original (and sometimes hazardous) shapes, or insisted on clarity/obscurity depending on your place when looking at the project.
I even admired the reflexion effects inside the 2018 Pavilion (above), because they create changes in our perception, like we were taken aback by something unexpected. Inside the building, you had to focus to know the limit between reality and reflexion…
With the 2019 project, I basically see the houses of my childhood, located in the Pyrenees, with their roof made of slates and -sometimes- craggy structures.
This is what Junya Ishigami has created here, a “rugged, rocky canopy made out of 61 tonnes of Cumbrian slate, held up by a slender steel structure, supported by a grid of 106 pin-ended columns that are arranged randomly to create the impression of a forest”.
I reckon this is quite an achievement to find a way to support such a heavy structure of slates, but I see no truly original nor artistic creation here. But once again, everyone has different taste and you might on the contrary find this building extraordinary… Who knows ?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and found inspiration here. If you are soon to explore the 2019 Pavilion, please share your experience and opinion here!
To go further:
Serpentine Gallery: Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA
Serpentine Sackler Gallery: W Carriage Dr, London W2 2AR