The Ultimate London Gallery Weekend Itinerary

London Gallery Weekend is almost here, and Phin Jennings has been busy crafting the perfect itinerary for the weekend. With over thirty recommendations, Phin has compiled suggestions from the city’s most clued-in gallerists and artists, alongside his own, on how to do London Gallery Weekend just right. Start making notes!

London’s sprawling gallery landscape can be a stressful place. With close to 150 participating galleries and 100 events taking place, navigating the fourth annual London Gallery Weekend alone might be a dizzying prospect. Luckily, I have compiled intelligence from the city’s most clued-in gallerists and artists, alongside a few of my own recommendations, to bring you an itinerary containing exhibitions, events and experiences, from mega galleries to museum gardens to enjoy over the weekend.

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2023. Courtesy of London Gallery Weekend. Photo: Linda Nylind.

Friday, 31st May

Our schedule begins on Friday afternoon with a time-honoured art world tradition: watching two white guys talking about painting. Today, it’s writer and broadcaster Ben Luke in conversation with uncanny Belgian painter Michaël Borremans at David Zwirner. The event is officially sold out but if you stride in confidently, telling the intern on the door that you’re here with someone on this list, getting in should be a breeze. If you are successful, be sure to also head upstairs to see editions by artists including Gala Porras-Kim and Tai Shani, on sale in support of South London’s non-profit art organisation Gasworks. If you don’t feel up to it, you can skip down the road to MASSIMODECARLO for American sculptor Hannah Levy’s first London exhibition, ‘Bulge’. Expect faceless sci-fi creatures with metal bones and scarily human-looking silicone skin.

That’s the Mayfair portion of your weekend finished. Say your goodbyes, cross Regent Street and head to The Artist Room in Soho for the opening of Italian artist Leonardo Devito’s solo exhibition, featuring paintings that sit somewhere between 15th century Flemish painting and contemporary social realism. For a culturally appropriate post-show dinner, recommended by the gallery’s assistant director Laurie Barron, hit La Porchetta Pollo Bar for a big plate of pasta. Bellissima.

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Leonardo Devito, Rogo [Fire], 2023. Courtesy of The Artist Room, London.

Saturday, 1st June

A Friday evening in the West End, even as brief and focussed as yesterday’s, is exhausting. The antidote? A Saturday morning in Deptford and New Cross. Eat a bagel at The Waiting Room, buy yourself a trinket from Deptford Market, visit Matt Connors’ expansive group show at Goldsmiths CCA and the city’s best parade of small galleries, the enclave. After all this and a quick lay down in Fordham Park, you’ll be ready to travel back into town.

This time we’re heading to the chic and literary Bloomsbury and its dowdier neighbour Farringdon. Respectively the former home of the famous 20th century group of artists and thinkers and the current home of startups that think they’re too cool for Old Street, in recent years the two neighbourhoods have seen a swathe of interesting young galleries open. 

First stop is Brunette Coleman for Brianna Leatherbury’s solo exhibition ‘Survival Bias’, which brings together the artist’s research on cryogenics with a site-specific cold room housing a series of copper-plated sculptures. After trying and failing to resist the temptation to declare it the coolest show in London, it’s time to ponder your two lunch options. For a high end dining experience that claims to be “built on a studio ethos” (I’m not sure either), try Sessions Arts Club, where you’ll be surrounded by artist-designed flags curated by local gallery Ginny on Frederick. For something more down-to-earth, Isaac Simon, director of South Parade, recommends Italian deli L. Terroni & Sons.

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Installation view, ‘Overview II’, Sessions Arts Club, 2024. Courtesy of Ginny on Frederick. Photo by Beth Evans.

If you have time, it’s worth visiting some more local galleries. New arrivals to the area Hot Wheels Athens London, a. SQUIRE and Union Pacific are all within walking distance mounting interesting-looking painting shows. Whatever you do, though, make sure you are at South Parade at 4pm for an exhibition walkthrough with copyright-obsessed sculptor James Fuller. It’s also a good place for a toilet break, where you can make use of one of Fuller’s Cleansing Compositions: 52 unique bars of soap, each representing an individual filing in the U.S. patent office database.

Inspired and relieved, it’s time to hot-tail it back across the river; this time to South Bermondsey. Here, slow painting tycoon Sid Motion is opening ‘Searching Minds’, a group exhibition including work by Carole Gibbons, the octogenarian Glaswegian whose work has been everywhere this year from Tate Britain to New York institution White Columns. The private view wraps up at the civilised hour of 6pm, giving you time to enjoy a drink or two with stunning views of the Surrey Canal Road at Avalon Cafe before dancing the night away at Copperfield’s 10th birthday party in Southwark.

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James Fuller, Slow scroller (the rendering of soft shadows), 2024. Courtesy of the artist and South Parade.
Photo by Corey Bardle-Sanderson.

Sunday, 2nd June

You wake up yearning for something salty and fatty to eat and some form of intellectual stimulation. Fear not, Harlesden High Street has what you need. The community-focussed space in North West London is hosting an all-day party to coincide with ‘Free Cuzzy’, a solo exhibition by Marcus Jefferson that re-contextualizes the detritus of a criminalised, racialised inner-city life. Jonny Tanna, the gallery’s owner, tells me that there will be Caribbean food courtesy of Pun’s Kitchen available from 10am — and I say why not enjoy the hearty breakfast that you deserve.

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Invitation to the opening party of Marcus Jefferson, ‘Free Cuzzy’ at Harlesden High Street. Courtesy of Harlesden High Street.

For an authentic Harlesden experience, Tanna recommends eschewing Uber in favour of a minicab from local firm Red Line Cars. Ask the driver to take you to Sherbet Green in Cambridge Heath where, if you’re still hungry, you can tuck into a brunch whilst experiencing Marieke Bernard-Berkel’s distorted landscapes and Tom Bull’s tar-coated sculptures in their two person show, ‘All the world’s a stage’. While you’re in the area, the gallery’s director Mazzy-Mae Green suggests a trip to Artwords Bookshop for a new book and its neighbour, French deli l’eau à La Bouche, to sit outside and read.

East London, where you find yourself now, is home to many more wonderful galleries. To mention just two, Venice Biennale exhibitor Dean Sameshima’s exhibition ‘Being Alone’ at Soft Opening comprises a series of eerily anonymous photographs set in a Berlin porn theatre and Maureen Paley is showing Hannah Starkey’s large-scale, fragmented photographic portraits. If you would rather take a break from art, take a leaf out of painter and Dalston local Haroun Hayward’s book and visit the Museum of the Home’s gardens or stop for a pint at The Palm Tree in Mile End Park — remember to bring cash.

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Hannah Starkey, Untitled, November 2023, 2023. Courtesy of the artist and Maureen Paley, London.

The final stop of our odyssey is Shoreditch. First, a stop-off at Haroun’s gallery, Hales, to see more work by Carole Gibbons, who joined their roster earlier this year. Then to The Clerk’s House, Emalin’s new space that once served as a lookout post to spot body snatchers in the neighbouring St Leonard’s churchyard. At 4pm, experimental music and poetry duo [something’s happening] will perform in response to the current exhibition, Adriano Costa’s ‘ax-d. us. t’.

When I asked Adriano for a local recommendation to end the weekend, he suggested simply looking at the sky. It wasn’t quite what I expected but, after 48 hours of gallery-hopping, it might be just the moment of peace and reflection that you need. Find a quiet spot in the churchyard, stretch out and take in the nothingness above you. Congratulations, you did London Gallery Weekend right.

Written by Phin Jennings

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Installation view, Adriano Costa, ‘ax-d. us. t’, The Clerk’s House, 2024. Courtesy of the artist and Emalin, London. Photo by Stephen James.