With an array of museums and galleries, not to mention sculptures and street art, London is chock-full of of options for art lovers. While big attractions like the National Gallery and the Tate are not-to-miss destinations, it could be a good idea visit some of the smaller galleries too, as these often feature amazing works from lesser-known artists – and without the big crowds of people.
One example of such a place is the Blyth Gallery. This is an artist-run space for the creative exploration of ambitious visual projects.
Curated by Mindy Lee and part of the Imperial College London’s Blyth Centre for Music and Visual Arts, the Blyth Gallery is named after Neville Blyth. Born and educated in Edinburgh, Mr Blyth earned a degree in Natural Sciences from Oxford University and then joined Imperial College as a lecturer. Mr Blyth died in 1979 and his widow left a substantial legacy to the college, following her death in 1989. This made the construction of the Blyth Centre possible.
The Blyth Gallery hosts a variety of group and solo exhibitions throughout the year. Many of the projects include works by Imperial College students and staff, as well as exhibitions of postgraduate Fine Art student work and work by visiting professional artists. In addition, the gallery occasionally works with other curators to showcase national and international exhibitions.
The Blyth Centre is located at the Imperial College’s South Kensington Campus. It is open Monday to Sunday, 09:00 to 21:00.
Getting to the Blyth Gallery is easy, since it’s located only a short walk from South Kensington underground station – that’s on the Circle, District and Piccadilly lines. Other nearby stops include Gloucester Road, High Street Kensington and Knightsbridge.
Alternatively, there are a number of bus routes that can bring visitors to the South Kensington Campus – these include the 9, 10, 14, 49, 52, 70, 74, 345, 360 and 414.
If you feel like cycling to the gallery, the London Cycle hire scheme has bicycle stands nearby. For those planning to drive, there is only limited parking at the college. During office hours, this is reserved for staff and pre-booked visitors – outside of those hours, the parking facilities operate as a public car park.
Sights and attractions
South Kensington is known for its museums, which are situated in a cluster near Imperial College and the Blyth Gallery.
- The Science Museum – Founded in 1857, the Science Museum is world renowned for its collections and galleries. It features a large area dedicated to space and aeronautics, and visitors can also learn about other topics like communications and engineering.
- The Natural History Museum – First opened in 1881, the Natural History Museum was originally a place to show the collection of natural specimens that had been collected by Sir Hans Sloane. The building itself is truly striking – resembling a cathedral, it is one of the UK’s finest examples of Romanesque architecture – while the collections inside range from the smallest of insects, through to dinosaur fossils and the enormous skeleton of a blue whale.
- The Victoria and Albert Museum – The world’s leading museum of art and design, the V&A promotes design and works to increase knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of the designed world.
Other top spots in the local area include Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens and the Albert Memorial.
If you’re looking for entertainment options in the area around the Blyth Gallery, options range from specialty cinemas, through to small musical theatres and music venues.
- Cine Lumiere – Operated by the French Institute, this venue shows a variety of new-release and classic French films, with subtitles for those who don’t speak the language.
- Science Museum Imax – The Science Museum is home to an Imax cinema, which shows educational films and the latest blockbusters on an enormous screen.
- The Drayton Arms – While this may look like a normal London pub from the outside, it’s actually a combination of pub and theatre with nightly productions including a mix of new works and old classics.
- The Royal Albert Hall – This concert hall was opened in 1871 by Queen Victoria and was named after her beloved husband who had died six years earlier. The hall has been used for a variety of events over the years, including a wide range of musical performances, as well as award ceremonies, community events and banquets. It has hosted the Proms concerts annually since 1941 and is also famous for its stunning appearance – both inside and out.
For those needing a bit of retail therapy, South Kensington and the area around the Blyth Gallery boasts plenty of options. Brompton Road is lined with up-scale shops, as well as normal high-street chains, while the world-famous Harrod’s department store is only a short distance away.
Nightlife and pubs
South Kensington is well known for its nightlife. The area is home to a variety of independent pubs in historic buildings, as well as trendy private clubs and fine dining restaurants.