Art in Bristol

Art attack: The best of Bristol’s galleries

You’re sure to be inspired on a trip to this beautiful and artistic city!

While Bristol is perhaps better known for its outdoor street art than huge art galleries, there are still several institutions you should check out on a holiday here. Bristol art is abundant; from classic paintings to contemporary pieces to even pop-up art exhibitions. Here’s our pick of which ones to see.
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
Arguably one of the most famous of Bristol attractions, the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery combines art of all kinds with historical artefacts, fossils and geology specimens. The Bristol art gallery on Level 2 has Italian Renaissance, Baroque, Victorian, Edwardian, modern French art and British paintings from famous artists throughout the centuries. Fine art aside, there are also ceramics, glass, furniture, silver and textiles dating from the 17th century to today. The Bristol Museum & Art Gallery hosts regular new exhibitions, so definitely check out the website and see what’s on!
The Royal West of England Academy
Founded in 1849, the Royal West of England Academy is the oldest art gallery in Bristol. Over 1,700 works of art are housed in this magnificent Grade II-listed building at the top of the Clifton Triangle. It has one of the finest collections of historic and contemporary British art, featuring works by RWA artists and academicians such as Elizabeth Blackadder, Bernard Dunstan, Mary Fedden and David Inshaw. If you’re an aspiring artist, the RWA also holds hands-on workshops, courses, lectures and tours. There’s also an excellent on-site café called Papadeli that serves delicious cakes and homemade sandwiches, tapas plates, and wines.
Spike Island
If you like contemporary art, then you have to visit Spike Island. Located in the vibrant Harbourside area, this converted warehouse space specialises in modern art and design and is well known for its audio installations. It’s split into a gallery, commercial workspace and studios, where you can come and chat with local artists during their annual Open Studios events. Spike Island has special exhibitions all year round, and also holds free workshops for adults and children.
You’ll find Bristol art galleries dotted all around the city and Arnolfini is definitely one you shouldn’t miss. It’s a leading centre for the contemporary arts and is located on the waterfront, just near Queen Square and the Bristol Aquarium. The programme includes contemporary art exhibitions, performance pieces, music and dance events, poetry readings, talks, lectures and cinema. It’s a popular place for families as well, with a regular roster of children’s activities, school programmes and art workshops. In summer, tourists and locals alike head down to Arnolfini to get their culture fix and soak up the sun at the quayside gallery café and bar, famous for serving up Bristol’s best brownies. The bookstore and gift shop are also a great place to pick up unusual souvenirs!
It’s All 2 Much
Bristol has long been a mecca for street art lovers, thanks largely to Bristol-native Banksy’s influence. While you’re most likely to spot Banksy’s iconic graffiti hidden on walls, bridges and buildings throughout the city, some new-age artists have taken their work inside to It’s All 2 Much, an urban art gallery in the gritty area of Stokes Croft. The independent gallery promotes original work by local artists, including painting, sculpture and photography. Artwork here often has pop culture and political undertones and uses mediums such as spray paint, stencils and metal sculptures.
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