Five of the Best Contemporary UK Art Galleries

From LS Lowry to portraits in a digital age, if it’s art you’re after, we’ve got it covered in our pick of the best contemporary UK art galleries...

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Ikon – Birmingham

Starting out life as a small kiosk in Birmingham’s Bullring Centre, Ikon has changed beyond recognition over the course of its 40-year lifetime, and is now located in the grander neo-gothic surroundings of the former Oozells Street Board School. Well curated with a constantly changing schedule, you can currently catch the end of Deutsche Bank winner Yto Barrada’s summer exhibition, Riffs. It includes photographs, films and sculptures of life and times in Tangier. There’ll be a full change of exhibitions early in the month, and you can head down on July 17th for a glass of wine and some live music for the opening of the Boyd & Evans exhibition, Views, and David Theobald’s digital animation.

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Address: Ikon Gallery, 1 Oozells Square, Brindley Place, Birmingham, B1 2HS; Ikon-gallery.co.uk.

White Cloth Gallery – Leeds

A recent addition to the contemporary art scene in Leeds is the exciting new White Cloth Gallery. The innovation of creative directors Peter Dench and Sharon Price, it’s predominantly for film and photography and will provide a platform for both established artists and emerging talent in the area. A year in the making, renowned portrait photographer Chris Floyd is exhibiting his brilliantly named 140 Characters. The exhibition explores how we form friendships in a digital age through online communities but still maintain traditional relationships. Floyd who has photographed many a famous face (including Gwyneth Paltrow and Sir Paul McCartney) has shot a portrait collection of 140 characters - ranging from air traffic controllers to people he follows on Twitter. A brilliant start to what is sure to be the first of many. We’ll be keeping a close eye on proceedings...

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Address: White Cloth Gallery, 24-26 Aire Street, Leeds, LS1 4HT; Whiteclothgallery.com.

Baltic Newcastle

The Baltic is set back on the south bank of the River Tyne in Gateshead just over the Millennium Bridge in an imposing building converted from an old flour mill. At the moment, there’s a wonderful exhibition from Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger. In one of his largest commissions for over a decade, he’s turned everyday objects into striking visual pieces, including a giant checkerboard with thousands of pebbles on each square. Keep an eye out for all the artists’ talks that go on throughout the year, and for one of the city's best restaurants (and views), don’t miss dining at the Six Rooftop restaurant.

Address: Baltic, Gateshead Quays, South Shore Road, Gateshead, NE8 3BA; Balticmill.com.

Turner Contemporary – Margate

Opening just last year, the Turner Contemporary gallery is a brilliant addition to Margate’s seafront. Margate's got some impressive artistic heritage: the gallery itself was built right on the site where JMW Turner stayed during a visit to the area, while the town was also home to Tracey Emin, who is currently exhibiting a must-see exhibition at the gallery. Tracey’s She Lay Down Beneath the Sea is on until 23rd September and features a huge range of her sculptures, drawings, monoprints and neons. The exhibition is completely free and we’re thinking of combining it with a stay at the nearby Belvidere Place - a combo that makes for the perfect summer weekend away by the sea. (Read our full review of Belvidere Place.)

Address: Turner Contemporary, Rendezvous, Margate, Kent CT9 1HG; Turnercontemporary.org.

The Lowry – Manchester

Born in Lancashire, many of LS Lowry’s paintings depict Salford and life in the the North of England in the early 20th century. Which is why the largest collection of his artwork is currently being displayed at The Lowry on Salford Quays. This year is particularly special as they’re marking Lowry’s 125th birthday, with many paintings that are on loan and some that have never been previously displayed. If you’re not heading to Manchester but are still keen to see some Lowry works, keep an eye out for the major Lowry exhibition that they’ll be bringing to the Tate Modern next year.

Address: The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, M50 3AZ; Thelowry.com.

Like our pick of the best contemporary UK art galleries but thinking of heading for the capital for your culture fix? Check out our pick of the best hidden London art galleries.

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