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Bristol’s leading contemporary arts venues are Spike Island and Arnolfini, both of which began as artist run collectives making use of the harbour’s abandoned industrial spaces. A 1950’s tea-packing factory, Spike Island combines an ambitious exhibition space with studios for over 70 artists. Arnolfini took on their own Grade II listed warehouse on the harbour in 1975, and continues to show the work of world-renowned artists. Grayson Perry’s The Most Popular Art Show Ever! attracted record numbers in 2017. In the summer it is the perfect spot to sit on the waters edge with a local cider and watch the city flow by across the harbour.
The Edge is a new arts destination housed in an architecturally striking building at the University of Bath – an iconic space for exhibitions, talks and performances. Meanwhile, at Paintworks, a creative development quarter in Bristol, the Martin Parr Foundation is a new gallery and archive founded by the Magnum photographer. Soon, he will be joined by the Royal Photographic Society; after 35 years in Bath, the RPS will relocate here in early 2019.
Take a drawing class at the Royal West of England Academy, the UK's only regional Royal Academy of Art. A few doors down, the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery’s collection features European old masters alongside Victorian and Edwardian paintings and modern abstracts. In Bath, the Victoria Art Gallery’s permanent collection is well worth a visit and includes works by Walter Sickert and local artist Thomas Gainsborough. Expect to see more from Gainsborough and other must-see works in the galleries of Bath’s magnificent Holburne Museum - they have a fantastic cafe too!
Look out for the unique opportunity to take a peek inside collective artists’ workspaces at certain times of the year: in Bath at Bath Artists’ Studios; in Bristol at Spike Island, BV Studios, Hamilton House or Jamaica Street Studios. Both the latter are in Stokes Croft, an area of the city well-known as a canvas for its street artists, including Banksy.