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Bristol's Art Houses
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 continue 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 water's edge with a local cider and watch Harbourside life go by.
Contemporary spaces in Bath and Bristol
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. After 35 years in Bath, The Royal Photographic Society relocated next door in early 2019.
Take a drawing class at the Royal West of England Academy, the UK's only regional Royal Academy of Art outside London. A few doors down, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery’s collection features European old masters alongside Victorian and Edwardian paintings and modern abstracts. In Bath, Victoria Art Gallery’s permanent collection is well worth a visit and includes works by Walter Sickert and local artist Thomas Gainsborough. Expect to find 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 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.
- Plan an art-inspired stay in the cities with our 'Art Lovers' itinerary.
- Find out more about Bristol's street art scene in our guide.