Like Camden? Love art? Totally wild about centres?
You’ll go crazy for the free-to-enter Camden Art Centre.
The building in which it sits is a stop-worthy attraction in itself: a Grade II-listed red brick, opened in the 1890s (as the Hampstead Central Library) with financial support from insurance heavyweight Sir Henry Harben. Thanks, Henners.
After getting bombed multiple times during the Second World War, the library moved to a bigger venue in Swiss Cottage in the 60s, and the Victorian building became home to the Hampstead Arts Centre. Finally, it evolved into the Camden Art Centre, a beginner-to-pro creative hub running all manner of community courses and showcasing works by a globe-trotting roster of contemporary artists.
On the learning side of things, there’s a selection of workshops and courses to hit every artistic button, including weekly pottery classes. Once you’ve created your masterpiece, see how it’s meant to be done by perusing the regularly changing exhibitions from the pros.
It’s a particularly good spot to see emerging international artists (Kerry James Marshall had his first UK show here), and does a roaring trade in British talent (Turner Prize-winner Martin Creed exhibited here, as has two-time nominee Mike Nelson). In fact, you’re likely to catch a couple of rising stars at Camden Art Centre’s current exhibition: the annual Bloomberg New Contemporaries show, which has returned to its home here after 20 years. As always, features a hand-picked selection of works by exciting up-and-coming artists, and acts as a kind of ‘pulse-check’ for what artists are interested in exploring right now.
Since admiring modern masters can be hungry work, there’s Bar Bicicletta, a cafe serving Italian small plates, speciality coffees, teas and cocktails. On sunny days, they can be enjoyed in the garden and terrace, which stays open late on weekends and plays host to live performances on evenings throughout the summer.
On rainy days, take a seat – and your drink – under the canvas awning.
Perhaps the only canvas here without applause-worthy art.
NOTE: Camden Art Centre is open Tuesday – Sunday, 11am-6pm (9pm Thursdays). Entry is free – you can see what’s on HERE.
Camden Art Centre | Arkwright Road, London NW3 6DG
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