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The best art galleries in St Ives

St Ives has a worldwide reputation as a magnet for artists, with a fascinating history as home to the ‘St Ives School’ of modernists, plus a vibrant contemporary arts scene. All this means that today this little Cornish town boasts some of the UK’s best art galleries outside of London.

Some of the great paintings of 20th Century British art, by artists like Peter Lanyon, Terry Frost and Wilhemina Barns-Graham, can be seen at Tate St Ives, with its stunning curved atrium overlooking Porthmeor Beach. 

However, art connoisseurs shouldn’t miss Penwith Gallery, which is in Downalong not far from Tate St Ives. The home of the influential Penwith Society of Arts (founded in 1949 by Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Peter Lanyon and Bernard Leach amongst others), some of the most exciting exhibitions of contemporary art in Cornwall take place here. 

Hepworth herself is a towering figure in British art history. She lived and worked at Trewyn Studios in St Ives from 1949 until her death in 1975; the studio and garden is now preserved as a museum, and you can see many of here works in situ there.  

Cornwall residents can get unlimited year-round entry to Tate St Ives and Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden – the annual pass costs just £5, giving you a year of privileged access to some fantastic permanent collections and visiting exhibitions. 

St Ives is also a global centre for studio pottery. The Leach Pottery was founded in 1920 by Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada and it was here that they pioneered a style of functional yet beautiful pottery. You can visit the Leach Pottery today, which is both a museum and a working studio, and the shop is an essential experience for art lovers. 

If pottery or ceramics are on your shopping list, don’t miss a visit to St Ives Ceramics which is almost right on the harbour front. The gallery shows a wide variety of the best in contemporary studio pottery, plus a selection of pieces from master potters of the 20th century.

The New Craftsman on Fore Street also has a strong background in ceramics and pottery, as well as established and rising painters. Founded in the 1960s, this gallery played a major role in propelling artists like Sandra Blow, Bryan Winter and Patrick Heron into the spotlight. Today it represents more than 100 highly-collectable artists, whose work is carefully curated in the most impressive way. 

Keen collectors will also want to head to Livingstone Gallery, which is also on Fore Street. Here you’ll find work – chiefly oil paintings – by some of the most acclaimed artists working in Cornwall today. 

Porthminster Gallery is another of St Ives’ great artistic institutions. This large and evolving collection of post-war modern art (British modernists as well as those of the St Ives School) is now housed at 22 Fore Street, close to the Barbara Hepworth Museum. 

Last but definitely not least, Anima Mundi on Street-an-Pol shows thought-provoking exhibitions with genuine impact. This vibrant gallery founded by Joseph Clarke has taken up the mantle of continually breaking new ground – something which the St Ives art colony has been doing for generations. 

Want to know which Cornish artists you should be collecting right now? Read this next journal entry and find out!

 

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