My favourite secret art galleries in London

The most intriguing hidden art galleries in the capital: think on a train platform; in an old police station; and in a working fish factory.

Banner Repeater – Hackney Downs Tube


A reading room and artist space hidden behind a door on platform 1 of Hackney Downs railway station. Look out for the converted office with tubs of books out front, and chalk signs reading ‘This Is To Be Looked At’. The exhibition space focuses on showcasing a rich archive of artist publishing. There’s also a reading group and regular events.

Platform 1, Hackney Downs Network Rail, Dalston Lane E8 1LA; 8am-11am  Tuesday to Thursday; 8am-6pm Fridays; 12pm-6pm Saturdays and Sundays (Sundays only when exhibitions are on);

Crypt Gallery – St Pancras Church


It’s tucked away in the crypt of a Greek Revivalist Church, which was built in the 19th century to ‘illuminate the dark temples of the Heathen’ and is all ionic pillars and caryatids (stone carvings of women in draped clothing in the classical style). The crypt itself was the site of 557 coffin burials, and served as an air raid shelter during the world wars. Exhibitions can vary from collections that focus on a single up-and-coming artist to thematic propositions such as science-meets-art.

Dukes Road Entrance (Off Euston Road) NW1 2BA; open daily 11am-7pm;

The Old Police Station


An arts centre set in an old Edwardian police station. The white-tiled cells and interview rooms that still have their original panic alarms serve as exhibition space. Head here after work on the last Friday of the month for Dirty Cop Friday; you will be able to enjoy the bar set in the old fingerprint room until 1am, and possibly a gig. They also do supper clubs – like them on Facebook to keep in the loop.

114 Amersham Vale, London SE14 6LG; only open during exhibitions, see website;

Forman’s Smokehouse Gallery


There’s nothing fishy about the quality of this arts hub tucked away on the top floor of Britain’s oldest salmon smoking business, H Forman & Son. The space is impressive, and the need to weave around the illuminated industrial pillars to view the pieces on the walls only adds to the fun. Twin a visit with lunch at the adjoining smoked salmon-focused restaurant (though the warm smoked eel fillets are also good); it has splendid views of the Olympic Park.

Stour Road E3 2NT; Thursday and Friday 5pm-9pm, Saturday 12pm-5pm, Sunday 12pm-5pm;  020 8525 2375;

Eagle Farringdon


This gallery is on the first floor of The Eagle Pub, a curious institution that triggered the gastropub revolution in the early Nineties, but hasn’t changed ever since. The food is still good if no longer groundbreaking; after your grilled piri piri poussin or lamb and date tagine, haul your good self upstairs for a visual feast of contemporary art by way of dessert. Keep your eyes peeled for a lithographic book recording the daily coming and goings of the customers at the Eagle pub.

159 Farringdon Road EC1R 3AL; open Wednesday to Friday 11am–6pm, Saturday 11am-4pm during exhibitions; 020 7837 1353;  

Amstel Art Complex – George Wharf complex


It’s holed deep in the belly of a bankside residential skyscraper complex that has twice been voted the ugliest building in the world. An accolade that this building, where flats have gone for £51 million, utterly deserves; its butterfly roof makes it resemble a family of angry squatting owls made from a nauseating shade of sea-green glass. The Amstel Art Complex is the only redeeming factor – the owner, Italian collector Leandro Amstel Grasso has turned it into a pioneering space dedicated to neo-futurist art, one of the first in the city. You will find pieces by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein alongside cutting-edge light installations and issues-focused photography by relative unknowns.

Unit 7 St.George Wharf SW8 2LE; Monday to Friday 9am-7pm and Saturday 10:30-7pm; 0207 582 1114;

Bethlem Museum of the Mind


A gallery tucked away on the complex of Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham, flanked by writhing stone statues and an Art Deco staircase. It showcases artworks by former mental health patients – including fairy paintings by Richard Dadd, who was committed to the asylum after killing his father; and John Martin who conjured expansive biblical scenes on his canvases, after being locked up for trying to burn down York Minster.

Bethlem Royal Hospital, Monks Orchard Road, Beckenham BR3; 020 3228 4227; Wednesday to Friday 10am-5pm;

Pump House


Everyone knows about the Serpentine in Kensington Gardens. But did you know there’s an art gallery in Battersea Park –  in an old Victorian industrial pump house that was used to power the park’s fountains, no less. Here, you’ll find a lively roster of refreshing exhibitions dedicated to contemporary art. Expect everything from boundary-pushing outdoor installations to collections from up-and-coming sculptors or specialists in textile art.

Opening times: 11am-5pm Wednesday to Saturday, closed Monday and Tuesday; Battersea Park, London SW11 4NJ; 020 8871 7572;

Ambika P3


A vast arts space fashioned from a subterranean concrete construction hall once used to test cement for the Channel Tunnel and Spaghetti Junction. It’s just across the road from Madame Tussaud’s. The exhibitions showcase works by art, design and architecture students at the University of Westminster, from installations to photography.

Opening times: Monday to Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 11am-5pm; 5 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5LS; 020 7911 5876;

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