Your Guide to London’s Gallery Events and Late Openings

Posted on March 28, 2011


This article was originally written for MouthLondon magazine

Looking for an unusual night out? Feeling the need for a culture fix to counteract the debauchery of Sports Night? An evening event in a gallery might be just what you’re looking for, with all of the arty-goodness of a gallery, plus the added bonus of a bar and no silence-enforcing attendants that judge you for texting. But where to go? Not to worry, we have done the legwork for you – we have journeyed across the postcodes to bring you this comprehensive guide to events and late openings.

Tate Britain

Late at Tate Britain – Open until 10pm on the first Friday of every month. Browse the collections with a drink in hand or enjoy cutting-edge performance art, live music and film. All for free.

“A welcome change from the gallery rage experienced at the major exhibitions. It also ties in nicely with a visit to the bar and walk along the river.” Timothy Davies

Tate Modern

Open until 10pm every Friday and Saturday. View the collection and take a look at the schedule of talks, music, film and art performances. Prices start at free.

“Some galleries do really work at night and I think this is one of them, because it is so different at night than it is during the day. The darkness outside adds something to the atmosphere.” Megan Yakeley.

The National Gallery

Open until 9pm on Fridays. Events include drawing sessions with a professional artist, talks and classical music performances. All for free. The evenings tend to attract an older audience than other galleries, but subscribe to their mailing list and you’ll get invited to great free student events.

“The Canaletto free student view was fantastic drinks and nibbles wise.” Sophie Morris

The National Portrait Gallery

Open until 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays. Events include drawing sessions with a professional artist, talks, DJ sets and classical music performances. All for free.


Open until 9pm on Thursdays. There is an exciting programme of talks, music, films, spoken word and performance art. Exhibitions are free, but prices for events vary.

“Generally it’s a great way of introducing you to art forms that you wouldn’t otherwise encounter. Especially when the focus is on performance art.” Clio Heslop

Parasol Unit

Open until 9pm on the first Thursday of every month. Events include discussions and poetry readings. Prices vary. Sign up to the mailing list and you’ll be invited to free private views where the gallery and garden are transformed into a social space.

Saatchi Gallery

Members (it’s free to signup) are invited to evening talks and private views in the gallery. These are free and usually involve a complimentary drink!

Camden Arts Centre

Gallery and café open until 9pm on Wednesdays with a programme of films, talks and performance art. Prices start at free.

“Saw an artsy film here the other day – it was an interesting film and they were selling good beer for £2 and it came with free popcorn!” Tom Fox


Closed on Monday and Tuesday, but open late the rest of the week and until 1am Thursday to Saturday. On-the-pulse events include talks, contemporary music, art and film, as well as special events in the bar, such as festival openings and student forums (called Everything). Prices start at free; Everything is free before a certain time and there are a limited amount of free drinks.


Open until 10pm on Thursdays. Calls itself a ‘multi-arts and conference venue’ and, housing a gallery, theatre, cinema and two halls, it is unsurprising that it has a lot of evening events on offer. Prices start at free.

 “ I really enjoyed Barbican last night. Pushing the limits of a PA with 6-inch speakers in the posh gallery environment. Felt subversive somehow.” Thomas Truax

The V&A

Open until 10pm on Fridays. Regular classical music performances on Friday evenings and, on the last Friday of the month, enjoy a free evening of installations, performances and live music.

The Royal Academy

Open until 10pm on Fridays. A program of evening lectures and talks, and occasional music performances. Prices start at free.

The Southbank Centre

A hub of activity, there are many evening talks and performances. Prices start at free.

Time Out First Thursday Event

First Thursday of every month. Over 100 art venues in East London keep their doors open until 9pm. Experience the unique art of small time galleries. All for free, some galleries also provide free drinks.

“First Thursdays are a great chance to experience art in a shaken up context. Less quiet appreciation, more debate, free beer, experimental art. In short a bit more fun.” Imogen Adams

Posted in: Feature, Guide