If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting Bristol, you’ll know that the city is overflowing with creativity. Art lies inside the beating heart of Bristol, with vibrant graffiti dotting each corner and creative hubs tucked away on every winding road.
There are many weird and wonderful things about living in Bristol, but its famous art scene is easily top of the list. The south-west city is so inherently creative that it was even crowned as the UK’s most artistic city during 2019, and has birthed some of the most well-renowned artists throughout the last few centuries.
Whether you’re planning a trip and need some recommendations or you’re a local who fancies soaking up the creative culture of your city, keep reading for a pocket-sized run down of all Bristol’s must-see artistic offerings.
Established in 1961, Arnolfini, otherwise known as Bristol’s International Centre for Contemporary Arts, quickly became known as one of Europe’s most influential contemporary art hubs, spanning three floors with stunning works from artists around the globe. The centre works regularly with the community to provide everyday art activities alongside its regular exhibition schedule, with live events held throughout the year for locals to enjoy, from cosy art workshops to full-scale creative festivals.
Located inside Bush House on the city’s harbourside, Arnolfini has a partnership with the Tate, as well as a membership with the Bristol DIY Network and links to UWE (University of the West of England), one of the city’s popular universities.
Standing on the stretch of Cumberland Road that overlooks the River Avon, Spike Island is a cultural hub for creatives and artists, with a strong focus on contemporary arts and a thriving community network with strong links to Bristol’s student scene. UWE’s Fine Arts BA and MA courses are even based at Spike Island, which makes up part of the university’s city campus.
A stone’s throw from Aardman Animations, creator of beloved children’s stop-motion characters Wallace and Gromit, as well as the SS Great Britain, Bristol’s former passenger steamship that now serves as a museum, Spike Island’s breathtaking exhibitions are almost always free of charge, regularly chopping and changing all throughout the year so there’s constantly something new to explore in their well-lit grand gallery spaces.
If you’re lucky enough to catch one, make sure you don’t leave without paying the Emmeline cafe a visit and sampling one of their famous doorstop sandwiches.
Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
One of the city’s largest museums, the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery showcases everything from Eastern art to the city’s local history, with stunning natural history collections and its events run throughout the year – and, it’s free entry, run as part of Bristol Culture through the city council.
Situated in the upmarket Clifton area, the museum’s art gallery spans pieces from all periods, including a collection of modern works done by local artists. So grand is the gallery that has even been granted designated museum status, given by the national government in a bid to protect the most outstanding museums.
Bristol’s vibrant street art scene is an integral part of its culture – it’s what gives the city its unique character, with a different mural adorning every corner you turn, each bursting with more colour than the last and breathing life into even the most mundane of concrete facades.
However, there is one artist in particular whose name is synonymous with Bristol street art – Banksy, who has been decorating his hometown with world-renowned pieces for decades, his earliest works riding the wave of Bristol’s 1980s street art movement.
Doing a ‘Banksy tour’ is a great way to explore the city while immersing yourself in the works of one of its most famous residents. You can even book yourself a guided walking tour if you want the full run-down of Banky’s complete Bristol works – but, if you’re going it alone, here’s a list of pieces you won’t want to miss, and where to find them:
- The Well-Hung Lover – Frogmore Street
- The Girl With the Pierced Eardrum – Albion Dockyard, Hanover Place
- The Grim Reaper – M Shed
- Paint-Pot Angel – The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
- Take the Money and Run – Montpelier Health Centre car park
- Valentines Day Mural – Marsh Lane, Barton Hill
- The Mild Mild West – Stokes Croft
- The Police Sniper – Park Row
Street Art Hotspots
Practically anywhere you find yourself in Bristol, you’ll be met with a stunning display of graffiti that you could easily stop and stare at for hours. But, if you’re looking for the best places to soak up some street art in the city, these are the go-to’s:
- Stokes Croft.
- Park Street.
- Nelson Street.
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