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What Is the Hayward Gallery?

C. Mitchell
C. Mitchell

The Hayward Gallery is a collection of contemporary art and so-called “art experience” installations in London’s Southbank Centre. Everything about the gallery is modern, including its architecture. The gallery is hosted in an enormous concrete building characterized by numerous jutting angles, tiered levels, and glass awnings. Most Hayward collections are rotating, and in this way the gallery is able to feature a number of new artists each year. A smaller percentage of exhibitions are considered permanent acquisitions.

Unlike many more traditional art museums, the Hayward Gallery focuses on art as an experience. Many of its exhibitions are designed to be provocative, and a great number of them are interactive. Featured artists commonly seek to engage the public directly, providing tactile and physical experiences as well as visual stimulation. This very direct approach to art is not commonly seen in many types of museums.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Three main components make up the Hayward: the main gallery, the Waterloo Sunset Pavilion, and the Hayward Gallery Project Space. The main gallery holds both permanent and rotating collections. It is made up of primarily open spaces that visiting artists are invited to transform into their own, often with curtains, hanging art, and new flooring concepts. The governing ideology in the main gallery is that there is art in almost everything, it just has to be discovered.

Social interaction is the name of the game in the pavilion. This space opened in 2002 as an interactive, digital media-driven way for visitors to directly engage with cartoon art through touch screens and video cameras. Most of the cartoons on display in the pavilion are permanent, but the interactivity and computer manipulation vary with each visitor.

The project space is dedicated to the work of a handful of commissioned local artists. Most of the time, the installments here are put on by newcomers to the field of modern art exhibition. The gallery does not typically charge admission to this space, nor are artists usually paid for their contributions. Artists nevertheless compete for the space, as it is an excellent way of gaining exposure and getting an art career started.

Modern art is often considered by many to be a bit risqué. All forms of self-expression, including nudity, sexuality, and harsh language are typically embraced by the modern art community. The majority of exhibitions on display at the Hayward Gallery are child-friendly, but not all are. Museums and kids generally go well together, but at the Hayward, a bit of research into the different galleries and their artists may be required. Curators are also generally very proactive about alerting parents to installments that they or their children might find offensive.

The Hayward Gallery is one of a handful of modern art-centered British museums. It is generally considered to be the most interactive, however, and usually boasts the widest array of art exhibitions and temporary installations per year. The gallery is located in London’s Southbank Centre, a district known for its thriving arts scene.

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