Thanks to its breathtaking scenery and unique, clear light, St Ives has always attracted artists. The result is a vibrant community of artists that continues to produce inspirational work – and an incredible selection of galleries to discover.
Following a much-awaited expansion project, landmark St Ives gallery Tate St Ives will reopen in spring 2017. It originally opened in 1993, built above Porthmeor Beach on the site of an old gasworks. Exhibiting contemporary British and Cornish art, its accessible collection and beautiful location made it a popular attraction, with over 200,000 visitors a year. It’s been missed; however there are plenty of other galleries in St Ives to visit in the meantime…
Tate St Ives’s sister gallery, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, has remained open. Sculptor Barbara Hepworth lived and worked in St Ives. When she died in 1975, she asked that her family home and studio, Trewyn Studios, be opened as a museum of her work. The sub-tropical garden was designed by Hepworth herself, and many of the sculptures are still where she positioned them. An unexpected oasis in the middle of St Ives, it’s a lovely place for families to explore.
At the top of the town is the Leach Pottery. Slade graduate Bernard Leach moved to an old cow shed in St Ives in 1920, where he established a school of pottery. Having been born in Hong Kong and lived in Japan, his style combined western and eastern influences. Following a major restoration project, the pottery launched as a studio, museum, gallery and shop in 2008. The Leach Pottery is open all year, and there are also guided tours and workshops available.
Where do we start? If you’ve spent any time wandering the winding streets of St Ives, you’ll have seen so many art galleries of all varieties, shapes and sizes… If you needed any evidence that St Ives is still a thriving artists’ colony, this is it.
You don’t need to be an art collector with deep pockets and blank walls to enjoy exploring the galleries in St Ives. Art needn’t be prohibitively expensive, and visitors are welcome to browse. The Porthminster Gallery in an old pilchard-press building in Westcotts Quay is a good place to start. As well as a stunning selection of contemporary Cornish and British artworks for sale, they also curate exhibitions. Art Space Gallery is a co-operative with work covering original pieces in oils, watercolours, pastels, acrylics, wall-mounted ceramics and glass
A well-established gallery to explore is the New Craftsman on Fore Street. Associated with the Leach Pottery and the late John Miller among many other Cornish artists, it has a varied programme of exhibitions. The Salthouse Gallery in Norway Square is great for pop-up exhibitions, and Anima-Mundi in Street-an-Pol (opposite the Tourist Information Centre) always has some outstanding works on display. The Belgrave catalogues and hangs a curated exhibition on most months of the year and represent a number of estates such as Terry Frost and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham.
Newlyn, a working fishing harbour town just west of Penzance, is also synonymous with Cornish art. Newlyn began to attract artists in the early nineteenth century, inspired by the subject of fishermen and their families, as well as the dramatic West Cornwall landscape.
We hope we’ve inspired you to explore the galleries in St Ives. There are many, many more, and we could go on for pages about them! Simply explore, and see which galleries speak to you…