Art in the South East of England

January 2024

It has has been a special year for this corner of England – the Turner Prize, one of the leading prizes in contemporary art was awarded to Jesse Darling at the Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne in December 2023 as part of the Centenary celebrations for the gallery. Housed in the Devonshire Quarter of the town in modern purpose-built facilities designed by architect Rick Mather with a stunning exterior mural by Lothar Götz, the Towner hosts the works of the four shortlisted artists until April.

Uncovering some gems of South East England can be easily done in the company of a Blue Badge Guide. You may have the opportunity to meet contemporary artists, visit their studios as well as see the places which have inspired some of Britain’s best loved artists.

Visiting some of the best-known destinations for art appreciation in the South East can be enhanced as travel between these special places will be full of stories and description which guide books and websites may not reveal.

From classics to contemporary, you will find it all here in the South East.  With a vibrant culture in its towns and cities, tranquil landscapes across the high weald and rolling seascapes around the coast.

The light was said to be what attracted Turner to Margate and this is celebrated now at the Turner Contemporary which opened in 2011. Built on the site of the boarding house where JMW Turner stayed during his visits to Margate, the gallery is inspired by the life and work of the celebrated artist, who believed in the power of art as an agent for change. This power continues today and is reflected across this part of Kent.

Building on the reputation and excitement of the Turner Prize, Eastbound from Eastbourne provides connections with Bexhill and Hastings galleries. The De La Warr Pavilion was established in 1935 and is a magnificent seafront building in Art Deco style. They work with neighbouring galleries and studios to provide wide access to the arts.

The city of Brighton and Hove is well-known for its contemporary and lively art scene, fostered by universities and art galleries throughout the city. All of the art galleries in our destinations have a rolling programme of events and exhibitions as well as permanent displays of local work.

Sculpture also plays an important role in the art scene – the Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden can be found in a tranquil Surrey backwater and is truly a hidden gem. Attracting artists from around the world as well as around the corner [[ up to 200 works are n display each season.

West Sussex is also home to some fascinating connections and galleries. The Pallant House Gallery in Chichester never fails to surprise n the depth and interest on offer in this space. Housed in what’s thought to be one of the most important 18th century townhouses in England, the gallery specialises in Modern British Art from 1900 to present day.

Of course, we’re just scratching the surface of art and culture in Kent, Sussex and Surrey. A tour in the company of a Blue Badge Guide will help you uncover some of the hidden gems: Farleys Farmhouse, Charleston, Newlands House, the Watts Gallery to name but a few.

Whether you are looking for a guide to accompany you for a day out from London or to build a 2-3 day discovery, our listing of guides is available to view here.