Where to find the best art in Cambridge

Embrace your culture-vulture

Let's admit it, however long we've studied at Cambridge, we still all love to play the tourist every now and then. For me personally, there is no greater afternoon activity (or pleasure in life tbh) than to spend my time exploring a museum, ESPECIALLY an art museum.

True, I may be biased as a longtime art-lover, but I honestly think that a little gallery or exhibit perusal is a great a pastime for anyone, whatever your creative interest.

Stuck for ideas for a date, rainy day or visit from the parentals? There's some great stuff around Cam that should intrigue even the most anti-art mind…

Heong Gallery – Downing

Tucked away on the left as you enter Downing, the Heong Gallery is a modern and contemporary art gallery that was opened in 2016. With its very own little gift shop (a VERY welcome addition) its exhibition programme aims to display the art of those directly connected to the college.

The current exhibition is 'The Court of Redonda,' by Stephen Chambers, comprised of 101 portraits of an imaginary court of maverick individuals (my particular favourite is 'The Very Decent Harlot').

The gallery also has a calendar of events throughout the term, such as talks and music evenings which are really worth checking out.

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Murray Edwards

A little known fact about Medwards is its New Hall Art Collection, the largest collection of modern and contemporary art by female artists in Europe with over 450 pieces.

On public display are works by artists such as Mary Kelly, Sandra Blow and Evelyn Williams. The main collection is housed in the iconic Dome, located only 200 metres from Kettles Yard, which donated much of the art present in the gallery.

A great one to look out for are the Tracey Emin prints, easily found on the main corridor as you walk towards plodge.

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Emin prints at Murray Edwards.


Apparently the first trip that all art history students take in freshers week, Churchill has a large collection of sculptures, prints and pictures.

Given its (interesting) Brutalist design, the college itself could be called a work of modern art. The portcullis style gate at the entrance is actually a commissioned sculpture by Geoffrey Clarke.

Other works include busts by Jacob Epstein, prints by Gary Hume, Eduardo Paolozzi, Andy Warhol and even a few paintings by the man Churchill himself.

The most recognised arty bits however are the outside sculptures, most legendary being the 'Four-Square' by Barbara Hepworth.

Especially popular as a climbing frame for drunken students…

Kettle's Yard

Recently re-opened after a 3 year renovation, Kettle's Yard is probably Cambridge's most well-known modern art gallery. With exhibition space that stretches across the gallery, house and neighbouring church, its a great spot to spend the day.

A key piece to look out for is Rana Begum's installation of bamboo baskets in the St Peter's Church.

This work creates an oddly comforting, womb-like atmosphere

Byard Art Gallery

Located right in the centre, opposite King's Chapel. This contemporary art gallery and shop includes a rolling exhibition programme of solo and mixed artists, as well as housing a permanent collection.

Current exhibitions include a group display of print and illustration shown at The Pint Shop – an even better reason to treat yourself to a beer and scotch egg.

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Byard Art Gallery.

Fitzwilliam Museum

I couldn't write this article, of course, without mentioning the beloved Fitz. With its own uni society and student events such as 'Love Art After Dark', it is of course pretty mainstream as a top tourist destination. Nevertheless, I still love a good potter around when I've got a spare hour in town.

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The gift shop's rather lovely too…

And finally…

College exhibitions

You might not need to even the comfort of your own college in your search for artistic enlightenment. Over the last year especially there have been a number of student-run exhibitions within colleges which often include works by students or local artists. Examples include the recent Womcam Exhibition – 'Survival and Feminist Persistence', held at Churchill, and the upcoming 'Flea Pit Presents' exhibition at Magdalene.

Go along to support your fellow Cantabs, and, why not? Submit some of your own stuff if you're feeling creative…

University of Cambridge