The world's best secret art galleries

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Leave the masses behind at these hidden gems, chosen by art world insiders


Matt Carey-Williams



International Director, Haunch of Venison, London

IBID Projects is located on Hoxton Square, and stands in the shadow of the much larger gallery there, White Cube 2 – sometimes interesting things take place in the shadows. The space is deliberately unfinished and this physical rawness allows for an interesting dialogue between space and object which heightens our experience of their exhibitions. This was certainly the case when they exhibited Jamie Shovlin's Jesus Rinzoli's Hiker Meat installation in February 2011. As I walked through the darkened rooms, lit only by the glare of television screens depicting individual scenes from Shovlin's imaginary slasher movie, Hiker Meat, it felt like walking through a secret intelligence services bunker rather than an art gallery. I also really enjoy IBID Project's painters and I am a big fan of the work of Christopher Orr and Anj Smith – both figurative artists that embrace a darker take on the world.

IBID Projects, 35 Hoxton Square, London N1. Visit ibidprojects.com

Simon de Pury

Auctioneer, Philips de Pury & Co

Raoul La Roche was a young banker from Basel who moved to Paris in 1911. There he started to build an outstanding collection of major Cubist works by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Férnand Leger and Juan Gris. He became a close friend of his Swiss compatriot, Le Corbusier, and in 1923 he asked him to build a house for his collection. This led to the iconic building which was Le Corbusier's third commission in Paris.

While a building of modest proportions, it is an extraordinary demonstration of Le Corbusier's genius. The architect was so pleased with the house when it was completed that he pleaded with Raoul La Roche not to install his collection after all and to leave it empty. His friend and client was initially disobedient and hung his gorgeous works on its walls. At his death, La Roche bequeathed a substantial part of his Cubist masterpieces to the Kunstmuseum Basel and the Villa La Roche became the Fondation Le Corbusier. Today it is as empty as Le Corbusier wanted it to be. I love both the purity and beauty of its architecture, and feeling the spirit of the great collector.

Villa La Roche, 10 Square du Docteur-Blanche, 75016 Paris; visit fondationlecorbusier.fr

Bice Curiger

Curator, the Venice Biennale

There's a new space in Switzerland called New Jerseyy, which is run by artists, critics and curators. They also have an internet bookshop of very obscure publications they've found and love. It's really a very tiny space but it's a very strong reference point for the younger scene in Switzerland. It's not always open, and has obscure opening hours, because they're busy doing other things, but when they're there, they come and talk with you, have a beer with you – it's that kind of atmosphere.

New Jerseyy, Hüningerstrasse 18, CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland ;newjerseyy.ch

Anne L Poulet

Director, the Frick Collection, New York

One of my favourite little-known art spaces is the Musée Nissim de Camondo in Paris. Like the Frick, the museum is located in the founder's home, a wonderful 1911 building overlooking the Parc Monceau and inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles. The museum is of interest not only because of the superb collection of French decorative arts, sculpture, and paintings installed in a domestic early-20th-century setting, but also because of the history of the family. Moïse de Camondo was a Jewish banker who left his home and all of his collections to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. His son was a pilot who died in the First World War. The rest of the family died during the Second World War. The museum is a tribute to their philanthropic spirit.

Musée Nissim de Camondo, 266 Boulevard Raspail, 75014 Paris: visit lesartsdecoratifs.fr

Rebecca Wilson

Director, the Saatchi Gallery

The best galleries, tucked away and little known, spring into life each summer and offer visitors the chance to see some of the most exciting new art you're likely to find in London. The prices are reasonable, you don't have to pay to get in and you might even get to chat to the artists: yes, it's the art-school degree shows! The Royal Academy and the Royal College of Art have been on a roll, producing high-calibre exhibitions by artists whose names are beginning to pop up in better-known galleries. You can make a one-stop trip to the annual New Sensations exhibition (11-17 October) where judges Hew Locke and Antony Gormley have done the filtering for you to come up with 20 of the UK's most promising graduates, some of whom will go on to be the Hirsts and Emins of the future.

Also, staying at the emerging end of the market, Josh Lilley is a huge supporter of young artists: watch out this October for the Argentinian, LA-based artist Analia Saban who is showing new 'expanded' paintings at his Fitzrovia-based gallery.

New Sensations; visit saatchigallery.com/ns.

Josh Lilley, 44-46 Riding House Street, London W1, visit joshlilleygallery.com

Hans Ulrich Obrist

Co-director, Serpentine Gallery

One of the most special experiences I had was in La Congiunta outside Giornico in Switzerland. It's an extraordinary museum, designed for Josephsohn, an amazing artist who is now 91 years old and lives in Zurich. He has been making amazing sculptures since the Fifties – all types of human figures. He inspires lots of young sculptors. Josephsohn once told me in an interview that he had a desire for permanence, which makes you think of all kinds of ancient things when you look at his work.

The long durational journey is what makes this museum special – the works have found permanence in this house, which was actually built for them. The experience is so intimate because there's no one in the museum: you go to Giornico, the next door village, to pick up the key from a café. It's a wonderful experience to be with art totally alone, in a museum that is a time capsule.

La Congiunta, Alla Monda, 6745 Giornico, Switzerland; visit lacongiunta.ch

Ruth Noack

Curator, art historian and critic

The most exciting phenomenon of today's art market is the appearance of hybrid spaces that have cropped up in centres as well as peripheries, sometimes acting as commercial agents for artists, but focusing primarily on the transfer of knowledge in intelligent ways. A name that comes to mind (among many others, which include Vitamin Creative Space in Guanzhou/Beijing, What, How and for Whom in Zagreb, Doual'art in Douala) is Savvy Contemporary in Berlin.

Savvy Contemporary, RichardstraBe 43/44, 12055 Berlin; visit savvy-contemporary.com

Martin Roth

Director, V&A

The U'mista Cultural Centre in Canada is an amazing place with a beautiful collection of potlatch masks. It's not tourism or folklore; they are perfectly translated in contemporary art forms. There's a traditional approach but at the same time a very lively community connected to this potlatch tradition. Corrine Hunt, who is based there, designed the gold medal for the Vancouver Olympics last year. Another very unusual museum, Museu da Maré in Rio De Janeiro, is run by the local community, and it looks like it's an installation itself. Two different approaches, but both a contribution to contemporary art.

U'mista Cultural Centre, 1 Front Street, Alert Bay, British Columbia, Canada; visit umista.org; Museu da Maré, Av Guilherme Maxwell, 26-Mare, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; visit museudamare.org.br

Cecilia Alemani

Independent curator

Hidden in a sketchy neighbourhood in east Los Angeles and far away from the busy commercial art neighbourhood of Culver City, Night Gallery opened its doors in the winter of 2010. Spearheaded by artist Davida Nemeroff, Night Gallery, as the name suggests, is only open at night, from 10pm to 2am. Part laboratory for emerging artists, part meeting point for the creative communities of the city, Night Gallery organises exhibitions and events in an unusual space that – with its black painted walls – resembles a 1920s boudoir more than a conventional white cube. Located in a city usually associated with beautiful sunny days and palm trees, Night Gallery feeds off the nocturnal forces that agitate the dark side of LA.

Night Gallery, 204 S Ave 19, Los Angeles, USA; visit nightgallery.ca

Godfrey Worsdale

Director, Baltic

Paul Moss and Miles Thurlow took the unlikely decision to locate their innovative gallery Workplace in downtown Gateshead. In its short history, Workplace has moved from the precinct situated at the foot of the famous and now demolished Get Carter car park, to the former Gateshead Post Office, built a century ago on the site of the great Thomas Bewick's studio. Either venue, on its own merits, makes a visit to Workplace worthwhile.

However, the real virtue of this gallery are the artists it has grouped together. Alongside long-established sculptor Eric Bainbridge, Workplace represents the increasingly well-regarded artists Marcus Coates and Matt Stokes as well as interesting young painters Laura Lancaster and Mike Pratt among others. You might be as likely to come across Workplace at art fairs in New York or Berlin, Basel or Miami, but a visit to the Post Office is a unique experience.

Workplace Gallery, The Old Post Office, 19/21 West Street, Gateshead; visit workplacegallery.co.uk

Martin Boyce

Turner Prize-shortlisted artist

The Common Guild gallery in Glasgow is in a domestic space: it's a townhouse in Park Circus, a grand building dating from the early 1900s. You benefit from the architecture – there's an intimacy there, and the quality of light is just beautiful through its huge bay windows. There was a Roni Horn exhibition in the space a while ago, and in one room at the front she put a sheet of microscopic gold leaf. Because there are no light fittings in that room, it relies on light coming through the window from outside, and as the sky changed and the light changed, the piece was completely transformed. Another domestic space in Glasgow is the John Shankie flat projects: the artist puts on exhibitions in an apartment. The context is exciting, there's an edginess as well as something really nice about seeing work in a domestic location.

Common Guild gallery, 21 Woodlands Terrace, Glasgow; visit thecommonguild.org.uk. John Shankie flat projects, 83 Hill Street, Glasgow; visit shankie.com

Alexander Farquharson

Director, Nottingham Contemporary

Number 1 Thoresby Street is an Aladdin's Cave of changing exhibitions, curatorial ventures and artists' studios. It housed MOOT, a project space for emerging British artists run by Candice Jacobs, Tristan Hessing, Matt Jamieson and Tom Godfrey, who've all had studios in the building. They renovated the extraordinary attic space, which artist Bruce Asbestos often uses for his Trade Gallery, which has shown Karin Kihlberg and Reuben Henry, Artur Zmijewski and Abigail Reynolds, among others. Number 1 Thoresby Street is also the HQ of Ian 'Nes' Nesbitt and Emily Wilczek's 'Annexinema', an occasional pop-up cinema that has held eclectic, well-informed nights under flyovers, in tiny theatres and old disused cinemas.

1 Thoresby Street, Nottingham; visit onethoresbystreet.org

Chris Pensa

Founder, Love Art London

Tucked away behind the White Cube in Mason's Yard is the Jack Bell Gallery, which specialises in Sub-Saharan art. It's been here less than a month: for two years before that it was at Edel Assanti on Vauxhall Bridge Road, a permanent pop-up gallery on the site of an old travel agent.

In the past they ran shows by Paa Joe, a Ghanaian coffin-maker who makes coffins relating to what the dead person did for a living: so, if they were a pilot, Paa Joe would sculpt his coffin into an aeroplane, or a fruit-maker might be buried in a giant pineapple. They also ran an exhibition of voodoo work, exhibited in a fine art context. It's amazing.

Jack Bell Gallery, 13 Mason's Yard, St James's, London SW1; visit jackbellgallery.com

Dries Van Noten

Fashion designer

The Boros Gallery is a wonderful gallery in a converted bunker in Berlin. It has gathered a roster of great international contemporary artists, and holds a great space in which to show installations.

Sammlung Boros, Bunker, Reinhardtstr 20, 10117 Berlin-Mitte; to visit, make an advance reservation at sammlung-boros.de

Mark Rappolt

Editor, Art Review

Tucked around the back of the national archives in Paris's Marais district, the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature offers one of the most bizarre experiences in the French capital. Its subject – animals and how to kill them for fun – is, at the very best, anachronistic, the arrangement of its exhibits – housed in rooms with titles such as Room of the Boar, Cabinet of the Wolf and Salon of Company – bizarre. Its collection of weapons and other hunting paraphernalia, trophies and taxidermied animals, and more-or-less hunting-themed works of art was originally assembled during the mid-20th century by French industrialists François and Jacqueline Sommer and is presented in an elegant jumble.

Alongside classical still lifes by France's most famous animal painter – 18th-century master Jean-Baptiste Oudry – are ceramic Scottie dogs by America's most celebrated contemporary art star Jeff Koons, and a historic collection of variously vicious looking dog collars. Elsewhere you'll find a talking boar's head, stuffed gorillas, animal skulls, bird whistles, as well as works by Lucas Cranach the Elder and leading contemporary artists such as Jan Fabre.

But as you wander through the museum you might never know any of this. There are no wall captions, and the antique-looking information cards presented like menus and hung elegantly by the door to each room, don't list all the dishes on offer, merely those that their author could be bothered to let you know about. You'd be hard-pushed to find anything more Parisian than that.

Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Hôtel de Mongelas, 62 Rue des Archives, 75003 Paris; visit chassenature.org

Penelope Curtis

Director, Tate Britain

The place I enjoy looking at art most regularly is Inverleith House in Edinburgh. It's a very nice place set in the Royal Botanic Garden – walking through the gardens clears your mind from busyness, and you arrive in a good state of mind. It's particularly lovely in winter when it's snowy and the gardens are white. They only use one artist at a time, and show the work in natural light: because it's a freestanding house in the middle of a park, there are windows on every side, so that nearly every room has windows on both sides, sometimes even three. The work is presented cleanly, with nothing between you and the art; it's lovely.

Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, 20A Inverleith Row, Edinburgh; visit rbge.org.uk

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