Art galleries in Dorset

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Art galleries in Dorset

Known for its inspiring landscapes and dramatic coastal vistas best enjoyed on foot, Dorset has a long tradition of craftsmanship and creativity. And like so many of the counties in the south of England, its artists, cultural venues and galleries are an integral part of many communities and contribute to the feeling of connectedness and distinctiveness in the region.

Famous institutions such as Poole Pottery and celebrated individuals like John Makepeace, the furniture designer, and Dame Elisabeth Frink, the internationally acclaimed 20th century figurative sculptor, have all helped to enrich and promote Dorset’s creative reputation.

With an absolute plethora of places to choose from, discover Dorset’s artistic delights with our guide to some of the best art galleries in the county.

 

Russell Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, Bournemouth

The almost palace like exterior of Russel Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, one of the best art galleries in Dorset

Bournemouth is the largest town in Dorset and with some of the county’s best beaches it isn’t hard to see why it has been a popular holiday destination for generations. But there is also a vibrant and growing art scene.

The Russell Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, also known as East Cliff Hall, was built in 1901 by Sir Merton Russell-Cotes as a dream house for his wife, Annie. Located on East Cliff in Bournemouth, the house and gardens offer panoramic views of the coast and out to sea. This stunning Art Nouveau style building has four purpose built galleries, filled with fine art and sculpture, which have been open to the public since 1919.

From 1884, Russell-Cotes travelled extensively visiting Australasia, America, India, the Near East, Egypt, the Pacific Islands and Japan, collecting artwork and souvenirs, all of which are now on display. There is a tropical garden complete with sculptures, fountains and a grotto to explore, plus a café onsite for refreshments.

 

Sculpture by the Lakes, Dorchester

A beautiful sculpture framed by trees and hanging flowers at Sculpture by the Lakes in Dorset

Discover an outstanding sculpture park not far from Dorchester set in twenty-six acres of beautiful Dorset countryside. Renowned sculptor Simon Gudgeon has created an oasis for art lovers and collectors alike, with incredible gardens to explore. Sculpture by the Lakes goes beyond the traditional gallery by envisioning an environment where work inspired by and celebrating the freedom and beauty of nature escapes the usual constraints. The sculpture park has been carefully landscaped and curated to ensure each piece is positioned to enhance its aesthetic qualities as well as the visual surroundings.

Alongside the sculpture park is the Gallery by the Lakes, which exhibits work by both local and international artists. There is a wide variety of art available for purchase, from limited edition prints to original paintings, and from small creations to monumental sculptures. Tickets to visit must be booked in advance and there is also a café offering a cosy, relaxed setting and delicious seasonal menu.

 

Hatch Gallery, Christchurch

The pretty green shop front of Hatch Gallery, where beautiful paintings and sculptures sit in the window.

Based in the ancient harbour town of Christchurch, Hatch Gallery, which opened in 2012, specialises in British contemporary art, sculpture, ceramics and handcrafted jewellery. Naturally, given its surroundings, the gallery has a definite leaning towards a coastal theme: boats, beach huts and many seascapes are abundant here.

There are regular seasonal exhibitions featuring local, national and international artists and the gallery prides itself on not only curating carefully chosen art from established artists but also in supporting up and coming newcomers.

The shop is wheelchair friendly on the ground floor.

 

Purbeck Artisan Yard, Wareham

A selection of paintings, cards, and gifts on display at Purbeck Artisan Yard in Dorset

In the Purbeck Artisan Yard in Wareham town centre, you will find a wonderful collective of local artists, up-cyclers, creators and makers who sell their pieces all year round. Utilising an old builders yard, this gallery has a number of resident painters, potters, illustrators, glassworkers, printmakers and textile workers to discover.

There are classes, workshops and events in the yard throughout the year and it is always fascinating to meet the makers and watch them at work. A visit here is a great way to support up and coming artists and local small businesses.

 

Artwave West, Morcombelake

A fantastic rage of contemporary art on display during an exhibition at Artwave West

This gallery has been situated close to the spectacular Jurassic coast in the small village of Morcombelake since 2009. Artwave West aims to showcase the finest in UK contemporary art in a light, bright, modern space. Their exhibitions feature mostly paintings, though there are some exciting ceramists to see too.

The proprietor, Donna Goold, says that she intentionally opened the gallery in such a quiet, rural area with the idea of bringing the arts to a new audience who perhaps hadn’t had access to such work before. Since then she has also been given a grant to create an art academy to teach a programme of art classes too.

The British and international artists at Artwave West include Amy Albright, Martin Goold PS, Edward Kelly, Suchi Chidambaram, Jeannette Hayes PPS, Heather Duncan, Paul Denham, Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf, Sophie Capron, Robert Hewer, Kathy Little, Donna Goold, Helen Slater, Victoria Meadows, Elfyn Lewis and Louise Plant. The gallery is just a short drive from Lyme Regis, Bridport and Axminster.

Artwave West is fully accessible to wheelchair users.

 

Kingston Lacy House, Wimborne Minster

Looking up the golden path at the stately exterior of Kingston Lacy House, home to one of the best art galleries in Dorset

Largely unaltered since the 15th century, this beautiful country house in Wimborne Minster is owned by the National Trust and has been used regularly as a location for TV and film productions such as ‘Wolf Hall’ and ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’. The house itself is wonderful, of course, but for art lovers it is what’s inside that counts.

Though not a galley in the traditional sense, Kingston Lacy has an astonishing collection of art, considered to be one of the oldest in Britain, and it also houses the largest collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts anywhere in the UK.

There are masterpieces by Rubens, Van Dyck, Titian and Tintoretto and an extraordinary collection of furniture and china. And once you have enjoyed all that, Kingston Lacy has its own formal gardens and miles of estate walks to stretch your legs as well as a café. This is a magical place to spend the day.

 

Westover Gallery, Bournemouth

The sleek and stylish interior of Westover Gallery where a fantastic exhibition lines the walls

Established in 1995, Westover Gallery is one of the South West’s most successful independent galleries, featuring artwork of local, national and international artists. Spread over three floors, there is much to explore and an ever changing collection of art to choose from, so there’s always something new to look at and inspire no matter how many times you visit.

There is a wide range of styles and disciplines on display, really something for everyone, including abstract and figurative works, photography, glassware and sculptures. Exhibitions are held year round and there are often opportunities to meet the artists themselves too and hear them discuss their work.

 

Dansel Gallery, Abbotsbury

The quaint thatched exterior of Dansel Gallery in Dorset

Housed in a beautifully converted thatched sable block, the Dansel Gallery is something a bit different. Since it was founded in 1976 this gallery has predominantly featured one material as its inspiration – wood.

The huge range of innovative makers produce woodturning, carving, marquetry, pyrography, sculpture, box and toy making and much more. There is a wonderful mix of the traditional and the contemporary, and the gallery has to-date showcased the work of over 200 artists from across the UK.

The focus at the Dansel Gallery is ultimately the beauty and sustainability of wood. Selwyn Holmes creates stunning coloured veneer plaques that are reminiscent of seascapes while Tilia Holmes uses pyrography and oil painting on wood to produce intricate artworks inspired by trees. Set in peaceful countryside, this is a relaxed hidden treasure that is sure to inspire as much as surprise.

 

Cove Gallery, Weymouth

The window of the Cove Gallery in Dorset, full of incredible paintings and sculptures

Weymouth is a lovely town to visit, famed for its sandy beaches, colourful beach huts, Georgian houses and historic harbour. Since opening in 2010 the Cove Gallery has built a strong reputation as a keen supporter of local creative talent. A place to go to discover someone or something new. In the heart of this lovely seaside town, this galley houses a fabulous collection of original paintings and limited edition prints, alongside handmade glass, ceramics, stone and bronze sculptures from a host of outstanding British artists and makers.

The Cove Gallery is situated close to the harbour and what at first glance appears to be an unassuming shopfront hides a real treasure trove. With more than 50 artists’ work to choose from you are sure to find the perfect piece of art to make your house a home, something to just fall in love with or to give as a unique, one-of-a-kind gift.

 

Gallery of Makers, Redlands Yards, Boardwindsor

Looking in through the double open doors at the collection of local artwork at Gallery of Makers at Redlands Yards in Dorset

The Gallery of Makers is an independent venture displaying and selling work from a growing group of individual creatives. It is part of Redlands Yard, an independent shopping complex, which also includes a bakery, café and restaurant, hairdresser and nail salon, along with an eclectic mix of creative outlets.

The gallery is run by Clare Colby and offers the visitor the chance to choose from a wide selection of local art and crafts all in one place. This includes original paintings, limited edition prints, wooden sculptures, hand-crafted ceramics, illustrated greeting cards and other unique items.

There is also a ‘Pop Up’ corner which is regularly updated, and for those who feel like getting creative themselves, workshops are also run in the ‘Making Space’.

Redlands yard has disabled access throughout.

  

The Gallery at 41, Corfe Castle

The classic cottage exterior of The Gallery at 41 in Dorset

The historic village of Corfe Castle with its picturesque ruin towering above narrow streets has been an inspiration to artists for generations, as has the stunning Dorset scenery surrounding it. The area is now a magnet for art lovers too with its growing number and variety of galleries. The Gallery at 41 is set in a delightful, restored 17th century building and holds regular exhibitions throughout the year.

They specialise in the work of contemporary Dorset based painters and sculptors, with some invited regional artists and the gallery also displays a range of carefully selected and beautifully crafted ceramics and jewellery.

The village has a number of other galleries worth seeking out, including The Boilerhouse Gallery, which is run by and for local artists and features an extensive range of work, and Seasons Green, a champion of sustainability and local craftspeople.

 

Tincleton Gallery, Dorchester

The traditional stone exterior of Tincleton Gallery, surrounded by trees and countryside

Tincleton Gallery can be found in the atmospheric Old School House, a listed building built in 1840, in the peaceful village of Tincleton. Tincleton, whose name is thought to mean ’farm in the valley’ is an idyllic spot with a tiny population of only around 150 people. It is all the more surprising then that this gallery, which opened its doors in 2014 with a small display for Dorset Art Week, has become one of the county’s most intimate contemporary fine art venues.

Since its opening the gallery has continued to support local artists and makers and the works on display include drawings and paintings as well as a selection of sculptures. There are several long standing artists whose work is regularly exhibited but they take pleasure in including guest painters and creators too. Surprisingly Tincleton Gallery is also a music venue and hosts classical and jazz concerts in one of the few venues in Dorset to boast two grand pianos.

Tincleton Gallery is not far from the Sculptures by the Lake gallery (see above).

 

The Jerram Gallery, Sherborne

A selection of paintings hanging in The Jerram Gallery, one of the best galleries in Dorset

Located in the beautiful Dorset market town of Sherborne with its historic abbey, medieval buildings, country markets, incredible eateries, and antique dealers. The Jerram Gallery has established an enviable reputation for exhibiting fine art and an interesting selection of British Contemporary art.

There is the abstract still life work of Ann Armitage, gentle, whimsical bronzes by Dawn Benson, local landscape paintings from Carry Akroyd and sculptural birdlife by Adam Binder. Seasonal exhibitions are held throughout the year, highlighting the work of established and emerging artists.

There are a number of other galleries in the town making it another great destination for art lovers to spend the day exploring. The Swan Gallery for example have been fine art dealers for the past 45 years and feature oil paintings and antique maps, while the Tourvaille Gallery showcases contemporary art. The wildlife artist Richard Bramble also has his studio in the town and a small shop selling his original paintings, prints, ceramics and textiles.

 

So, if we have inspired you to delve into the art scene in Dorset then why not make one of our wonderful cottages the base for your artistic exploration!

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