Which art galleries in Belfast are a must for visitors? Belfast has been long associated with the famous ocean liner Titanic, but the increasingly popular tourist spot has more to offer including a thriving arts scene.
Being a city with such a rich and colourful history this is being translated into the attractions on offer. Although not quite Paris or Rome yet, Belfast is steadily transforming into one of the leading cultural centres of the UK.
If you’re looking to find the best of Belfast’s art, we’re here to show you exactly where to go.
ConnollyCove guest writer and Belfast resident Caitlin Mussen gives a local’s guide to some essential art experiences…
Art Galleries in Belfast – 1, Ulster Museum
This one is an immediate go to and is suitable for everyone. From the art lovers, to the history fanatics, and those who want to walk with dinosaurs.
Ulster Museum holds over 15,000 pieces of artwork ranging from paintings, costume, furniture and more. Through the doors of this national museum, you can transport around the globe and travel through time back to the 1700’s.
Located in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens the atmospheric buzz of those who gather here transpires into the Museum itself and brings the art to life.
A trip here is the perfect day out for all! And even better – entry is free too.
Art Galleries in Belfast – 2, The Mac
The architecture of the Metropolitan Arts Centre is a piece of art itself. The semi-abstract basalt tower demands the attention of those in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.
Often called the art hub of Belfast, the MAC’s only permanent piece of artwork – ‘The Permanent Present’ by Irish artist Mark Garry. With three galleries continuously hosting different exhibitions, this is one people want to return to over and over again.
The displayed art pieces range from international exhibitions to the works of local artist, even hosting large-scale installations on occasion. The MAC is vital for art lovers!
Art Galleries in Belfast – 3, Golden Thread Gallery
This gallery has been recognised for its charitable status. The gallery aims to “create context, challenge perceptions, promote creativity” and deliver “contemporary visual art for all”.
GTG is a fantastic place to visit to see local art as they promote contemporary Northern Irish artists. Located between the Cathedral Quarter and Sailortown the gallery commits to widening cultural experience in the local area.
Golden Thread also hosts workshops and talks which are open to those with a passion for art – if you’re just visiting why not check out what’s on and schedule in? With free gallery tours offered this is a perfect place to visit and it’s fully accessible to for all.
Art Galleries in Belfast – 4, Gormleys Fine Art
Gormleys Fine Art has become one of the leading galleries in Ireland. It specialises in both International Irish contemporary art. Gormleys was founded in 1990 and is dedicated to the long-term development of its artists.
If you’re thinking of visiting here it may be worth checking if they have their garden sculptures up in the area too. The gallery situated on the Lisburn Road has been home to Andy Warhol’s Portraits and Party Time exhibition.
The three-story building allows you to take you to take time appreciating the variety of works on display in a relaxed environment. Gormleys Fine Art gallery has to be one you tick off the list.
Art Galleries in Belfast – 5, Eakin Gallery
Also on the Lisburn Road this galley can be found in a two-story old brick townhouse. Eakin Gallery is known for their variety of both traditional and contemporary Irish paintings.
They frequently display the works of popular Irish artists including Colin Middleton, Cecil Maguire and Paul Henry. Those who follow the Belfast art scene may know already that they showcase the work of Terry Bradley which has been a highly discussed exhibition.
Eakin Gallery is also great for those who are just starting out their collector’s collection with highly affordable pieces available. A trip to this gallery should definitely be considered for any art lover.
Art Galleries in Belfast – 6, Belfast Exposed
In terms of photography Belfast exposed is the primary gallery for publishing, commissioning and showcasing. With over 35 years of business Belfast Exposed voices city life from the view of the community.
You can typically find pieces here that focus on political and social issues. With Belfast Exposed there’s always some form of event running, be it an exhibition, an artist talk or various courses available to take part in.
The three-story gallery situated on Donegall street also holds its own bookshop which is the only independent one in Belfast. Belfast exposed also runs an extensive community engagement programme. Over their time they have accumulated over half a million images digitally saved images.
This archive also features a lot of images from The Troubles which some people may find interesting. Belfast exposed exhibits both professional and amateur photographers and is a must see!
Art Galleries in Belfast – 7, Mullan Gallery
Smaller in size than most of Belfast’s other galleries, this petite gallery has a very boutique feel to it. Found on the Lisburn Road, Mullan gallery doesn’t work the same way as the other galleries either, opening their exhibitions in various locations.
This gallery mostly holds Irish contemporary art and displays emerging artists. If you do visit here don’t miss the basement which is often filled with various sculptures.
If you’ve planned your visit to here around St Patricks day you’ll be sure to see the wonderful annual Irish Bronze Sculpture Exhibition.
Art Galleries in Belfast – 8, Upper Springfield Urban Art Project
If you go further than city centre to West Belfast you’ll find the Upper Springfield Urban Art Project. Here, the community is finding a way to express themselves.
As part of a development scheme, both residents and artists joined together to create works of art that show their experiences of life both now and from the past. With over eighty pieces of original work this outdoor project is one of interest to many.
The collection includes works, such as the Poet-Tree by artist Raymond Watson, and St Gerard’s Educational Resource Centre.
Art Galleries in Belfast – 9, Project 24
Slightly out of Belfast, the innovative Project 24 makes a trip to Bangor very worthwhile! Not the typical gallery style, Project 24 uses six shipping containers designed and split into two studios.
These studios are like light boxes where artists take residency and allows visitors to see the changing moods and atmospheres depending on when they visit.
By having resident artists, Project 24 opens a communication network which allows for direct interaction – a unique selling point. Project 24 also has a surrounding area known as ‘The Hub’ which offers many different events so be sure to check out what’s on!
Art Galleries in Belfast – 10, Belfast Murals
If the walls of the city could talk this is where you could hear a whisper in the wind.
Not quite a gallery this is somewhere that anyone with a love for art (or history) should visit in Belfast. The outdoor work of art spreads itself across the city of Belfast with over 2,000 murals since 1970 there are still around 300 which can be seen today.
With people travelling from all over the world to see these famous murals it may come as a surprise that not all of them are political, where some pay tribute to the troubled past of the area others simply look at the everyday such as murals of local legend George Best and NI’s Euro 2016 qualification.
Many of the political murals are along the Peace Walls in Belfast running around 30km when added together! For anyone visiting the area, and those who live in it too, the Belfast Murals are a definite for both art and the culture of the land.