As the country’s capital city, Cardiff is home to the works of many Wales-based artists. From landscape artist Kyffin Williams to the provocative mixed media compositions of Sue Williams, all styles are welcome here.
Less than a 10-minute walk from Hotel Indigo Cardiff, the vast collection at the National Museum of Wales spans five centuries, from old masters to millennial masterpieces. It houses the UK’s biggest collection of Impressionist art outside of London and hosts world-class touring exhibitions.
But the art in Cardiff isn’t just reserved for indoors. Take a short walk north-west of the National Museum and you’ll discover the local street art hotspots. Northcote Lane, City Road and the street of garages behind it are all covered in spray paint. The mix of traditional word-based graffiti and beautiful elaborate scenes captures Cardiff’s dynamic character and its marriage of old and new.
On the other side of the River Taff is Canton, a multicultural suburb with green parks and Welsh terraces. Nestled amongst the grid of streets is Chapter Arts Centre, the best place in Cardiff for non-mainstream arts and culture. Its two cinemas show indie films, documentaries and arty movies as well as animations, shorts and foreign films.
The charm of Chapter is that you never know what to expect. Its gallery hosts solo and group exhibitions with contemporary and 20th century works. Some exhibits are weird and wacky, like Patricia Piccinini‘s unsettling fibreglass creatures, and others pure and accessible, such as Paul Morrison‘s monochrome botanical scenes.
When you’re back in the city centre, head over to St Mary Street and take your gaze above the shop fronts and clubbers to see the buildings’ ornate embellishments, roof sculptures and stone carvings. These architectural gems are easily missed and often overlooked. Look out for majestic lion overlooking the street and the dramatic Italianate entrance to the High Street Arcade.
The adjacent road, Womanby Street, is the heart of the independent music scene in Cardiff, and that’s reflected in the street’s music-themed graffiti portraits. The SHO Gallery inside Castle Emporium sells affordable prints by local artists and bargain art supplies. You’ll find everything from dainty ink drawings to bold graphic prints. Once you’re finished here, head upstairs in the nearby Urban Outfitters to see a huge mural by illustrator Phil Morgan, one of the city’s notable underground artists.
Time your visit right and you’ll see even more art in the capital. Cardiff Contemporary, a biennial festival of international contemporary arts, takes place every other October, as does Artes Mundi, a celebration of international contemporary artists. In November, you can visit Made by Hand, Wales’ largest craft and makers event. Diffusion, Cardiff’s International Festival of Photography, take over sites across the city every May. Whenever you roam in this compact capital, there’s plenty of inspiration to feed the creative mind.