by Phoenix Art Space
Colourfully serene (and not just for its thriving LGBTQ+ community), Brighton is the picturesque seaside city that calls on everyone within driving range whenever the weather brightens up. Having been dubbed both the hippest and the happiest, Brighton and Hove produces its fair share of outstanding contemporary art that makes splashes across the UK.
Amongst the cultural staples in this city is Phoenix Art Space, a contemporary arts organization in central Brighton known for its vibrant roster of studio artists, and lively calendar of exhibitions and events. Born from a group of artists’ squatters, the Phoenix has officially been providing affordable studio space to over 120 local artists, makers and doers since the 1990s. We maintain a significant gallery space with rolling exhibitions, as well as lively events programme that includes experimental sound, performance and for the less daring, a monthly art quiz. Check out our Wednesday at Phoenix events, as well as our regular Spotlight talks, where our studio artists discuss their work. Here is our art-themed Freshers guide to Brighton.
Here are art spaces and other cultural gems from around Brighton, as curated by Kitty Bew, Front of House and Marketing Coordinator at Phoenix Art Space.
Phoenix Art Space is a large and lively artists’ studio complex (the biggest in the South-East!) that provides working space to over 120 local artists. On the ground floor, we have two significant galleries that host our rolling programme of contemporary visual art, as well as the work of our own studio artists. Down the corridor, we’ve got our newly opened Café, which is the perfect place to sit with a laptop or book. Keep an eye out this autumn for our Festival of Printmaking, and our Open Studios event in May.
Just a hop, skip and jump from the Phoenix Art Space is ONCA, an art gallery that focuses on social and environmental justice issues. Their programme of exhibitions and events often deal with subjects such as climate change and ecology. Don’t forget to check out their sister venue the ONCA Barge, which hosts artist residencies, and community-centred workshops.
Fabrica is a staple of the Brighton art scene. Based in a former Regency church, it is known for its commission of large-scale, contemporary art installation that has included artists such as David Shrigley, and Harley Weir. Beyond their exhibitions, they also run a varied events calendar that includes Film at Fabrica, a compelling year-round film programme.
The Regency Town House is an original 1820s Georgian building in Hove, which is gradually being converted into a museum and heritage centre. They often have exhibitions, talks and performances, but if you’re an architecture buff, it’s also worth a visit just to get a look at its original Regency features.
Lighthouse is an arts charity that focuses on the relationship between art and technology, with a diverse programme of exhibitions, events and talks specializing in the digital arts. Their exhibitions are supported by a rich variety of podcasts, films and blogs on the subject of digital technology and the creative industries.
Niagara Falls an artist-led project space that is still pretty new on the Brighton art scene. Hidden away in residential Hanover, it is used as both a studio and exhibition space. Niagara Falls is co-curated by two local artists who produce an exhibition every other month, working with excellent local, national and international artists.
Legendary gallerist Maureen Paley recently opened Morena di Luna – named after Wolfgang Tillman’s pet name for her - in a stunning Regency house in Hove. The gallery consists of two large rooms, used to present solo exhibitions of established artists. It’s a taste of London’s high-art scene on England’s South Coast.
If you’re interested in Brighton’s street art visit the North Laines, an area of Brighton that’s known for its cobbled streets, bohemian shops and coloured walls. Check out the Prince Albert Pub for its tribute to fallen musicians, and a replica of Banksy’s original Kissing Policemen. Saunter down Trafalgar Street for a memorial to David Bowie, and then head towards nearby Kensington Street and Gloucester Road, for a selection of ever-changing murals. If you’re near London Road, check out the Hobgoblin Pub and Presuming Ed’s building for large-scale, vibrant artworks. Upper Lewes Road has also become known for its cartoon-themed murals on the houses of local residents!
Sweet study spots
If you’re looking for a creative atmosphere, try the Canvas Coffee Co. at the Phoenix Art Space. Good coffee, leather seating, and art on the walls make for the perfect study spot.
Newly opened on London Road, Africa House is a personal favourite. Although small, the inside is bright, airy and stylish, with windows perfect for people-watching, and procrastinating.
Nestled in the heart of the Lanes, Marwood is a Brighton staple. It’s known for its coffee and quirky, off-the-wall (literally) interior design. They also start serving cocktails after 6, if the coffee isn’t giving you the buzz you need.
If you’re not too bothered about Wi-Fi, Twin Pines in Kemptown is the perfect place for some quiet reading. Sit downstairs and soak up their cosy, art deco interior. If you need a study break, they also do Life Drawing classes in the autumn.
If coffee shops aren’t your thing, Jubilee Library in the centre of town is the obvious option for a focused study session. Tons of desk space, and quiet surroundings.
Alternative and art cinemas
Be sure to check out the Duke of York’s cinema off Preston Circus. It’s Britain’s oldest continuously operating cinema and is housed in its original 1910 building. They’ve got a brilliant film programme and even better sofas. If you’re serious about film, check out their student membership deals.
Another picture house cinema, Dukes at Komedia is the Duke of York’s baby brother. It’s situated above the Komedia comedy club in the dead-centre of town, so often draws a more colourful crowd.
Check out Tom’s Film Club at The Old Market in Hove. Its film programme offers a year-round selection of super creative screenings of cult classics and forgotten gems for affordable prices.
If you fancy getting out of town - or just visiting the next one over, take a train to Lewes’s local picture house cinema for a great selection of mainstream, independent and arthouse films.
Adornments for your calendar
The Brighton Illustration Fair happens for one weekend in October at the Sallis Benney Theatre at Brighton University. It includes loads of exhibitors, talks and workshops, and is a great place to pick up the odd illustrated zine, t-shirt or knickknack for a fair price.
Join us at the Phoenix Art Space from 16 November – 15 December for a month-long celebration of contemporary printmaking that is not to be missed! The festival will feature a curated exhibition of work by leading artists, illustrators and designers, and supporting events such as a tabletop fair and printmaking workshops.
For two weeks every November, Cinecity takes over Brighton and its adjourning towns. Its programme of cinematic events includes premieres and previews, artists’ cinema, live soundtracks, Q&A’s and talks. Catch something at one of our many local art-house cinemas. Artists Open Houses Throughout December and May, hundreds of local artists take part in the Artists Open Houses festival and open their houses to the viewing public. You can meet artists and makers in their homes and studios, see their work, and buy artwork and crafts directly from them. (It’s also a special opportunity to snoop inside the homes of strangers!)
The Brighton Festival takes place every May and is a huge celebration of art, music and literature, involving hundreds of venues, organizations and groups across the city. There are always tons of amazing shows, exhibitions and performances going on throughout the month – be sure to check out the free events, of which there are loads! Also look at the Brighton Fringe, which runs alongside the Festival and sports cheaper, more localized events.
Brighton locals are fiercely proud of our Pride celebration that takes place every August and the event has now evolved into an entire weekend of festivity. Tickets for the concerts in Preston Park are highly sought after, but if you’re short on money than just catch the Pride Parade that makes its way through the city on Saturday.