London may be a den of iniquity, with grime on the streets and air so polluted we should all be wearing Second World War gas masks, but it is also a hotbed of cultural activity, breeding creative ideas as fast as the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis. Damien Hirst’s £50 million diamond encrusted skull encapsulates this perfectly. Whatever your view of the ‘Britart’ movement, there is no doubt that this Hoxton-dwelling collective put London back on the artistic map, with the White Cube gallery as the epicentre.
The East End’s favourite adopted daughter, Tracey Emin, once the enfant terrible of the art world, has landed on the Establishment lap and is representing Britain at Venice’s Biennale exhibition. The Britartists blazed a trail that the new generation of emerging artists are keen to follow. New galleries have been opening at an ‘unprecedented’ rate, according to reports. There are also burgeoning art fairs and numerous graduate shows drawing the crowds and the buyers. It’s worth remembering, however, that the whole city can be enjoyed as a permanent exhibition look again at the statues, the architecture, even the graffiti. All yours For free.