10 of the best galleries and museums in the world for photography

First published:
November 18, 2022
February 5, 2024

10 of the best galleries and museums in the world for photography

First published:
November 18, 2022
February 5, 2024

At a glance by Devin Lee Ainslie

In need of new inspiration? The best photographic galleries across the globe offer a variety of the most extraordinary work from the undiscovered visual arts

Finding yourself in a creative slump can be a real pickle, and the best way to reignite the left side of your brain can be through creative immersion. Try surrounding yourself with works of art by photographic visionaries that excite you, and offer thought-provoking challenges that can be adapted into communicating your own story through your medium of choice.

Art galleries can be found in almost every city worldwide, but those that focus primarily on putting the practice of photography first are less frequent and can be a bit trickier to locate. Having work exhibited is a high privilege, and there’s something special about perceiving famous images how they were intended to be displayed and mounted for interpretation.

With the digital age bringing a world of repetitive TikToks and NFTs dominating our creative spaces, photography in a traditional printed and physical format should be celebrated now more than ever. Support your local exhibitions, but if you’re lucky enough to be able to travel, then you won’t want to miss these phenomenal photography spaces we’ve listed below. 

1 The Photographers' Gallery - London

The Photographers Gallery. Photo by Colin Shorrock - f/2.8 | ISO 250 | 1/60s

Situated in Soho, this photo gallery was founded in 1971 and is one of the first-ever galleries in the United Kingdom to be devoted solely to the medium of photography. Intended for the exploration as well as presentation of exquisite photography, the gallery also offers events that include workshops, talks, diverse exhibition programs, and photography courses.

The gallery itself features a serene cafe space and specialist bookshop, aiding in the discovery and purchase of rare photographic prints. Just outside of the venue is London’s newly developed Soho Photography Quarter (SPQ), an outdoor exhibition space and cultural hub for city photographers to highlight the very best of contemporary photography.

The five-story building on Ramillies Street, Soho, where the gallery resides is comprised of dedicated exhibition spaces spanning across three floors, and the rest of the gallery is made up of areas intended for educational studios, spaces for the gallery’s print sale, as well as a custom-made camera obscura, gallery archive, plus a state-of-the-art media wall.

2 Fotografiska - New York

FOTOGRAFISKA opening. Photo by Christopher A. Hearne -

The sister museum to that of the famous Stockholm-based site of the same name, this luxurious six-story renaissance revival building is a photography landmark and exhibition space that screams opulence, situated in Manhattan, with a cocktail bar, and extremely fine dining. The museum hosts events, eclectic programming, and rotating exhibitions to help visitors embrace and discover both world-class emerging and established photographers.

Having opened its doors officially in December 2019, the Fotografiska is a museum experience for the modern world. The building itself is also known as the Church Missions House, a 45,000-square-foot space. Not far from the building is another exciting venue, the Museum of the Moving Image, benefiting from interactive displays and screenings that share the history of moving images through examples of film, television, and digital media aspects.

Fotografiska was said to have been built on the idea of the foundations of photography becoming a haven for ideas surrounding inclusivity and free visual and artistic expression. There is a relatively high entrance fee for visiting New York’s Fotografiska museum of photography, and a regular admissions ticket will cost you around $30. 

3 La Venaria Reale - Turin, Italy

The Galleria Grande. Photo by Giulio - f/2.8 | ISO 100 | 1/50s

This stunning former royal residence and gardens in Turin, Italy, is not only a gallery and contemporary exhibition space, but a palace too! An absolutely breathtaking location, this Reggia estate, and gardens, plus outbuildings amass 950,000 square meters.

The exhibitions on offer at this gallery are extremely modern, with a recently held collection focused entirely on the emerging medium of videogame photography, regarded as the “tenth form” of art. The aesthetics of video games are explored across twelve Sale Delle Arti exhibition rooms, blending renowned past masterpieces with a new digital canvas.

A must-attend gallery estate, the La Venaria Reale (also known as the La Reggia Di Venaria) hosts an array of special tours, workshops, events, and even concerts, but it’s evident that the space has a key focus on all visual art, including photography, with previous exhibitions on practitioners such as Peter Lindbergh, Elliott Erwitt Personae, and Paolo Pellegrin.

4 Musée d'Orsay - Paris, France

Musee d'Orsay At Sunset. Photo by Luigi Saria - f/11 | ISO 100 | 20s

A converted Orsay railway station, this Parisian  Musée d'Orsay museum has acquired a collection of photography totaling over forty-five thousand images and is noted for being one of the first fine art museums in France to include a photography section as a permanent collection rather than temporary exhibitions.

The collection of photographs on display at the museum contributes to the enrichment of French heritage, and had to be built up from scratch, beginning in 197. Images from the nineteenth century captured using the first daguerreotype cameras can be found in the collection, along with early original prints from the photographer’s own negatives.

The museum recognizes and honors the close links that had been forged between both French and English pioneering photography practitioners. The first purchase of an image that the museum made was said to be from the period between 1839 and 1863, renowned as the golden age for both French and English photography.

5 The Polygon Gallery - Vancouver, Canada

Polygon Gallery reflections. Photo by Simon Russell - f/7.1 | ISO 320 | 1/250s

The polygon gallery in Vancouver, Canada, has a distinct focus on photography and media-based art. Admission to the venue exists by donation, and the vibrant institution provokes cultural insight and embraces the evolving technologies of photography and lens-based media. The building and art space have two-story high windows that face the harbor of North Vancouver, in the heart of Lonsdale Quay, with a beautiful view.

The gallery has been described by many as being very current, with prominent works and beautifully curated exhibitions on powerful photographic practices and subject matter. The space offers engagement to visitors through expansive programs such as Gallery School, self-guided activities, and hands-on participation through self-guided activities.

With its own podcast channel, The Polygon Gallery has certainly earned itself a reputation as one of the most adventurous public art institutions and is not one to be missed off your itinerary the next time you visit Vancouver. dedicated to the representation of artists who reflect the diversity and inclusivity of the gallery’s community. 

6 Rijksmuseum - Amsterdam

I love Amsterdam. Photo by Hamperium Photography - f/7.1 | ISO 100 | 1/200s

The Amsterdam Rijksmuseum is also referred to as the national museum of the Netherlands and has a keen focus on photography that is present throughout the program, with talks and online sessions on press photography as well as early and contemporary works.

Previous photo exhibitions that have taken place at the Rijksmuseum include a ‘50 years of photography’ tribute to dutch photographer, Willem Diepraam, as well as an in-depth look vi an exhibition featuring works that include the earliest known dutch photographs of Japan.

The Rijksmuseum is super family-friendly and offers free admission for those aged under 19. It also hosts an annual UNSEEN photo fair, a platform that showcases the best of contemporary photography, providing emerging talent with a practical stage to present their work for honest discussion and critique.

7 Ikona Venezia Photo Gallery - Venice, Italy

A moment of contemplation. Photo by Colin Allen - f/2.8 | ISO 720 | 1/60s

Tucked away in the Ghetto of Venice, this gallery was founded by Croatian-born Živa Kraus, who has now lived in Venice for over 40 years, running the Ikona Gallery for over 35 years. Kraus reportedly opened the gallery because nothing else like it existed at the time.

The space itself resides in the Campo Del Ghetto Nuovo area of Venice, a little bit away from the hustle and bustle of tourism, and Kraus finds herself very busy organizing plenty of exhibitions to fill the cozy secluded brick gallery, describing herself as a messenger between an art piece and an audience.

Kraus is so passionate about her gallery space, and everything she has contributed makes her feel as if she is part of the city of Venice (Venezia). The Ikona Gallery is worth visiting just to see her passion alone, but the works exhibited are just as influential.

8 The Guggenheim Museum - New York

Guggenheim museum New York. Photo by Mike Spencer - f/20 | ISO 200 | 1/15s

Not to be confused with the Guggenheim Bilbao museum in Bizkaia, Spain, or the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, this art museum situated on the upper east side of Manhattan, near Central Park in New York City, offers an insightful approach to a vast collection of photographic works, mostly from the 1970s onward.

The Solomon R.Guggenheim museum in New York, as its full title, prioritizes the encompassing themes of identity, activism, and challenging the traditional boundaries of the photographic medium in images for consideration to join its collection.

Featuring works by legendary practitioners in areas of identity and gender politics, including Nan Goldin, Anna Gaskell, and Douglas Gordon, all of which can be found via the museum's online collection of photographic works.

9 Fringe Club - Hong Kong, China 

Hong Kong Fringe Club. Photo by DPA picture alliance GMBH

Something super unconventional, this Fringe Club is a creative hub and non-profit venue space hosting an array of contemporary works such as art, plays, music, and photography by up-and-coming visual artists and creatives. The club is very much on the low down and grassroots in comparison to other galleries, museums, and art spaces listed in this article.

Based in central Hong Kong, the Fringe Club is a vibrant contemporary art space that hosts regular photography exhibitions, complemented in collaboration with the likes of live music, and has been providing an open platform for the arts in Hong Kong since 1983.

Associated with the freedom of expression, this space has presented 28 festivals in its time, as well as hosting over 1,600 exhibitions, and over 3,300 community outreach events in the city. The space also operates as a cafe, and the interior is very immersive in creativity.

10 ​​The Art Gallery of New South Wales - Sydney, Australia

Night view of The Art Gallery of New South Wales. Photo by Nora Carol Sahinun - f/13 | ISO 200 | 13s

The most important public gallery in Sydney and one of the largest in Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) is home to an extensive collection of over 4,000 contemporary and established photographs, ranging from topics on postmodernism, documentary photography, surrealism, pictorialism, and everything in between.

The gallery first made photographic acquisitions in 1975, obtaining 90 Harold Cazneaux photographs, and the total collection to this day is at least 80% original Australian photography. Contemporary artists such as Max Pam, Bill Henson, Fiona Hall, and Tracey Moffatt are extensively represented throughout the gallery, as well as more 19th-century based pictorialists such as Charles Bayliss and Cecil Bostoc.

The AGNSW hosts major works by international as well as Australian artists, that are available for purchase and can be secured at prices that remain fair and reasonable. With the help of photography collection benefactors established in 1993, the gallery has since been able to host a variety of exhibition previews, collection tours, and activities.

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