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“Grim and empty.”
Review of Arnolfini

Ranked #72 of 199 things to do in Bristol
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: In a fantastic waterside location at the heart of Bristol's harbourside, Arnolfini is one of Europe's leading centres for the contemporary arts, presenting innovative, experimental work in the visual arts, performance, dance, film, music and events, accompanied by a programme of educational activities. Sitting on the quayside with a drink on a summer evening is a quintessentially Bristol experience. Arnolfini's cafe bar serves a menu of fresh, locally sourced food and fairtrade tea and coffee.
Useful Information: Wheelchair access, Stairs / elevator, Bathroom facilities
South Wales, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
116 reviews
40 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 73 helpful votes
“Grim and empty.”
Reviewed October 22, 2013

I was looking forward to my visit as well!
No permanent collection. One gallery full of photos you would normally delete from your iphone,(or not even take in the first place) one empty gallery, and one gallery upstairs with a single piece of green plastic slime on the windowsill. Even the gallery attendant had the decency to look ashamed!
Nice little library however.
Oh, and the espresso coffee in the downstairs café is like battery acid.
This place is really worth a miss, and the fine city of Bristol should be ashamed.

Visited October 2013
2 Thank Graham H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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94 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
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English first
Bristol, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
159 reviews
28 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 82 helpful votes
“Invariably ecclectic, occasionally pompous, always worth a visit.”
Reviewed August 1, 2013

The Arnolfini is something of a local treasure. It has been on the waterfront since 1975, when much of Bristol's floating harbour was all but derelict. It has always attracted comment, much of it complimentary, as well as the 'It might be art, but it's bloody poor welding' kind. Pretty much everything can and does happen there - art, sculpture, dance, film (sadly not as much as there used to be!) and golf!

The golf was amusing enough, if a bit more mundane than I was expecting, but the outstanding exhibition of the moment is that of Ian Hamilton Finlay's printed works. Finlay was, to my mind, one of the most interesting and important artist/poets of the 20th century. This exhibition concentrates upon his printed concrete poetry and has been curated very well indeed. Our expectations of a gallery generally include a few large images spaced out in a much larger space. Finlay's printed works are rather small, often very small. I expect it took courage to display them as they are on the tall walls of a big gallery space. These are intimate things, like postcards and greetings cards, they speak to individuals rather than audiences. I was instantly engaged by Finlay's wit and his extraordinary imagination and delighted to see that, all around the gallery, other visitors were similarly absorbed in little worlds of their own with the work. Also great to see what I believe is almost the entire output of the Wild Hawthorn Press in one place.

Finlay worked in all kinds of media - stone, wood, cloth, garden features, metal and actual concrete (!) in collaboration with a range of craftspeople. Thankfully some of those other media may be seen in the gardens around St Georges, Brandon Hill in commissioned works installed around 2002. Well worth a visit because what is missing at the Arnolfini is a sense of Finlay's extraordinary range - this is not a criticism, this show works really well as it is.

Visited August 2013
Thank roger W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Birmingham, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
278 reviews
58 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 238 helpful votes
“A Mixed Bag”
Reviewed July 31, 2013

Arnolfini is a small contemporary gallery on the harbour side and boasts a shop, café, reading room and five gallery spaces. Renowned as the space that first exhibited the street art of Bristol born Banksy, the Arnolfini is housed in a converted warehouse, but its interior reflects the ambience of a European gallery, with modern open staircases to its two upper floors and basement, lifts and large open 'free admission' white spaces.

Sadly, it does not open its doors until 11am on the six days of opening, with Monday being its day of closure. Gladly, we arrived just before opening time on a Tuesday and consequently the place was relatively quiet and one could comfortably visit the two exhibitions currently on view and continuing all summer until mid September.

The first, occupying galleries 1 and 5, featured the printed works of the post war British artist Ian Hamilton Finlay and was predominantly his 'concrete' poetry and his quotations superbly supported by fine printed ink drawings, lino cuts and beautiful calligraphy. As a consequence, the gallery walls were well occupied but the central gallery space quite empty of interest. Three model schooners took this void. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this show and it introduces me to a talented all round artist of whom I had little knowledge.

In contrast, the other three galleries housed an exhibition by the Greek artist, Yorgos Sapountzis. Called ' The Protagonists' it is a show of imaginary public sculpture and explores the way 'bodies - both human and sculptural - appear in a public space'. That said, I found it to be badly presented in terms of the spacing between the works, almost cramped and the sculpture was poorly constructed as ideas for sculpture meant for public parks. It was no better than first year student degree work found in many University Arts Faculties at this time of year, and I've seen a fair amount. No more than a Lower Second, but possibly a Third!

Overall, a mixed impression of the Arnolfini, which gets significant funding from the UK Arts Council. I suppose for a free gallery I can't complain, but then again it is my taxes that support the Arts Council, so maybe they should be more selective in their choice of exhibitions!

Visited July 2013
Thank Paul B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Mendip Hills Somerset
Level Contributor
379 reviews
146 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 424 helpful votes
“Small Gallery in the heart of Bristol Harbour Area”
Reviewed July 25, 2013

Have visited here several times and try to get along at least once a year. Huge variety of arts on show, one of our fav was the Easter Trail they were involved in a couple of years back, children loved it. Cafe on site but it is pricey.

Visited April 2013
3 Thank Tigi_Higgins
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Weston super Mare, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
423 reviews
245 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 223 helpful votes
“Pretentious but charming”
Reviewed July 20, 2013

The Arnolfini always has unusual art exhibitions, cutting edge or avant garde. However some of them are, I am afraid, quite pretentious, a bit like "the emperor's new clothes" where you are supposed to admire and applaud but all the time you're thinking what a load of codswallop. We were in stitches going round the recent exhibition, my friend couldn't believe it although I had warned him beforehand. The shop is also a bit over-the-top and pricey. But the cafe is really nice, very atmospheric with a lovely ambience for sitting and chatting.

Visited July 2013
Thank JuneBug1939
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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