Art is an important part of any society. And in a multicultural city such as Nairobi, it is the only way for marginalized communities to express themselves and feel seen and appreciated. This is why Nairobi has a large number of art galleries. The large number makes it almost impossible to know all of them. Most galleries in Nairobi are underground galleries. Young artists create these underground galleries with the aim to express themselves. And from my experience, those are usually the best. These are my Top 10 Art Galleries in Nairobi.
1. Nairobi National Museum
The Nairobi National Museum is the most important repository of Art and Artefacts in Kenya. It is the flagship museum of the National Museums of Kenya, the institution that runs all public museums and art galleries in Kenya. The Museum hosts both temporary and permanent galleries that attract learners and tourists alike. They have the following permanent galleries: The Cradle of humankind gallery; The Story of mammals; The History of Kenya; Cycles of life gallery; Numismatic exhibition and the Asian African Heritage exhibition gallery respectively. The museum is open from Monday to Sunday 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, all year round including public holidays and weekends. Night tours can also be booked in advance and are held between 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm if there is no private function being held.
2. Nairobi Gallery
Located along Kenyatta Avenue, the building that houses this gallery is of historical significance to Kenya. Built in 1913 to house the Native Ministry, this building was fondly referred to by the settler community as ‘Hatches, Matches and Dispatches’ because of the births, marriages and deaths that were recorded there. Before independence, the building was a colonial courthouse where natives accused of entering Nairobi without a pass were tried and sentenced. The building is situated at Kenya’s point zero from where distances to all corners of the country and subsequently to the continent and the world were measured from. Today the Gallery has become the home of Joseph and Sheila Murumbi’s collections. Joseph Murumbi was Kenya’s second vice president. Nairobi Gallery is also dedicated to promoting local artists. It does this by displaying their artwork. The key attractions include The Murumbi African Heritage Collections; Pioneer Art Gallery and Colonial Safes.
3. Nairobi Railway Museum
The history of precolonial, colonial and modern Kenya is deeply tied to the railroad that traverses the country. This makes Nairobi Railway Museum one of the most important custodians of Kenyan history. The museum contains exhibits from the defunct East African Railways. Its collection includes artwork and artefacts sourced across the world, steam locomotives, and model trains and tracks.
4. Karen Blixen Museum
Located in the house of Karen Blixen, author of the autobiographical New York Times Best Seller “Out of Africa”, and the winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture “Out of Africa” starring Oscar winner Meryl Streep. This museum is filled with a lot of history surrounding the autobiographical novel and movie “Out of Africa”. Because of this, it is a popular tourist attraction among fans of both the movie and novel. A lot of original décor and film props are in the house. The 4500-acre farm on which the museum (then a farmhouse) is located, was later divided into plots and sold. Forming the now upscale leafy suburb of Karen. However, most of the film was filmed in Blixen’s first farmhouse in Mbagathi nearby. Where she lived between 1914 and 1917.
5. The GoDown Art Centre
The GoDown is one of Kenya’s leading centres for arts and culture. It has contributed to the development of numerous artists who are prospering all over the world. The GoDown Art Centre hosts numerous art exhibitions showcasing pieces from established and upcoming artists.
6. Circle Art Gallery
Circle Art Gallery aims to promote contemporary art from all over Eastern Africa. It does this by participating in international art fairs. Where local artists’ works are usually showcased. The art gallery is open during the week from 10 am to 5 pm.
7. Banana Hill Art Gallery
This is a contemporary art gallery located in Banana Hill. Founded in 1992 its importance in the Nairobi art scene cannot be overstated. The art gallery is open from Monday to Saturday (10 am to 6 pm) and Sundays (12 pm to 6 pm).
8. The Art Space
The Art Space is an independent art gallery based in Nairobi, Kenya. Opened in 2015, The Art Space has evolved from a commercial art gallery based in Kenya, into an online space with regular pop-ups in popular and sometimes unusual spaces around Nairobi.
9. Polka Dot Gallery
Polka Dot Art Gallery is a gallery located in the leafy suburbs of Karen. It showcases art from East African artists and select international artists. Despite being a new gallery Polka Dot Art Gallery has built a name for itself and holds regular openings for different artists. Polka Dot Art Gallery exhibits all kinds of art pieces including photography, paintings, sculptures and prints.
10. Matbronze Art Gallery & Foundry
Founded in 1987 by Kenyan artist Denis Mathews, this was the first bronze foundry in the country. It subsequently expanded into a gallery and restaurant. The gallery mostly showcases sculptures inspired by African animals. The gallery is open from Monday to Sunday from 8 am to 5 pm on weekdays and 8 am to 5:30 pm on weekends.
This closes my Top 10 Art Galleries in Kenya list. Check them out whenever you need some feed your soul with fine art.