Saturday, 21 July 2012

Art Bookshop Review: Foyles (Charing Cross Road)

This is a review of the Art Bookshop area on the second floor within Foyles Flagship book store at 113-117 Charing Cross Road in central London. Below you will find a review including photographs of the bookshop.

Foyles Art Books
about half of the shelving in the art section on the 2nd floor of this bookshop
First a note for those who know the Foyles of old and have not visited for some time.

I first started going to Foyles when I was a student in the 70s when it was ran by Christina Foyle.  It was a complete and utter maze interspersed by book stacks on the floor as well as the shelves.  It had the most books of any bookshop in London but finding them wasn't easy and the process of paying for them was completely antiquated and very slow.  As a result, it's one of the few bookshops that has made it into Wikipedia.
Foyles was once listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest bookshop in terms of shelf area (30 miles/50 kilometres) and number of titles on display.[1] In the past, it was famed for its anachronistic, eccentric and sometimes infuriating business practices, so much that they made it a tourist attraction.[2]Wikipedia - Foyles Bookshop
However all that was swept away and the shop has enjoyed a complete and comprehensive makeover.  The shelving is now exemplary and shopping for books is a complete pleasure.

RECOMMENDED:  I'd go so far as to say this is probably my bookshop of choice for art books.  The only improvement I can think of would be the addition of a few comfy chairs and a rethink of the location of books on shelves relative to the demographics of its customers!

Name of Art Bookshop: Foyles Bookshop
(Branch) Address: 113-119 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0EB
  • conveniently located for people visiting Oxford Street / Tottenham Court Road / Covent Garden / Leicester Square area. 
  • Two minutes from Tottenham Road Tube station (involves a walk around the CrossRail development between Centre Point and Tottenham Court Road Tube Station
Shop hours:
  • Monday - Saturday 9.30am - 9.00pm
  • Sundays 11.30am* - 6.00pm (*11.30am - 12.00pm browsing only)
  • Public holidays 11.00am - 8.00pm: Closed on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day
  • Easter Good Friday and Easter Saturday, normal hours apply; Easter Sunday, closed; Easter Monday, 11am - 8pm
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7437 5660
Of interest to:
  • art students (beginners through to Higher Education);
  • amateur artists;
  • professional artists;
  • art lovers;
  • graphic designers; illustrators; typographers
Major section on Art Theory and Aesthetics
  • very well laid out with good labelling; 
  • includes a “new books” section specifically for art plus a section on catalogues for current exhibitions
  • absolutely huge section devoted to art history and artists
  • biggest selection of books on art theory that I’ve seen in a long time (this shop is close to a leading art school)
  • good selection of books relating to art instruction targeted at amateur artists
  • very extensive sections devoted to graphics, design, type, illustration and photography
  • a selection of art DVDs - including fictionalised films about artists
  • very wide range of specialist art journals
  • lots of knowledgeable assistants and speedy processing of purchases
  • a very good bookshop for other books as well (the music and history sections kept my other half absorbed for over two hours!)
ART DVDs and Catalogues for Current and Future Art Exhibitions
specialist shelving features not often seen in art bookshops
Think Again?
  • not for those who like their art “dumbed down”
  • you have to be able to bend down to see the art instruction books - Foyles might like to think about the fact that a lot of (less bendy) older people take up art in their retirement
  • a visit could get expensive - because you see so many books you want!
Art Instruction books a little too low for my liking
A bit too low for those whose backs and knees don't bend as well as they used to
Art Instruction: Anatomy for Drawing and Portrait/Figure Drawing section
Summary: This is the bookshop to go for art books if you like a good selection and you enjoy a better quality art book. I’ve got a very good awareness of art books in print and on offer and I was generally very impressed with the books they’d chosen to stock.  This is a very good place to start if looking for books on a particular art topic.

A New Bookshop and a Move for Foyles

Foyles is due to move to a purpose-built bookshop in the adjacent former Central St Martins building in late 2013 or early 2014. They are now actively involved in planning the design of the new bookshop.

Their leasehold for site of this original bookshop is and other adjacent properties are being marketed for a very considerable sum. One can only surmise that this relates to taking advantage of the development of the new Crossrail station and retail hub at Tottenham Court Road

Other art bookshops

You can read other reviews of Art Bookshops in London in the following posts:
Plus good art bookshops in the UK are listed in Art Bookshops - Resources for Artists

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi I thought you would be a great person to tell people about the Dover Bookshop in London's Earlham St. WC1, I have no connection to it at all except as a customer of some of the best and most interesting art books around. They are really struggling and London is empty during the Olympics which is not helping. For amazing inspirational books take a look They don't stock all the stuff the others do, just really fascinating and original books by dover publishers, WELL WORTH TAKING A LOOK - support and independent book shop

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