If you’re a fan of modern and contemporary art, then Berlin is the city for you! This vibrant metropolis is home to some of the best art galleries and museums in the world. Whether you’re interested in abstract painting, surrealism, or post-modern sculpture, you’ll find something to love in Berlin.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular art galleries and museums in the city. So put on your walking shoes and let’s get started!
Berlin Museum Pass
Berlin Museums feature impressive works of art, archaeological treasures from six thousand years of human history and historical monuments to technical inventions and interactive experiments for the whole family. Get the Berlin museum pass that guarantees free admission to over 30 museums on three consecutive days. You might still have to reserve a timeslot for your visit.
The Best Contemporary Art Galleries and Modern Art Museums in Berlin
Contemporary Fine Arts
If you’re looking to experience some of the best contemporary art that Berlin has to offer, Contemporary Fine Arts, or CFA, is definitely worth a visit. The gallery showcases a range of cutting-edge mediums from a variety of world-class artists, both local and international.
And since relocating to west Berlin, between Savignyplatz and Kurfürstendamm, it’s become even more central and accessible. Some of the artists you can expect to see at CFA include Jonathan Meese, Georg Baselitz, and others who are sure to provoke thought and spark conversation. So if you’re in the area, make sure to swing by and check out what’s on display!
KW Institute for Contemporary Art
KW Institute for Contemporary Art has been a driving force in the Berlin art scene for over 20 years. Founded in a former margarine factory, KW has always been a place for new and innovative talent to showcase their work.
More recently, curator Ellen Blumenstein has shifted the focus of the institution back to engaging with the public, with a lively program of exhibitions, film screenings, talks, and presentations. KW remains one of the most important cultural institutions in Berlin and is well worth a visit for anyone interested in contemporary art.
If you’re looking for an exclusive art experience in Berlin, the Sammlung Boros (Boros Collection), also known as the Boros Bunker, is worth a visit. Located in a former World War II bomb shelter, the bunker has been transformed into a luxurious gallery that houses cutting-edge art from internationally renowned artists like Olafur Eliasson, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Tracey Emin.
In addition to the incredible art on display, the bunker itself is a fascinating site. With its rich history – it was also used as a prison and an S&M fetish club before being converted into an art gallery – the bunker is truly one of Berlin’s hidden gems.
Tours are available by appointment only, so be sure to book in advance if you want to experience this unique attraction.
The Hamburger Bahnhof is the former train terminal of the Berlin-Hamburg Railway, located in Moabit. The repurposed space now houses a comprehensive collection of contemporary art as the Museum für Gegenwart, or Museum of the Present.
The museum was created after Berlin entrepreneur Erich Marx offered his private contemporary art collection to the city. The collection contains large-format works by Paul McCarthy, Jason Rhoades, Rodney Graham, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, and Stan Douglas, including elaborate installations and complex filmic spaces.
The impressive space also has guest exhibitions, education and outreach programs, and regular events. The museum is a must-see for anyone interested in contemporary art, and the periodicals library is open to the public as well.
EIGEN + ART
EIGEN + ART was started by Gerd Harry Lybke in the early 1990s, at a time when Berlin was going through a period of great transformation. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the city was in a state of flux, and Lybke saw an opportunity to inject some much-needed energy into the art scene.
Thanks to his vision and determination, EIGEN + ART quickly became one of the leading galleries in Berlin, discovering and promoting new talents such as Neo Rauch, Stella Hamberg, and Uwe Kowski.
The gallery has always been dedicated to pushing boundaries and presenting contemporary artists in a variety of different forms, including media, film, photography, installation, painting, and sculpture.
In recent years, EIGEN + ART has also expanded its operations, opening a second branch of the gallery (EIGEN + ART Lab) to work more closely with established artists. There is no doubt that EIGEN + ART has had a profound impact on Berlin’s art scene, and it continues to be a driving force in the city’s cultural life.
Kunstraum Kreuzberg / Bethanien
Künstlerhaus Bethanien is a Berlin institution championing contemporary art for over 40 years. Located in the Kreuzberg district, Bethanien is housed in a former hospital that was built in 1847. The sprawling grounds include an exhibition space, studios for working artists, and a garden that is open to the public.
Bethanien presents a diverse range of exhibitions, with a particular focus on art with a socio-political bent. The open studio events are vivacious, giving visitors a chance to meet the artists and see their work in progress.
Recently, Bethanien has also become known for its innovative educational programs, which provide opportunities for young people to engage with the arts. With its commitment to social engagement and its rich history, Künstlerhaus Bethanien is an essential part of the Berlin art scene.
East Side Gallery
The East Side Gallery is a must-see for anyone visiting Berlin. This mile-long section of the Berlin Wall features over 100 murals, graffiti artworks, slogans, and tags executed by a collective of Berlin artists. The East Side Gallery is a memorial to the pioneering street spirit that buzzed around the city during reunification.
The East Side Gallery is open to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and is one of the largest open-air permanent art exhibits in the world.
Visitors can explore the Gallery at their own pace or take a guided tour. Guided tours are available in English and German and must be booked in advance. Whether you choose to explore the East Side Gallery on your own or take a guided tour, this unique exhibit is not to be missed.
See this post for the best places to find Street Art Murals in Berlin
Capitain Petzel is one of the world’s leading contemporary art galleries, housed in a Soviet-era Modernist block in former East Berlin. The restored space sprawls across three floors and hosts a range of exhibitions, making it a pilgrimage site for both art collectors and architecture lovers alike.
Started in 2008 as a collaborative project between gallerist Gisela Capitain from Cologne and German-born, New York-based, Friedrich Petzel, the gallery exhibits an international range of contemporary artists including John Stezaker and Wade Guyton, as well as Martin Kippenberger and Sarah Morris.
Capitain Petzel has helped to put Berlin on the map as a major destination for contemporary art, and its exhibitions are not to be missed.
Map of Berlin’s Art Museums, Galleries & More
Other Museums in Berlin
A few other museums that should be on your Berlin Museums list are:
Berlin Wall Memorial
This free indoor/outdoor museum and memorial is one of the things to do in Berlin you can’t miss. The Berlin Wall Memorial is the best place to learn how the Berlin Wall sprung up overnight, what life was like in the former East German state, and the heartbreaking attempts people made to reunite with their families.
As you walk along this one-mile stretch of Bernauer Strasse, you can see the many open-air exhibits featuring photographs and signs detailing the stories on either side of the barrier. There’s also a preserved piece of the original border wall and a watchtower. The indoor visitor center chronicles the political and historical events surrounding the city’s division.
Museum Island or Museumsinsel took 100 years to build (from 1830 to 1930) and is one of the most visited sights in Germany’s capital of Berlin. Located in this complex, The Neues Museum (New Museum) is home to several collections from the Ancient World.
It has artifacts from the Paleolithic period to the Middle Ages, but it’s best known as Berlin’s Egyptian museum. It showcases art, sculptures, statues, manuscripts on papyrus, as well as magnificent burial chambers from Egypt dating from around 2500 BC.
While there are over 9,000 objects on view, people come to see the bust of Nefertiti, the ancient Egyptian “Green Head” sculpture, and the “Berlin Gold Hat,” a ceremonial gold headdress stamped with celestial bodies.
Other museums to visit here are:
Altes Museum (Old Museum) which is Berlin’s oldest museum,
The Alte Nationalgalerie houses 19th-century paintings,
Bode-Museum is home to the Sculpture Collection and Museum of Byzantine Art
In what looks like a Greek temple, The Alte Nationalgalerie houses one of the most important collections of 19th-century painting in Germany and includes masterpieces by Caspar David Friedrich, Adolph Menzel, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir and Auguste Rodin.
Last but not the least, this is one of Berlin’s most-visited museums! Pergamonmuseum is one of the highlights of Museum Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site with five historical institutions devoted to art and archaeology.
This huge three-wing museum is packed with ancient treasures and artifacts. The exhibition in the Pergamonmuseum features full-scale reconstructions of architectural monuments from Greek and Roman antiquity.
Its star attraction of the museum and its namesake—is the Pergamon Altar, a masterpiece of Hellenistic art from 180–160 BCE. (However, the altar, and most of the north wing in which it’s housed, are undergoing refurbishment until 2025.)
For a small charge of 12,00 €, you can experience the Pergamon Altar in its original architectural context, on the Acropolis at the PERGAMON. Masterpieces from the Ancient Metropolis with a 360° Panorama by Yadegar Asisi. Asisi has reconstructed the city as it was during the time of the High Roman Empire under the rule of Emperor Hadrian (AD 117–138). It is located on the street Am Kupfergraben, which is directly across from Museumsinsel.
You can visit many top-class museums in Berlin free of charge on the first Sunday of each month, see the list here.
Berlin is the most liberal, artist-friendly place and I hope you get to visit some of these galleries and art museums on your next visit to the capital of Germany.
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