Berlin is more than just a city; it’s a state of mind.
When you visit Berlin for the first time, you either love it or hate it. There is no in-between, cause the city is so peculiar that you have to take one side. If you love it, you will come back times and times again. If you hate it, it’ll take you some time to come back. But rest assured that you will eventually love Berlin too!
That is what pretty much happened to me. The first time I visited Berlin, I was in my teens, and despite having some positive memories of the city, like my first solo visit to Hamburger Banhof, I did not fall irremediably in love with it. But let’s fast forward to my 30th birthday, when one of my best friends, and fellow art lover, gifted me a wonderful weekend in the German city to discover the best contemporary art had to offer.
And boy, it was spectacular!
So, now that I am lounging by the Tuscan coast, roasting in the heat and longing for some chill weather, I decided to dive a little deeper into the Berlin contemporary art scene and bring you the top 4 galleries to visit on your next trip.
Quintessentially Berlin, König Galerie is located in Kreuzberg. It occupies the Brutalist concrete St. Agnes church, which was turned into a gigantic exhibition space. Founded by Johann König in 2002, the gallery currently has three additional locations, in London, Seoul, and Monaco.
It represents 40 international emerging and established artists, mostly belonging to a younger generation. Here you can find artists such as Alicja Kwade, Claudia Comte, Elmgreen & Dragset, Chiharu Shiota, Jose Dávila, or Koo Jeong A., among others.
The program’s focus is on interdisciplinary, concept-oriented and space-based approaches in a variety of media, including sculpture, video, sound, painting, printmaking, photography, and performance.
Together with the amazing exhibition and location, they also have a rich program of online events, a podcast series, a magazine, and they host an art fair in August, MISA – MESSE IN ST. AGNES. Plus they sell, both in the gallery and online, the weirdest and cutest souvenirs you can ever gift to an art lover, like the “Art Handling Set”, a real set to hang your next purchase, with nails, gloves, and some cute instructions.
The tip: Definitely the gallery to visit if you want to demonstrate to your disenchanted friend that contemporary art can be far from boring!
Alexandrinenstraße 118-121, 10969 – Berlin
Info, opening hours and exhibitions: koenig.art
Galerie Thomas Schulte
A little more traditional, but still groundbreaking in its choice of artists and artworks, Galerie Thomas Schulte is another must-visit contemporary art gallery in Berlin.
Located in the Mitte, within walking distance to other major contemporary art attractions in the city, Galerie Thomas Schulte is located in the landmark nineteenth-century Tuteur House, a magnificent white palace on Charlottenstrasse.
Founded in 1991, the gallery’s “focus has been placed on nurturing, supporting, and sustaining outstanding and inspiring artistic positions in international conceptual art spanning from the 1960s to the present”, as stated on their website.
Galerie Thomas Schulte was one of the ﬁrst galleries to open in Berlin after Germany’s reuniﬁcation and soon became a focal point for Berlin’s re-emerging art scene. Nowadays, the gallery works and represents well-established German and international artists, which displays both in its spaces and in all the major art fairs around the world, from Art Basel to The Armory Show and ARCOmadrid.
As they state, “We stand for substantial concept-based art that resonates with the present and is relevant for the future. For this, we create the best possible context out of an honest understanding of our artists and collectors.”
The tip: Visit Galerie Thomas Schulte if you are missing posh London galleries or if you want to discover your next million-dollar favorite artist!
Galerie Thomas Schulte
Charlottenstraße 24, 10117 Berlin
Eigen + Art
Less flamboyant on the outside, but equally as interesting, Galerie Eigen + Art is located in a former school in the Mitte area and represents both established and young artists. It originally opened in the 1980s in Leipzig, and moved to Berlin at a later time, quickly becoming one of the most interesting galleries in the city. With spaces in Leipzig and Berlin, the gallery is now an international player, taking part in all the major art fairs around the world and launching programs worldwide.
The artists exhibited by the gallery work with all sorts of media, from video and photography to installation, painting, sculpture, and even conceptual art and performance. Every visit to the gallery will gift you with wonderful and well-curated exhibitions, as well as top-class artists and thought-provoking artworks.
One thing I particularly like about the gallery is their attention to artists. As they state on their website: “Through the constant cooperation with the artists, the gallery is involved in the steady development of each artistic approach and hence involved in the current art events since its very beginning.”
And it shows, as they also opened a second space, called The Eigen + Art Lab, dedicated to experimentation and interaction between artists, curators, and the public.
The tip: With an impressive list of artists and a perfect location, surrounded by all sorts of galleries and hip cafes, Eigen + Art is guaranteed to become one of your favorites.
Eigen + Art
Auguststraße 26, 10117 Berlin
Galeria Plan B
I saved it for the grand finale, as this is hands down my favorite gallery in Berlin. Galeria Plan B was founded by Mihai Pop and Adrian Ghenie himself. Being one of my favorite artists, it comes as no surprise that everything he does ends up automatically among my personal favorites!
But the gallery is far more than just that. Originally opened in 2005 in Cluj, Romania, it is meant to be both a production and exhibition space for contemporary art. It is primarily dedicated to Romanian art from the last 50 years, and it works with remarkable artists without previous international exposure.
The Berlin space opened in 2008, and it has made a name for itself over the past decade or so. Directly linked to the programs and exhibitions in Cluj, the Berlin space hosts interesting exhibitions, and it is a great way to get in touch with both up-and-coming Romanian artists as well as more established ones that are still far from getting the recognition they deserve.
The tip: The gallery is located just steps away from the Neue Nationalgalerie and close to Potsdamer Platz, so you can easily reach while out and about enjoying Berlin.
Galeria Plan B
Potsdamer Strasse 77-87, Building G, Second Courtyard, Berlin
Open Tuesday-Saturday, 12–18 h
Info, opening hours and exhibitions: www.plan-b.ro