Christmas is right around the corner, and although it is admittedly not my favorite season of the year, Christmas markets are always fun. And if you are looking for a weekend getaway, where you can possibly find a cute Christmas market, perhaps in a charming city, and with a thrilling contemporary art scene, then Munich is the place for you. And that also applies if you like beer and plan to visit the Bavarian capital during the popular Oktoberfest.
Celebrated for its cultural dynamism, Munich offers a compelling journey through contemporary art. From cutting-edge galleries to renowned museums, Munich’s art destinations are a testament to the city’s commitment to fostering innovative expressions. In this exploration, we unveil five must-visit destinations that encapsulate the vibrant contemporary art scene in Munich.
Each of these five spots offers a unique perspective on the city’s creative vitality and reflects Munich’s commitment to pushing artistic boundaries and embracing the ever-evolving landscape of contemporary art. In fact, the city has been a prime destination for contemporary art since the early 20th century, when it witnessed the birth of artistic movements such as Der Blaue Reiter, and nowadays it is regaining popularity among younger artists and art lovers, especially those tired of Berlin and its cutting edge scene.
So, whether you’re a seasoned art enthusiast or a curious traveler, Munich’s diverse art scene promises an enriching experience that transcends the conventional, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking innovation and inspiration in the realm of contemporary art.
1. Pinakothek der Moderne
The first stop on our contemporary art itinerary in Munich is the stunning Pinakothek der Moderne. The biggest modern and contemporary art museum in Germany, the museum is nowadays hosted in a new building, inaugurated in 2002 and designed by German architect Stephan Braunfels. The collection presents modern and contemporary art, works on paper, design, and applied arts, and a section dedicated to architecture, showcasing works of modernist masters and 20th-century avant-garde movements, as well as contemporary art and new media from the 1960s onwards.
The Pinakothek, therefore, provides a comprehensive overview of modern creativity, thanks to its collection and rotating exhibitions featuring both local and international artists. It is a quintessential destination for those seeking a diverse and immersive contemporary art experience in Munich and definitely one of the best museums to visit in the whole of Germany.
Pinakothek der Moderne
Barer Str. 40 – Munich
Info, tickets, and opening hours: www.pinakothek-der-moderne.de
2. Haus der Kunst
Another great landmark, and stunning destination for contemporary art in Munich, is the Haus der Kunst, literally House of Art. This historical building is not only a great testament to German and Bavarian history but also an exemplar case of how the city was able to reinvent itself.
Originally built during the Nazi era, the building was inaugurated in 1937 with an exhibition dedicated to German Art, as seen by the Nazis and their propaganda. After housing temporary exhibitions and the collection of the Pinakothek der Moderne until 2002, Haus der Kunst now functions as a kunsthalle, hosting temporary and traveling exhibitions, without having a collection of its own. The museum underwent a massive restoration, which also added spaces for movies, performances, and musical events. Nowadays the Haus Der Kunst boasts an impressive program of exhibitions and events, which since 2023 have been primarily focusing on sound, voice, music, and time.
Haus der Kunst
Prinzregentenstraße 1 – Munich
Info, tickets, and opening hours: www.hausderkunst.de
3. Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art (MUCA)
Situated in Munich’s Old Town, MUCA (Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art) is yet another great destination for art lovers in the Bavarian capital. Opened in 2016, it shows urban art on an area of over 2,000 square meters and holds works by Shepard Fairey, Zeus, David Choe, OSGEMEOS, and Banksy. The museum was listed among the top 10 galleries to visit in Germany and it makes for a perfect afternoon visit while strolling across the center of the city.
The permanent collection of MUCA offers a great selection of the best representatives of contemporary art from the 21st century, comprising over 1,200 objects and works from international and German artists alike. In addition to its collection, the museum also offers temporary exhibitions of renowned artists as well as urban and street artists.
All in all, MUCA is the perfect destination to visit if you are looking for a more fun and less formal museum in Munich, and it is a great spot to get to know a different side of the city, while staying in its most charming and elegant area, the city center.
Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art (MUCA)
Hotterstraße 12 – Munich
Info, tickets, and opening hours: www.muca.eu
4. Kunstraum München
Established in 1973, the Kunstraum is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with a series of events to celebrate its history and legacy. This non-profit art association works on a mixed program of exhibitions and events, with the aim of being a platform for young contemporary art. The focus is on exhibiting works by international and regional artists and publishing accompanying catalogs and editions.
Since its opening in 1973, the space has launched or showcased artists such as Agnes Martin, Richard Tuttle, Franz Erhard Walther, Jonas Hafner, Joseph Beuys, Olaf Metzel, and Hanne Darboven or Gustav Metzger just to name a few. Since the 1990s, the focus has been increasingly on thematic group exhibitions and primarily on socio-political topics, making it one of the most interesting destinations for contemporary art in Munich.
If you, like me, appreciate a well-curated exhibition in an independent space, then Kunstraum München is the place to go.
Holzstraße 10 Rgb. – Munich
Info and opening hours: www.kunstraum-muenchen.de
5. Museum Brandhorst
When I say Munich is a haven for contemporary art, I really mean it. The city is so rich in museums and private collections, independent spaces, and art galleries, that it gets tricky to just select a few. Nonetheless, as we are just scraping the surface, the last destination I would recommend is the Museum Brandhorst.
Housed in the middle of Munich’s vibrant Maxvorstadt neighborhood, the Museum Brandhorst collected art from the 1960s onwards, showcasing both international masters and younger artists. The museum has its roots in the private collection of Anette and Udo Brandhorst, made accessible to the public with the opening of Museum Brandhorst in 2009. Since then, the government of Bavaria has run the museum, while a private foundation enables the continuous expansion of the collection. After the opening of the museum, the collection has almost doubled in size, from 700 to more than 1,200 works, encompassing everything from Pop Art to Arte Povera, Minimal Art, postmodernism, and so on.
Just a stone’s throw away from Pinakothek der Moderne, this museum, with its beautifully tiled facade, is a great destination to relax and enjoy contemporary art, and the perfect spot to end our Munich tour.
Theresienstraße 35a – Munich
Info, tickets, and opening hours: www.museum-brandhorst.de
Bonus: Contemporary art in Munich galleries
If you are looking for contemporary art in Munich, chances are you are also interested in galleries. And since I am always on the lookout for resources that can help me and fellow art travelers spot the best galleries in town, I must say Munich provides the perfect aid. If you jump over to the Initiative Münchner Galerien zeitgenössischer Kunst (The association of Munich’s contemporary art galleries), you can find an amazing list of galleries spread around the city. In addition, they also provide a list of institutions dedicated to contemporary art in Munich, and they organize the Munich Art Weekend in September.
And for all the maps-obsessed and scheduling freak people like me, the website has a map of Munich with all the galleries and institutions clearly pinpointed, so you can organize a gallery hopping tour or schedule your museum visits, an event calendar, where you can check what is going on in Munich on a specific date, and a PDF guide you can download to consult offline, that comes out every 2 months, with all the events, exhibitions, and other useful information.
Hands down, one of the best resources for locals and travelers alike to discover the best contemporary art the city has to offer!