mahabis guide // europe's best contemporary galleries

Art, as we know it, has changed. With instagram in your back pocket, and access to images across the web in an instant, you can pull up almost any piece of art, check out virtual galleries, and scroll through online exhibitions. But there's something to be said for the experience of seeing art in person, without a screen, and through your own eyes. 

Galleries are a great spot for downtime. Whether you're visiting alone, or with friends, the experience of immersing yourself within in a new exhibition can be refreshing, calming and inspiring. Across Europe, there are extensive collections of some of the world's most prolific artists. No matter which country you're in, you can stumble upon modernist museums, niche historical selections, local art, sculptural gardens, or hidden street art. This week, we're focusing on on the very best contemporary art galleries in Europe. 


Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen

Situated just a short train north of Copenhagen, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is to be admired as much for its architecture and location as for its art collection. Positioned directly upon the shore, during clear days visitors can spot Sweden on the horizon as they wander around the sculpture garden. The modernist structure houses a variety of permanent and visiting collections; exciting recent showcases include a retrospective of Yayoi Kusama's work and a new exhibit highlighting Op Art & Kinetic Art. 

photo: yellowtrace

Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin

Berlin is home to many contemporary art centres, but it is this gallery located in a former railway station that causes the most excitement. The cavernous main hall has played host to a variety of alternative and immersive exhibits, including Carsten Holler's Soma exhibit that featured live reindeers and giant mushrooms, and Michael Beuler's constantly updated sculptural work crafted from paper, plastic and wood entitled Moby Dick. Expect the unexpected and the opportunity to interact with the art works. 

photo: kunstgeschichte

Tate Modern, London

The most visited modern art gallery in the whole of Europe, London's Tate Modern has played host to important exhibitions by the likes of Damien Hirst and Henri Matisse. Alongside the major temporary exhibitions, the infamous five-story-high Turbine Hall has previously been used to showcase specially-commissioned works from artists including Ai Weiwei and Carsten Holler. For those with a keen interest in contemporary sculpture, now is the time to visit to experience Abraham Cruzvillegas's living sculpture and Alexander Calder's kinetic sculptures.

 photo: standard


Guggenheim, Bilbao

Named one of the '12 Wonders of Spain' in 2007, Bilbao's Guggenheim is housed in a spectacular building designed by Frank Gehry. Specially commissioned installations have included works by Jeff Koons, alongside the permanent collection of local modern art. Richard Serra's The Matter of Time is one of the highlights of any visit, his large sculptural works merging simplicity with perceptions of movement and time as visitors pass through the exhibition. 

 photo: ovation spain


Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo

The largest sculpture garden in the whole of Europe is perhaps best explored by bike (although, don't miss out on experiencing the large collection of Van Gogh's work inside). Featuring works by Hepworth, Rodin and Serra, the comprehensive collection of contemporary sculptures includes many immersive works that can be walked upon or inside. Highlights include Lucio Fontana's Concetto Spaziale Natura and one of Serra's very first large-scale sculptures, Spin out. 

 photo:  generatie


SMAK, Ghent

This relatively new Belgium contemporary art gallery first opened in 1999, based in a building previously used as a casino. Firmly cementing Ghent on the international art scene, the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst is renowned for its provocative works by legends of modern art. Visit for unusual, insightful and prolific pieces that cater for those who seek a broad range of art. 

 photo: visit ghent


Serpentine, London

Famed for it's summer pavilions that are commissioned every year to a different artist, providing an ever-changing immersive landscape on the lake-side lawns, this South London institution is one of the most exciting galleries in the UK. Don't just visit for the pavilions, however, as the gallery itself plays host to a rotating collection of major exhibitions from the likes of Yoko Ono and Marina Abramovic.

 photo: brabbu


Kumu Art Museum, Tallin

Winner of the 'European Museum of the Year' in 2008, Kumu is housed within a spectacular contemporary structure that hints at Brutalist influences. Presenting a collection of Estonian art, the permanent exhibit of the relationship between art and its environment from the Soviet Era is not to be missed. Visit this year to explore significant works of Icelandic artists including Bjork, and an interesting exhibit of early Estonian computer art. 

 photo: merike estna


Galleri F15, Moss

Home to MOMENTUM, Norway's biennial festival of modern art, Galleri F15 is located just an hour south of Oslo. Housed within a former manor house with a grand exterior, the interior is filled with temporary innovative exhibits by Norwegian and international artists. Expect a fusion of unusual sculptures, three-dimensional works and concept art that will challenge what you consider as 'art'. 

 photo: lasse arikstad


Kunsthalle, Basel

One of the most important cities in the world for art, Basel is home to many contemporary art galleries, but it is Kunsthalle that brings together the most innovative exhibitions by a fusion of local and international renowned and emerging artists. Since its opening in 1872, the gallery has sought to share avantgarde works, challenging the boundaries of modern art.

 photo: peter kilchmann // hero image: nclurbandesign


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