Cities are a melting pot of art, culture and society, and there is no better way of understanding a country than delving into the art scene. From the classic art cities where art is housed in elaborate structures like London to edgy up-and-comers like Bogota filled with street art, we’ve listed eight of the very best places where art thrives and holds a deep influence on local culture.
The city of love, art and culture. Is there a more iconic city than Paris? Perhaps the only city in the world where art, culture and cuisine are all equally as amazing, Paris truly is the world’s culture capital. With its glittering glass pyramid designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, the Louvre is as iconic as the art pieces it showcases, most notably the revered Mona Lisa. Once you’ve filled your appetite for culture at the Louvre, move onto the Fromagerie Danard, one of the highest rated restaurants in the city, which serves quintessential French cuisine, along with platters of ham and cheese and bottles of wine. After sating your appetite for French cuisine, head over to La Garde Robe, the original natural wine bar in Paris, that set the path for a thousand imitators.
Cool. There is no other word that describes London and its culture so perfectly. The White Cube is not just one of the most influential galleries dedicated to contemporary art, but one of the coolest, too. Though it is now located in Bermondsey, its most famous site was in Shoreditch. Through White Cube’s success, the area was revitalised and regenerated into the uber-hip East London it is known as now. White Cube has also been one of the foundations of the Young British Artists (YBA) movement, including Tracey Emin and Sam Taylor-Johnson. After seeing perhaps the most influential gallery dedicated to contemporary art, get on the London Underground to Liverpool Street where the eponymous Duck and Waffle sits on the 40th floor of a skyscraper, then head over to any of the bars on Shoreditch High Street.
Amsterdam with its eminently walkable streets and winding canals is perfect for a city break. And with a burgeoning art and cuisine scene, it’s far more than just a party city. The Rijksmuseum is known as The Museum of The Netherlands, and it presents Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages to the present day. From suits of armour to Rembrandt’s Night Watch, The Rijksmuseum is an ambitious project that succeeds in showcasing this special, and often overlooked, culture. With such a vast collection, the museum should take all day to explore, and once you’re done, just wander around the streets of the city where there are constant reminders of its 13th century origins. For dinner, head to De Silveren Spieren, a critically acclaimed restaurant housed in a beautifully elegant building.
New York has a long-standing reputation as a centre of culture and arts in America, and it is easy to see why; the city is home to hundreds of cultural institutions, one of the most famous of which is the Guggenheim Museum. Sitting on Museum Mile with other cultural heavyweights such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The National Academy Museum, The Guggenheim is unique in being spectacular inside and out. Housing a continuously expanding collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern and contemporary art, the Guggenheim is a treasure trove. The structure itself was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and is conceived as “temple of the spirit” that is as expressive as the art it houses inside it. Then, head to the Gotham Bar & Grill to wind down for dinner and drinks, as you revel in the City That Never Sleeps.
The 798 Art Zone is a thriving, buzzing hive of creativity and art, housed in a complex of 50-year old decommissioned military factory buildings. The practical nature and design of the complex gives an industrial feel that seems almost cathedral like with soaring chimneys and swooping arcs, and the space allows for dozens of studios and galleries. Being the most significant art zone in China, the 798 Art Zone has played host to both foreign artists such as Ruperto Cabrera and Martin Flynn, and home grown talent like Ai Wei Wei and Su Jinyuan. The area has enjoyed significant regrowth and gentrification as the area became fashionable, and it now plays host to many bars, cafes and restaurants.
The Colombian capital has long enjoyed street art, but experienced a surge since graffiti was decriminalised in 2011. Since then, over 8000 active street artists have come to call Bogota their home. With regulations, by the local government, it has become a culturally celebrated practice to beautify and give artists a voice to highlight political, social and cultural issues. Many of the city’s top graffiti artists have exhibited their work abroad, in the great Old World bastions of culture such as London and Paris. With art all around you, the best and simplest way is to simply walk around the city, enjoying the mix between expressive and absurd.
One of the most beautiful cities in the world, Cape Town also plays host to a vibrant art scene, attracting many of South Africa’s brightest and best. The pinnacle of the city’s art scene is at Ellerman House, one of the most luxurious hotels in the region, which is an Edwardian style mountainside retreat that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. Ellerman House hosts its own art gallery with works spanning two centuries, from Thomas Bowler in the 1800s to contemporary works from artists such as Lionel Smith and William Kentridge. Other notable galleries in the city include WHATIFTHEWORLD and Gallery MOMO.
From all of Helsinki’s contemporary art galleries, of which there are many, Galerie Anhava leads the pack and has established itself as a leading gallery on the international art scene, regularly participating in art fairs including Art Basel, Art Forum Berlin and Madrid’s ARCO. Focusing particularly on contemporary Finnish and Nordic conceptual artists, Galerie Anhava gave acclaimed Finnish artist Antti Laitinen his first retrospective. Restaurant Finnjavel exhibits the best of Scandinavian cuisine through molecular gastronomy, and after, head over to Navy Jerry’s for some drinks and a sample of Helsinki’s heady nightlife.