"Art Capitals"

August 20, 2020

As a literature student in a multidisciplinary field like Comparative Literature, living in a multicultural micro-cosmos that is London, I am often feeling like I am barely scratching the surface of all the inspirational art out there. So if I had to choose one thing that my studies taught me, it would be the notion, that canon is over-rated and that we need to dismantle the status quo and widen our horizons. (Spoken like a true revolutionary but bear with me). 

Am I an art geek? Well, I do visit a gallery or two, wherever I travel, even if that place is not (yet) considered “an art capital” – like the Zachęta in Warsaw, whose latest exhibit on Andrzej Krauze was an absolute wonder if you ask me – so you decide whether that constitutes me a geek. I do love the traditionally artsy places – Rome, Paris, London, NYC, Berlin… – but my extensive travel experience combined with my passion for looking for art experiences anywhere and everywhere, inspired me to compile a lil’ ‘out of the box’ list for all you art lovers. A list of places with a rich cultural and art scene, that might serve as a guide for your next weekend getaway, or an inspiration on how to spend a rainy afternoon, if your travels are already booked for one of these magical places. 

For all of you like minded, these are my top 3 tips for non-canonical and perhaps a little off-road cultural gateway: 


Do I have any contemporary souls here? Zurich, the birthplace of European Avant-garde Dada movement, is the place for you! Even if you are not, Zurich is a city with one of the biggest trading scenes – matching the art giants like London and New York with more than 100 galleries and over 50 museums – so you will definitely find something to your liking. Notable art highlights: 

  • Art Zurich. This contemporary art fair showcases a selection of paintings, sculpture and photography as well as video and graphic objects. Since its establishment in 1999, the fair has been the home of over 1000 exhibitions from more than 70 countries. Fair is held in early autumn, Friday through Sunday with a Thursday night reserved for the VIPs. This year, the 22nd Art Zurich will be held from 1st to 4th of October in the historic foundry hall PLUS 5 in Zurich-West. Tickets cost between 15 and 20 pounds and can be purchased here
  • Galerie Eva Presenhuber, named after a Zurich-based Austria-born art dealer, was founded in 2003 and hosts contemporary art exhibits by Doug Aitken, Joe Bradley, and Liam Gillick, whose careers Presenhuber helped launch in the 1990s. 
  • Galerie Peter Kilchman, founded in 1992, focuses its exhibitions on Latin America, socio-political engaged art and painting. Galerie was one of the first, who placed major importance on exhibiting art from Latin American regions, and thus stood on the forefront of establishing the importance of this region. Overall, the gallery focuses on representing the under-represented artists from peripheral parts of the world working with socio-political work.

Galerie Peter Kilchman | Photo Credit


Home to alternative art scenes rich with subcultural influences, Helsinki’s rich cultural landscape speaks many languages – film, music, street art.

  • Myymäla2, an exhibition and event space run by a collective of artists, is an alternative place for visual arts, experimental music and street culture. 
  • Galleria Heino is home to up-and-coming and Finnish contemporary art, including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, installation and moving image work. Run by Rauli Heino, Sotheby’s Art Institute graduate, this place focuses on presenting and promoting the careers of mid-career and emerging Finnish contemporary artists. 
  • Midnight Sun Film Festival takes place in June every year and is home to both the contemporary and the classics. During the lockdown season, over 50 films, accompanied by morning discussions with filmmakers, were brought to Finnish homes online. 
Galleria Heino | Photo credit


For many reasons, Kiev is considered to be Berlin’s cool cheaper brother – there are many museums, art hubs and exhibit locations to be enjoyed for significantly less money. 

  • Mystetskyi Arsenal, bringing together contemporary art, music, theatre and literature, is Ukraine’s flagship cultural institution. It integrates various arts and cultural practices, develops projects with strong educational components and provides space for open creation. It is also the home of Ukraine’s Fashion Week, Kiev Biennale of Contemporary Art and the literary festival Book Arsenal. It always has several interesting exhibits on and offers entrance discounts for students, seniors and children.
  • Founded in 2006 by businessman and philanthropist Viktor Pinchuk, the PinchukArtCentre is one of the largest private contemporary art centres in Central and Eastern Europe. With its main focus on investigation of national identity in context of international challenges, it has become an international hub for contemporary art.
  • Last but not least, the Walking Tour of Kiev Murals will make for one of the most exciting art walks. You can stroll on your own, using the public map of Kiev’s murals, or book a guided tour
Kiev City of Murals | Photo credit streetart360

Mystetskyi Arsenal | Photo credit

So whether you love film or painting, big exhibit halls or small independent galleries, the contemporary art scene has always something exciting to offer. And so do these wonderful art locations, just waiting to be explored. 

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