Global galleries

Writers from Visual Arts and Travel collaborate to bring you a capsule of their favourite galleries from around the world.

The Punta Della Dogana is a contemporary art gallery in an one of Venice’s old customs buildings, perched right next to the Santa Maria Basillica and overlooking St Mark’s Square. I often visit an old friend of mine in Venice, and when she’s working I take myself off to this beautiful, airy space. The contrast of the old, majestic building with the experimental abstract art and sculpture is a shockingly effective combination and it’s easy to spend hour upon hour in this expertly curated gallery. The building’s walls are punctuated by half moon windows that frame Venice’s skyline in a perfect silhouette and ultimately the gallery becomes part of the art itself. I would recommend this underrated Venetian gallery to anyone that likes colour, bold work and a peaceful setting to stroll around to your hearts content, glimpsing the floating city as you go.

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I learnt about La Tabacalera in Madrid from an English architect I had met at an Irish bar the night before. He described it as an “urban farm”, and when I saw it, the contradictory image made sense. In place of milk and meat, the old factory produces ideas and art. The un-plastered walls of this labyrinthine factory are far from bare. Colourful, larger-than-life murals are packed into dimly lit tunnels and windowless storerooms. Often political but always hopeful, the voice is that of a young, expressive, socially engaged community. Dependent on – and thriving in – participatory democracy, La Tabacalera is a joyous reaction to an era of gentrification. Anyone can enter; everyone can benefit. 

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The Museo de Arte Abstracto Espanol is situated in one of Cuenca’s hanging houses, the museum emerges from the cliff and its beauty is two-fold: it is both in the artwork and the museum itself. In contrast to the ancient exterior, the artwork is contemporary and epitomises the modern Spanish abstract art scene. The pieces vary in their style – some pieces incorporate the natural light from the windows as part of the artwork, while the simplicity of others facilitates personal and emotional interpretations.

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The ARoS Gallery in Aarhus is one of the best art museums in Scandinavia and one of the largest in Northern Europe. The gallery’s philosophy is simple:You need to be moving in order to gain something from art. ARoS thus obliges you to exert energy and constantly change your position while walking around. The building itself is impossible to miss when walking through the city, as Olafur Eliasson’s ‘Your Rainbow Panorama’ adorns the building like a luminous halo, creating a link between the art and the Aarhus skyline. Walking through, I was particularly struck by the spectacular views of the city, which are shifting all the time depending on the weather, and the unique sensation of being within a rainbow. You really feel that you are inhabiting the art,and it is this aspect that makes ARoS one of the most interesting and unusual galleries I have ever visited.

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The Sergei Parajanov Museum in Yerevan, Armenia is one of my favourite places on earth. Visited by the likes of Paolo Coehlo and Vladimir Putin, this place is encapsulated by Parajanov’s lifetime works and other beloved items. You can lose yourself in a labyrinth of a beguiling mixture of thought-provoking collages, spellbinding dolls and satirical drawings. Some of his unpublished works as an artist and film director are also accessible so if you’re a fan of Soviet films and arts then you definitely have to visit.

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The Picasso Gallery in Barcelona was the first gallery I ever truly appreciated. Tucked up a bustling alleyway, you move through five 13th century houses witnessing Picasso’s slow evolution into the abstract, and gaining an understanding of how his mental state and surroundings influenced his work. For example his struggle with depression is evidenced within pieces from his blue period, which is then followed by his more joyous rose period, inspired by his new relationship with Fernande Olivier. By organising his work into chronological order and giving you time to see his natural progression, I was able to appreciate his surrealist pieces to a greater degree as I had been given an insight into his point of view and an understanding of what influenced him. Whereas before my visit I would have seen only shapes and colours, afterwards I understood how these portrayed figures, moods and beauty. 

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The Berlinische Galerie in Berlin is a wonderful museum of modern art that combines an extensive permanent collection with thought-provoking contemporary exhibitions. I visited in January 2017, escaping the snow and stepping into the fascinating world of Cornelia Schleime, a German artist who uses shellac and other corrosive materials to unpredictability erode her paintings. The gallery’s interdisciplinary approach and architecture made a lasting impression on me and I’m desperate to go back.

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Images: authors

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