Every season crowds of people flock to Berlin to experience the artistic offerings of this cultural capital. Museum exhibitions, coupled with WWII and Cold World era graffiti and contemporary musical performances, encourage locals and tourists alike to revel in an eclectic smorgasbord of art. With an entire island devoted to museums, visitors can enjoy everything from Old Master paintings to natural history and street art, all on the same block.
True to its reputation as a haven for radical thought, Berlin’s conventional institutions are balanced by edgy galleries that flout artistic conventions. Though the art scene may seem divided, numerous fairs and open markets provide a middle ground and cater to a diverse spectrum of tastes. To help navigate this overwhelming city, our editors have assembled an art guide to Berlin that will appeal to travelers, art buffs, and collectors alike.
Before You Go: Preparation & Research
Berlin’s art scene has something for everyone. The German government’s arts initiatives, including the German Federal Cultural Foundation, support the city’s thirst for art and provide up-to-date information about exhibitions and performances. Beyond museum, gallery, and auction house websites, check out Berlin’s travel website for a comprehensive list of cultural attractions. With the right preparation, visitors can tailor their trip to fit their tastes.
Museums & Galleries
Berlin is home to an astounding array of museums and galleries. Below are some of the most significant local and international art spaces in the city.
If you’re interested in museums, head to the northern half of the Spree river near the central Mitte district to visit five fine arts museums located just steps from one another. There you can find Berlin’s beloved Pergamon Museum (ancient structures), the Neues Museum (Egyptian artifacts), the Bode-Museum (Byzantine artifacts), the Alte Nationalgalerie (19th century painting and sculpture), and the Altes Museum (classical antiquities).
Those with an eye for utilitarian arts can visit the Kunstgewerbemuseum, which has an extensive collection of Byzantine artifacts including gold, textiles, clocks, and ceramics. The Gemäldegalerie is famed for its impressive permanent collection of 13th to 18th century European works.
Moeller Gallery specializes in nineteenth and twentieth century masterworks, hosting exhibitions of works from famed artists like Honore Daumier and Henri Matisse. The gallery offers services to assist in matters of collection management, insurance valuation, tax and estate planning, and auction representation. Similarly, Mario Bermel Art gallery has an extensive collection of artworks from Asia, Africa and Oceania. They are are known for their involvement in arts fairs in Paris and Berlin.
Modern & Contemporary Art
Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum of Contemporary Art’s collection of international art embraces progressive artistic practices. For a truly immersive experience, visit KDNL Center for Contemporary Art for meditation and lectures that are held alongside its collection of large-scale installations in an old Kindl Brewery warehouse.
Modern galleries are the bread and butter of the Berlin art scene. Head to Sammlung Boros, housed in an old underground bunker on Reinhardtstrasse in the Mitte district. The space has served as a bomb shelter, a prison, a storage depot for bananas, and (briefly) a club famed for its scandalous parties. Purchased by the Boros family in 2003, the venue has been transformed into 3,000 square meters of gallery space.
For a more accessible excursion, C/O Gallery features the work of artists like Robert Mapplethorpe and Annie Leibovitz and offers educational programs including photography workshops.
In Berlin’s contemporary art scene, galleries come in all shapes and sizes. For instance, Galerie Eigen + Art/Lab intertwines the post-Reunification German art experience with a hands-on space for personal discovery. In the Art/Lab, artists and visitors are encouraged to experiment with different mediums in their project space.
Haus am Waldsee offers a more traditional gallery experience. The gallery is run by art historian and journalist Katja Blomberg and is popular for its wide variety of visual arts, design and architecture, and sound and composition works. Contemporary Fine Arts, also referred to as CFA, exhibits an eclectic combination of works from both German and international artists.
Most auction houses in Berlin have been around for decades, and a few have existed for over a century. If you are planning to build your collection in Berlin, consulting their collections is a must.
Established in 1845, Lempertz is one of the oldest family owned auction houses in the world. The Berlin location is in the center of the historic Nikolai quarter. Their extensive offerings of fine art are complemented by numerous exhibitions, previews, and experts.
Visit Bassenge to see an extensive collection of rare books, medieval manuscripts, works on paper, and photography. The house was opened in 1945 as an effort to save delicate paper items from further ruin after the war.
Offering more traditional German art, Grisebach is a famed Berlin auction house with a wide variety of 19th century, modern, and contemporary art from all over the world.
Art Fairs & Markets
Located on Museum Island between the German Historical Museum and the Berlin Cathedral, the Berlin Kunstmarkt offers a variety of works at affordable price points. Open every weekend and on public holidays, this market displays works by local and international artists alike. There you can speak directly with the artists to learn more about the painting, photography, sculpture, and fashion design on sale.
In 2017, the first iteration of art berlin took place in an exhibition space near the German Museum of Technology. A partnership between abc art berlin contemporary and Art Cologne, the art fair presented modern and contemporary works from 110 international galleries. The fair took place during an annual event known as Berlin Art Week, during which the city hosts a variety of exhibitions, fairs, prize award ceremonies, artist films, and more.
Pricing & Valuation
Planning to grow your collection with works from abroad? Before you leave, look through a price database so you have a range in mind for the works you are interested in. To get a better sense of Berlin’s market, consult local auction house catalogs, many of which are available online. When in doubt, ask the in-house experts at the above auction houses and galleries who can advise on all matters pertaining to buying art.
Framing & Display
One of the most important next steps after buying a new artwork is finding the right frame to compliment it. Frameworks in Berlin caters to all needs, offering custom frames and frames made from recycled/reclaimed wood. Bespoke Framing and Bilderrahmen Berlin are also respected names when it comes to fine art frames. When approaching a framing shop, don’t be afraid to ask questions; they’ve done it all and know how to treat your art with care.
Explore more travel tips for art excursions around the world on In Good Taste.