Contemporary art in Berlin

Continuing the series exploring useful online art resources relating to places, in this issue we look at the fascinating and ever changing city of Berlin. Nearly a quarter of a century after reunification, Berlin is home to an extraordinary range of art museums, excellent bookshops, an evolving array of commercial galleries, private foundations and artist-run spaces, and very many artists.

The city’s long list of museums includes world class institutions like the Neues Museum, Altes Museum, Pergamonmuseum, Gemäldegalerie or Alte Nationalgalerie, all part of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Two modern and contemporary art galleries are also Berlin state museums: the Hamburger Bahnhof, currently showing the first German retrospective of Martin Kippenberger’s work (the title gives it away: Sehr Gut, Very Good), and Mies van der Rohe’s “temple of light and glass”, the Neue Nationalgalerie. Both combine temporary exhibitions with displays from their important collections. Other public collections worth of note are the Berlinische Galerie, with significant 20th century art collections, the Bauhaus-Archiv, and the smaller Brücke Museum, dedicated to this expressionist group.

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Hamburger Bahnhof Museum für Gegenwart

Martin Kippenberger: Sehr Gut

Neue Nationalgalerie

Berlinische Galerie Museum für Moderne Kunst

Bauhaus-Archiv Museum für Gestaltung

Brücke Museum

The Akademie der Künste, the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.) and the Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst (NGBK) organize regular contemporary art exhibitions and events, as does the Martin-Gropius-Bau. The Haus der Kulturen der Welt has got an ambitious programme that focuses on non-European contemporary practices, while the Arsenal Institut fur Film und Videokunst specialises on experimental film and video art.

Akademie der Künste

Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.)

Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst (NGBK)


Haus der Kulturen der Welt

Arsenal Institut fur Film und Videokunst

Private collections, foundations and other independent institutions are growing in number, with the Daimler Art Collection, the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle (successor of the Deutsche Guggenheim, closed at the end of 2012 after 15 years of activity), C/O Berlin, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Sammlung Boros (based on a WW2 bunker!), Sammlung Hoffmann and ME Collectors Room among those more active. The Berlin Biennale, organised by KW since 1998, will hold its 8th edition in the spring of 2014, to be curated by Juan A. Gaitán.

Daimler Art Collection

Deutsche Bank KunstHalle

C/O Berlin

KW Institute for Contemporary Art

Sammlung Boros

Sammlung Hoffmann

ME Collectors Room

Berlin Biennale

Commercial galleries are numerous, some 200, concentrated around several areas: Mitte (Auguststrasse), Kreuzberg, Tiergarten, Charlottenburg, Schöneberg, etc.. Online listings are the best source of information on this changing scene, like Berliner Galerien (available in print from many venues) or Index (also in print). If an excuse is needed to justify an exploratory trip, Gallery Weekend Berlin is held April 26-28, promising 51 openings over three days, while Berlin Art Week will take place in September 17-22, including fairs (abc art berlin contemporary, Preview Berlin Art Fair), trying to fill the gap left by the discontinued Art Forum Berlin, alongside non commercial partners and events. Artist-run spaces are less numerous and more ephemeral, a fast changing scene particularly well represented in areas like Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain.

Berliner Galerien


Gallery Weekend Berlin

Berlin Art Week

Selected galleries:


Carlier Gebauer



Galerie Max Hetzler


Johann Koenig

Peres Projects


Tanya Leighton

VeneKlasen Werner

Art libraries and bookshops

The Kunstbibliothek, in the Kulturforum, founded in 1867, is one of the largest art libraries in Germany, with 1,000,000 volumes and 1,400 current periodicals. Also in the Kulturforum is to be found one of the two sites (the other is at Unter der Linden) of the Staatsbibliothek, a major research library of some 11,000,000 volumes and extensive special collections. State libraries and state museums share two OPACs, SMB Katalog and Stabikat. The libraries of Berlin-based universities, including the Humboldt, Free and Technical universities, Universität der Künste Berlin, etc. also have a union catalogue, KOVB.






Art bookshops in Berlin are many and come in all sizes and shapes, from plush designer shops to temporary artist-run spaces, including quite a few popular museum shops. Walther König has no less than 6 bookshops in town, the largest at Museumsinsel, several in museums (the Hamburger Bahnhof included). Motto Berlin, opened in 2008 in Kreuzberg, was the first permanent bookshop of this active and influential distributor of artists’ publications and independent publisher, now also in Zurich, Wiels, Copenhagen, Melbourne and Vancouver. Do you read me? specialises in designer and experimental magazines, while Image Movement sells artists’ videos and records. ProQM is another influential bookshop, founded by three artists/architects in 1999, with its own programme of events. Coinciding with Berlin Art Week, the independent art book fair Miss Read will take place September 19-22. It is organized by argobooks, Michalis Pichler and KW with Motto and ProQM for this edition. A bookshop no longer in business, sadly, is the Karl Marx Buchhandlung, in the supreme Karl-Marx-Allee (it is now the Berlin offices of art publishers Sternberg Press).

Walther König bookshops

Motto Berlin

Do you read me?

Image Movement

Pro QM

Miss Read


 [Grandal Montero, G. (2013) Resources online: Contemporary art in Berlin. ARLIS News-sheet, no. 223, May-June, pp. 3-4.]

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