I was recently disappointed on a visit to an art gallery while travelling in Vancouver, BC. The admission was way more than the poorly lit, unimpressive exhibits and sparse displays were worth in my opinion. The gift shop was more interesting!
When visiting big cities, it is easy to fall into the assumption that their art galleries are going to be impressive and well-worth spending an afternoon in, but as I have often discovered, this is not always the case.
But how do you know if a gallery is going to be good or not? This post is a good place to start!
Here is my list of galleries that are well-worth your time, and money:
1. Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) — The structure that houses the AGA — designed by the late architect Randall Stout — is as much a work of art as the art that it houses! It is a beautiful swirl of glass, steel and zinc that is inspired by both the Northern Lights and the curve of the North Saskatchewan River that runs through the heart of the city that it is located in (Edmonton, Canada). The exhibits are always revolving and showcase art created in Alberta, Canada and around the world, including visiting exhibits of works from top museums and galleries in Europe! It also contains an award-winning restaurant, and a cafe with an incredible view.
2. The Tate Modern — This blocky, industrial looking building is located on the south side of the River Thames in London, England. It houses an incredible collection of works in it's permanent galleries that are FREE to visit, and don't disappoint! There are always a few galleries that contain paid exhibits, and these are full of works by working artists, or travelling collections of famous ones. It has a lovely cafe overlooking the river and a rooftop restaurant.
3. The Hamburger Banhof — After a reconstruction by architect Josef Paul Kleihues, the Hamburger Bahnhof reopened in 1996 as the Hamburger Bahnhof: Museum für Gegenwart — Museum for Contemporary Art — one of the first state museums in Berlin devoted to "living art." This beautiful gallery — my absolute favourite in Berlin, Germany — is now all skylights, white walls and polished wooden floors and is the home of an outstanding collection that focuses on art created since 1960. The central collection is from Berlin entrepreneur Dr Erich Marx, that includes work by Beuys, Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein and Warhol (whose iconic Mao has a permanent home here).
4. The Louvre — Located in the heart of Paris, France, the Louvre will not disappoint. BUT, you must step off the beaten path a little bit, and actually absorb what you are seeing rather than try to just cross the "must-see" items off your list. First of all, take a moment to really absorb where you are! The gallery is housed in the former royal palace and the ceilings, views and architecture are breathtaking! There are priceless treasures in the galleries (yes, more than just the Mona), so many that you could spend days and still not see them all! There are restaurants and cafes located on site, but they are a bit pricy. (Check out my post: Tips For Visiting The Louvre).
5. The Musee d'Orsay — I could have stayed at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, France for days. The Impressionist works in the collection are stunning, priceless and have a home in a former train station that is now full of natural light, high ceilings and whitewashed walls. Like most of my favourite galleries, the building is as interesting as the art, which says a lot because the art is stunning. You will find a vast collection of works by Monet, Pissarro, Degas, and other masters.
6. Uffizi Gallery —Located near the river in the centre of Florence, Italy, this stunning gallery showcases the best of the Renaissance with sculpture, large-scale artworks and fascinating sketches housed in a beautiful colonnaded building. This is the home of Botticelli's famous, breathtaking pieces "The Birth of Venus" and "Primavera". There are incredibly long lines to get into this gallery in the summer months, but it is well worth it.
7. Picasso Museum — This museum/gallery was a total surprise to me, as I had no idea that Picasso had done anything more than the abstract works that we know him for. This museum showcases his early, figurative works that are full of colour and incredibly interesting. The building is historic with gorgeous courtyards and sets the tone for the fantastic art that is displayed within. You will find it in Barcelona, Spain.