Friday 14th March 2014The Best Cities for Art Lovers 6: Cologne
When most people think of Germany and art, they think of the famous museums in Berlin and they think of the world-renowned Bauhaus art movement. There is a lesser-known artistic gem in Germany, tucked away in the western end of the country near where the borders of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands intersect. While it's a relatively large city, it still doesn't typically make the usual top lists for art lovers to visit, which is a true shame.
Partly due to its interesting cultural fusions due to the border proximities, Cologne is a burgeoning center of contemporary art, and there are more than 30 museums to visit, as well as hundreds of galleries, with new ones opening all the time. The Museum Ludwig is one of the most well-respected museums in Cologne, featuring a stunning collection that bridges a number of artistic sensibilities in the contemporary era, from pop art to surrealism and abstract art, as well as one of the largest collections of the works of Pablo Picasso in all of Europe.
If more traditional European artwork is your style, visit the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, which hosts an equally impressive range of works dating from back to the 13th century up to the current artistic era. Most notably featuring works by Peter Paul Rubens and Rembrandt, there is something to satisfy every traditional taste, from Bosch's "Adoration of the Child" to "Langlois Bridge at Arles" by Vincent Van Gogh. There are also a number of Monet paintings, although the museum was recently forced to admit that a sixth Monet was a forgery when it was examined prior to restoration in 2008.
For those who prefer a different way to experience art, Cologne is recognized by many as hosting the world's original annual art fair, Art Cologne, which began way back in 1967 as Kölner Kunstmarkt. Open to the public, the fair runs for 6 days, and attracts upwards of 60,000 visitors to view contributions from galleries from around the world. This year, the Art Cologne fair will be running for a shorter timespan, from Thursday, April 10 to Sunday, April 13, 2014 - so if you're planning a visit, see if you can get a last-minute flight in time to visit the fair! Booking last minute can be a great way to save money, as airlines and hotels are eager to fill up any empty seats and rooms. What better way to celebrate spring than by a whirlwind weekend trip to Germany's beautiful artistic side?
Posted on March 14th 2014 on 08:28pm
Tuesday 25th February 2014The Best Cities for Art Lovers 5: Basel
On our continuing journey through the best cities in the world for the experienced art lover, we've decided to stay in Europe, and move north from last post's foray into the old-new blending that is Florence to the idyllic city of Basel, Switzerland, located right along the Rhine. This is another of the smaller cities that many of even the most well-travelled art enthusiasts have overlooked, but it's definitely on the rise as travellers and artists begin to search even further off the beaten track.
Perhaps it's not really fair to call Basel off the beaten track, exactly, but it's definitely absent from most 'Top X Cities for Art' lists that aficionados carry around in their heads. Over a million tourists every year grace the streets of Basel - but that's still a far cry from the tens of millions that flock to other cultural capitals around Europe and throughout the other major cities of the art world. Most of the visitors that arrive in Basel are drawn by the astonishing number of museums that dot the city, over three dozen at last count, which is a truly impressive number for a city with a population that's barely over 500,000.
The majority of these museums have a heavy focus on the fine arts of drawing, painting and sculpture, and the collections cover a veritable who's who of famous artists from around the world dating from the end of the Renaissance era to modern 21st century works. You can find everything from Claude Monet to Andy Warhol and Vincent Van Gogh to Jasper Johns, and a sampling almost everything in between, all at the world-famous Kunstmuseum Basel, easily the largest of the city's museums. Some of the lesser-visited museums deserve to be more noted, however, including the Vitra Design Museum which was designed by Frank Gehry, and the Schaulager which houses a stunning collection of modernists and contemporary works.
The museums aren't the only draw to the city, however, as the Basel art fair "Art|Basel" is often touted as the archetypal art fair that is responsible for spawning the legions of art fair imitators that have been springing up all over the world. First hosted in Basel in 1970, it's easy to see how they can make this claim - although interestingly, the show also has two other locations that it travels to throughout the year - Miami Beach and Hong Kong, neither of which tend to be on the art world's radar either. Perhaps this should change - so if you find yourself in any of those places, be sure to stop by and see the art fair that started them all!
Posted on February 25th 2014 on 08:04pm
Tuesday 11th February 2014The Best Cities for Art Lovers 4: Florence
Europe positively abounds with centres of artistic creativity that have been steeped in both ancient and modern artistic splendour and renown, and almost everyone can list at least a few of the big ones - Paris, London, Amsterdam, Rome, Barcelona, Berlin - but these cities are also among the most travelled in Europe, and probably in the world. So what about the smaller names? The less-travelled (even if only slightly) path? Today we're going to look at one of the true jewels of Italy and the art world: Florence.
Firenze, as it is known in Italian, is often called the birthplace of the Renaissance, and rightly so. It was hugely influential in the development of Italian artistic styles, and boasts some of the most well-known Italian artists of antiquity: Michelangelo, Donatello, Giotto, Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci (among many, many others). As a result, a huge number of their works are hosted in galleries throughout Florence, of which there is an absolute profusion. The Galleria degli Uffizi (Uffizi Gallery, in English) is arguably the paramount gallery for Renaissance art in all of Italy; the Bargello Museum is one of the oldest still standing, established in 1865, though the building that houses it dates back to the 13th century; and the Galleria dell'Accademia, which is home to the world-famous "David" sculpture by Michelangelo, which it's not touring the world.
But the old masters aren't all there is the Florentine art scene. Just in the historic centre alone there are over forty galleries which feature contemporary artists, as the rich legacy of artistic tradition beckons young and old aspiring artists, and inspires them to incredible heights. The interplay between old and new, traditional and contemporary is visible at every step, but no more so than in the Marino Marini Museum, which is housed in the former Church of St. Pancrazio, which has been deconsecrated. Just down the street can be found the Alinari National Museum of Photography, a mere 5 minutes away, which truly highlights the differences between traditional artistic modes and the modern, for there are few more modern art forms than photography.
Regardless of which direction your artistic taste leans - or best of all, if you prefer a blend of modern and Renaissance - Florence will help you scratch that artistic itch, without being mobbed by the sorts of crowds you so often find in the famous larger European cities.
Posted on February 11th 2014 on 10:25pm
Friday 24th January 2014The Best Cities for Art Lovers 3: Santa Fe
In the continuation of our exploration of the lesser-known cities around the world that cater to artists, it's time to move things out of the North and get a break from the relentless winter that just won't seem to let up. Santa Fe, New Mexico is definitely on the lesser-known side of things even to those in North America, and so is probably virtually unknown throughout the rest of the world. Located in a stunning series of geological formations, it has a feel truly all it's own - that has created some truly beautiful pieces of work.
Not that it's all artistic glory, of course. Santa Fe has a huge reliance on tourists who come for the art community without necessarily being a part of the art community, which leads, as anyone who's visited the artistic and cultural centres of Europe can attest, to a preponderance of kitsch and spineless, shameful aping of true talent. But paradoxically, this welter of second-rate mass-produced artwork helps to highlight the truly amazing works, and some even argue that it has inspired the serious artists of the region to make even more creative distinctions and powerfully enabled their work.
Santa Fe boasts a number of famous galleries, including the Museum of New Mexico, which administers several galleries, is in fact older than the state itself, boasting a number of treasures from contemporary and historical American artists, and is currently featuring a beautiful exhibition of Goya's work in conjunction with the British Museum, exploring how the famed Spanish artist's work informed and inspired a good deal of art in the American Southwest.
The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum is also located in Santa Fe, boasting the world's largest collection of works from the internationally-renowned artist, spanning the extend of her career from 1901 to 1984, when her career was sadly ended by failing eyes. It is a testament to American modernism, and is the only museum dedicated to a world-famous female artist.
The real contemporary treasures are likely to be found in the city's numerous small, independent galleries, which may very well outnumber the hotels in the city limits - over 240 individual galleries at last count. The Santa Fe Art Fair, about to enter it's fourteenth year of exhibition, is also an experience not to be missed, and is rapidly gaining renown around the world as more and more far-flung galleries sign on to contribute exhibits each successive year.
Posted on January 24th 2014 on 04:49am
Thursday 02nd January 2014The Best Cities for Art Lovers Part 2: Off the Beaten Path
Last month, we took a look at some of the best cities in the world for art lovers, with the hope of inspiring some of you to shake the dust off and take an art-filled winter vacation. A couple of you wrote to us and said that you'd already been to the cities we mentioned - and to be fair, they were pretty popular options - but popular for good reason. With that in mind, we decided to prepare a short list of some lesser-known cities that have burgeoning art communities, both in terms of established galleries and flourishing smaller scenes. We'll look at a different city each time, and zoom in close to give you an idea of what you can expect if you manage to visit.
First on the list is Toronto, Canada. While Toronto has been making headlines lately thanks to its buffoon of a mayor, the art scene is still going strong. Toronto is probably most recognized for being home to the Art Gallery of Ontario, which boasts an impressive collection of Canadian painters, as well as the majority of the collected works of Henry Moore, a famous sculptor who donated his entire personal collection to the AGO. Recent exhibits at the AGO have also featured Ai Weiwei, the famous Chinese dissident artist that we discussed in another post recently. Mr. Ai had also recently been hosted by Toronto for an installation that was located outside city hall entitled "Forever Bicycles", a truly beautiful piece, although sadly a temporary one. New exhibits are hosted regularly, and there's almost something worth seeing.
There are a huge number of lesser known galleries scattered throughout the city, but there is a high concentration of young, fresh-faced galleries in an area just west of downtown known as Queen West, located (unsurprisingly) on Queen Street West, between Gladstone Ave and Bathurst Street. It's easy to pass an entire day wandering along the strip, taking in the various sights and sounds, as long as the occasional hipster throng doesn't put you off - in fact, it's sort of expected in this area.
If film is more your style, Toronto also plays host to the annual Toronto International Film Festival, which is usually held in September - but those of you already fantasizing about going would do well to start planning your trip well in advance, as the entire downtown core tends to get rather booked up by mid-Summer. Stars, glitz, glamour and great movies are a sure thing.
Posted on January 02nd 2014 on 06:28pm