Good art is a subjective term, like good travel.
But it’s a strange thing: although there are dozens of great art cities around the world, aficionados and gallery lovers always flock to the same old names. Artistic heavyweights like Paris, Prague and London will always dominate the global scene, but there are a number of rapid up-and-comers that are beginning to ruffle a few of the more traditional feathers. These are the art cities of tomorrow:
It’s odd that America’s brightest star in contemporary modern art is found in the gun-toting, Harley-riding oil country of Houston, Texas. There are 19 galleries and museums in a 1.5mile radius of Houston’s museum quarter, and several are planning big expansions. If you’re a classicist, head to the Museum of Fine Arts and check out some of John Singer Sergeant’s masterpieces; for something more contemporary, head to the Rothko Chapel and stand beneath Mark Rothko’s 14 enormous abstract works (they’re so big the construction crew had to lower them in by crane).
There’s a reason so many artists flock to the north of Europe: the stipends available in France, the Netherlands and Scandinavia are better than you get anywhere else. And although Sweden and the Netherlands have slashed public art spending in recent years, Norway is still booming. Grab an Oslo Pass when you land in the city – it’ll get you access to great galleries and museums like the Nasjonalmuseet, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Decorative Art and Design and the Munch Museum.
Singapore announced its arrival on the global art scene this year with the opening of its $530m National Gallery in November. It’s about the same size as Paris’ Musée d’Orsay and houses 8,000 permanent works from the Asian region. Installation art fanatics will enjoy Thailand’s Montien Boonma, while landscape lovers can browse lacquered works by Vietnamese painter Nguyen Gia Tri (works that have broken all records at auction). After soaking up some south Asian culture, the world’s premier fusion restaurants are only a few blocks away. Not a bad way to spend a stopover.
The Hague certainly isn’t new on the global art scene, but it does often get overshadowed in favour of its more famous European neighbors: Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris. If you’ve already wandered the Louvre a dozen times though, book a ticket to the centre of world government and visit the Mauritshuis. It houses one of the finest collections in the world: 841 masterpieces, mostly from the Dutch Golden Age: Vermeer (Girl with a Pearl Earring), Rembrandt (The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp) and Rubens (Night Scene).
So long associated with gang warfare and strife, it’s great to know Bogota (and Colombia in general) has turned a corner. These days the capital is known more for its rousing bar scene in Zona Rosa and Zona G, as well as hip modern art festivals like ArtBo. Head to Bogota during the first four days of October and you’ll see some of the best art from over 70 global galleries, plus cutting edge stuff from local artists like Nicolás Paris and Kevin Simón Mancera. A refreshing change of pace from Europe’s hallowed (but occasionally stuff) art scene.
It makes sense that when Dubai conquered the world of luxury travel and boutique shopping, it would turn its attention to more exclusive and highbrow exploits. You’ll find lots of big galleries beneath the skyscrapers in the city centre (the XVA Gallery is always popular), but for something a little different, head to Alserkal Avenue, a little enclave where 20 small gallery owners are letting local artists explore some hot political ground. If you’re lucky you might catch the work of several refugee artists, like the excellent Wafaa Bilal.
It’s always nice when travelling to find a neighbourhood given over to three things: good food, good wine, and good art. It’s like discovering an oasis in a hot desert. In Mexico City, that Oasis is the trendy Roma district, where century-old mansions have been reimagined as hip restaurants, bars and (increasingly) art galleries). Start with the imposing façade of Galería OMR, a cutting edge contemporary space that opened in 1983.
Feature image c/o Benhosg, Flickr