Top 8 Emerging Art Cities of the World

19th April 2017

As cities grow and change, so too does culture. We’ve sought out trailblazing art cities around the world – from contemporary-focused hubs to classical townships – all with one thing in common; a worthy emerging art scene.

‘Poemas' from the Harley Cortez solo exhibition at WISH LESS, Tokyo

Tokyo’s contemporary art scene is transforming the face of Japanese art as avant-garde galleries welcoming conceptual oeuvres d’art pop up all over the crowded skyline. SCAI THE BATHHOUSE is just one of many that illustrates Japan’s affinity for contemporary art, displaying modern exhibitions in a renovated public bathhouse, which boasts two hundred years of history.

Minutes from the district of Ueno, you can enjoy pieces by renowned Japanese artist Mariko Mori, as well as the works of international artists who have taken inspiration from Japanese culture, such as the legendary Anish Kapoor.

Art lovers should also head across town to Asakusa, a contemporary exhibition space founded in 2015 by Koichiro Osaka. This forty square metre venue aims to push the boundaries of the term ‘art;’ exhibiting works fashioned from unconventional materials from film through to sound.

Most intriguing of all, however, is the innovative WISH LESS gallery and studio, spearheaded by British illustrator, Rob Kidney and Japanese graphic designer, Yoko Nagai. With an ethos of ‘don’t wish your life away,’ WISH LESS provides a space for art, fashion, music and most importantly interaction between like-minded people through masterclasses, exhibitions and gigs.

‘Family of the Future, 9' by Oleg Kulik, 1997, at the MONA in Tasmania

If Tasmania doesn’t strike you as a utopia for the arts then you clearly haven’t heard of MONA, arguably the most sensational museum in the South Pacific. This pretty, waterfront city makes an excellent home for contemporary art galleries among fascinating landmarks such as Battery Point and Mount Wellington. MONA stands for Museum of Old and New Art and seeks to embody benefactor David Walsh’s vision of ‘a subversive adult Disneyland,’ with an eclectic collection, public performances and live music festivals all hosted within.

MONA sets the scene for a burst of contemporary art galleries in the area, such as Contemporary Art Tasmania, a platform for experimental, cutting edge exhibitions; Plimsoll Gallery, where students are given a chance of exposure and Salamanca Arts Centre, the self-proclaimed hub of Hobart’s art, performance and literary talents.

Elsewhere, Bett Gallery makes a name for itself with a solid network of contemporary artists; Detached has been extensively remodelling its new home in the old Mercury building where it will host exhibitions and artist-in-residence programs, as well as working with MONA on a variety of shows; Despard Gallery brings local work to the esplanade and Constance ARI is a project-based, artist-run initiative that focuses on commissioning emerging artists to make new work. They have been active in the Hobart art community since 2003.

‘The Home Within 2016, Melbourne Festival, Australia, photograph by James Henry, courtesy of the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery

Melbourne represents Down Under’s edgy side with street art on every corner and an array of chic galleries in its transforming districts. Melbourne’s burgeoning art scene, comprising of festivals and live art weekends, is taking the city by storm.

Melbourne Fringe Festival draws parallels with Edinburgh, bringing together art, comedy, theatre and music from September – October. Live art took centre stage at last year’s Fringe, the theme Step Into the Light was fittingly illustrated by Robin Fox’s visually impressive Sky Light laser show, which illuminated the famous skyline and got the festival started.

The festival spirit continues throughout the year, with Melbourne Festival featuring the likes of Chiharu Shiota, whose The Home Within, a breathtaking and contemplative installation composed of thread, assumes a new location every night. Regarded as Australia’s cultural hub, Melbourne’s art scene is one to watch with artistic events surfacing on the daily.

Richard Mortensen's ‘Opus Normandie' – part of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection

Copenhagen’s urban wonderland is home to world-class art, both international and Scandinavian. The last instalment of Copenhagen Art Week celebrated the city’s contemporary art scene by introducing a wider audience to the wealth of Danish art through exhibitions and art tours.

Art has a large platform in Denmark’s capital with the Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art boasting a variety of avant-garde works, while many artists have chosen to settle in the sites of former Carlsberg breweries, setting up their studios and galleries in large warehouses. Make sure to check out the unique venture Officin, a hybrid workshop, exhibition space and publishing house founded by Louise Hold Sidenius.

Copenhagen’s rich art scene extends beyond the city itself with Ordrupgaard Museum in Charlottenlund. Displaying both seminal paintings in Scandinavia’s biggest Monet exhibition and interactive art installations within its grounds, this museum is well worth the visit.

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, an impressive modernist gallery just north of Copenhagen, has a collection that would make other Nordic countries jealous – we’re talking creative geniuses Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore and Asger Jorn among others, set in a peaceful sprawl of thoughtfully architected modernist buildings overlooking the Øresund Sound.

Alberto Lezaca's ‘La densidad del reflejo', 2015. Installation view from the Instituto de Vision in Bogota

Thanks to a growing economy and an increase in foreign investment, Bogota has established itself as an emerging art hub. The annual art fair ARTBO is one of the major contributing factors for this booming scene, drawing a worldwide audience to see a selection of fifty-seven galleries from twenty-nine countries. Bogota also has the country’s largest number of galleries.

Casas Riegner, Nueveochenta and La Cometa present well established contemporary and modern artists including Luis Caballero and Botero while the neighbourhood of San Felipe, formerly known for woodwork shops and other blue-collar crafts, is now a centre for young emerging talents. Leading the transition is FLORA ars+natura, an artist residency and non-profit gallery that focuses on the intersection of art and nature, while gallery Doce Cero Cero is known for exhibiting recent graduates using cutting-edge materials. Other must-sees are Instituto de Visión, with a focus on conceptual art and SKETCH, a gallery dedicated to contemporary drawings.

Counterbalancing the commercial side of the scene, art spaces such as NC-arte and Espacio Odeón realise museum quality curatorial projects. Espacio Odeón in particular is worth seeing due to its location in a halfway torn down theatre where paint chipped walls and exposed beams become part of the exhibition.

‘Fuck' by Attila Richard Lukacs. Part of dis.cord gallery in Lunenburg's permanent collection

Lunenburg, fronting the southern shores of Nova Scotia has the rare distinction of being one of only two urban UNESCO World Heritage sites in North America. Recognised as the most authentic British Colonial fishing village in existence, today it is burgeoning centre for creatives.

The colourful town is a perfect backdrop for artists and art galleries, which have established studios and galleries on the historic streets. The eclectic dis.cord gallery would not be out of place in Soho (London or NYC). The all-black, mid-1800’s structure with bright red doors is a piece of art in itself. Inside lies a collection that includes historic works from the Group of Seven, the contemporary and controversial Attila Richard Lukacs and American-Canadian painter, Craig Rubadoux. The space houses a unique collection of award-winning local sculptors and painters, and a curation of curiosities from around the world. In the summer, the gallery’s studio space is a host to live music and artist residencies.

Other notable spaces are the Peer Gallery, the Lunenburg Art Gallery and the Quartet Gallery. There is even the Lunenburg School of the Arts, where anyone and everyone is welcome to take a broad range of courses, taught by renowned artists: drawing, photography, bookbinding and ceramics are all on the curriculum.

Art of the musical variety can be heard on the streets and in the bars and restaurants. The best place to enjoy a concert though is the Lunenburg Opera House, which reopened after a ten-year restoration. The space still proudly displays the mural that was painted in 1908 for the theatre’s first show in January 1909. Today that mural is the backdrop to world-class performers of all genres.

Squidsoup, ‘Submergence' at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Photograph by Paul Blakemore

A warm weather playground, Scottsdale offers a desert-tinged variety of galleries and institutions focusing on everything from southwestern sculptures to contemporary installations.
Old Town is an architectural throwback to the Old West. Populated with original, low-level buildings from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the area houses dozens of galleries and museums that combined, form the city’s Arts District and ‘America’s first ArtWalk.’ Main Street and Marshall Way are the intersecting sweet spot where you can discover cowboy-inspired bronzes and ceramic Quaaludes all in an afternoon.

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Western Spirit: Scottsdale Museum of the West on Marshall Way is a true American journey with an immense collection of vintage clothing, weapons and interpretive art representing the tribulations and friendships of cowboys and American Indians; while the contemporary arm of the Bonner David Galleries represents pop artists including Karen Shapiro, who uses raku to jumbo-size a myriad of modern-day meds. Gebert Contemporary is worth a visit, recognised by the enormous blue-tinted bronze head by Jun Kaneko outside the entrance, as is the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art – the state’s only permanent art centre devoted to modern art, design and architecture. An architectural feat itself, it was once a cinema, re-imagined in the contemporary by Will Bruder.

‘One Foot Out': Expeditions and Diasporas at the Fundacio Joan Miro in Barcelona. Photography by Ana Garcia-Pineda

Barcelona is like a full-emersion artistic experience. The Roman roots of the capital city of Catalonia mean there is a copious amount of stonework woven throughout, brought into the current century via public sculpture from the likes of Fernando Botero, Claes Oldenburg and Roy Lichtenstein.

The Spanish city is home to the astounding architectural feats of Lluís Domènech i Montaner, who spurned modernism with his Art Nouveau handwriting in buildings like the Palace of Catalan Music; and the dream-like cityscaping of Antoni Gaudí, who is the architect of one of the most impressive cathedrals in the world: the Basilica of the Sagrada Família. Both men have designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites dedicated to their celebrated work.

The multi-disciplinary, co-founder of Cubism, Pablo Picasso has a sizeable space devoted to him in the Museu Picasso, and do not miss a visit the Fundació Joan Miró. Founded by the Barcelona-born surrealist artist, the space houses a huge permanent collection of his work along with a revolving, contemporary curation, all contained in a rationalist masterpiece by architect, Josep Lluís Sert.

Wander profusely and look around always, Barcelona is also a canvas to sky-high murals, political plights and eye-popping, old-school graffiti.

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