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The best contemporary art galleries in Europe
Tate Modern © Tate Photography.

LONDON.- While the term ‘contemporary art’ refers to artworks that have been created during our lifetime, the concept is a little more loaded than that. Often inspired by pop culture and society many examples of contemporary art are self-aware, and were created to make a statement or reflect upon a particular moment in history; art transcends language barriers, and allows anyone and everyone to partake in debates, regardless of where they live or who they are. Europe’s art scene is heavily influenced by the movement of people, and the assertion that artists needn’t stay in one place for too long. Indeed, the continent’s many galleries are a testament to the cultural and social commentaries that follow artists from place to place, and the dynamic nature of emerging art. Many of the exhibitions you’ll find across Europe are temporary, as gallery spaces make way for trends, commentaries, and emerging artistic identities. The European art world never stands still, which is perhaps why it’s so revered around the world.

London, UK
London is considered one of the world’s most important cities for art, and boasts a large number of free galleries for the enjoyment of the public. The city’s art scene is eclectic, to say the least, boasting in excess of 1,000 galleries and pop-up exhibitions that incorporate moving images, sculpture, paintings, and photography to create a picture of the age in which we live – a time that belongs very much to us. London’s art scene is experienced, rather than viewed; its artworks attack the senses. Contemporary art can be found across London, although the Tate Modern, which blends old and new to tell a story, and the experimental exhibits at Somerset House document the era, and movement, better than most.

Brussels, Belgium
Brussels’ art scene is young and vibrant; a community that attracts artists and creative types from around the world. Heavily influenced by global pop culture, the city’s scene features galleries, installations, and street art, including the now-famous Blackstar mural, which was created just days before Bowie’s death was announced. Must-visit galleries include the Maison Particuliere, which is considered the edgiest art space in Brussels; the works on display here don’t shy away from social issues, political commentary, or themes of a racy nature. Here contemporary art is used as a form of expression and exploration, beyond the modernism of artists such as Magritte.

Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich is Switzerland’s cultural center, producing cutting-edge art that isn’t afraid to flaunt boundaries. The birthplace of Dadaism, which rejected the reason and logic of a capitalist society, the city has an array of contemporary art spaces. These include the Kunsthalle Zurich, which relies on temporary exhibits in order to change its identity at regular intervals, Hauser and Wirth, with its keenness for dynamic global trends, and the Galerie Gmurzynska, which specializes in nouveau realism and Russian avant-garde pieces. The Galerie boasts a diverse array of artists, and works inspired by cultural ideologies, and is at the heart of Switzerland’s contemporary art scene.

Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon has become something of a bohemian center, occupied by emerging talents and young artists driven by the need to say something about contemporary living. The city’s art and design community is thriving, inspired by Portugal’s experiences during the recession; many who were left with nothing turned to art in order to expel feelings of discontent. Its contemporary galleries include the Museu Coleção Berardo, a space that houses some 900 multimedia exhibits that have been influenced by pop culture, minimalism, and post modernism. The Centro de Arte Moderna, meanwhile, specializes in contemporary pieces from Portugal; its artwork tells stories of the country’s changing culture and landscape.

Of course, this article is by no means exhaustive; the beauty of contemporary art is in the eye of the beholder, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. What you’ll learn from the listed cities and their galleries, though, is that contemporary art is to be experienced, rather than merely admired. Europe’s art scene is dynamic, self-aware, and socially conscious, as well as being breathtakingly beautiful. We only hope you’re as inspired as we are to consume its works yourself.

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February 8, 2017

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The best contemporary art galleries in Europe

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