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Modern Art galleries; more of the best

As a movement, modern art regularly divided critics and the general public, and sometimes it still can today; but contemporary art gallery visitors have certainly come to understand that if you want to see something a little different to old canvasses on a wall, a contemporary or modern art gallery will offer you an explosion of wild ideas, colours, and materials. Almost all major modern cities feature a modern art gallery; it’s become a tourism essential, and they stretch far beyond the handful of famous names you can buy as poster prints in art shops. The list below further explores some of the best modern art galleries and museums around the world.

Kumu, Tallinn, Estonia

Housed in a striking, award winning, modern building, Kumu is one of several emerging galleries in Eastern Europe, the focus here is on Estonian art through the modern period and up to the moment, drawing praise for displaying realist works from the Soviet occupation, juxtaposed alongside modernist, non-conformist pieces to impressive effect. This permanent collection is regularly supplemented by temporary exhibitions which include both Estonian and international works, winning the art gallery a European Museum of the Year Award. Some of the Estonian artists in the collection include von Neff, Hoffmann, Laikmaa, Hagen-Schwarz, Koort, Kallis, Greenberg, and Roode.

Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai, China

China’s rapidly emerging economy has led to huge modernisation in many cities, and perhaps most so in Shanghai, which is home to one of Asia’s largest art museums. Transformed from an abandoned greenhouse into a modernist building with neighbours including the Bolshoi Theatre, Shanghai Museum, and the main art museum. Well known for its unusually themed exhibitions it displays work from artists in Hungary, India, Indonesia, and Finland, with temporary exhibitions ranging from fashion retrospectives, to street and contemporary art and the work of Pixar. Some of the recent exhibitions have included Zaha Hadid, Philip Colbert, Trevor Andrew, Anna Sui, Bob Dylan, Russell Young and Paul Smith.

Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany

Already known as an art gallery of pre-20th century work, the Kunsthalle also houses the Galerie der Gegenwart, which features a range of controversial and avant garde modern art pieces. Housed in a cube shaped building, it is one of the largest spaces for contemporary art in Germany, taking pride in a constantly changing collection crossing numerous media including large scale special exhibitions. Focused on the 1960s onwards, it includes work by Warhol, Richter, Kitaj, Hockney, Kounellis, Beuys, Morris, LeWitt, Walther, Mucha, the Bechers, Gursky, Demand, and Gilbert and George.

Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia

On the opposite side of the world from the major European art galleries, the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art covers a wide range of mediums from painting and sculpture to video art and contemporary photography. Launching in 1990 the Museum flourished with the appointment of a new artistic director in the late 90s and modernisation of the building in 2010, building a strong collection of contemporary Australian work; there are regular showcases of artwork by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists including bark paintings, sculpture and weaving. The museum has its strongest reputation for exhibitions and experiential installations combining multi-media art with unique spatial design and aural soundscapes; some of the artists featured have included Pipilotti Rist, Grayson Perry, Yoko Ono, Anish Kapoor, Annie Leibowitz, Marina Apramovic, Andy Warhol, and Keith Haring.

The Art Institute of Chicago, USA

An outstanding art gallery, covering thousands of years of art history, but holding a phenomenal collection of modern art, the Art Institute of Chicago is home to many American masterpieces including Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, and one of the best collections of impressionism and post-impressionism in the world, including great pieces by Seurat, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, and many works by Monet. 20th Century modern art is equally well represented with artworks by Picasso, Magritte, Jasper Johns, numerous vast drip canvasses by Jackson Pollock, and some of Warhol’s best known pop art prints including the portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Chairman Mao.

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