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October 12 2011

10 of the best contemporary art galleries in Edinburgh

Edinburgh's contemporary galleries enjoy great locations and offer playful and challenging art, says Rosamund West

• As featured in our Edinburgh city guide

Axolotl

Dundas Street is the traditional home of Edinburgh's staid commercial galleries, places where you can go to buy a nice landscape in oils or a watercolour of some roses. Axolotl aims to change that with a commercial gallery striking a balance between the edgy and the traditional: selling paintings, drawings, prints and jewellery by figurative, early-career artists. They also like to mix things up a bit with installation pieces – either here or in their partner space, Axo, in Leith.
• 35 Dundas Street, 0131-557 1460, axolotl.co.uk. Wed-Sat 11am-6pm

Collective

Collective creates exhibitions and programmes that provide development for emerging artists, engage their audience and aren't afraid to experiment. Two of its rooms have windows onto Cockburn Street, a busy Old Town road popular with shoppers, tourists and emo kids, meaning that installations can often be viewed from outside. Throughout autumn and winter Collective runs New Work Scotland, an ever-evolving programme of solo exhibitions from selected recent graduates, as well as opportunities for curators and writers; in 2010 a sculpture student named Kevin Harman smashed one of its windows with a pole as a unique form of collaborative art, which got him arrested – albeit briefly.
22-28 Cockburn St, 0131-220 1260, collectivegallery.net. Tues-Sun 11am-5pm

Sierra Metro

It's a bit of a trek to get out to Sierra Metro if you don't have a car, as it's tucked away in Newhaven. It's worth the journey though (you can get a bus on Leith Walk) because this not-for-profit gallery has spent the last three years gaining a reputation as the place to go for well-presented work by early-career artists. Previous exhibitors have included Cara Tolmie, who's since gone on to have a show in DCA, and Caroline Gallacher whose wrestling-themed exhibition proved a critical hit. Sierra Metro also throws a good launch event, bringing in bands and DJs to ensure people make the journey.
Ground Floor North, 22 West Harbour Road, no telephone, sierrametro.com. Thurs-Sun noon-6pm, or by appointment

Inverleith House

In an 18th-century mansion in the centre of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Inverleith House has the most beautiful location of any of the city galleries. The programme can be variable, walking a line between botanically themed exhibits and the curator's inclination to use the unique space to display work by more avant garde artists. The comments book is always worth a read, as the well-to-do ladies and gents of the New Town often use it to express rage at with art which is neither figurative nor plant-related. In the last year the gallery has been swamped by Karla Black's trademark pastel powders in an exhibition which contributed to the Glasgow artist's Turner Prize nomination..
Royal Botanical Gardens, Arboretum Place/Inverleith Row, 0131-248 2971 (0131-248 2849 at weekends), rbge.org.uk/the-gardens/edinburgh/inverleith-house. Tues-Sun 10am-5.30pm

Superclub

At the top of Leith Walk on Gayfield Square, Superclub is one of three galleries which have recently sprung up in the old doggerfisher spaces. It nestles between Whitespace (a gallery which offers both art and occasional Zumba lessons) and Framed, a recent addition to the commercial gallery scene. Superclub is a studio-cum-gallery-cum-shop, set up by a collective of recent graduates as a place to work, exhibit and (hopefully) sell. Out front is the pristine gallery space recently occupied by Alex Gibbs's tranquil paintings, while at the back is a rough and ready installation space used for video projections, launch nights and the occasional gig.
11a Gayfield Square, email: info@superclubstudios.com, superclubstudios.com. See website for upcoming exhibition opening times

Embassy

Run by a committee of artists, the Embassy was set up to represent Edinburgh's grassroots creative community with an elected board whose members are replaced every two years. Its annual members show is worth a look to see the best and the worst of contemporary art in Edinburgh. As the committee changes so does the gallery's character and, frequently, location. It's currently on Broughton Street Lane and seems to have a taste for cerebral installation art. The Embassy also co-ordinates the annuale, an alternative visual art festival and counterpoint to August's more mainstream Edinburgh art festival which runs every year in early summer.
10b Broughton St Lane, email: info@embassygallery.org, embassygallery.org. Thurs-Sun 12-6pm

Fruitmarket

Slap bang in the middle of the city, the Fruitmarket is probably the most high-profile of the city's contemporary galleries. The annual programme intersperses solo exhibitions by Scottish and international artists with group shows by guest curators. Recent hits have included Martin Creed's 2010 Edinburgh art festival exhibition, which saw the artist turn the gallery steps into a musical staircase. 2011's Narcissus Reflected exhibition has also proved to be a crowd pleaser, giving the Edinburgh audience a chance to get up close to Dali's Metamorphosis of Narcissus and Narkissos, the astonishing masterwork of San Franciscan artist Jess Collins. Summer 2011 sees the opening of the Scotsman Steps opposite the gallery.
45 Market Street, 0131-225 2383, fruitmarket.co.uk. Mon-Sat 11am-6pm, Sun noon-5pm

Stills

Opposite Collective on Cockburn Street, Stills offers the city's only dedicated photography gallery and centre. The exhibitions often include installation, video, and performance, and locals make the most of its huge technology lab, offering equipment hire, training and access to photographic facilities. In winter the nights are lit up by the projection of artist's films into their windows, while in August it usually pulls out all the stops for a major art festival exhibition – 2011's Stephen Sutcliffe exhibition was highly acclaimed.
23 Cockburn St, 0131-622 6200, stills.org. Mon-Thurs 11am-9pm, Fri-Sun 11am-6pm

Edinburgh College of Art (ECA)

The ECA has exhibitions all year round, whether that's the degree show bonanza of June, the various student shows during term time or the annual major art star's arrival in August – from Sam Taylor Wood to Anish Kapoor. The Sculpture Court is the main exhibiting space: a neo-classical indoor courtyard lined with the original casts of the Parthenon frieze, unfortunately now yellowing thanks to an over-enthusiastic paint job by an earlier restorer. They make for an interesting counterpoint to the many variations of student work.
The University of Edinburgh, Lauriston Place, 0131-221 6000, eca.ac.uk. Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat-Sun 10am-2pm

Ingleby

This is an intriguing mix of a commercial gallery and an ambitious exhibition programme. Upstairs is an airy loft space, with windows looking onto the industrial iron of Waverley station; downstairs is a smaller gallery, which hosts more intimate works: a trail of precious stones is spattered across the floor, a remnant from an exhibition by Susan Collis – and on the other side is a print room where works by the gallery's artists can be purchased. Outside, its Billboard for Edinburgh project presents special commissions by big-name artists on, of course, a billboard. Previous commissions have included Rachel Whiteread, Antony Gormley and Tacita Dean.
15 Calton Road, 0131-556 4441, inglebygallery.com. Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun noon-5pm (August only), or by appointment

Rosamund West is editor of Scottish arts and culture website the Skinny


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10 of the best museums and galleries in Edinburgh

Edinburgh has plenty to see, from Concorde and Dolly the Sheep to huge collections in the Scottish National Galleries complex. Kirsty Scott picks her favourites

• As featured in our Edinburgh city guide

The Museum on the Mound

There has long been some form of museum in the bowels of the Bank of Scotland building on the Mound, now the Scottish HQ of Lloyds, but until 2006 entry was by appointment only and the displays were limited to one room. The Museum on the Mound opened five years ago, pre-financial crisis, and there is bleak humour to be found in the displays and their accompanying text: "Not just a respectable career, it also offered an opportunity for more leisurely pursuits … See what 'high jinks' staff got up to in their free time." There are seven rooms in total, detailing how money evolved over 4,000 years. One case holds £1m in used £20 notes.
The Mound, 0131-243 5464, museumonthemound.com, free. Open Tues-Fri 10am-5pm Sat, Sun, bank holiday Mon 1pm-5pm

Surgeons' Hall Museums

In a glass cabinet in Surgeons' Hall Museums is a small hide-bound pocketbook the colour of strong tea. The wallet is made from the skin of William Burke, one half of Edinburgh's infamous body-snatchers and killers, Burke and Hare, whose victims were sold to the city's school of anatomy to be dissected. It is artefacts like this – and glass jars filled with gangrenous fingers, cancerous lungs, dried and varnished hearts – that have made the museum, tucked behind the Royal College of Surgeons, a favourite of crime writers. Look out for the silver mask, complete with an elaborate false moustache, fashioned by a doctor to hide the terrible injuries suffered in the siege of Antwerp in 1832 by a young soldier.
Royal College of Surgeons, Nicolson Street, 0131-527 1649, museum.rcsed.ac.uk, £5, concessions £3. Open Mon-Fri noon-4pm, Sun noon-4pm (2 April to 30 October only)

National Museum of Flight

Not within the city limits, but worth the short drive to East Fortune in East Lothian, this museum tells the story of flight from the Wright brothers to the present day in a series of converted hangars on a former RAF base. The big draw is Concorde, one of the 20 now-defunct aircraft, which was shipped to Scotland in 2004 for a special exhibit on supersonic flight. The child-friendly site includes 50 aircraft, and artefacts from both commercial and military aviation, including the fuselage of a Boeing 707.
East Fortune Airfield, East Lothian, 0300 123 6789, nms.ac.uk, adults £9.50, concessions £7.50, children £4, under-fives free. Open daily 10am-5pm (April to October), Sat, Sun only 10am-4pm (November to March)

National Museum of Scotland

The grande dame of Edinburgh's museums only recently reopened after a three-year, £47m refurbishment, with 16 new galleries and 8,000 objects, 80% of which are being viewed for the first time. The stuffed animals are now out from behind glass and posed with video backdrops. Dolly the sheep is here, as is a 12m cast of a T-rex skeleton and the jawbone of a sperm whale. The new displays are more interactive, covering science, technology, transport and world cultures, and at the adjoining museum on the history of Scotland, you can see jewellery commissioned by Mary Queen of Scots and listen to the chuff and whistle of a 1923 Corliss steam engine that once powered a weaving mill.
Chambers Street, 0300 123 6789, nms.ac.uk, free. Open daily 10am-5pm

The Museum of Childhood

Skim through the visitors' book and you'll find tourists returning after 20 years, delighted to find that little has changed in this four-storey building. That is the charm of the place, opened in the 1950s to become the first museum devoted to a social history of childhood. Founder Joseph Patrick Murray built up an extensive collection of toys, games, clothes, teddy bears and dolls. The carpet is well-trodden, there are small chairs for small visitors, a puppet theatre and dressing-up area, and the PA system on the top floor pipes children's voices and nursery rhymes so that the noise permeates the building.
42 High Street, Royal Mile, 0131-529 4142, edinburghmuseums.org.uk, free. Open Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun noon-5pm

Scottish National Gallery

One of the first pieces you will see is Titian's Venus Anadyomene, bought for the nation for more than £11m in 2003. The 500-year-old Renaissance work, described by the then director general Sir Timothy Clifford as a "very sexy lady", had hung in the gallery for 60 years on loan from the Duke of Sutherland. When he died in 2000, they were offered first refusal. A little further in are Canova's Three Graces, purchased jointly with the V&A in 1994. The ground level covers European art from the 16th to 19th centuries, the basement, the Scottish collection including Sir Henry Raeburn's Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch.
The Mound, 0131-624 6200, nationalgalleries.org, free. Open Mon-Wed, Fri-Sun 10am-5pm (August only 10am-6pm), Thurs 10am-7pm

Royal Scottish Academy

The RSA occupies the William Henry Playfair building closest to Princes Street, and is one of the UK's premier exhibition venues. This year's landmark show is a retrospective of the work of Elizabeth Blackadder, the Scots artist best known for her landscape, still life and flower paintings. Dame Elizabeth, the Queen's painter and limner in Scotland, turns 80 this year and the show spans six decades of her career. There are plenty of her trademark delicate studies of blossoms and blooms, but also lesser-known and bolder works from her many travels, particularly to Japan. The show runs until January 2012.
The Mound, 0131-225 6671, royalscottishacademy.org, admission to Blackadder exhibition £8, concessions £6. Open Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12pm-5pm

City Art Centre

A former warehouse and part of the old Scotsman building, the CAC has a rolling programme of exhibitions showcasing a wide range of contemporary Scottish and international artists. Past events have included the Art of Star Wars – one of several to pull in more than 100,000 visitors. The current exhibition features the work of London-based Scot David Mach, known for his large-scale collages, sculptures and installations, and the main entrance is dominated by Mach's Golgotha tableau: three giant crucified figures pinned to steel girders. The public galleries are spread over six floors, and third floor has been temporarily given over to a studio space for Mach, where he has been working on a final piece for the exhibition – a decoupage depiction of the Last Supper. Visitors can wander by and watch the creative process, and the exhibition runs until 16 October.
2 Market Street, 0131-529 3993, edinburghmuseums.org.uk/venues/City-Art-Centre, free, David Mach exhibition – adults £5, concessions £3.50, children 5-15 £2.50. Open Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12pm-5pm

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Split between two buildings on either side of Belford Road, Modern One and Modern Two, the gallery houses the nation's collection of modern and contemporary art. Modern Two, previously the Dean Gallery, was built as an orphanage. An austere structure, it's home to a large collection of Dada and Surrealist art, and a collection of the works of Sir Eduardo Paolozzi. Across the waythe grounds of Modern One are dominated by Charles Jencks' Landform, a stepped and spiralling mound with reflecting pools. Inside, one of the more recently acquired works is The Mysterious Garden, a watercolour by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, wife of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, some of whose studies hang nearby.
73/75 Belford Road, 0131-624 6200, nationalgalleries.org/modernartgalleries, free, a charge may be made for special exhibitions, parking £1 for four hours. Open daily 10am-5pm

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Due to re-open on 1 December – public sector strikes willing – after an £18m refurbishment, and those who have seen inside the distinctive red neo-gothic building, originally modelled on the Doges Palace in Venice, say the gloomy interiors are gone, replaced by 17 new, light, airy gallery spaces and themed exhibits. The gallery is home to the national collection of portraits and the national photography collection, with studies of great Scots from Robert Burns and David Hume to Sean Connery, Alex Ferguson and Tilda Swinton.
1 Queen Street, 0131-624 6200, nationalgalleries.org/portraitgallery, free. Open daily from 1 December, 10am-5pm

Kirsty Scott is a Guardian writer based in Scotland


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August 17 2011

10 of the best museums in Berlin

Berlin resident and travel writer Rory MacLean chooses some of the city's most impressive museums, whether you want to taste life in the former DDR or admire works by world famous artists

• As featured in our Berlin city guide

Käthe Kollwitz Museum

Of all Berlin's artists, no one captured the pain suffered in and exported from this place more than Käthe Kollwitz. The intense intimacy of her work revealed residents' hopes and horrors, as well as the unspoken pains of the poor, in images and forms which – 60 years after her death – still appear to burst from the artist's heart. This privately owned museum, just off the Ku'damm, includes hundreds of her finest drawings, etchings and sculptures. A passageway connects the museum to the neighbouring Literaturhaus, with one of the city's most civilised cafes.
• Fasanenstrasse 24, +49 30 882 5210, kaethe-kollwitz.de, adults €6, concessions €3. Open daily 11am-6pm

Neues Museum

Over the last decade the Neues Museum, a bombed-out ruin since 1945, has been repaired and rebuilt by British starchitect David Chipperfield. His recreation is a striking building which can be read like a book, telling – through its original walls, surviving textural details, all-but-lost classical frescos and soaring new spaces – the story of man's ability to create, destroy and preserve. It is the perfect museum for Berlin. The collection, which includes a Neanderthal skull, the bust of Egyptian queen Nefertiti and Heinrich Schliemann's Trojan antiquities, isn't half bad either.
• Bodestrasse 1, +49 30 2664 24242, neues-museum.de, adults €10, concessions €5, under-19s free. Open Mon-Wed, Sun 10am-6pm, Thur-Sat 10am-8pm

Bauhaus Archives – Museum of Design

Berlin has long been a capital of creativity but unlike London, Paris and New York the radiance of its arts shines brightest against the darkness in its past. The city is the spiritual home of the Bauhaus, the most influential school of architecture, design and art in the 20th century. Its Archive – or Museum of Design – houses a sensational collection of sculptures, ceramics, furniture and architectural models by Walter Gropius, Moholy-Nagy, Klee, Kandinsky and the many others who – with the Nazis' rise to power – fled Germany and carried modernism to the New World. A free guided tour runs every Sunday at 3pm.
Klingelhöferstrasse 14, +49 30 254 0020, bauhaus.de. Open Wed-Mon 10am-5pm (closed Tuesday), adults €7, concessions €4

Museum Berggruen

Heinz Berggruen bought his first painting in 1940 for $100 – a watercolour by Paul Klee. Half a century later, he gave to Berlin the bulk of his fabulous collection, then valued at $450m and including 165 masterpieces by Braque, Matisse, Klee and Giacometti. This intimate gallery, situated opposite the Schloss Charlottenburg, also has more than 100 works by Picasso from early student sketches to the blue and rose period through his cubist years and up to the year before his death in April 1973. Guided tours for children are offered on most Saturdays (paper and crayons provided).
• Schlossstrasse 1, +49 30 2664 24242, smb.museum, adults €6, concessions €4. Open Tue-Sun 10am-6pm

Topography of Terror

That Germany is open and dynamic today is a consequence of taking responsibility for its history. In a courageous, humane and moving manner, the country is subjecting itself to a national psychoanalysis. This Freudian idea, that the repressed (or at least unspoken) will fester like a canker unless it is brought to the light, can be seen in Daniel Libeskind's tortured Jewish Museum, at the Holocaust Memorial and, above all, at the Topography of Terror. Be aware that this outdoor museum, built on the site of the former headquarters of the SS and Gestapo, is not for the fainthearted.
• Niederkirchnerstrasse 8, +49 30 2545 0950, topographie.de. Open daily 10am-8pm, free

Jewish Museum

At the start of the 20th century, Berlin was the largest Jewish city in the world. One third of the 100 richest Prussians were Jews. By 1945 Hitler had destroyed Germany's rich diversity, making it both poorer and more homogeneous. Berlin's Jewish Museum – with its extension by Daniel Libeskind – explores two millennia of German Jewish history. But far from being locked in the past, the museum looks forward with child-friendly tours, weekend workshops and special shows including a histories of Jewish football and radical Jewish music in New York.
• Lindenstrasse 9-14, +49 30 2599 3300, jmberlin.de. Open Mon 10am-10pm, Tue-Sun 10am-8pm, adults €5, concessions €2.50, under-6s free

Allied Museum

At the end of the second world war, the victorious Allies divided Berlin into four sectors. Stalin's secret intention was to draw Berlin – and then the whole of Germany – into the Communist orbit. In 1948 he blockaded the city as a means of driving the Americans out of Europe, but the Allies retaliated by launching the Berlin airlift to sustain its freedom. The cold war heated up and in 1961 the Soviets built the Wall to completely encircle the western sectors. The Allied Museum tells the story of those years. Displays include the guardhouse from Checkpoint Charlie, an RAF Hastings, as well as a section of the Berlin spy tunnel, the largest ever SIS/CIA operation.
• Clayallee 135, +49 30 818 1990, alliiertenmuseum.de. Open Mon, Tue, Thur-Sun 10am–6pm, free

The Berlin Wall Memorial

Bernauer Strasse witnessed some of the most tragic scenes when the city was divided in 1961: East Berliners jumped from apartment windows, vaulted over barbed wire, tunnelled beneath the streets in an attempt to reach freedom. The Berlin Wall Memorial – which includes the city's only unadorned stretch of border fortifications and a superb museum – marks the iniquity, compliance and heroism of East and West Berliners during those tragic years. A must.
• Bernauer Strasse 111/119, +49 30 4679 866 66, berliner-mauer-gedenkstaette.de. Open April–October, Tue-Sun 9.30am-7pm, November-March, Tue-Sun 9.30am-6pm, free

DDR Museum

Trabants, hidden microphones, beach volleyball nudists and Spreewald pickles: Ostalgie (or nostalgia for life in former East) might worry parts of country (a recent survey found half of 16-year-olds believed East Germany was never a dictatorship), but at the DDR Museum visitors can safely experience life in under communism – at least for their 90-minute visit. Watch TV in the authentic East Berlin living room, spy on your neighbours, join the FDJ pioneers or march in the May Day parade. The museum is located on the river Spree opposite Berlin cathedral.
• Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 1, +49 30 847 123 731, ddr-museum.de. Open Mon-Fri, Sun 10am-8pm, Sat 10am-10pm, adults €6, concessions €4

Currywurst Museum

The currywurst is as much a part of Berlin as the Brandenburg Gate, with more than 70,000,000 curried sausages scoffed in the city every year. No surprise then that Berliners should celebrate their civic dish with a feel-good museum. Uncover the story of fast food through the ages, learn about the "currywurst war", lie back on the Sausage Sofa and discover why Volkswagen is one of Germany's largest sausage makers. Entrance is far from cheap but the souvenirs are among the best in Berlin (for non-vegetarians) and the complimentary "Currywurst in a Cup" has the tastiest, fruitiest sauce I've found anywhere in town.
• Schützenstrasse 70, +49 30 8871 8647, currywurstmuseum.de. Open daily 10am-10pm, adults €11, concessions €8.50, children €7, under-6s free

Rory MacLean's book on Berlin will be published in 2012. He writes a weekly Berlin blog for the Goethe Institut


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10 of the best galleries in Berlin

Berlin's art spaces challenge and entertain in equal measure. Bang Bang Berlin bloggers Liz McGrath and Jack Howard select their 10 favourites

• As featured in our Berlin city guide

C/O Berlin

The C/O Gallery is in the old royal post office (Postfuhramt); a stunning, elaborate brick building dating from 1881, which holds pride of place on a prominent corner of Oranienburgerstrasse. The focus is on photography; supporting young, up-and-coming artists as well as attracting some of the biggest names in the business – Robert Mappelthorpe, Peter Lindbergh and Annie Leibovitz all recently had retrospectives there. It also hosts an impressive schedule of workshops, lectures and events – people often remark upon C/O's warm atmosphere – even though it's a sprawling gallery, with more than 2,000sq metres of space. However, there are rumours that this particular space has a shelf life – regrettably, it's soon to be renovated and become luxury apartments, as with so many of Berlin's beautiful old buildings. All the more reason then to experience it now.
Oranienburgerstrasse 35/36, Mitte, +49 30 2844 4160, co-berlin.info. Adults €10, concessions €5

Berlinische Galerie

An artists' favourite, often coming top in opinion polls – when the artists vote among themselves. It is a renovated former glass warehouse, with plenty of light, white walls, white floors and cleverly designed, criss-crossing staircases. It offers a steady flow of new exhibitions, including recent shows from fashion anti-hero Nan Goldin and a retrospective of the Berlin-born Arno Fischer. The gallery also has an amazing permanent collection of work produced by Berlin artists since 1870 – which covers extremely tumultuous and varied periods in history: Expressionism, Berlin Dada, Art in the Nazi era, the New Beginning after 1945 and Positions of the 1950s. There will be Berlin artists you won't have heard of before your visit, but won't forget after seeing, such as Max Liebermann, Raoul Hausmann, Otto Bartning and Naum Gabo.
Alte Jakobstrasse 124-128, Kreuzberg, +49 30 7890 2600 berlinischegalerie.de. Adults €8, concessions €5, every first Monday of the month €4, free for visitors under 18

Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart

You'll find the gleaming white Hamburger Bahnhof in the beautiful former main train station built in 1847 – now all skylights, white walls and polished wooden floors. Its central collection is from Berlin entrepreneur Dr Erich Marx, including a vast collection of art, from Beuys and Rauschenberg to Lichtenstein and Warhol (whose iconic Mao has a permanent home here). The National Gallery also has a permanent collection here, focussing on 1960 to the present (so expect some brilliant photography, painting and video art from the likes of Andreas Gursky, Bill Viola and Marcel Odenbach). The Marzona collection is also fascinating, and a shining example of conceptual and minimal art at its best – highlights include Ronald Bladen, Giuseppe Penone and Mario Merz).
Invalidenstrasse 50-51, Mitte, +49 30 3978 3411, hamburgerbahnhof.de. Adults €12, concessions €6

Pool Gallery

The Pool Gallery has plenty of typically cool Mitte stamps: a shopfront, white walls, and almost-scarily hip staff. Curator (and artist-cum-musician) Ruby Anemic's feeling for street culture, young, modern art and cool photography makes the Pool Gallery well worth a visit. Whether it's a light installation, painting, graphic design or photography, the exhibitions are always fresh and zeitgeisty. Past shows have included works from Henrik Vibskov, Alex Flach, Benjy Russell and Mercedes Helnwein. Changes are afoot: their team is joining forces with Schlechtriem Brothers (also in Mitte) to create a new gallery in both spaces called DITTRICH & SCHLECHTRIEM, which will be opening in September 2011.
Tucholskystrasse 38, Mitte, +49 30 2434 2462, pool-gallery.com. Admission free

Sammlung Boros Collection

The Sammlung Boros Collection is shrouded in a veneer of secrecy. You can only view it on the weekends, by appointment. As a result, going to an art gallery has never felt so thrilling. Not to mention the fact this vast contemporary modern art collection is housed in an imposing second world war bunker. It was built in 1942 as a bomb shelter, was later used as a prison, then a storage depot for bananas, and latterly it was a club famed for its S&M fetish parties – until Christian Boros and his family bought it. As for the actual art collection, it is quite remarkable: currently it has 159 works from international artists using sculpture, video and installation from Wolfgang Tillmans to Tracey Emin.
Reinhardtstrasse 20, Mitte, +49 30 2759 4065, sammlung-boros.de. Guided tours only: €10

me Collectors Room

The me Collectors Room houses the personal collection of Thomas Olbricht, an esteemed art collector, chemist, and endocrinologist (a somewhat unique combination), who, over the past 25 years, has succeeded in creating one of the most extensive private collections in Europe. The diversity of artistic genre, period, and medium is extraordinary, with works from the 16th century to the present day. Expect to see a selection of macabre works (often featuring skulls, stuffed animals, and dark, ominous religious or tribal pieces) curated besides works exploring sexual or erotic themes, such as a photography series depicting Japan's sex industry.
• Auguststrasse 68, Mitte, +49 30 8600 8510, me-berlin.com. Adults €6, concessions €4, group tickets €4 (for groups above 10), free for visitors under 18

KW Institute for Contemporary Art

The KW Institute for Contemporary Art combines an ambitious artistic programme that includes workshops, exhibitions, and onsite artist studios, with regular events, screenings, and performances. Viewing itself as a "laboratory for communicating and advancing contemporary cultural developments in Germany", it launched one of Berlin's most significant artistic events, the Berlin Biennale, in 1996. It's huge, too – with four floors, a large ground floor space, and a quaint courtyard – so give yourself plenty of time to explore and reward yourself with a drink afterwards.
• Auguststrasse 69, Mitte, +49 30 243 4590, kw-berlin.de. Adults €6, concessions €4, groups of 10 or more: €5, €3 concessions, Thursday evening ticket (7-9 pm) €4

Carlier Gebauer

Founded in 1991, this is one of Berlin's most significant independent contemporary art galleries, partly due to its longevity, but mainly due to its high-calibre exhibitions. Located among Berlin's gallery district in the Kochstrasse area, it represents a stellar cast of emerging and established artists, such as video artist Rosa Barba and installation artist Aernout Mik. The 600sq metre gallery, made up of three "white box" rooms, can exhibit three solo shows at a time, as well as showcasing the latest video works in the projection area (cinemathek).
Markgrafenstrasse 67, Mitte, +49 30 2400 8630, carliergebauer.com. Admission free

Johann König

Featured in Art Review's Power 100 – a guide to the general trends, networks and forces that shape the art world – Johann König is situated in between the Neue Nationalgalerie and the gallery district in Kochstrasse, making for a great stopover between the two. Detached from its neighbouring buildings and nestled away from Dessauer Strasse, the Johann König gallery is a contemporary, white-walled space that may seem subtle and unassuming at first but certainly isn't: expect a dramatic range of contemporary mediums, from sculpture and painting to large-scale multimedia installations.
Dessauerstrasse 6-7, Mitte, +49 30 2610 3080, johannkoenig.de. Admission free

Galerie Open

Founded in 2008, the gallery programme at Open represents young, unknown contemporary artists, primarily from Berlin and New York. Located near Moritzplatz in Kreuzberg, this gallery could well go on to contend with the "big dogs" of the gallery district not too far from here. Featuring a main ground floor gallery space, an over-looking mezzanine, and a basement space, the viewer can explore three levels of diverse contemporary art that changes with each new exhibition. A visit during the summer is recommended: Alexandra Rockelmann (the gallery owner) hands over her gallery space to a young curator and a selection of emerging artists during the seasonal hiatus.
• Legiendamm 18-20 (Engelbecken), Kreuzberg, +49 30 2758 2810. galerie-open.net. Admission free

Liz McGrath and Jack Howard blog at Bang Bang Berlin


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10 of the best films set in Berlin

Berlin has been the backdrop – and even the star – in movies from cold war spy thrillers to dramas about the collapse of East Germany. Andrew Pulver picks the top 10 films set in the city

As featured in our Berlin city guide

People on Sunday (Menschen am Sonntag), Curt and Robert Siodmak, 1930

Silent cinema flourished in Germany during the Weimar years, and Berlin was immortalised in two particularly brilliant impressionist tributes: Walter Ruttmann's Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, and People on Sunday, which aimed to create a patchwork of ordinary Berliners' lives. This film, with its cast of non-professional actors and hidden camera, gets the pick – partly because of its extraordinary writing and directing credit roll. Virtually everyone – including Billy Wilder, Fred Zinnemann and Robert Siodmak – went on to make a name for themselves in Hollywood, after being forced out of Germany during the Nazi era.
• Bahnhof Zoo; Nikolassee

The Bourne Supremacy, Paul Greengrass, 2004

Hollywood came to Berlin in a big way with the sequel to The Bourne Identity; director Paul Greengrass was no doubt paying homage to Berlin's cold war past. The convoluted plot has Bourne (Matt Damon) showing up in Berlin to try to reconnect the threads of his past: modern Berlin makes a big shiny backdrop for the high-octane shenanigans. Added to which, Berlin doubles for other stops in Bourne's globetrotting – notably, a building at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds becomes a customs office in Naples.
• Exhibition Grounds, Messedamm; Alexanderplatz; Friedrichstrasse bridge; Ostbahnhof

Germany Year Zero, Roberto Rossellini, 1948

As a record of the rubble-strewn state of the city immediately after the second world war, Roberto Rossellini's film is hard to beat. Rossellini had made his name as a neo-realist in Rome, filming while the Germans were pulling out; he turned his lens on Germany itself shortly afterwards. Germany Year Zero is ostensibly about a 13-year-old scrabbling to survive in the chaos of defeated Germany, but it's the ruined city itself, with broken buldings and dubious denizens, that is the real subject.
• Neptune fountain, Alexanderplatz; Reich Chancellery and Hitler's bunker, Vossstrasse (now demolished)

Christiane F – We Children From Bahnhof Zoo (Christiane F – Wir Kinder From Bahnhof Zoo), Uli Edel, 1981

In the late 70s and early 80s, West Berlin's reputation for radicalism and experimentation made it a mecca for youth at the time: but there was a dark side, encapsulated in this notorious film about a drug-addicted prostitute. Based on her memoir, Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo, Uli Edel's film is the last word in Berlin misery, with the David Bowie soundtrack providing a patina of cold-as-ice glamour. Bahnhof Zoo was West Berlin's biggest rail station at the time, and the film-makers also shot extensively in Christiane's home district of Gropiusstadt, the southern suburb designed by the Bauhaus founder.
• Gropiusstadt; Bahnhof Zoo

Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin), Wim Wenders, 1987

Arguably the finest film about the divided city was made by Wim Wenders in 1987 – a fable about angels floating over a traumatised Berlin, listening to its inhabitants' thoughts, and attempting, in different ways, to heal their pain. The Wall itself was reconstructed in a studio, but Wenders made extensive use of the city's landmarks – including an extended tour of the modernist Berlin State Library, designed by Hans Scharoun.
• Berlin State Library House 2, Potsdamerstrasse; Friedrichstrasse; Gedächtniskirche, Kurfürstendamm

The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen), Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006

Perhaps the most eye-opening film to have come out of contemporary German cinema's interest in raking over the communist era, this insight into the Stasi-ridden world of 1980s East Germany took advantage of the relatively unreconstructed Soviet chunk of the city. Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck managed to gain permission to film in the Stasi archives (now a museum), as well as stage a dance performance at the Volksbühne theatre.
• Stasi Zentrale, Ruschestrasse; Volksbühne, Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz

Run Lola Run, Tom Tykwer, 1998

Sprinting through the reunited city in the late 1990s, Franka Potente's Lola swiftly became an international symbol of Germany's new dynamism. Director Tom Tykwer hurled her pell-mell around Berlin, picking locations from east and west in a thriller that plays out three times, with three different outcomes. The film is very much a what-might-have-been story, with a happy ending, which is perhaps what we want to feel about Berlin itself.
• Oberbaumbrücke; Deutsche Oper U-Bahn; Tauroggenerstrasse

Goodbye, Lenin! Wolfgang Becker, 2003

A much-liked film that cleverly tackles the issues surrounding German unification – by ignoring them. A fervent East German socialist misses the Wende (reunification) as she's in a coma; on her recovery, and to spare her further shock, her son goes to elaborate lengths to maintain the fiction that East Germany is still in existence. Almost all the film was shot in the former East Berlin, including shots of lead Daniel Brühl speeding past celebrating football fans on the monumental Karl-Marx-Allee.
• Karl-Marx-Allee; Alexanderplatz

Aeon Flux, Karyn Kusama, 2005

Though it never found much favour with critics or audiences, this sci-fi thriller made superb use of Berlin's modernist buildings to evoke a post-apocalyptic society in the 25th century. One unlikely architectural spectacular after another was press-ganged into service. The Bauhaus Archiv doubled as an apartment block, the Hall of Condolence at the Krematorium Baumschulenweg was used for political meetings, and the Tierheim animal shelter became the setting for the government HQ.
• Bauhaus Archiv, Klingelhöferstrasse; Krematorium Baumschulenweg, Kiefholzstrasse; Tierheim Berlin, Hausvaterweg

One, Two, Three, Billy Wilder, 1961

Shot before the Berlin wall went up, but released after, Billy Wilder's scabrous political satire pitched itself into the clash of ideologies that the city symbolised. Wilder, of course, had left Germany in 1934 after the Nazis took power, his first film credit being People on Sunday (see above). Returning as a successful Hollywood film director, Wilder cast Jimmy Cagney as a Coca-Cola executive looking after his boss's teenage daughter. The film certainly hit a nerve, as Wilder intended it should.
• Brandenburg Gate; Gedächtniskirche, Kurfürstendamm; Tempelhof airport

• Andrew Pulver is the film editor of The Guardian


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July 13 2011

10 of the best museums and galleries in Rome

Our Rome correspondent John Hooper takes the art beat of the capital - Renaissance palaces, Mussolini's cinema studio and daring contemporary galleries

• As featured in our Rome city guide

Maxxi, the National Museum of Art from the 21st century

At least as impressive as the still-modest collection it houses is the Maxxi building itself, designed by the Anglo-Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid. Covering more than 27,000 sq metres, Italy's first national museum dedicated entirely to contemporary art is a curving, jutting structure of glass, steel and concrete. Visitors find their way from collection to collection through a labyrinth of bridges and ramps. Opened in 2010, the Maxxi is located north of the centre, in the Flaminio neighbourhood, on the site of a former military barracks. Its permanent collection includes works by the Neapolitan painter, Francesco Clemente, and the British sculptor Anish Kapoor. It was recently enriched by the donation of 58 works from the collection of the late Milanese art dealer and historian, Claudia Gian Ferrari.
Via Guido Reni 4A, +39 06 399 67350, fondazionemaxxi.it/en. Open Tue-Wed-Fri-Sun 11am-7pm, Thur and Sat 11am-10pm. Adults €11, concessions €8, under-14s free

Macro: Museo díArte Contemporaneo di Roma

The Macro on Via Nizza, which opened last December, is the newer and bigger of two spaces that make up Rome's municipal contemporary art museum. The other is in trendy-grungy Testaccio. Nestled among 19th-century apartment buildings, the main part of the museum was fashioned by the French architect, Odile Decq from a disused Peroni beer plant. Among other things, it houses an archive of the works of the postmodern painter and collagist Mario Schifano. Macro aims to be more active, daring and fun than the Maxxi: the lavatories have mirrored walls and translucent plastic sinks that flash different neon/UV colours as you use them. In the car park, you can see the remains of an ancient Roman house unearthed during the restoration.
Via Nizza 38, Piazza Orazio Giustiniani 4, +39 06 6710 70400,macro.roma.museum. Macro open Tue-Sun 11am-10pm, Testaccio Tue-Sun 4pm-midnight. Adults €10 combined ticket, concessions €8, under-18s free

Palazzo Altemps

Just across from the Piazza Navona, this Renaissance palace acquired its unlikely name when it was bought by an Austrian-born cardinal in the 16th century. Taken over by the state in 1982 and not opened as a museum until 1997, it remains one of the capital's best-kept secrets. Inside is an entrancing collection of classical sculptures. They include the so-called Ludovisi Ares, a Roman copy of a 4th-century BCE Greek original, and the Ludovisi Gaul, part of the same group as the better-known Dying Gaul in the Capitoline Museums. But for sheer technical virtuosity the most astonishing exhibit is a 3rd-century sarcophagus, carved from a single block of stone, showing the Romans fighting the Ostrogoths. From the same Renaissance collection as the others, it is known as the Grande Ludovisi.
Piazza di Sant'Apollinare 48, +39 06 399 67600, archeorm.arti.beniculturali.it/en. Open Tue-Sun 9am-7.45pm. Adults €7, concessions €3.50, free for EU citizens ages 18 to 24 and under-17s

CineCittà Studios

Mussolini founded Cinecittà because of his belief in the power of cinema. The studio and set complex, on the road that leads from central Rome to Ciampino airport, was bombed by the Allies in the second world war before rising to global fame in the 1950s when it was used to make the first in a string of budget-busting classical epics that included Ben-Hur and Cleopatra. CineCittà was also where Federico Fellini shot most of his films. The 40-hectare site is still claimed to be continental Europe's largest film and TV production facility. But its heyday has long gone. Among the few internationally distributed movies to be shot there in recent years was Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York. Guided tours are available for groups of at least 20 people.
Via Tuscolana 1055, +39 06 583 34360, cinecittastudios.it. Tours must be booked in advance by calling Mon-Fri 9am-1pm, 2pm-6pm

Auditorium Parco della Musica

Along with the Maxxi and Macro, the Auditorium is the tangible embodiment of Rome's recent cultural renaissance. The architect Renzo Piano called his building a "factory of culture". The three concert halls, which stage not only concerts but also ballet and theatre productions, each hold between 700 and 2,800 people. The imposing foyer, which links them, is an exhibition space. In addition, there is the Cavea, an open-air theatre reminiscent of a classical amphitheatre; an art gallery, and an archaeological museum that displays artefacts found during the construction including an oil press from the 6th century BC. Guided tours are available, but note that an English-language tour (tickets €9) must be booked in advance.
Viale Pietro de Coubertin 30, +39 06 802 41281, auditorium.com

Santa Maria in Trastevere

The Basilica of Our Lady is among Rome's oldest places of worship, and the one that perhaps gives the most vivid impression of a grand medieval church. It dates from around 340 AD and is thought to been the first church in Rome dedicated to Mary. In the nave are two rows of columns – 22 in all – that were taken from ancient Roman sites. The basilica was rebuilt in the 12th century by Pope Innocent II and, at the end of the 13th century, Pietro Cavallini embellished the apse with six mosaic panels of scenes from the life of Mary. Together with a gilded octagonal ceiling painting by the Baroque master Domenichino, they give the basilica a memorable glow.
Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, +39 06 581 4802

Museo Nazionale dell'Alto Medioevo

Looking for traces of the "dark ages", perhaps the last place you would start is the EUR district, built as a showcase for Fascist architecture. Yet it is there, in a less visited museum, that you can gaze on evidence that the period that followed the fall of the western empire was not as dark than is often thought: finely decorated weapons; extraordinarily intricate tapestries; glamorous earrings and necklaces. Other exhibits include an ancient metal dog chain. But the most stunning dates from late antiquity: an entire hall, taken from an aristocratic villa in Ostia, adorned with designs created using a technique known as opus sectile in which coloured marble is cut and inlaid. The most spectacular show tigers and lions catching prey.
Viale Lincoln 3, +39 06 542 28199, archeoroma.beniculturali.it. Open Tue-Sun 9am-2pm. Adults €2, concessions €1

Sant'Ignazio

The church of illusions. It was built between 1626 and 1650 and dedicated to Ignatius of Loyola. The first giant trick is Andrea Pozzo's trompe l'oeil ceiling fresco which uses foreshortening to create an astoundingly realistic vision of the founder of the Society of Jesus soaring towards paradise to be welcomed by Christ (no, the Jesuits never were modest). A disk in the floor marks the ideal spot from which to experience the illusion. Further down the nave, another marker signals the best vantage point for a second bit of trickery. The Jesuits ran out of cash for the dome, so in 1685 Pozzo supplied them with a canvas depiction of what it might have looked like. Destroyed in 1891, the canvas was subsequently replaced.
Via del Caravita, 8A. Open daily, 7.30am-12.30pm, 3pm-7pm

Ostia Antica

Visitors to Rome who try packing in a trip to Pompeii often leave disappointed by the neglect and disorganisation they find there. Ostia Antica, less than 30km from Rome and reachable by train, offers an altogether more civilised (and arguably more instructive) experience. This, after all, was the port city of the capital of Europe's greatest empire. Scattered among the umbrella pines that now dot the site are a splendid amphitheatre which is still used for concerts, and the remains of schools, baths, temples and latrines, as well as Europe's oldest synagogue. Ostia Antica also boasts some unusually well-preserved mosaics and frescoes.
Via dei Romagnoli 717, ostia-antica.org. Open Tue-Sun 8.30am to 7.30pm. Adults €6.50, 18-25s €3.25, over 64s and under-18s free

Galleria Lorcan O'Neill

For those who yearn for a reminder of Hackney in the middle of Rome. If there was one event that confirmed the Eternal City was ready to be part of the contemporary world, then it was the opening in 2003 of this gallery in a Trastevere backstreet. The lanky O'Neill, who had been a friend to many of the YBAs, launched himself into Rome almost five years ahead of the legendary Larry Gagosian, who has a gallery at Via Francesco Crispi 16. O'Neill has used his Britart connections to put on exhibitions by Tracey Emin, Sam Taylor-Wood and Rachel Whiteread. He has also shown venerable non-Brits including Anselm Kiefer and provided a space for talented young Italians like Luigi Ontani and Pietro Ruffo.
Via degli Orti d'Alibert 1E, +39 06 688 92980, lorcanoneill.com. Open Mon-Fri 12pm-8pm, Sat 2pm-8pm


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June 08 2011

10 of the best spots for art in Barcelona

There's more to Barcelona than Antoni Gaudí and the Picasso Museum. Jill Adams, editor of The Barcelona Review, taps into its unconventional arts scene

As featured in our Barcelona city guide

Prostíbulo Poético

How do you like your prostitutes? Speaking Catalan? English? Romanian? Prostíbulo Poético (Poetry Brothel) has plenty of whores for hire to give you … a private poetry reading in a candle-lit corner. This literary whoring takes place once a month in different bars. Though it's never quite the same, it usually begins with some kind of music, then Madame Eva introduces the putas, who each read some of their original work, permitting the customers to size 'em up, after which all barriers come down and you are free to pick your favourite, pay €1 for their services and retire to a corner.
• Various venues. Next event: 9pm, 16 June at Horiginal (cafè+poesia), Carrer Ferlandina 29, prostibulopoetico.com.

Esther Arias Galería de Arte y Taller

Everyone exits Metro Jaume and heads directly to the Picasso Museum via Carrer Princesa. But there is a much more attractive short cut that will take you past Esther Arias's gallery in a warm and inviting 18th-century building. Although Arias often devotes a wall to a guest artist, this is her taller (workshop) and the paintings on display are her own: enchanting, colourful abstracts with a dreamlike quality. Along with the large canvases, there are some exquisite framed acrylics on paper at a good price. This is the perfect place to begin a walk through the Born with its many art and artisan shops.
Carrer Cotoners 14, +34 93 268 2494, estherarias.com. Open Tue–Sat 10.30am–2pm, 4.30pm-7.30pm

Museu Frederic Marès

Housed in a lovely medieval palace next to the cathedral in the Barri Gòtic, this museum is often overlooked – people don't tend to flock to see walls filled with crucifixes. But many of these sculptures, painted or in plain wood, come from the 12th and 13th centuries, retaining the Romanesque separation of the nailed feet. They're quite bizarre and utterly mesmerising; one has Joseph of Arimathea clinging to Christ with a most curiously placed right hand. The wooden Madonnas are coarse rather than sweet, and the Christ child often looks old enough to be at university. The upper rooms house an astounding collection of objects, from hatpins to garters, gathered by sculptor/traveller/hoarder Frederic Marès.
Plaça Sant Iu 5, +34 93 256 3500, museumares.bcn.cat, adults €4.20, children, concessions free; free Sun 3pm-8pm; all day first Sun of the month. Open Tue–Sat 10am–7pm, Sun and holidays 11am-8pm

Galería Artevistas

The posh uptown galleries, mainly along Consell de Cent, showcase known artists with several zeros attached to the price. To enter, you must buzz, wait to be let in and it's a rather stuffy exchange, though you will find some superb art. For an altogether different experience, head to the Artevistas, which features young artists, some of whom have definitely arrived. It's very near the Ramblas but secluded from all the tourist bustle, as it sits in a covered passageway. Here the doors are wide open and you step into a burst of colour. It's a happy place, and you might well find a budding talent.
Passatge del Crèdit 4, +34 93 513 0465, artevistas.com. Open Mon 2pm–9pm, Tue–Sun 11am–9pm

Cosmo

Carrer Enric Granados is a tree-lined pedestrian street in the Eixample, beginning just behind the University of Barcelona and sloping gently upward to Avinguda Diagonal. Filled with cool outdoor cafés, restaurants and well-established art galleries, such as N2 Galería, ADN Galería and Ego Gallery, this is the place to stroll for art and maybe catch an opening on a Thursday night. Cosmo café & galería de arte sits at the bottom of the slope and is a super place to begin or end your walk. It's a fun and lively bar/café with good music, and there is a large exhibition space in the back where Catalan designer/multimedia programmer Jaume Osman Granda is showing (until 12 June).
Carrer Enric Granados 3, +34 93 453 7007, galeriacosmo.com. Open Mon–Thur 8.30am–10pm, Fri–Sat noon–10pm, Sun 2pm–10pm

àngels barcelona

For a more experimental art experience, visit àngels barcelona in the heart of the Raval. Internationally known artists, such as Catalan conceptual artist Joan Fontcuberta (Googlegrams), experimental German documentary filmmaker Harun Farocki, and the British installation artist Richard T Walker are just part of the impressive repertoire of this gallery. Typically, you'll encounter an abstract installation, a visual creation space and a film/video downstairs with seats for viewing.
Carrer Pintor Fortuny 27, +34 93 412 5400, angelsbarcelona.com. Open Tue–Sat noon–2pm, 5pm– 8pm

Taller Creativo Bencini

This gallery/workshop is located behind Santa Caterina Market, which is worthy of a look for its postmodern architectural design and its vividly multicoloured, wavy roof. From here, head to Federico Bencini's, where you'll find a bright space full of his magnificent monotype prints created on wood and metal. He will be glad to explain the process to you if you are unfamiliar with it. Sharing the taller is Raúl Pernia, a sculptor who creates amazing organic set pieces. Together they can transform an interior into a cutting-edge wonder. Turn left upon leaving and have the pleasure of getting lost in the art haven of El Born.
Carrer Semoleres 10, +34 68 631 5053, bencinibarcelona.com. Open daily 11am–2pm, 5pm–8pm

Eat Meat

Located in the Gràcia, an area chock-full of boho shops, trendy cafes, and few tourists, is Eat Meat, a non-profit cultural organisation dedicated to the principle of "art for laying bare contemporary obsessions [which include] mutations of form and essence, hybridisations, new visual engineering, the sickness of the soul, other rituals, the monstrous, the transgeneric and alterities". Camping Cannibal was the most recent exhibition by sculptor Nico Nubiola, whose stunning wood relief pieces, without being macabre (trust me), depict mutilated human bodies "like chickens in a supermarket". Take a walk on the dark side and confront the depths of the human psyche.
Carrer Alzina 20, +34 93 284 2894, eatmeat.cat. Open Thur–Fri 6pm–9pm, Sat noon–2pm, 5pm–8pm, during exhibitions

Ulls Blaus and NIU

How deep into the culture are you willing to go? It will help if you speak Spanish or Catalan but the young people who hang out at Ulls Blaus welcome everyone, not that you will be greeted at the door, simply accepted. This hidden taller obert sits at the end of an uninviting, rundown passageway in Poblenou. Most everything here is made of recycled material and begs a closer look – don't miss the WC. On Friday evenings at 8pm, emerging visual artists and/or musicians offer entertainment in the small sala. Not far from here is NIU, another alternative multi-art space for upcoming artists where electronic music is the norm but anything is possible. Bars at both locations.
Ulls Blaus, Passatge Caminal 13 (off Carrer Pallars 175, +34 66 912 2586, ullsblaus.com. Open Tue–Sat 5pm-10pm. NIU, Almogàvers 208, +34 93 356 8811, niubcn.com. Open Tue–Sat 5pm-10pm.

Palau Dalmases

There is no sign at the entrance, in the heart of La Ribera, only a doorman. You peek into a gorgeous 17th-century courtyard with a richly carved staircase behind. Is this a bar, and can I enter, you wonder. Yes, it is, and yes, you can. Stepping through the heavy wooden doors into Espai Barroc, you feel as though you have wandered into a baroque film set, with candelabras, fat cherubs, reproduction paintings, kitschy tableaux and the odd surrealist touch. The palace itself is rich in history, and worth a look around. Stick to wine or beer at €6, and feel transported to an era of sumptuous extravagance.
Carrer Montcada 20, +34 93 310 0673, palaudalmases.com. Open Tue–Sat 8pm–2am, Sun 6pm–10pm

Jill Adams is the editor of the online literary magazine The Barcelona Review, barcelonareview.com


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