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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, 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 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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. Admission free

Liz McGrath and Jack Howard blog at Bang Bang Berlin © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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