While historic artists focused more on capturing the accurate details of faces, places, and important events throughout history, contemporary artists are often a bit more abstract and strive to push the boundaries of what defines art.
Today’s contemporary art museums and galleries are filled with vivid colour, creative design, and often thought provoking pieces of art.
Contemporary artists are creating works of art that force us to think about the world around us and often aim to promote much needed change.
A city’s contemporary art, whether it’s in the form of street art, eccentric gallery exhibits, or giant unconventional sculptures in the middle of the city, has begun defining neighbourhoods and the people that reside in them.
Many believe creativity enables urban development and new forms of art are continually being created and shared throughout large cities where a diverse multicultural composition tends to blend cultures and breed new artistic ideas.
These are the top cities around the world that are currently embracing contemporary art, where you are almost guaranteed to find creative inspiration or simply be fascinated by truly original and often rather bizarre works of art.
While art may be continually changing, one thing that remains the same is the need for travel insurance while travelling. Be sure to protect yourself with a comprehensive travel insurance policy if you plan on checking out one of these top contemporary art cities.
New York City may have more art galleries and museums than any other city in the world.
While you can find examples of contemporary art in the city’s famous Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, there are other exceptional museums that are solely dedicated to new emerging artists and their contemporary works.
One of New York’s major contemporary art museums is MoMA or the Museum of Modern Art. You’ll find the latest paintings, sculptures, architecture, and film on display. Part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Met Breuer is another great place to head for contemporary art.
New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art focuses on the latest art being produced from all around the world and hosts programs that help at-risk students get engaged in contemporary art.
El Museo del Barrio displays contemporary artwork from Latin American artists, while the Museum of Arts and Design features the latest in ceramics, furniture, and metalsmithing design. Be sure to check out Park Avenue’s Graffiti Hall of Fame for a look at the outdoor masterpieces of many renowned street artists.
Head to the southern tip of Africa to check out Cape Town’s Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa.
Here, you’ll find the world’s largest museum displaying contemporary African art. Housed in a nearly 60-metre-tall converted grain silo, the recently opened public museum sits on the V&A Waterfront displaying nine floors of exhibition space.
The hipster neighbourhood of Woodstock offers up the heart of Cape Town’s contemporary art scene, with its colourful houses and numerous art galleries and studios.
Located between the iconic Table Mountain and Table Bay, Woodstock presents the Stevenson Gallery which exhibits high-end contemporary works from regional artists as well as from around the continent. Blank Projects is another premier South African art gallery that aims to promote up-and-coming South African artists.
Zurich’s contemporary art scene has really began to take hold in the last few decades, transforming a roughly 100-year-old brewery into a world-class art centre that is home to around a dozen art institutions.
Known as Lowenbrau Areal, the art centre is at the heart of Zurich’s contemporary art scene, breeding all kinds of experimental art. Must see galleries include the Peter Kilchmann Galerie and Migros Museum of Contemporary Art, both of which feature the works of contemporary Swiss artists.
The city that gave birth to the Dada art movement is also home to the annual Contemporary Art Fair Zurich which has been running for over 20 years. You can catch this year’s exhibition from September 26-29, where you’ll be able to browse a large selection of paintings, sculpture, digital art, photography, and more.
Often overlooked on the global stage, Japanese contemporary art flourishes in Tokyo.
Galleries and museums can be found tucked away in the city’s towering skyscrapers, backstreet alleys, and even in historic bath houses.
One of the oldest Japanese contemporary art museums is the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art. The Hara Museum displays the works of notable contemporary Japanese artists such as Nara Yoshitomo and Tatsuo Miyajima.
Promoting progressive Japanese artists, SCAI The Bathhouse has converted a 200-year-old public bathhouse into one of the city’s major contemporary art galleries. Tokyo also offers the Mizuma Gallery which focuses largely on Japanese and Asian artists.
If you’re into photography, be sure to check out the Taka Ishii Gallery, where you’ll find the black and white street photography of Daido Moriyama as well as the confronting erotic images of Nobuyoshi Araki. You can browse one of Tokyo’s best bookshops specialising in art in the basement of the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art.
Home to a vast array of contemporary art spaces, London offers one of the most diverse and stimulating contemporary art scenes in the world.
The city is home to the Institute of Contemporary Arts located in The Mall just off Trafalgar Square as well as the Modern Tate. Located along the banks of the Thames in the old Bankside Power Station, Modern Tate is England’s national museum of modern and contemporary art.
The museum features the works of both modern artists and the many contemporary artists they inspired. View the masterpieces created by Picasso, Dalí, Matisse, Warhol, and Pollock. If contemporary street art is more your flavour, check out Shoreditch, East Croydon, Brick Lane and Camden Town.
Streets throughout London also feature the stencilled graffiti murals of the world famous and still anonymous England-based street artist Banksy, who is known for his popular satirical street art. Although Banksy remains anonymous, it is widely believed that Banksy is a he, but that hasn’t fully been proven.
Another interesting space is The Old Police Station, a do-it-yourself art centre where artists display their works in former jail cells.
Of course you don’t have to travel internationally for great contemporary art, as both Sydney and Melbourne displays its fair share.
Don’t forget about our island state to the south either. Hobart offers up MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) with its subterranean displays of truly eccentric and sometimes disturbing contemporary art.
While MONA’s art may not suit everyone’s tastes, it most definitely isn’t a boring experience. In addition to displaying the roughly $100 million private art collection of David Walsh, MONA host the annual MONA FOMA (MOFO) and Dark MOFO festivals of music and art.
The festivals attract notable musicians and feature some truly bizarre performance art.