On The Road
Five Art Cities To Visit Right Now
A look at the new cultural capitals where artists, collectors and curators are flocking and flourishing
Bogotá in Colombia is emerging as a prominent player on the international art circuit. Photograph by Mr Alexander Rieser/ Alamy
From London to Paris, it used to be a familiar initiation. On your first day of a cosmopolitan city break, you would go to a cluster of galleries, observe some “gritty street” art, maybe a conceptually designed national museum, and in one swift swoop (give or take a few overpriced coffees), you would be up to date on the à la mode of contemporary art. How things have changed. As rents rise in the established art capitals and the market becomes ever more contingent on six-figure sales (and hence art made for money’s sake), many artists are priced out of the cities.
This, combined with a thirst for the new, has caused the mass relocation of creatives to cities never associated before with art-world savvy. This has happened previously in the unlikeliest of places – think of Marfa, Texas, which was transformed into a place of artistic pilgrimage by minimalist sculptor Mr Donald Judd in the 1970s. But which locations are the ones to watch now? We’ve selected five creative destinations that are notable for their entrepreneurship, artistic communities and dedication to new media. In these emerging creative capitals, uninspired private views make way for political protest, open studios and site-specific projects that make the most of the surrounding architecture. If you’re into art, it’s probably time you visited. Or, better still, moved.
Abandoned areas of the Colombian capital are being regenerated by creatives to great success. Photograph by Mr Andres Rodriguez/ Alamy
If it wasn’t enough that Colombia gave the art world its current runaway success in the form of Mr Oscar Murillo (the 29-year-old artist currently garnering six-figure sums for his work), it has also developed a thriving art scene in capital city Bogotá. Non-locals might tell you this is because of local government intervention, but really it’s thanks to the city’s curators and entrepreneurs. In the past decade, more than 40 independent galleries have opened in Bogotá, showcasing a wide range of home-grown talent. Many of these have repurposed spaces in formerly seedy or abandoned areas of the city, some good examples being Espacio Odéon, Centro Cultural Gabriel García Marquez (a cultural centre housed in an old cinema) and galleries such as Flora Ars + Natura (which have taken over residential buildings). Alongside such smaller-scale efforts, there is the ongoing popularity of fairs such as La Otra Bienal and ArtBo. ArtBo in particular has become Latin America’s leading art gathering, firmly establishing the Colombian capital Bogotá as a prominent city on the international art circuit. “The scene in Bogotá is refreshing precisely because institutions are not as strong,” says Ms María Paz Gaviria, director of ArtBo. “Therefore, artists and curators have turned to creating independent and alternative projects, making a more fluid dynamic for the arts scene.”
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Artists are helping to revive Detroit’s fortunes by reappropriating the city's cheap real estate. Photograph by Mr Bill Pugliano/ Getty Images
In 2013, Detroit became the biggest city in US history to file for bankruptcy. But it’s a resilient place – a fact demonstrated by how artists have made the most of its abandoned buildings and cheap real estate in the past two years. Key to the creative identity of the city is a DIY ethos, inspired by the work of locals such as Mr Tyree Guyton, who, since 1986, has been using paint and “found objects” to beautify buildings in Detroit’s east side as part of his Heidelberg Project. In the same spirit, longtime Detroit resident Mr Robert Sestok raised £32,682 ($50,000) to open up his own City Sculpture Park this July. But Detroit is also attracting newcomers: cooperative initiatives such as the Galapagos Art Space (which relocated from Brooklyn in January 2015) have flocked to set up shop in vast former factory buildings, the likes of which would be impossible to find in a city like New York or London. “Detroit has a rich history of the arts and that remains true today,” says Mr James Collins, a Wisconsin-born artist who has been in Detroit for three years. “It’s the community of artists, galleries, and institutions that’s gained momentum in the last couple of years that makes Detroit as exciting as somewhere like Brooklyn.”
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An impressive £137m ($210m) is being ploughed into establishing Singapore as southeast Asia's arts hub. Photograph by Mr Billy Farrell/ BFA.com
A tropical arts hub was always going to gain traction, but Singapore’s success has beaten all expectations. In 2012, the Singapore Government announced plans to invest £137m ($210m) into recasting the island as Southeast Asia’s arts centre. While the impact of this is noticeable, seen in the brand new National Gallery Singapore, it’s the swathes of digitally focused and grassroots' movements that make Singapore so impressive, with some of the most interesting art exhibited in the minute gallery spaces in the neighbourhoods of Bras Basah and Bugis. One of 2015’s most anticipated events was FutureEverything Singapore, a festival that looked at the impact of digital culture in the city.
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In Havana, art can be found on show in the private studios of colonial buildings in the city's Centro district. Photograph by Mr Roberto Machado Noa/ Getty Images
The recent relaxation of Cuba’s border entry regulations for US citizens (and for political artists who previously were advised to lie on their visa applications) has shown the world the veritable hub of creativity that is Havana. Here, forget about the glass-fronted galleries of Europe and the US. “More often than not a private show will be closed by the authorities the day before it opens,” says the photographer Mr René Peña. Though such unpredictable censorship presents a challenge to artists and curators. They have risen to it largely by making and sharing their art – from sculpture to large-scale installations – in the private studios of colonial buildings in the run-down streets of Havana Centro. It also seems that the Cuban government might be softening its stance on art. With the help of Mr Fidel Castro himself, Havana’s most prolific artist Kcho has opened Kcho Estudio Romerillo, an arts lab free to the public. Meanwhile the Havana Biennal art exhibition, established in 1984, gets bigger and better every year.
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Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece. Photograph by Mr Alex Majoli/ Magnum Photos
In a former life, Athens was the understudy of Europe’s artsy capitals, throwing moody glares from the wings. As we head into 2016, it’s gleefully stepping into the limelight. There are the obvious attractions such as the Acropolis Museum, with its ultra-modern glass and steel museum housing ancient artefacts from the complex’s archaeological site. But what’s truly invigorating about art today in the Greek capital is how it has made its way into public spaces in the wake of the country’s well-documented economic and political crisis. Street artists such as The Kretisis Bros and Mr Manolis Anastasakos have used giant wall paintings on the side of buildings to visibly voice a collective sense of confusion and helplessness. The art collective Depression Era, has made creative use of dilapidated buildings in areas of Athens destroyed by the 2014 riots. In short, there’s a feeling of anything (and anywhere) goes, which has fostered a vibrant and flexible scene. “Outdoor art is a big deal here,” says Athens-based artist Mr Dionisis Kavallieratos, whose irreverent sculptures and drawings dissect pop cultural and religious imagery. “Groups such as Depression Era are mobilised through social media,” he says. “You can arrange a happening in a few hours.”