Exploring Art & Design in Berlin

Berlin is known for having one of the most vibrant international art scenes and it’s also known to be one of the most difficult to tap into. Many galleries and art spaces are tucked into alleyways and buildings that aren’t immediately obvious to the casual passerby. We consulted some of our in the know friends there, like Ambra Medda of L’ArcoBaleno (below), and went searching for the best places to find art and design on a weekend trip. Below, what we discovered.

Stay…on a Modern House Boat

left: A view of the Spree River from the house boat.; right: The minimal, light-filled space.

The guys at Welcome Beyond, a go-to for unique places to stay around the world, (check out their “Custom Property Search” service for even more tailored options) invited us to stay as their guests in a newly-built and spacious houseboat located on a harbor on a Spree river bay. With beautiful views, and outfitted top to bottom in contemporary design, it’s a world away from Berlin’s busy streets.

Berlin’s best mode of transport.

Get around the bicycle friendly city on Bella Ciao bikes, which come with the boat and make it easy to get from one art space to the next.

On the street…

from left to right: Graffiti by Roa, Nomad, Os Gêmeos.

From JR’s project, “The Wrinkles of the City<./a>“

Graffiti artists come to Berlin from all over the world… GoArt! Berlin, which comes highly recommended, do a Street Art tour by bike, among other themed tours.

The “Sammlungs”

left: Sammlung Boros; right: Sammlung Haubrok

The somewhat forbidding entrances to the Sammlung Boros and the Sammlung Haubrok are a stark contrast to the stunning collections inside. They are perhaps the best representations of Berlin’s contemporary art scene.

Sammlung Boros

Reinhardtstrasse 20
+49 30 2759 4065

Christian and Karen Boros bought and restored a wartime bunker turned hardcore techno space in 2003 and made it into a home for themselves and their collection of contemporary art, which they open to the public. They purchase art the year it’s made by contemporary artists like Wolfgang Tillmans, Ai Wei Wei, Tomas Saraceno, Cosima van Bonin and more. Every few years, they renew the exhibition and currently, the second installation is on view.

Email [email protected] for an appointment.

A few rooms in the bunker:

Thomas Scheibitz, Tinte und Zucker, 2007; Carlo Crivelli, 2006. Photo: © NOSHE

Cerith Wyn Evans, Untitled, 2008. Photo: © NOSHE

Ai Weiwei, Tree, 2009-2010. Photo: © NOSHE

Sammlung Haubrok

Herzbergstraße 40-43
+49 17 2210 9525

In April 2013, Axel and Barbara Haubrok unveiled their new space, a large development in the Lichtenberg neighborhood of Berlin, where, during the German Democratic Republic, it operated as a secret island of West German communist activity, with a bowling alley, sauna and bar, all still intact today. The Haubroks’ strong conceptual collection is now exhibited in these virtually untouched spaces. They share the development with several car repair shops, making the magnificent work inside feel like even more of a discovery with its unlikely surroundings.

Email [email protected] for an appointment. Tours are held on Saturdays.

Views of the installation from the first show at the venue with works by Günther Förg, Wolfgang Tillmans, Karin Sander, and more.

The Galleries

There’s no one central area to check out the gallery scene in Berlin, as many are hidden down alleyways and in unlikely buildings. Below, a few favorite finds.

Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art

Augustrasse 69
+49 30 243 4590

left: Entrance.; right: The Dan Graham designed glass Café Bravo.

The Kunst-Werke (KW) is one of the main art institutions in Berlin and has been essential to making Berlin an international art destination. With an ever-changing calendar, packed openings, and a café designed by Dan Graham, it’s a hangout for art lovers as well as a place to see groundbreaking contemporary art.

Jüdische Mädchenschule

Auguststrasse 11-13
[email protected]

Old school interiors.

Across the street from KW is this relatively new arts space (formerly a Jewish girl’s school), housing the hottest restaurants in town, Pauly-Saal (for heritage-inspired German dishes) and the more casual Mogg & Melzer (for New York deli style cuisine). The Michael Fuchs Gallery for excellent contemporary art and the quirky The Kennedys Museum (a collection of photos and memorabilia about the American President) are also based here. It’s the place to be.

left: Mogg & Melzer (Photo: Steve Herud); right: Pauly-Saal

left: The Kennedys Museum run by Camera Work Gallery; right: The Michael Fuchs Gallery.


Prinzessinnenstrasse 29
+49 30 4050 4953

Recently relocated to Kreuzberg, on a rather non-descript side street, this gallery marks the beginning of a new arts scene in this neighborhood. We especially love their current Bernard Pifaretti show, full of colorful repetition.

Exhibition view of Bernard Pifaretti’s work.


Potsdamer Strasse 77–87
+49 30 6449 31510

With major players like Wim Wenders, Bill Viola, and Lawrence Weiner exhibited in this expansive space, it’s definitely worth a visit. We were impressed by Nasan Tur’s Cloud Series—seemingly innocent and beguiling images of skies from violent moments of unrest in Libya. The amazing Andreas Murkudis store (read more below), and the Nolan Judin gallery are next door.

Nasan Tur, Cloud no. 1-7 March, 2011 Ra’s Lanuf, Libya, 2012


Potsdamer Strasse 96
+49 30 2061 3870

Around since 1994, Arndt was one of the first galleries to make Potsdamer Strasse a destination for art.


Home to the Bauhaus Archive and a plethora of modern architectural masterpieces from Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, and Le Corbusier, modern design is part of Berlin’s DNA. We scoured the city for its best stores and galleries.


left: Maria Pergay pouf.; right: Teenage Engineering synthesizer.

Design curator Ambra Medda, the co-founder of Design Miami has now started yet another venture, this time in Berlin—L’ArcoBaleno, a high design online marketplace that launches this week. We’re excited to see the site grow and take the design world by storm with a board of directors that includes David Adjaye and Tom Dixon. Perhaps a gallery space in Berlin is in the works in the next few years?

Andreas Murkudis

Potsdamer Strasse 77–87
+49 30 68079 8306

A gallery-like store, if there’s one place to go shopping in Berlin, this would be it. Housed in a huge space with wooden floors and whitewashed walls, it features clothing from designers like Martin Margiela, Celine, Dries Van Noten mixed with design items and furniture, all displayed in an artful manner. Hidden away in an alley off the main street, it feels like a real discovery and it is not to be missed.

Firma London

Bleibtreustrasse 50
+49 30 8321 0893

With an emphasis on mid-century modern, the finds here are pretty exquisite and displayed in a way that makes it easy to imagine them at home. Think big names like Herman Miller, Eames, Wegner and van der Rohe. The store is based in the Charlottenberg neighborhood, but to see more stock, you can also make an appointment to visit their larger warehouse in Kreuzberg.

Paper & Tea

Bleibtreustrasse 4
+49 30 9561 5468

Photo: Emmanuel Decouard

Down the street from Firma is this cool concept store, which displays exactly what the name suggests in a stunning and minimal white space. Tea specialists, they present frequent seminars on the subject, from its history to how to drink and prepare it correctly. In addition to all the necessary tea accoutrements, they also sell pretty stationery and greeting cards.

Do You Read Me?!

Auguststrasse 28
+49 30 695 49 695

A super cool bookshop with a great edit on visual publications from art to architecture and design. Their magazine and journal collection from around the world is expansive.


Lindenstrasse 34
+49 30 50599 777

With a sister gallery in Stockholm, Jacksons specializes in 20th century furniture from around the world, with a special emphasis on Scandinavian design. The gallery features well-edited, themed exhibitions (on our visit the theme was “The Cabinet Maker”) and their collection is truly extensive and includes lighting, ceramics, glass, and textiles as well.

Galerie Ulrich Fiedler

Mommsenstrasse 59
+49 30 33 09 40 10

Open by appointment only, this design gallery is housed in a beautiful art-deco building in Charlottenberg. The owners, husband and wife Ulrich Fiedler and Katharina Evers, have a real sense of the historical significance and provenance of each piece of important 20th century design on display.