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Berlin: A free walking tour of Mitte’s art galleries

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A piece by Kyungwoo Chun at the DNA gallery on Auguststrasse. Photo: by Garzon
A piece by Kyungwoo Chun at the DNA gallery on Auguststrasse. Photo: by Garzon

By Susan Buzzelli–

You can’t trip in Berlin without running into an art gallery stocked with eye-catching works. Every kind of “Kunstler” from established masters to “outsider” (untrained, un-establishment) artists are represented in the spaces littering the city. Most spots in town, however, display drawings, paintings, sculptures, video installations, and conceptual pieces by up-and-comers or neophytes fresh out of the world’s art schools.

While a handful of the more established galleries (for example C/O Berlin, Sammlung Boros, and Sammlung Hoffmann) charge admission for the privilege of perusing their high-profile exhibitions, the vast majority of galleries are free to visit. As can be expected, some prestigious spots are as pretentious as they come, but most are casual affairs that you can pop in and out of on a whim, without fretting about your wardrobe or your cheapo bank account.

Touring the galleries of Mitte

Most (but certainly not all) of the city’s art galleries—from the upscale to the funky–roost in the central district of Mitte. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, gallery-owners based in Charlottenburg, the tony district in the western part of town that once dominated the city’s art scene, decamped to the “newer,” edgier side of the city to take advantage of its avant garde spaces, low rents, and international buzz factor.

Start a tour of the district’s gallery scene at the eastern end of Auguststrasse. Since many of the galleries lined up on this quiet street are window-lined, you can check out the artwork on display inside as you stroll past. At the western end of August Strasse, you’ll hit heavily-touristed Oranienburger Strasse, where the famous squatters/art commune (which has occupied a bombed-out department store since the fall of the wall) hovers above the corner of Chausse Strasse. You can explore the graffitied warren of studios and exhibition rooms comprising Kunsthaus Tacheles for free.

To catch a few more galleries, head back east along Linienstrasse, an elegant, café- and boutique-lined street that runs parallel to Auguststrasse. Be sure to admire the costumes on display in Wunderkind Vintage, a gorgeous space on the corner of Tucholskystrasse that is best described as a “gallery to fashion.” Turn right onto Tucholsky, where you’ll find a few more galleries. At Oranienburger Strasse, you can hop on a tram to Rosenthaler Platz.

From this bustling square, head east along gritty Torstrasse for a couple of blocks to check out the handful of innovative galleries and designer boutiques nestled on the southern side of the street. Double back to Rosenthaler Platz and walk north on Brunnenstrasse. (If you need a coffee break first, stop at one of the cafes on Weinbergsweg.) On the stretch of the wide street between Invalidenstrasse and Bernauer Strasse, you’ll find a smattering of youthful and unpretentious galleries. End your tour at the Bernauer Strasse U-bahn station.

Look for openings

As you explore the gallery scene, look out for fliers advertising upcoming openings. Catching a “vernissage” means the opportunity to mix and mingle with Berlin’s multicultural art scenesters, as well as score a free beer or wine.

For a more complete overview of the city’s gallery-filled hoods, download a copy of Kunstmagazin Berlin and check out their map and corresponding list of galleries.

About the author

Susan Buzzelli

About the author: A Pittsburgh native, Susan Buzzelli has been a sworn Germanophile since she spent a high school summer as an exchange student in Buxtehude. After stints in Dresden, Munich, and Hamburg she settled (possibly for good) in Europe’s most dynamic city: Berlin. When she isn't exploring Berlin, she's traveling throughout Germany (with an occasional hop over the border). Her comprehensive guidebook to Germany, Zeitguide Germany, will be published soon. Look for updates on her website, www.susanbuzzelli.com.

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