The Top 12 Art Cities Of The Future

So long, New York and Berlin. Welcome Cluj.

“The art world is more of a world in every sense, with a larger population, a wider territory, and a greater number of nationalities,” writes Kari Rittenbach in the preface for Art Cities of the Future: 21st Century Avant-Garde.


What does it mean to be an Art City? Rittenbach, the book’s editor, reserves the term for the urban areas that offer something beyond even prestigious museums and a thriving gallery culture: “I mean a creative economy within a small place,” she tells Co.Design. “It’s a city that has its own critical feedback system.”

To those standards, the comprehensive 500-page Art Cities of the Future names Beirut, Bogota, Cluj, Delhi, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Lagos, San Juan, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Singapore, and Vancouver as centers of the next few decades’ influential art scenes.

In many ways, choosing these cities challenges our notions of what comprises an art scene (and not just because you hadn’t heard of Cluj until now). Geographically, the avant-garde movements of the past were tightly knit groups, like the surrealists who used visual tools to react to World War I or the Bauhausiers who literally lived together while developing an arts movement.

Now, like anything else, contemporary art is a product of globalization. Ideas jet around the world, and macro trends are felt from country to country. Across all the cities surveyed, Rittenbach says, there are conceptual themes, particularly around politics and labor: “The content is tied to the location, but what they’re interested in looking at, and how knowledge is formed, is similar,” she says. Which is not to say a piece of art from Lagos could be swapped out with work from Singapore. The difference shows up in texture and medium. “Regional specificity isn’t opposed to globalization,” Rittenbach says, making the distinction. “The San Juan artists use bright colors. In the Bogota chapter, the curator there was interested in artists looking at nature and botanical developments in some way.”

Get a copy of (and plan your next trip around) Art Cities of the Future for $80, here.

About the author

Margaret Rhodes is a former associate editor for Fast Company magazine.