Istanbul Modern Headline act featured

When historians look back at the explosion of contemporary art in Istanbul, the first place they’ll look for evidence will be at the reclaimed huge shipping container that is the Istanbul Modern. Overstating the importance of the Istanbul Modern is—quite literally—impossible, as it spearheaded the proliferation of contemporary art spaces in the city.

Cast your peepers on some of the permanent exhibits, especially Adnan Çoker’s monolithic abstract canvas, Retrospective, or on Monica Bonvicini’s shattered glass staircase hung from steel chains near the entrance.

Oval Space Chameleon of the night featured

If you like your places cool with a side of trash, and your staff gorgeous with a side of rude, then feast yourself on Oval Space. Morphing between pop-up restaurant, to showcase cinema, to nightclub extraordinaire, Oval Space is the Madonna of venue re-invention. And as with every superstar, it has a funny turn now and again so checking ahead to see what’s on is definitely advisable. Probably best known for its club nights—it hosts the secret sundaze parties which with their ever-popular rave-athons put this versatile warehouse space to good and proper use. Sun-kissed terraces provide a great summer hangout from which you can watch an oil paint-worthy sunset (or rise) over the Bethnal Green gas works. Basically, the place is a box of chocolates; you just never know what you’re gonna get. So check those listings, Forrest.

Swiss Institute Sticking it to stereotypes featured

If you came here looking for multi-purpose pocket knives and smooth alpine chocolates then you came to the wrong place. This Swiss Institute is all about art, and always has been—ever since their humble beginnings in a two bed Swiss townhouse on West 67th Street in 1986.

After a lengthy spell in a loft space in Soho from the mid 90s through until 2011, they finally managed to upgrade to some street-level digs worthy of the art work that they’ve been consistently displaying.

With the change in surrounds also came a change in MO. Whereas formerly the institute was all about showcasing Swiss art and artists to a primarily Swiss audience, they’ve now become committed to looking beyond the perma-neutral state’s borders; morphing themselves into an innovative international venue that provides a forum for artistic dialogue between Switzerland, the rest of Europe and the US.

Unsurprising, then, that they’ve adopted an all-embracing approach to different mediums as well—from the paintings, illustrations and street art of Nicolas Party to the sculpture and installation work of Amy O’ Neill.

Beelitz Heilstätten Nazi ghosts and socialist ghouls featured

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big… creepy abandoned hospital. The notorious Beelitz complex has a grizzlier history than we would care to go into, suffice to say it’s worth Googling. The huge military hospital counts among its patients both Hitler and Honecker; so it’s already crossing into the stuff of nightmares. There are over 60 buildings in various states of distress, from dwellings that would make a Berlin squatter wince to parts that have been painstakingly restored and are still in use today.

Wandering round these remarkable buildings is a full day out. Nature taking its course has given some of them a beautiful make-under: red brick facades are cloaked in overgrown branches, while old paint curls and flakes into curious new shapes on the interior walls. This is irresistible bait for Hollywood, hence Beelitz has featured in both The Pianist and Valkyrie. The more dilapidated houses have ceilings falling through, under threat of further collapse at any second—so tread carefully, twinkle toes.

The site itself is a breeze to get into (just walk in off the road) but some buildings are boarded up, which just makes them all the more tempting. Going by day with a torch and a companion would be wise. To be found, there’s also a disused U-bahn station, railway tracks, and probably a few lost souls, for all your post-apocalyptic novel fantasy needs.

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