10 Must-Visit Contemporary Art Galleries In St. Louis, Missouri

Photo of Helen Armitage
27 October 2016

Contemporary art has found a haven in St. Louis, Missouri, the “Gateway City” and one of the Midwest region’s premier art destinations. Home to two internationally renowned institutions – the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts – alongside a number of smaller, independent galleries in the trendy Cherokee Street and Central West End neighborhoods, St. Louis is the perfect city in which to immerse yourself in contemporary art culture.

Gateway Arch, St Louis, Missouri | © Doug Kerr/Flickr

Art Saint Louis

Now in its 30th year of operation, Art Saint Louis is a long-standing fixture on the city’s art scene and resides in a gallery-cum-café space in the heart of downtown Louis. Established with the mission of celebrating and showcasing the city region’s best contemporary visual artists, the gallery specializes in presenting creatively-themed group exhibitions featuring talented artists from St. Louis and the surrounding areas, which has included Missouri-born and bred photographer CB Adams, whose captivating pictures capture Missouri’s landscapes, and Wentzville-based paint Thomas Matthew Pierson, whose art is a self-described contemplation in body dysmorphia, nutrition and candy. Art Saint Louis also regularly collaborates with local businesses to present pop-up galleries and hosts the annual Honor Awards, a juried exhibition which acknowledges the best local artists.

Art St Louis, 1223 Pine Street, St Louis, MO, USA, +1 314 241 4810

Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, or CAM for short, was founded in 1980 and moved to its current premises in St. Louis’ vibrant Midtown in 2003, since which it has presented over 120 exhibitions featuring more than 260 artists. Each year CAM presents six main gallery exhibitions featuring national and international artists from a variety of cultural backgrounds and working across various mediums, and a number of regularly changing exhibitions in its Front Room gallery which focuses on experimental art by emerging artists. Always looking to introduce the next big names to the USA’s wider contemporary art scene, CAM has given several talented artists their first major American museum exhibition including Zambian mixed media artist Carey Young, whose art examines the intrusion of the commercial realm into private lives, and Israeli-American artist Elad Lassry, who incorporates vintage images and film archives into his work.

Jennifer Steinkamp, Orbit, installation view, Contemporary Art Museum St Louis, 2013 | Photo by Jennifer Steinkamp

The Millstone Gallery at COCA

Art Gallery, Building
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COCA is St. Louis’ Center of Creative Arts, a multidisciplinary arts and culture institution that resides in a former synagogue designed by world-famous German architect Erich Mendelsohn, and has been entertaining the St. Louis community with art-based performances and events for the past 20 years. Among COCA’s operations in The Millstone Gallery, which exhibits works from regional and national artists which has included exhibitions from St. Louis-based photographer Stewart Halperin, who travels the world documenting the cultures he encounters with his camera, and Florida-based artist Maggie Taylor, who creates beautifully surreal images by scanning and digitally manipulating 19th century photos and drawings.

Bruno David Gallery

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Located in a renovated industrial building, the Bruno David Gallery was established in 2005 and is situated in St Louis’ midtown area amongst a cluster of fellow contemporary art spaces. Owned by Director and namesake Bruno David, the gallery has gained national attention for its original exhibition program featured in publications including Art in America and the Wall Street Journal, and represents some of St Louis’ most talented artists alongside a roster of internationally-acclaimed artists. Among its current artists are conceptual sculptor Michael Jantzen, whose work merges art, design and architecture, and St Louis-based multimedia artist Patricia Olynyk whose art comments on the relationship between science, culture, and the environment.

Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum

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Named after a Kansas City, Missouri resident and lifelong patron of the arts the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum is part of Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. The museum, which dates back to 1881, has exhibited the work of accomplished artists including New York City-based Rashid Johnson whose art – a mixture of painting, photography, sculpture and video – challenges perceptions of the black experience in America today, and gave the British collage artist John Stezaker his first US museum exhibition. The museum strives to expand its own collection, one of the most impressive university art collections in the country, which features a number of works produced in the 21st century including art from German painter and installation artist Franz Ackerman and Moroccan artist Yto Barrada.

Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts

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Established in 2002 as a non-profit arts forum, the Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts is a unique, alternative and independent art gallery located in the historic Cherokee Street neighborhood that is owned by president, founder and successful local businessman, Galen Gondolfi. With a DIY ethos and a preference for the alternative and experimental, the Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts offers visitors a relaxed and welcoming environment in which to view cutting—edge contemporary artists’ work and is helping to establish the Cherokee Street area as a hub of arts and culture. Among the artists recently exhibited at Fort Gondo are St. Louis-based mixed media artist Lisa Bulawsky, who is also a professor or printmaking and drawing at Washington University, and self-taught photographer Jesse Firestone.

White Flag Projects

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Located in the vibrant and booming Grove district of St. Louis, White Flag Projects is a not-for-profit alternative contemporary art gallery that was founded in 2006 by gallery director Matthew Strauss. White Flag Projects was established to both improve St. Louis’ visual arts scene and to provide the city with progressive and thought-provoking exhibitions from artists based within the St. Louis region alongside works from nationally and internationally renowned artists. Admission to each exhibition is completely free and visitors and view works of art by the likes of N Dash, an artist based between New York City and Mexico named by Complex Magazine as one of the 25 artists to watch in 2013, and Brooklyn-based sculptor Tony Matelli.

PHD Gallery

Another Cherokee Street trailblazer, PHD Gallery occupies a storefront property that is both green in color and sustainable design conceived by St. Louis native Philip Hitchcock, an artist and curator who has helped gain PHD Gallery national media attention with the gallery receiving praise from publications including the New York Times. Founded in 2007, PHD Gallery has established a strong reputation for producing alternative art shows that focus on the very best in regional, national and international contemporary art. The sophisticated and minimalist space has exhibited a range of solo shows and imaginatively themed group exhibitions that has featured works of art by gifted artists including Michigan artist Aunia Kahn and her film noir inspired paintings, photography and collages and Texan sculptural and jewellery artist Jillian Palone.

PHD Gallery, 2300 Cherokee Street, St Louis, MO, USA, +1 314 664 6644

Philip Slein Gallery

The Philip Slein Gallery is a chic, urban art space located in St Louis’ bustling, bohemian Central West End neighborhood. The gallery was established in 2003 by co-owners Philip Slein and Tom Bussman who came together over their shared passion for contemporary painting and commitment to showcase the very best in contemporary art regardless of style or discipline. Recently, the gallery was named as one of The Huffington Post’s 40 “galleries you should know if you love paint,” and has exhibited works by a number of high profile artists based in the Midwest alongside well-known national artists. Recent exhibitions include St. Louis painter Jamie Adams’ subversive series of paintings of the Hollywood icons Jean Seberg and Marilyn Monroe, and works by the New York-based abstract painter Gary Stephan.

Philip Slein Gallery, 4735 McPherson Avenue, St Louis, MO, USA, +1 314 361 2617

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