30 Must-See Art Museums In The U.S.
1. National Gallery of Art – Washington, D.C.
I know we said we weren’t ranking the museums. But you can’t create one of these lists without starting with the country’s preeminent art museum. It was created by Congress and financier Andrew W. Mellon as a gift to the people of the United States and it has kept giving ever since. Not only is admission free, but the Gallery — as it should — has one of the world’s most impressive collection of art in all forms.
Three to see:
The Sculpture Garden
Picking just one of the 17 sculptures in the gallery’s six-acre garden is impossible, so you should just go see them all. The sculptures one-of-a-kind and the scenery and garden itself aren’t too shabby either. If you get the chance, visit in the early Summer, when the cherry blossoms are in bloom and the picturesque garden is at it’s finest.
A Naval Encounter Between Dutch and Spanish Warships by Verbeeck
When they received two naval warfare paintings in 1995, The Gallery quickly learned the paintings had initially been combined into one larger painting. They were recreated recently and now you get to see the incredible detail and energy from such an action-packed work of of art.
Antico: The Golden Age of Renaissance Bronzes Exhibition
Whether it was reliefs or statuettes, few created better bronzes than Antico. Known for his affinity for antiquity (you didn’t think Antico was his real name did you?), his bronzes of important politicians and religious leaders from ancient Rome and Greece are exquisite. For a layman, it can be downright baffling how finely detailed the smaller statues are, but that is what makes it a must-see exhibition if you are planning a trip.
Follow on Twitter: @ngadc
2. The Frick Collection – New York City, N.Y.
Located in Manhattan at the former Henry Clay Frick House, the collection is nowhere near the size of the National Gallery of Art. But when it comes to high-quality old master paintings from some of Europe’s preeminent artists, the Frick Collection has few, if any, peers. In addition to paintings from the likes of Rembrandt, Goya, and Manet, the mansion also is home to an impressive array of classical, upscale furniture, porcelain vases, and Italian bronzes, making The Frick Collection a must-visit for art junkies.
Three to see:
Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Painting Exhibition
This inspired exhibition features nine paintings, including some on loan from all around the world, that delve deep into Renoir’s work in the full-length format. You’ll want to get a look at all of the paintings, but La Promenade – a permanent part of the collection – is especially exquisite and detailed.
The porcelain Chinese vases
The Chinese are famous for their impressive ceramics work. Luckily for art lovers, the Frick Collection has such a diverse and beautiful collection from the dynastic periods, everybody gets a chance to enjoy them. From vases to goblets to candlesticks, the collection is an excellent homage to some of the finest ceramics works in the world.
The Forge by Francisco Goya
There are so many incredible artists on display throughout the collection; it can be hard to single out just one. But Goya is one of the most celebrated artists in the world and The Forge is an excellent example of why he deserves so much admiration. The painting’s muted colors and incredible emotion make it one of the most powerful views in the entire collection.
Follow on Twitter: @frickcollection
3. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – San Francisco, Calif.
A uniquely designed building in the heart of one of the country’s most beautiful cities, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art combines high-quality with a vast array of different shapes and sizes of art that make it such a reputable museum. From its unique photography collection to its impressive array of sculptures and paintings from the likes of Andy Warhol and Henri Matisse, the San Francisco MOMA has a little bit of everything for any type of art fan.
Three to see:
La Conversation by Henri Matisse
Stop by the second floor of the museum for a look at one of the most colorful and intriguing oil paintings in the entire collection. Matisse’s use of vibrant colors makes the painting stand out in a crowd, and his fascinating depiction of two women smiling impishly will leave you wondering just what that conversation was all about.
Photography in Mexico Exhibition
One of the museums’ newest exhibitions is also one of its most captivating. The San Francisco MOMA was one of the first museums to celebrate photography as an art form and this exhibition gives viewers an amazing look at the rich culture and tradition of Mexico and its people.
The Rooftop Garden
The inside of the museum is wonderful; just don’t forget to stop by the rooftop sculpture garden for a look at some interesting large-scale works. If we had to pick one, make sure to spend some time examining The Nest by Louise Bourgeois, an intricate spidery design that will give you the creeps and keep you fascinated at the same time.
Follow on Twitter: @SFMOMA
4. Austin Museum of Digital Art – Austin, Texas
One of the country’s best museums for celebrating digital art, you can’t actually visit the museum, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking time to examine their work on the Internet. The museum’s mission is to challenge the public’s view on digital art, and they are constantly on the lookout for submissions from accomplished artists or musicians. If you are lucky enough to be in Austin when they put on one of their digital showcases, you should carve out some time in your schedule for it.
One to see:
Any of their digital showcases
The lack of a gallery and permanent space means seeing their digital art on display can be difficult. But if you get the chance to catch one of their digital showcases, you won’t be disappointed. The museum wants to showcase different forms of digital art and their showcases are the perfect venue. From live electronic music to graphics, music videos, and everything in between, these showcases give a digital art novice an excellent look at what digital art really is.
5. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – Boston, Mass.
You may have heard of folks like Degas, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Botticelli; well at the Gardner Museum you can see work from all of those famous artists, plus more. If you happened to be named Isabella or born on the day of your visit, the Gardner Museum will even let you see those works for free. The museum isn’t all about paintings though. It also hosts concerts, guest lectures, and community programs to make it one of the more versatile and interesting museums in the country.
Three to see:
The Rape of Europa by Titian
One of the most famous pieces of art in the museum’s collection, The Rape of Europa is one of Titian’s finest works. While not as clear as some of his earlier works, the painting itself is full of passion, color, and action, while also maintaining a subtle blurriness that makes it even more aesthetically pleasing.
Portrait of Josephine Gaujelin by Edgar Degas
It won’t catch your eye at a glance, but then again, Degas may have wanted it that way. The painting has a somber mood, sparked by the emotionless expression and black garb of Gaujelin. One of the few impressionist paintings on display in the museum, don’t forget to give it a long look, if only to see the precision with which Degas portrays the young dancer.
The empty frames of the Dutch Room
In 1990, thieves made off with more than ten works of art valued at hundreds of millions of dollars and the works haven’t been returned since. But the museum didn’t sweep it under the rug, instead they left empty frames as a reminder of the great work that was once displayed and as a hopeful symbol that they still believe the works will be returned. There isn’t anything to see really, but the story is so good you should still check it out.
Follow on Twitter: @gardnermuseum
6. Seattle Art Museum – Seattle, Wash.
The museum actually owns and operates three separate facilities, including the main museum, the Asian Art Museum located in the city’s Capitol Hill, and the Olympic Sculpture Park on the waterfront. All three are tremendous visits and are home to some magnificent works of art. The collection has more than 20,000 works and few museums can boast such a impressive array of different types, from every corner of the world.
Three to see:
Olympic Sculpture Park
Not only is the scenery surrounding the park a breathtaking sight to behold, but admission is free and the sculptures on display are awe-inspiring. The Eagle by Alexander Calder may be the most famous part of the collection, but don’t miss the Eye Benches, some of the most unique sculptures you will ever see.
The Art Ladder
Chances are if you visit the museum, you can’t miss the “Art Ladder” and its monstrous statues. Just make sure not to pass them by so quickly. The area is free to walk around and the statues are impressive in their size and craftsmanship.
Colors of the Oasis
An exhibition that opens in mid-March, the Colors of the Oasis promises to be a colorful look at the vivid clothing of the Oasis cities in central Asia and one of the better exhibitions to look for at the Asian Art Museum. The colors, patterns, designs, and stories surrounding the robes will likely keep you captivated for a long time.
Follow on Twitter: @iheartSAM
7. Museum of Computer Art
Established in 1993 and chartered by the New York Department of Education, the Museum of Computer Art rapidly became one of the most fascinating digital museums on the web. Hosting everything from 3-D rendered art and animation to computer-painted art and enhanced photography, the museum’s wide cache of different art is why it has become so popular. They accept submissions and encourage artists both experienced and inexperienced to try their hand and take a look at some of their complex and fascinating works of digital art.
Three to see:
The Painting of Light by HoryMa
These Russian artists have ventured into light-intensive photography and the results are extraordinary. Their gallery of photographs is illuminating (pun absolutely intended) and you can scroll through their selections for hours and never get bored of their beauty and uniqueness.
Women in Art by Philip Scott Johnson
This is nearly three minutes of morph animation that highlights 500 years of female portraits. The musical accompaniment is just right and the morph animation coupled with the exquisite art being showcased is captivating to watch and easy for most laypeople to follow.
3D Fiction by Serdar Camlica
The ability to easily simulate a 3-D environment is one of the best parts about the invention of the computer and Camlica’s simple and somber gallery is an excellent example. His images are all in black and white and the designs are not complex but effective and intriguing to observe.
Follow on Twitter: @mocanomi
8. Adobe Museum of Digital Media – the Internet
As technology advances, digital art and media is becoming more prevalent, and no one is doing better than the folks at the Adobe Museum of Digital Media. From their eye-catching website to their even more inspiring exhibits, the museum is a revolutionary look at advanced digital media and art from some of the most talented folks in the industry.
Just go see:
There is no point in picking just three. There are only a number of selected exhibits and each one is brilliant and engrossing in their own way. From Wired Magazine editor Thomas Goetz’s compelling look at visualizing data to Rhode Island School of Design President John Maeda’s excellent video lecture on combining physical and virtual design in the present day, everything this museum offers will be fascinating to those who have the time to pay attention.
Follow on Twitter: @AdobeMuseum
9. Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art – New York City, N.Y.
You didn’t think all art had to be serious and formal did you? Created to help the artistry of comics and cartoons get recognized and to spark discussion and thought about comic and cartoon art, the museum is one of the fascinating and enjoyable art museums, especially if you have to drag your kids along. Every kind of comic and cartoon art you can think of is featured, and the low cost makes it easy to turn into a family affair.
Two to see:
The Artists of Batman Exhibition
Everybody loved Batman when they were younger, but few probably realize that the cartoon version of Batman was the vision of a number of different artists. This exhibition will provide you an opportunity to compare and contrast the drawings of these different artists and decide which version of Batman and his enemies you like the best.
We have to confess, we haven’t visited the museum in many years and their gallery of art isn’t available online because they want to encourage you to visit the museum in person. So let us help them convince you. The gallery of comic and cartoon art is vast, diverse, dynamic, and really interesting. Whether you like anime or editorial cartoons or graphic novels, there is a type of comic and cartoon art for everyone.
Follow on Twitter: MoCCAnyc
10. Booth Western Art Museum – Cartersville, Ga.
It seems odd that a museum dedicated to Western Art of the 20th and 21st century would be located deep in the Southeast, but let’s give the Booth Museum credit, they take their Western Art seriously. With everything from contemporary Western Art to signed presidential letters from each president, the Booth Museum is a terrific resource for art aficionados and fans of the Wild Wild West.
Three to see:
If you are a serious art geek, then you should probably skip Sagebrush Ranch. But if you are visiting with your young son or daughter, you will probably end up spending a lot of time at the ranch, because your kids won’t want to leave. The ranch does an excellent job of using a hands-on and interactive approach to keep kids engaged while also helping educate them about life and culture out West.
American Legacy: Our National Parks, on Location with the Plein-Air Painters of America Exhibition
One of the museum’s current, temporary exhibitions, cull together the paintings from some of the country’s most beautiful national parks and the results promise to be breath-taking. If you don’t have the resources or the time to visit national parks across the country, these detailed and colorful paintings will help satisfy your urges and make you feel like you have seen the scenery anyway.
As we mentioned, the museum has a portrait and a signed letter from every single president in our country’s history. They also have a variety of presidential trinkets and memorabilia that are interesting if only because you didn’t expect some of those things to qualify as art.
Follow on Twitter: @BoothMuseum
11. New York Museum of Modern Art – New York City, N.Y.
In case you didn’t notice, our country’s largest city is the home to some incredibly impressive art museums and the MOMA is just the latest example. It is pretty much agreed upon that no museum in the world does a better job at hosting, developing, and showcasing modern art. This contemporary art includes architecture, paintings, illustrations, books, film, and even photos. As if that wasn’t enough, the museum was renovated shortly after the turn of the century, giving it even more space to add to its already impressive collection.
Three to see:
Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lilly Pond by Claude Monet
A painting from perhaps the most famous impressionist painter of all-time, this piece stretches the whole length of a wall in the museum and it is hard not to be awestruck when you stand next to it. The man loved to paint water-lillies and his incredible ability to capture the natural color of the scenery and the details of the reflections on the water make this a must-see for any art lover.
Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh
If you ever learned anything about art in grade school, chances are you have seen reprints or photographs of one of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings, but if you want a chance to see the real thing, you will have to go to the MOMA. The painting is excellent, saying you have seen one of the world’s most famous paintings up-close might be even better.
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Pablo Picasso
The work depicting five prostitutes from a brothel in Avignon is as controversial as it is influential, which makes it even more of an attraction. On one hand, many of his contemporaries felt the painting was made to mock traditional European art, but others credit the painting with helping develop cubism and modern art. Go see and decide for yourself.
Follow on Twitter: @MuseumModernArt
12. The Andy Warhol Museum – Pittsburgh, Penn.
You know you are a big deal when you have an entire museum erected in your honor. The collection features works that span Warhol’s entire illustrious career, and includes photographs, films, sculptures, and sketches from and about the Pittsburgh native. The museum is a wonderful ode to the career and life of one of this country’s most influential and well-known artists and showcases the godfather of Pop Art’s skill and style like no one else.
Three to see:
The Film Installation
Warhol didn’t just paint and draw, he also made films and all 4,000 of them now reside on the 6th floor of the museum that bears his name. You can watch a man sleep for six hours in Warhol’s famous and aptly named film Sleep or you can get eight hours of footage of the Empire State Building at dusk in Empire.
Self-Portrait in Drag
There might not be a better way to try and understand the genius and personality of Warhol than to examine any of his plentiful self-portraits. But his self-portrait in drag is not only fun, but it also embodies the crazy, controversial, and courageous artist that Warhol was. He may not make the best-looking lady, but this self-portrait is influential anyway.
Perhaps our favorite Warhol piece, Moonwalk is a brilliantly colored, almost psychedelic work featuring a man planting the American flag on the moon. Only Warhol can take a monumental event in our country’s history and turn it into something you might see on a college student’s wall.
Follow on Twitter: @TheWarholMuseum
13. Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts – St. Louis, Missouri
Designed by acclaimed architect, Tadao Ando, the building the art is housed in is a fascinating work of art in its own right. Foundation directors are averse to calling it a museum, instead opting to refer to it as a “museumlike facility”. But no matter what it is called, the art housed there – whether it is sculptures or paintings – is worth the visit. The foundation even works with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra to put on chamber concerts that have been very well-received.
Three to see:
Joe by Richard Serra
A spiral sculpture ensconced within the facilities high cement walls, Joe isn’t meant to be seen in images, it is meant to be examined up-close and personal. That way you can understand the sculpture as a “function of time” as Serra puts it.
Blue Black by Ellsworth Kelly
The other sculpture the foundation loves to tout is Kelly’s simple yet inspired piece that stands 28 feet tall and is made of painted aluminum. Located in the main gallery, Blue Black can hardly be considered intricate, but of course that is what Kelly wanted. Just admire the way the light affects it and enjoy how well it works next to the blank white walls.
The exhibition that is showing while you are in town
Reflections of the Buddha was the most recent exhibition but it has run its course. The next exhibition, In the Still Epiphany, won’t start until April but might be worth checking out. The foundation is excellent at combining terrific artwork with musical accompaniment in a social setting, so if you find yourself with some free time, go check it out.
Follow on Twitter: @thepulitzer
14. Shelburne Museum – Shelburne, Vermont
Tucked away in the Northeastern corner of our country, the Shelburne Museum is not as widely visited as some of the more well-known museums, but that doesn’t mean you should discount its influence. There is folk art, patterned quilts, impressionist paintings, and even toy dolls, all of which combine to create one of the more unusual and exotic collections of art in the country. If you are getting tired of the same old modern art, take a trip to Vermont and see the splendor for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
Three to see:
The folk art collection
The Shelburne is best known for its collection of folk art and you would be wise to spend a lot of time going through the gallery. There are paintings, but then there are also cigar store figures and intricately designed weather vanes and even some things that you will struggle to identify. But of course, that’s what makes it so much fun.
Some 400 dolls make for one of the creepier and yet fascinating collections in the museum. Created from china, wax, paper-mache and much more, these dolls are incredibly detailed and their colors, expressions, and perfection are divine.
Another unique collection is the 225 horse-drawn carriages on display in the museum. See how people in the late 19th century travelled and make sure to check out the rare Berlin Coach with its gold-satin interior and well-designed details.
Follow on Twitter: @ShelburneMuseum
15. Art Institute of Chicago – Chicago, Ill.
Associated with the school that bears the same name, the Art Institute of Chicago is home to one of the country’s most impressive collections of impressionist and post-impressionist art. It is also one of the largest museums in the country in terms of square feet, which of course just means that it can hold a lot of art. There are water-lily paintings from Monet and other excellent works from the famous Renoir, but make sure not to miss the furniture designs of Frank Lloyd Wright either.
Three to see:
Medieval Arms and Armor collection
Armor and armaments from the Renaissance period in Europe served a real purpose, but they were also works of art. The metal work is excellent, the décor is impressive and a full suit of armor in its shiny splendor can be a lot of fun to look at.
Inventions of Monsters by Salvador Dali
Few artists were as technically skilled as Dali and this morbidly fascinating image shows exactly why. From the burning Giraffe and crimson skyline in the background, to whatever is going on in the lower left corner, this piece will leave you spellbound, impressed, and probably more than a little freaked out.
Traditional Japanese Musical Instruments Exhibition
This exhibition will only be around for another two months so you better get to it quickly. Maybe it is just us, but primitive musical instruments are some of the more interesting pieces of work to study. Their simplistic yet creative designs and decorative symbols and details make the instrument and its music works of art in their own right.
Follow on Twitter: @artinstitutechi
16. Museum of Fine Arts Boston – Boston, Mass.
As if the museum wasn’t already impressive, they opened the Art of Americas wing of the museum back in November and have added to their already expansive collection. The diverse collections represent just how comprehensive this museum is. You can find Egyptian artifacts or stick to impressionist paintings or check out Chinese calligraphy or incredible Japanese pottery. The quality and quantity of art in this museum help make it one of the most-visited art museums in the world.
Three to see:
Paul Revere by John Singleton Copley
If you ever opened a history book, chances are you have seen the portrait of one of the American Revolution’s most famous patriots, Paul Revere. Aside from the exquisite detail and emotional expression on Revere’s face, but the back story about Revere and Copley’s political affiliations and motives are almost as interesting. Why is Revere holding a teapot?
It is not exactly a secret that if you are a fan of ancient Egyptian art, that the Boston MFA is the place to visit. Busts, statuettes, pendants, and many other trinkets that may have been buried in the tombs of Pharaohs now call the MFA home and each one is more impressive and intricately designed than the next.
Herb Ritts photograph collection
His background in magazine portraits and connections and Hollywood helped Ritts become one of the most recognized photographers in the country. His photos are an eclectic mix of portraits and other interests, but his portraits are definitely the most interesting. He doesn’t dress the photos up with colors and effects; he just lets the subjects’ expressions tell their stories for them.
Follow on Twitter: @mfaboston
17. Nelson-Atkins Museum – Kansas City, Mo.
Are you a little short on funds but still hankering for art? If you are in Kansas City that’s no problem because you can stop by the Nelson-Atkins Museum and see any of their more than 30,000 works of art for free, no catch. The inside, the outside, and even the buildings themselves all have plenty to offer from an artistic standpoint, especially the recently built Bloch Building, an architectural marvel and beautiful building to behold when it is lit up.
Three to see:
If you go to the museum, you will be hard-pressed not to see the massive Shuttlecocks installation on the museum’s lawn. They are the world’s largest shuttlecocks and you can get close to them and marvel at how large and real they look, almost as if a few giants finished playing a game of badminton and forgot to pick up after themselves.
American Indian Art Collection
Kudos to the museum for expanding their collection of American Indian Art and allowing the public a better look at the immense skill in pottery, basket-weaving, painting, and sculpting the Native Americans were blessed with. The craftsmanship and the designs on the pieces make these some of the best representations of American Indian Art in the country.
The Bloch Building
Both the inside and the outside of this building are a testament to the type of incredible architects and designers museums have at their disposal now. Built in 2007, the building’s interior boasts soaring ceiling and lots of space. Meanwhile, reflecting pools in the entrance lobby show off beautiful natural light during the day and the parking garage lights up the building at night, giving it a glow that is hard to take your eyes off of.
Follow on Twitter: @nelson_adkins
18. Philadelphia Museum of Art – Philadelphia, Penn.
Its steps were made famous when Sylvester Stallone used them for a cardio workout in his movie Rocky but as one of the largest museums in the country, the Philadelphia Museum of Art deserves to be famous for far more than that. Like all the other major museums, the collection is renowned for its depth and its breadth, and if you have your fill of the iconic main building, don’t forget about the Perelman Building, which houses a veritable smorgasbord of excellent art as well.
Three to see:
The Gross Clinic by Thomas Eakins
Unflinchingly realistic and detailed, this painting is named after the doctor lecturing the surrounding students but it could just as easily be a description of the rudimentary medical practices you see taking place in the painting. The procedure looks gory and it is based on a surgery Eakins actually witnessed. Upon viewing it, it is hard not to feel bad for the patient and his safety.
Statue of Rocky Balboa
Like so many others, we are a sucker for a good underdog movie. So if you think like us, you should stop by the immense statue of Stallone’s fictional movie character that stands triumphantly, with his arms raised, right outside the museum. It seems weird that a museum would place so much importance on a fictional character, but Rocky Balboa part of the fabric of the city, so props to the museum for getting creative.
Van Gogh Up Close Exhibition
Just the title of the exhibition should get you excited to see masterful works of art from one of the world’s most celebrated painters. Once you look upon the photos, which come from Van Gogh’s period of artistic experimentation, you won’t be disappointed.
Follow on Twitter: @philamuseum
19. Whitney Museum of American Art – New York City, N.Y.
Whereas other museums collect art from around the world, the Whitney Museum focuses almost exclusively on American Art from the 20th and 21st century, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have plenty of diversity too. Whether it is photography or paintings, the Whitney emphasizes works from living artists and maintains a collection of 18,000 high-quality works. They also have a reputation of being a museum that will help showcase the work of young and up-and-coming artists, so you may seem some stuff from someone before they get famous.
Three to see:
2012 Whitney Biennial Exhibition
Despite admirably breaking from two major sponsors for what they deemed ethical violations, the Whitney’s Biennial is not an exhibition you want to miss. The exhibition will be an excellent chance to see work from lesser-known artists and get a chance to see the creativity and inspiration for some of the country’s best young artists.
Jackson Pollock collection
One of the country’s most famous artists has 17 works being housed at the Whitney and that makes the museum a destination stop on your art tour. If you love abstract expressionism and Pollock’s famous drip-painting, you will love the Whitney’s offering.
Helen Frankenthaler collection
It’s more abstract expressionism but the poetic, colorful works of Frankenthaler – one of the country’s first female painters – are a sight to behold. Her work was impactful and she served as a bridge between Pollock and more contemporary abstract painters, so make sure to pay your respects to her work.
Follow on Twitter: @whineymuseum
20. Los Angeles Center for Digital Art – Los Angeles, Calif.
One of the very first places to showcase digital art, the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art has rapidly grown into one of the most respected and quality museums for digital art and artists. The Center supports artists of all forms and just moved into a bigger space to accommodate a larger collection. This isn’t just a stuffy museum, but a center that is dedicated to showcasing every type of digital art through any means necessary.
Just go see:
The Los Angeles Center of Digital Art is not the National Gallery of Art. It doesn’t have millions of works in its collection, so you should probably just try to see all of it. If you want to use the Internet to check out some of the more inspired creations from their featured artists do so, just don’t forget to stop in and check out one of their exhibitions where you will see a diverse range of digital arts in different forms of media.
Follow on Twitter: @LACDA
21. The J. Paul Getty Museum – Los Angeles, Calif.
The museum is actually broken up into two separate locations. The first, the Getty Center, is located in Brentwood and houses Western art dating back to the Middle Ages. The second, the Getty Villa, is located in Pacific Palisades and is home to art from ancient Greece and Rome mainly. Make sure to visit both because there is a reason the museum is one of the most-visited in the country and it is because their vast collection of art has very few equals in the art world.
Three to see:
In focus: Los Angeles, 1945-1980 Exhibition
The museum is hosting an excellent photography exhibition based around the growth and culture of the city after World War II. The photography is occasionally experimental, but they also center on the architecture, car culture, and Hollywood aspect that is so ingrained in Los Angeles culture.
Ancient Greek and Roman Sculptures
Very few museums can match the range of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures that the Getty Museum has in its possession. Some of the most descriptive and impressive busts, reliefs, and statuettes are just a fraction of the impressive collection the museum boasts that also includes some of the more amazing gravestones anywhere.
Demons, Angels, and Monsters Audio Tour
One of the more unique aspects of the museum, the Demons, Angels, and Monsters audio tour is primarily meant children but as an adult you will probably still be entertained and even educated some. The tour helps novices understand the scary art they see and it helpful for those who can’t really comprehend what they are looking at.
Follow on Twitter: @GettyMuseum
22. Brooklyn Museum – New York City, N.Y.
One of the oldest museums in the country, the Brooklyn Museum is part of the parks and gardens complex and is one of the featured attractions in all of Brooklyn. It’s broad collection of art spans many centuries and cultures and is segmented nicely so that people can see related art all in one fell swoop. It still won’t be easy to see it all though as the museum boasts 1.5 million works, making it one of the most expansive museums in the world.
Three to see:
Memorial Sculpture Garden
This sculpture garden is unique in that it doesn’t feature renowned artists but rather salvaged architectural elements from all around New York City. The art is still impressive, and local visitors will be impressed to realize how much of the works they might recognize.
Head of a Guardian
Perhaps no work of art will scare you more than the Guardian head the Museum has in its possession. But that is of course the point as the Japanese used these guardians outside of their Buddhist temples to ward off enemies. The craftsmanship is legitimately frightening, while also being incredibly in-depth.
The museum’s Egyptian collection is widely recognized for its impressive quality and perhaps the Sarcophagi are the best of the bunch. Colorful and incredibly designed, you can examine these works of art for hours and still find something new to impress you even when you least expect it.
Follow on Twitter: @brooklynmuseum
23. National Museum of African Art – Washington, D.C.
Just down the street from the National Gallery of Art sits its African Art counterpart, which might be smaller, but is just as fun to stroll through. The art on display in the museum is worthy of celebration and the museum is still small enough that you might be able to get through all the galleries if you are ambitious. The works will give you a glimpse at many different African cultures and will help you appreciate their skill even more.
Three to see:
The museum has a whole section devoted to the different types of African sculptures and statues and they deserve their own section, because they are amazing. The details, the design, and the precision that it must have taken to create these are almost unfathomable. You will find yourself drawn in to the descriptions and walking around each statue again and again to take in the whole thing.
African Mosaic: Celebrating a Decade of Collecting
Collecting work from long lost cultures and even contemporary cultures is difficult, so you will want to help pay the museum your respect for its hard work building such an impressive permanent collection. Plus you will get the chance to see such a wide swatch of African Art it will definitely be worth your time.
These textiles aren’t just pretty cloth, they tell stories of cultures and people and religion, and then they tie those all together with beautifully woven, incredibly colorful and festive quilts, robes, shirts, and cloth that will make you wish you could take some home with you. They give you insight into the cultures of the artists and also give you amazing imagery and symbolism to look at.
Follow on Twitter: @NMAfA
24. Detroit Institute of the Arts – Detroit, Mich.
Tucked away in a city known for its automobiles is a somewhat hidden gem of an art museum. The museum is comprised of 100 galleries, a lecture hall, an auditorium, a conversation lab, and a reference library. It is also a nearly comprehensive collection of art from all over the world and from every era. Known as the “temple of art” this museum will leave you stunned with its breadth and quality of works.
Three to see:
Detroit Industry by Diego Rivera
You are in the city, so if you don’t city one of Mexico’s greatest artists pay tribute to the city’s labor and manufacturing roots with a sprawling, 27-panel fresco, well then shame on you. Rivera considers it the work he is most proud of and it is not hard to see why, the detail and action on every wall will leave you fascinated.
The Nail Figure
In case you haven’t noticed, we love creepy art. This sculpture is well crafted and features a belly of nails, blades, and cowrie shells amongst other things. It is a part of the museum’s African Art sublime collection and it still stands out in a group for its craftsmanship and unique style.
Detroit Revealed: Photographs 2000-2010
There is no doubt the city of Detroit has fallen on hard times with the economic downturn. But I guess if there is a positive to come out of that, it’s that this exhibit, which celebrates the diverse culture, people, and landscapes of the city is filled with raw emotion and tremendous photography. Hurry, because it will only be available for another month or so.
Follow on Twitter: @DIADetroit
25. Cleveland Museum of Art – Cleveland, Ohio
If you don’t love free museums then there might be something wrong with you. This museum’s mission is to open the public’s eyes to the world of art, and they won’t charge you a dime for their help. Known primarily for its aesthetically remarkable collection of Asian and Egyptian Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art presents a diverse collection of art across many mediums and also helps coordinate events, programs, and festivals to make sure the public gets their fill.
Three to see:
Stag at Sharkey’s by George Bellows
One of our personal favorites, Bellows uses his immense skill to create a realistic, gritty, emotional, passionate, and violent painting of a boxing match at a time when prizefighting was still illegal. There are few paintings that will suck you in and make you feel like you are actually there more than Bellows’ masterpiece.
La Vie by Pablo Picasso
Art aficionados are well aware of Picasso’s well publicized Blue Period and La Vie might be one of the most well known works of art Picasso created during that time. The sadness and gloom and somber mood pervade this work which depicts his friend Carlos Casagemas, who committed suicide and influenced the Blue Period.
Rembrandt in America Exhibition
This exhibition isn’t only a celebration of the impressive works Rembrandt created in America; it is also a chance for the public to see the dialogue and discussion that has surrounded Rembrandt’s career. There is nothing better than combining great art with compelling back-stories and dialogue.
Follow on Twitter: @ClevelandArt
26. The Field Museum – Chicago, Ill.
Located right on scenic Lake Shore Drive, the Field Museum was founded to be the home for biological and anthropological collections from a single expedition and the museum has expanded rapidly since. The other museums on the list are true art museums, while the Field Museum is really a history museum with plenty of collections and works that double as magnificent works of art. You won’t want to skip this museum, if only to get a look at some of the wonders from the animal kingdom
Three to see:
Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex
42 feet long and 13 feet high at the hips, this is the best and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil that has ever been discovered and it is a wonder to behold. You can practically envision how ferocious the creature was when it was alive. You get an excellent idea of what the most lethal predator of its time looked like, and this one won’t bite.
The Grainger Hall of Gems
It is up for debate as to whether the geological marvels of the Grainger Hall of Gems truly count as art, but this exhibit is on the list because of its sheer beauty and enormity. There are few collections of diamonds and gems this large anywhere else in the country and the sparkling artifacts are quite an impressive sight when lined up with each other.
Evolving Planet Exhibition
Do you ever wonder how life really evolved over the history of our planet? Well this exhibit takes you through the process step-by-step, from the first organisms on the planet, to dinosaurs, to the creatures of present day. It is incredibly informative and also interactive and hands-on, making it fun for everyone.
Follow on Twitter: @fieldmuseum
27. Morris Museum of Art – Augusta, Georgia
One of the smallest museums on this list, the Morris Museum makes up for its lack of size by being the first and best collection of art and artists from the American South. The museum opened to the public in 1992 and has already amassed an unrivaled collection of art ranging from the Civil War period to more contemporary works. If you are from the South or just a fan of its rich culture and complicated history, this museum will be a fun trip.
Three to see:
The Infantryman by William Gaul
The watercolor of a lonely soldier lighting his cigarette is exactly the type of art that is the Morris’ forte. There is plenty of skill evident in the work, but it derives its importance from the story it tells about life as a soldier during the Civil War and the portrait it paints of the men who fought.
Southern Landscape by Benny Andrews
Andrews grew up in rural Georgia and liked to paint what he knew, which, in this case, is a minimalist portrayal of what life was like for black family making their living in the rural south. The details are purposefully blurred and the background intricacies are scarce, but you still get a colorful glimpse at a slice of the everyday life for black farmers.
Hoover and the Flood by John Steuart Curry
Originally created for a magazine, this action-packed oil painting depicts the 1927 flood of the Mississippi River in all of its tragic glory. You can see President Hoover and the news crew following him on the right but what will really catch your eye is the obvious anguish that is starkly shown throughout the photo, making it one of the more dramatic works in their collection.
Follow on Twitter: @MorrisMuseum
28. Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design – Providence, R.I.
Tied directly to the state’s actual school of design, the museum is the preeminent art collection in the state and one of the most well-known and well-regarded art museums in the entire Northeast. The museum strives to help anyone who is willing learn to interpret and learn about the art and culture that is so vibrantly set forth in the museum’s collection. Thanks to the school, the museum is also dedicated to helping educate as well and puts on concerts, lectures, and community programs to look out for interested learners.
Three to see:
Nancy Chunn: Chicken Little and the Culture of Fear Exhibition
Chunn’s cartoonish paintings smartly poke fun at the sensationalist and over-reactive qualities of our media and politics using Chicken Little and his or her irrational fears at an allegory for the media and political culture in the country. Fun and well-painted, this is a must-visit exhibition.
Summer by Frank Weston Benson
Styled to remind you of European Impressionism, this painting is the epitome of beauty as it depicts a number of young women, dressed all in white, sitting on a bank in the sun. The color scheme is incredible and the background of the photo is nearly as detailed and interesting as the women themselves.
The reassembled coffin is a go-to work because of its detailed, violent, and engaging depiction of the Trojan War. The battle between Achilles and Hector is the central action of the coffin and there are few renderings that took more skill and precision to create.
Follow on Twitter: @risd
29. Miami Museum of Contemporary Art – Miami, Fla.
The Miami Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the youngest museums on the list having opened in 1996, but it has steadily been improving its reputation as it culls together an impressive collection of art. The museum embraces its youth by creating some of the most fun and fresh exhibits and collections in the country, including battles of the bands, jazz concerts, and interesting lectures from the curator. This museum will only continue to improve as it goes along, but it is off to a roaring start.
See it all:
The museum is relatively expensive compared to most museums, but that shouldn’t scare you away because you can easily spend a whole day in there taking in the different types of vibrant and entertaining art. The museum isn’t that large, so you should plan to get the most bang for your buck and just try to see everything. Come back for lectures or concerts, but also make sure to spend time checking out the skilled paintings and the peculiar and fascinating architecture.
Follow on Twitter: @mocanomi
30. The Mingei International Museum – San Diego, Calif.
The museum truly has an international flavor and it makes for one of the most interesting museums, showcasing art of all types from cultures all around the world. The museum features 6 galleries that boast a plethora and ever-evolving collection of paintings, sculptures, pottery, and even multimedia art as well. As if that wasn’t enough, the museum is smack dab in the middle of Balboa Park, one of the most scenic places to visit in all of Southern California. You don’t want to miss it.
Three to see:
New Jewelry in a New Medium Exhibition
It isn’t diamonds and gold, but the colorful polymer beads of this exhibit are beautiful in their own way and uniquely excellent works of art. Don’t just glance at the jewelry, examine the detailed designs and admire the style and elegance that these items exude.
Middle Eastern Collection
My favorite piece is the colorful Palestinian wedding dress that is steeped in vibrant colors and has a simple and elegant design. That said, the entire Middle East collection, which includes pottery, statuettes and textiles is an incredible look at some of the cultures and styles from all across the region.
The masks are creepy and exotic but also strangely fascinating. You can marvel at how the African cultures can take miscellaneous objects like feathers and horns and turn them into a decorative mask that looks unseemly at first glance, but is actually a wonderfully unique and skilled work of art.
Follow on Twitter: @MongeiMuseum