Whether or not you are interested in art, you have probably heard of many of the major art museums like the Met and MOMA in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. That is because they are some of the best art museums in USA cities. But did you know there is an art museum in St. Petersburg, Florida dedicated to the work of Salvadore Dali, or that the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, North Carolina has an enclosed “infinity room” by famed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama in its permanent collection? From the big names to some lesser-known gems, put these 10 best art museums in USA cities on your must-see list.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Most people are familiar with the Guggenheim in New York because of its unique cinnamon bun-like shape. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the building itself is a work of art. The Guggenheim displays around 600 pieces of modern and contemporary art from the 8,000 pieces in the Guggenheim Foundation’s permanent collection. On view are several masterpieces by Jackson Pollock, including Mural which was commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim in the early 1940s for the entryway in her Manhattan apartment. Other notable pieces include In the Vanilla Grove, Man and Horse by Paul Gauguin, Mountains at Saint-Rémy by van Gogh, The Yellow Cow by Franz Marc, among a couple of famous Picassos.
The cool thing about the Guggenheim is that there are also so many amazing modern pieces of art from artists you have probably never heard of that will blow your mind and change what you like about art. Plus, it is an adventure in itself making your way up the inverse pyramid spiral that is the museum.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Another of the best art museums in USA cities that also happens to be in New York is the Met. It is a must-see in terms of art museums, in part because it is the largest art museum in the country. The museum actually has two sites – The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters. The Met is home to The Temple of Dendur, an actual Egyptian temple that was built by 10 B.C. on the West Bank of the Nile River. It is one of the main attractions of the museum. There is an extensive Egyptian collection at the Met if you are one for ancient artifacts. There are over 26,000 individual pieces, to be exact.
It is home to an extensive European art collection, one of the world’s largest collections of Islamic works of art in the world, and an even more extensive Greek and Roman art collection with over 17,000 pieces. The European Sculpture and Decorative Arts collection is one of the largest departments at the Met, holding more than 50,000 individual pieces. Some other pieces you do not want to miss at the Met include The Water Lily Pond by Claude Monet, Washington Crossing the Delaware, Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat by Vincent van Gogh, and a very cool piece by Jackson Pollock.
Museum of Modern Art
Manhattan is home to another one of the best art museums in USA – The Museum of Modern Art, or what most people just call MOMA. MOMA was founded in 1929 and is now one of the world’s largest museums devoted to modern and contemporary art. Here you will find a mix of established and experimental art from both the past and present. MOMA is home to another gorgeous water lilies painting by Claude Monet if you love impressionism, an Andy Warhol titled Gold Marilyn Monroe, and one of the most famous paintings in the world – Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh.
MOMA is a museum that feels accessible to everyone, from children to art scholars. It truly has something for everyone. You can see the masters of the past like Monet, van Gogh, Picasso, and Matisse. Children and lovers of more contemporary modern art can see Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, and a Roy Lichtenstein (think a giant painting that looks like the cell from a comic book). The permanent collection is constantly evolving and the temporary exhibits are always phenomenal.
The Dalí in St. Petersburg, Florida feels a bit like a hidden gem. It is probably one of the best art museums in USA that you did not know about unless you have traveled to the St. Petersburg area. Dedicated to the work of the surrealist artist Salvadore Dalí, the museum boasts the largest permanent collection of the artist’s work in the entire world. Like the Guggenheim, the surrealist-inspired building housing The Dalí is a masterpiece in and of itself.
Full of the melting clocks and disturbing landscapes that Dalí is known for, the museum rotates some of the art on display in its permanent collection. You can generally always find some of his larger-scale paintings like The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus and Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln-Homage to Rothko (Second Version) on display. The temporary exhibits are always amazing and worth exploring. Plus, the grounds outside are just as interesting as the art inside. There is a fountain of youth, a metal sculpture of Dalí’s signature mustache, and a hedge maze.
J. Paul Getty Museum
On the other side of the country in Los Angeles, California, The Getty is another of the best museums in USA cities you should have on your list. The museum features art from the 8th through the 21st Century with a focus on European paintings, drawings, and sculpture along with 19th and 20th Century American, European, and Asian photographs, as well as contemporary and modern sculpture. It is made more magnificent against the Getty Center’s architecture, gardens, and views of Los Angeles.
Currently on view are Vincent van Gogh’s masterpiece Irises, Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s La Promenade, Claude Monet’s The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light, and the most significant collection of early Rembrandts in the country. If you have the time, take a walk through the Central Garden and the Cactus Garden, which offers a stunning view of Los Angeles.
Asian Art Museum
The mission of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, California is to bring Asian art and culture to the larger community, which they do through their permanent collection, special exhibits, and all kind of cultural celebrations and public programs. The museum’s collection is made up of more than 18,000 pieces of art ranging from ancient jades and ceramics to contemporary video installations. The collection spans cultures from Turkey to India and China to the Philippines through 6,000 years. There is a rotating selection of more than 2,000 artworks on display so that each visit is unique.
During your visit, check out the murals on the Lui Art Wall on the exterior of the museum. Take a picture with Reina, the museum’s 3,000-year-old bronze rhino. Search the Japanese miniature carvings for your favorite miniatures. Plus, take some time to appreciate the beautiful architecture of the building, which used to be a public library.
Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago has a wide-ranging collection from world-renowned icons to lesser-known gems from every corner of the globe. You can find some of the most famous paintings in the world here, including A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat (that painting of people in the park with their parasols that is made up of tiny dots), Nighthawks by Edward Hopper (the most famous diner scene ever), and American Gothic by Grant Wood (farmer with pitchfork and his wife). There are also some gorgeous paintings by Georgia O’Keefe, van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (the Moulin Rouge painter), and Andy Warhol. But that list does not even scratch the surface.
The reason the Art Institute of Chicago is one of the best art museums in USA cities is that its art collection is diverse and insanely impressive. You will not believe how many famous paintings there are under one roof.
North Carolina Museum of Art
The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, North Carolina is one of the best art museums in USA cities because it has a phenomenal permanent collection. You can see one of only 200 complete sets of John Audubon’s The Birds of America. The four enormous “double elephant” volumes are permanently on display and the pages are turned once a quarter to display a new selection of birds four times a year. The museum is also home to Light of Life, an enclosed infinity room by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama who is one of the most acclaimed contemporary artists in the world. The piece displays a two-minute light show that will leave you mesmerized.
Another must-see is the sculpture titled Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian by Michael Richards that commemorates the Tuskegee Airmen and became an eerie foretelling of the artist’s death as he was a victim of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks in 2001. Other items of note include a 30-sculpture Rodin sculpture collection, a permanent gallery devoted to Jewish ceremonial art, and an extensive African art collection. You can also see paintings by Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley, the artists who painted the official portraits of the Obamas. When you are done inside the museum, take a walk through the museum park that features its own permanent collection of art on display as well as rotating temporary exhibits and an outdoor amphitheater.
National Gallery of Art
It should be obvious that the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC is one of the best art museums in USA cities. Why else is it the National Gallery? The collection features some 141,000 paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, and forms of new media dating from the Middle Ages to the present. The National Gallery has the only Leonardo Da Vinci painting in the Western Hemisphere. It is also home to the largest mobile ever created by Alexander Calder. Another must-see here is the only sculpture exhibited by Edgar Degas in his lifetime (there are 28 copies, but the one here is the original).
READ MORE: Take an Epic 8-Day National Park Road Trip
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is instantly recognizable for its appearance in the movie Rocky. If you are a fan of the movie, make a stop at the bronze Rocky statue at the bottom of the museum steps. There is so much more to this art museum than that famed run up the steps. This museum is one of the best art museums in USA cities because of the uniqueness of its collection. The collection covers all major periods and styles, but its modern collection is especially notable. It includes the world’s largest collection of works by Marcel Duchamp.
Another wow factor of the museum is the entire rooms that are displayed from around the world. There is a Japanese ceremonial teahouse, a 17th Century Chinese palace room, a 16th Century Indian temple hall, and a 12th Century French cloister. During your visit, be sure to make a stop on the Great Stair Hall and visit the gilded beauty Diana. Take a walk through the galleries of arms and armor and see a rare horse armor. If you have time, get some fresh air in the Sculpture Garden, which features large-scale works like the Giant Three-Way Plug.
From New York to Los Angeles, visiting these best art museums in USA cities will not leave you disappointed. You will have the chance to see all the big names like van Gogh, Picasso, and Rodin, as well as some brilliant modern artists that you may not know as household names. So if you are a lover of art or just a lover of travel, be sure to spend a little time in any (or all!) of these best art museums in USA cities if you get the chance. You will not be sorry you did.
WANT TO READ MORE?
💖WANT TO TRAVEL MORE?💖
Subscribe to receive trip ideas and inspiration right into your inbox once a week!
📌PIN THIS FOR FUTURE REFERENCE 📌
Photo credits: unsplash.com