One of the best ways to understand a place is through their art. The US is no stranger to art. With it’s indigenous, colonial, and immigrant history, there is plenty of artistic expression and creation across the country. With plenty of museums and galleries, it is almost impossible to visit a city in the USA without visiting an art museum. Whilst it was a grueling process, here are 10 of some of America’s best art museums. The shortlist contains museums that offer diverse art; from the finest paintings to the most realistic sculptures, installations, and other art forms.
10. Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City
One of the most iconic in the country, MoMA is New York’s ever-expanding museums that draw crowds from all over the world. The museum is home to both local and international art and installations. Along with transient exhibits, MoMA has a personal collection that encompasses seven curatorial departments filled with masterpieces. The MoMA has become an iconic pop-culture reference as well, being name-dropped in the lyrics of many renowned artists such as New York native, Jay-Z.
9. Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), Philadelphia
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the largest museums in the country, containing over 220,000 objects from the first century AD till present day. The museum boasts collections of diverse American art and especially 18th and 19th-century pieces from Philadelphia and Pennsylvania-German art. The price of admission into the PMA also grants entry into the Rodin Museum.
8. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles
Given the sheer size and scope of its collection, LACMA is a destination that requires multi-day visitation. The museum is home to plenty of local art, which is highlighted and celebrated. There is also artwork from across the world, spanning hundreds of years. Because of the large Hispanic population in LA, you can also expect to see plenty of Hispanic artists and artwork featured in the museum.
7. National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
DC is well known for being the city of art and museums, and the National Gallery of Art is one of the best in the city. With a lot of the art being gifted, the museum boasts collections from all over the country. Visitors can expect to be impressed by the sculpture galleries which contain world’s largest collection of Edgar Degas’s wax and mixed-media sculptures. There are also pieces dating back to the earliest centuries, and portraits paying homage to American popular culture and modern day figures.
6. The Art Institute of Chicago
With more than three hundred thousand artworks and artifacts, this is definitely not the place for a one day visit. In fact, to truly appreciate all the works, one would need YEARS. The Art Institute of Chicago has an impressive collection from all over the world; antiquity to present. Whilst you are there, you can expect to see iconic names such as Van Gogh and George Seurat.
5. The Menil Collection, Houston
Opened in 1987 to house John and Dominique de Menil’s private collection, the Menil Collection has grown to be a large museum, home to about 17,000 various pieces. What the pieces have in common is that they embody the couples belief that art holds spiritual and transformational power. You will find works from renowned artists such as Andy Warhol that embody this belief.
4. Seattle Art Museum, Seattle
Unlike others on this list, the Seattle Art Museum has their works spread over multiple facilities in the city. You will find collections of ethnic, modern, and contemporary art spread over the facilities. The museum is also renowned for its Asian art collection which is housed in its original Art Deco building, and Olympic sculpture park which is situated on a nine-acre waterfront space.
3. MASS MoCA, North Adams
This is one of the largest centers for contemporary visual art, as well as performing arts in the country, making MASS MoCA a unique establishment. It is located in a former historical mill town and has more than 205,000 feet of exhibition and rehearsal space. Because of the large space, the center focuses on behemoth-sized installations that are sure to take your breath away.
2. Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
This is the country’s largest showcase for Asian art and an extensive showcase at that. The growing museum currently has over 15,000 pieces from all over Asia, spanning 6,000 years of history. The museum also pays homage to iconic Asian American art. The actual museum building is also a work of art in itself – designed by Gae Aulenti, the architect responsible for the Musée d’Orsay conversion in Paris
1. Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St Louis
Technically, the Pulitzer Arts Foundation is not a museum…technically. The institution has only three permanent installations; one sculpture each by Richard Serra, Ellsworth Kelly, and Scott Burton. Their featured exhibitions, however, are truly worth the visit. Notable exhibitions include Buddhist art and work by self-proclaimed “anarchitect” Gordon Matta-Clark.