10 American Art Museums You Should Visit

Museums are a pleasant way to wile away an afternoon out of the (nice, nasty, mediocre) weather; pick up a gift which will leave the recipient agog at your refined tastes; or taking a quick snooze as I saw two seniors do one warm afternoon.

In the U.S. it’s hard to define the “best” since there are so many museums with so many exhibitions.

Here are ten museums that are worth visiting. I’ve been to most of them.

1. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts
Opened in 1876 before it moved in 1909 to where it sits now. It has over 500,000 items including paintings by John Singer Sargent, stained glass windows by John La Farge, and paintings by Frida Kahlo.

Upcoming exhibit:The Art of Robert McCloskey
McCloskey wrote the children’s bestseller “Make Way for Ducklings” based in Boston. He was an artist and illustrator who won two Caldecott Medals.

2. J. Paul Getty Museum of Art in Los Angeles, California
This museum has extensive art holdings from around the world. They include statues, paintings, pottery and so more. It also has an awesome Open Content program that allows the downloading of images without charge and without you having to ask permission to use.

Upcoming exhibit: The Art of Alchemy

3. The Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois
Founded in 1879 but resides in the 1893 building constructed as part of the World Columbian Exposition (a fancy name for the World’s Fair). It has a well-rounded collection from ancient to modern art, covers all the Americas, photography, and Asian.

Upcoming exhibit: Modern Velvet: A Sense of Luxury in the Age of Industry

4. The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
One of the few in the city that is not under the Smithsonian. The initial donation was from Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon in 1937. The main classical building opened in 1941. Most of the modern art is in the East Wing, which has now re-opened after renovations, where a soaring Alexander Calder mobile dominates the foyer. Best of all? You can visit the museum for free!

Upcoming exhibit: East of the Mississippi: Nineteenth-Century American Landscape Photography

5. Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City
The big kahuna of museums. You can find examples of every art and craft at the Met. It has furniture, dresses, manuscripts, jewelry – you name it, it probably has it. It also has a searchable database of 433,953 items. Why is this important? Well, say you wanted to see the “Oyster Dress” by fashion designer Alexander McQueen but it wasn’t on display in a gallery. You can find a picture of it in the database.

Upcoming exhibit: Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion.

6. Dallas Museum of Art in Dallas, Texas
It has 23,000 and more artworks and according to them, getting more all the time. Their collection spans the world, but the museum has an extensive special collection that centers on artists from Texas.

Upcoming exhibit: Passages in Modern Art: 1946-1996

7. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri
Art is more than ink on paper, or paint on canvas. The extensive collection at the Nelson-Atkins include Picassos, Monet, Caravaggio and modern works from artists including Dorothea Lange’s classic Depression photograph “Migrant Mother.” You can check out their collection here.

Upcoming exhibit: Janet Cardiff: Forty-Part Motet, a choral piece written in the mid-1500s.

8. The Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington, Delaware
A small museum hidden in a small state. However, it makes my list because it has a very fine collection of Pre-Raphaelite art work. It also holds a large collection of book and magazine illustrations, including the personal papers and art of Howard Pyle. Who is he? Think of the look of the pirates in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean.

Upcoming exhibit:The Cover Sells the Book”: Transformations in Commercial Book Publishing, 1860-1920

9. The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, California
One of the largest collections of Asian Art in the U.S. It opened in 1966 with the donation of the collection of Chicago businessman Avery Brundage of Olympics fame. It has more than 18,000 items, and hosts cultural celebrations.

Upcoming exhibit: Filipino American History Month

10. The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington D.C.
One half of the Smithsonian’s Asia museums. The other half, the Freer Gallery of Art, is currently under renovation and will reopen in 2017. The Sackler covers Asia, Southeast Asia, the Himalayans, Islamic and Biblical manuscripts.

Upcoming exhibit: The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

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