Philadelphia Art Museums: A Comprehensive Guide
We have good news for fans of the arts. There’s no shortage of Philadelphia art museums
When you think of things to do in the City of Brotherly Love, what comes to mind? If you said checking out the Philadelphia museum scene, we couldn’t agree more. The city offers great museums to help visitors learn more about history, including the Museum of the American Revolution and the National Museum of American Jewish History. However, many Philadelphia art museums truly shine in this world-famous city. You can also find coliving apartments in Philadelphia nearby some of these incredible art museums.
Because the city has so many amazing art museums, you might be feeling overwhelmed when it comes time to decide which ones to visit. To help you make your art museum itinerary, check out this list of the best Philadelphia art museums. Many of these museums have free admission offerings, but check their website before making plans.
The Barnes is one of the best Philadelphia art museums
Do you love nineteenth- and twentieth-century French painting? If so, you should take a trip to the Barnes on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which is home to one of the finest collections of masterpieces by Cezanne, Matisse, and Renoir. You won’t find a collection quite like this one anywhere else, so you’ll want to dedicate several hours of your day to make it through all the amazing works of art in the museum. As a visitor, you can spend hours marveling at the museum’s collection of French paintings.
The museum proudly focuses on impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modernist paintings. However, it also offers important pieces from other cultures and artistic mediums. For example, it is home to African American artwork, Native American pottery and jewelry, Pennsylvania German furniture, metalwork, and American avant-garde painting. Basically, there’s something to please just about anyone who visits the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This is one of the largest art museums in Philly and can give you a taste of modern art as well as classical art.
In addition to being an art museum, the Barnes Foundation is also an educational institution. As an educational institution, the Barnes Foundation also has several new exhibit options throughout the year. This is great news if you want to dive deeper because the Barnes offers classes. Before COVID-19, the institution offered these classes in its galleries and arboretum, but now the Barnes Foundation presents them online. This new format does more than help protect students from the coronavirus, it also allows people to participate from anywhere in the world. A virtual tour of a current exhibit may also be available.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art features one of the best collections in the United States
Known as the cultural heart of Philadelphia, this world-famous cultural institution houses one of the most outstanding art collections in the nation. The collection spans famous works from the Americas, Asia, and Europe, and it boasts masterpieces like van Gogh’s Sunflowers and the only Rodin Museum outside of France. To take it all in, be sure to set aside at least two hours to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
No matter when you visit the museum, you’ll find something new to discover. The space features an impressive permanent collection in its 200+ galleries that include breathtaking architectural spaces and period rooms. To keep visitors coming back for more, the Philadelphia Museum of Art also continually offers world-class exhibition selections from different creative minds.
If you want to snag a souvenir, you can peruse the massive collection of art books and other goodies at the museum store. When your stomach starts rumbling, you can make your way to one of the cafes to enjoy delicious eats from the Constellation Culinary. Or you can check out Stir, the East Coast’s only Frank Gehry-designed restaurant, to enjoy the incredible ambiance with your meal.
Are you planning to bring kiddos with you to visit? That’s no problem because the Philadelphia Museum of Art offers free admission for visitors under 18 and hosts many kid-friendly programs throughout the year.
Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art combines art and culture
If you’re interested in art that illuminates the Jewish experience, the Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art is for you. Featuring contemporary art that reflects Jewish themes, this art museum has been housed inside the historic Congregation Rodeph Shalom since 1975. This is the perfect opportunity to see stunning pieces that will help you learn more about Jewish culture and issues in today’s world. We recommend a guided tour to maximize your learning experience at this cultural institution.
This space might not be as big as some of the other Philadelphia art museums on this list, but it’s still worth a visit. This art museum features both a permanent collection and a special exhibit gallery. The permanent collection displays artwork in many mediums from diverse artists, including Tobi Kahn, Chaim Gross, and Siona Benjamin. As for the special exhibits, you never know who might be showing their work, so you’ll want to keep checking back.
Check out the Institute of Contemporary Art on your tour of Philadelphia art museums
Does contemporary art appeal to you more than traditional paintings and sculptures? If so, you’ll want to make your way to the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Philadelphia on 36th Street. Since 1963, this institution has believed in the power of art and artists to inform and inspire people in the world around them. To help the masses enjoy art, the ICA is free to everyone who wants to visit and experience what’s “new and happening” in art.
This art museum is unique because it doesn’t have an actual collection. Instead, this non-collection museum is one of the only kunsthalles, or a facility that hosts art exhibitions, in America. This means that you’re sure to see something new and different every time you visit this art museum in Philadelphia.
The ICA is truly artist-centric, and it strives to help under-recognized artists gain the attention of the rest of the world. In fact, this is exactly what the Institute of Contemporary Art did in 1965 when it organized Andy Warhol’s first solo museum show. This commitment to accessibility and risk-taking means that you could see the next artistic legend when you visit, and at the very least, you’ll experience some of the country’s most-adventurous artistic showcases.
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts stands out for its art and architecture
Prepare to be dazzled when you step inside the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, or PAFA. Located on North Broad Street, this incredible art museum is just as famous for its impressive collection as it is for its breathtaking interior design. Who says the museum itself can’t be a work of art? With the permanent collection and special exhibits, be prepared to spend at least two to three hours to see it all.
The goal of PAFA is to collect and display prime examples of historic, modern, and contemporary art from American artists. Specifically, the museum strives to promote the works of women and those who have been overlooked by the mainstream art community. This includes artists of color, LGBTQ+ artists, and artists from small, regional communities. Together, works from all these minds help to tell a more comprehensive story about all of us.
If you’d like to immerse yourself in the arts even further, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts offers programs and classes for artists of all ages. Whether you know a child who’d like to take an art class or you’re looking for an undergraduate, graduate, or continuing education in fine arts, you can benefit from the vast experience of this institution in training artists.
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Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is unlike the other museum
Art doesn’t just include classical sculpture or impressionist paintings. It can include gardens and public murals like those on display at Philadelphia’s Magic Garden (PMG). Referred to as “a mosaicked visionary art environment, gallery, and community arts center,” this space brings art to the people who visit its famous South Street location. Plan to spend at least an hour walking through this unique and memorable artistic environment.
The space strives to preserve, interpret, and celebrate Isaiah Zagar’s mosaic art and public murals. The Magic Gardens site features Zagar’s largest work of art, which is a fully tiled indoor space and sprawling outdoor sculpture garden that spans half a block. To keep things fresh and exciting, PMG features constantly changing special exhibitions in its two indoor galleries.
When it comes to your options for touring the space, you can come to visit in person and enjoy a 40-minute guided tour that will teach you about the artists, artwork, and neighborhood. Or you can check out the space from the comfort of home by taking a virtual tour that will make you feel like you’re really in the space. If you’d like a memento of your visit, you can check out the shop to pick up everything from puzzles and pens to shirts and stickers.
Art is all around you in Philadelphia if you know where to look
You don’t always need to visit one of the many Philadelphia art museums to see something beautiful or thought-provoking. Sometimes, you can see something amazing just walking through neighborhoods, like Fishtown, Philly.
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