Art displays are much more than fixtures on white walls these days. They're urban, splashing plain brick walls with color and culture. And they're experiential — spaces for the viewer to explore and interact with, not just gawk at. But that's not to say the classics have lost their charm. The world's most heralded galleries and museums are famed for good reason. From the venerable to the viral, here are TripSavvy's favorite art galleries and museums for 2018.
Art Galleries & Museums
Mesa Arts Center: Mesa, Ariz. — featured in The Top Things to Do in Mesa
Owned and operated by the City of Mesa, this architecturally stunning, international award winning facility is located in the heart of downtown Mesa and is the largest arts center in the state of Arizona, with four theaters, five art galleries and 14 art studios. The facility itself is an architectural showpiece that attracts both locals and visitors from all parts of the country and world. Guests, patrons and students can enjoy the finest live entertainment and performances, world-class visual art exhibitions and outstanding arts education classes.
The Mesa Arts Center mission is to inspire people through engaging arts experiences that are diverse, accessible, and relevant. –David Duran
Milwaukee Art Museum: Milwaukee, Wis. — featured in: The Top Things to Do in Milwaukee
Santiago Calatrava’s first U.S. commission — a pedestrian bridge over Lincoln Memorial Drive and soaring wings on top of the museum that open and close — was named TIME’s “design of the year” upon its 2001 debut. Natural light fills the Quadracci Pavilion’s atrium, home to a Dale Chihuly sculpture, and the collection’s strengths are in Haitian art, folk art and works from modern artists such as Andy Warhol and Georgia O’Keefe (among the country’s largest collections). The 30,000-square-foot Shields Building expansion in 2015 added more gallery space and a third café.
Kids can create art, with guided instruction, in the Kohl’s Art Generation Open Studio. –Kristine Hansen
- Metropolitan Museum of Art: New York, N.Y. — featured in the Top Attractions in NYC
- Speed Art Museum: Louisville, Ky. — featured in Cheap and Free Things to Do in Louisville
- Museo de Reina Sofia: Madrid, Spain — featured in Free Things to Do in Madrid
- Peggy Guggenheim Collection: Venice, Italy — featured in The Top Attractions in Venice
The Phoenix Art Museum: Phoenix, Ariz. — featured in The Top Things to Do in Phoenix
Anchoring downtown Phoenix’s recent cultural revitalization (which includes the First Friday Art Walk) is the Phoenix Art Museum. With a 19,000-piece collection, it’s the largest art museum in the Southwest. Must-sees are the sculpture garden, Gilbert Stuart’s oil portrait of George Washington, Georgia O’Keefe’s “Pink Abstraction” and William Merritt Chase’s “The White Rose.” Rotating exhibitions throughout the year are joined by events such as a poetry series, lectures and films. Anish Kapoor’s “Upside Down, Inside Art” is another eye-catching design (“The Bean” in Chicago is his most-known work).
Meow Wolf: Santa Fe, NM — featured in The Complete Guide to Meow Wolf
Art isn’t just for admiring. It’s worth exploring, too, as Meow Wolf has successfully proven. The immersive Santa Fe fantasyland created by a collective of more than 100 artists took over an abandoned bowling alley, opening in 2016. “The House of Eternal Return” is the most popular exhibit, inviting visitors to investigate how a family up and vanished from a Victorian mansion. (Trust us: it’s A-OK to sift through the mail and open up the front-loading washing machine to discover hidden portals while gathering clues).
In all, Meow Wolf has more than 70 different spaces, as well as a cafe and a stage for small concerts. Meow Wolf is also expanding to locations in Las Vegas and Denver. –Brittany Anas
Galleria dell'Academia: Florence, Italy — featured in The Top Sights & Attractions in Florence
Everyone flocks to Galleria dell’Accademia to see “David,” the famed Renaissance marble statue by Michelangelo. But outside of peering up at David’s muscular physique — at residence here since 1873, and completed in the early 1500s — you can see other Michelangelo sculptures in the museum, such as the four unfinished “Prisoners;” and paintings by Sandro Botticelli and Paolo Uccello. Lesser known is the museum’s musical instrument collection, including a Stradivarius violin, considered the Rolls Royce of string instruments.
No wonder this is Italy’s second-most visited art museum (only after the Uffizi, which dwarfs this one in size). –Kristine Hansen
The Parrish Art Museum: Water Mill, N.Y. — featured in Things to Do During the Off-Season in the Hamptons
In a serene area of Long Island’s East End — a place with pristine fields and ocean breezes — is the Parrish Art Museum. The building itself is an artistic masterpiece. Designed by acclaimed firm Herzog & de Neuron, it is made of perfectly placed glass, allowing outsiders to see into the museum, and insiders to see the surrounding landscape. While a visit to the building alone is worth it, the collections also inspire by showing the works of artists living nearby. One is the famed late Alan Shields, whose oft-freestanding works with textile and needle arts realized his goal of taking art down from the walls and putting it in the hands of people.
The Van Gogh Museum: Amsterdam, Netherlands — featured in The Most Popular Attractions in Amsterdam
The museum dedicated to The Netherlands's most famous native son is a must-visit in Amsterdam. Home to the largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh paintings, the Van Gogh Museum is one of several museums located in Amsterdam's Museumplein, residing in the same square as the Stedelijk Museum and the Rijksmuseum. While the museum has plenty of masterful Van Gogh paintings—visitors can see Bedroom in Arles, Sunflowers, and Self Portrait (1888), to name a few—it also displays hundreds of his drawings and personal letters, as well as the work of his contemporaries in rotating exhibits.
The Arts District: Los Angeles, Calif. — featured in The Top Things to Do in Downtown LA
The Arts District in downtown Los Angeles is currently one of the hottest neighborhoods in LA. The area was taken over by artists who began to occupy the area’s dilapidated buildings in the 1970’s, having been priced out of other areas in Los Angeles. These pioneers eventually opened art galleries in the area and began to develop these buildings themselves, preserving a big part of LA’s industrial history. The area again underwent a downturn in the 1990s before being saved by local community activist Joel Bloom and his supporters, who officially renamed the area the “Arts District.” Today, it is home to many creatives, including those in green technology, architecture and entertainment.
- Seattle Glassblowing Studio: Seattle, Wash. — featured in The Top Things to Do in Seattle
- McNay Art Museum: San Antonio, Texas — featured in The Top Things to Do in San Antonio
- Museo dell' Opera del Duomo: Florence, Italy — featured in The Top Attractions in Florence
- Dixon Gallery and Gardens: Memphis, Tenn. — featured in Memphis on a Budget
The Brooklyn Museum: Brooklyn, N.Y. — featured in The Top Things to Do in Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Museum has an extensive collection of Ancient Egyptian Art, a notable high-end restaurant, a popular free monthly Saturday evening program that includes dance parties, as well as numerous other highlights. The museum is also family friendly and has a series of dynamic and interactive family programs. This year, the Brooklyn Museum attracted crowds with an A-list David Bowie exhibit. Currently the museum is hosting the Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, which closes on February 3rd, 2019.
Don’t forget to take a few minutes outside the museum's front entrance to watch the fountain, which puts on quite an intoxicating show. –Alison Lowenstein
- The Art Institute of Chicago: Chicago, Ill. — featured in The Most Instagrammable Places in Chicago
- Art Gallery of Ontario: Toronto, Canada — featured in The Top Things to Do in Toronto
- Cincinnati Art Museum: Cincinnati, Ohio — featured in Free Things to Do in Cincinnati
- Crocker Art Museum: Sacramento, Calif. — featured in the Top Museums in Sacramento
Denver Art Museum: Denver, Colo. — featured in Denver's Top Tourist Attractions
The Denver Art Museum, or DAM to locals, is a treasure and one of the larger art museums in the western United States that’s often forgotten by travelers across North America. Designed by renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, the museum’s Hamilton Building is a work of art itself and will have you scratching your head at the engineering marvel as you venture inside. You'll find beauty with the museum's own Asian, native, new world, and modern art collections to the visiting exhibits featuring everything from Star Wars costumes to Rembrandt and Monet.