While I'm always a proponent of putting away your phone for a few hours to enjoy time in a good museum, there's no denying that it's fun to share the experience on Instagram. Since most museums have a strict "no video" policy, Instagram is your social media platform of choice over Snapchat.
Big museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre and the Museum of Modern Art rank highest for the most hashtags on Instagram. However, this list has curated to highlight the museums where you'll capture the best, most original and most interesting photos for your feed.
But please, no matter what, leave the selfie stick at home, ok? You don't want to do what this tourist did with their selfie stick in Milan.
The Broad in downtown Los Angeles is probably the most popular place to tag yourself on Instagram after the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Open only since late 2016, this contemporary art museum maintains its own killer Instagram account which is worth following for gorgeous and inspiring photos of the collection and their ongoing events and exhibitions.
The Broad is extremely popular with Millenials who are drawn to its downtown location. There's often a 45-minute wait just to enter the museum, but food trucks pull up to the sidewalk providing plenty of opportunities to #foodstagram your lunch while lounging on the grassy lawn. In fact, Instagram has been a large part of driving attendance to the museum! A barrage of daily selfies helps sell out timed tickets daily. (It also doesn't hurt that museum admission is free.)
Pro tip: Instagrammers love the Jeff Koons sculptures at The Broad. That creepy Michael Jackson with the monkey sculpture is on display here.
Hashtags: #thebroad #contemporaryart #downtownla
The scenic ride from New York City along the Hudson River up to Dia: Beacon is Instagrammable enough, but inside the museum of contemporary art is just one photo opportunity after another.
Originally the building was a Nabisco factory where cookie boxes were printed. The pitched glass ceiling was designed to let in an abundance of natural light which now perfectly illuminates the artwork. There are selfie-takers in every corner of the museum because if you want to take a selfie in a truly unique setting (with especially flattering light), Dia: Beacon can't be beaten.
Though the artwork on display can definitely be a challenge to understand, security guards double as museum educators at Dia: Beacon. Feel free to ask a question which usually turns into a fascinating discussion about the artwork itself and how to understand it better.
Pro tip: Don't miss the enormous Richard Serra's "Torqued Ellipses" sculptures which are on a lower floor and easy to miss if you're not looking for them. Also, don't miss a visit to the town of Beacon, a short climb up the hill from the museum. This artsy town is filled with galleries, coffee shops, and boutiques.
Use hashtag #diabeacon #contemporaryart #hudsonvalley #daytrip
With sparse landscapes and a fashionable stream of tourists, Marfa might just be the most Instagrammable city in Texas. The Chinati Foundation, a contemporary art museum based on the ideas of sculptor Donald Judd, is its heart.
Art lovers, particularly from Los Angeles, make regular pilgrimages to the West Texas desert to see and be seen. Instagram photos at Chinati are full of harsh sun, big skies, and geometric shots of the art installations and architecture.
Pro tips: If you really want to capture something special with your camera, look for the mysterious Marfa lights!
The Getty Villa is an immersive museum where you experience the artwork in a context that evokes its original setting. The entire experience was designed to make you feel like you're in a Roman villa just a few days before Mount Vesuvius erupted and destroyed Pompeii.
What's best about the Getty Villa is that the light on the Malibu cliffs is eerily similar to Naples. Paired with the olive and fig trees, it's easy to forget you're looking at the Pacific Ocean and not the Tyrrhenian Sea.
There are a lot of fashion and lifestyle Instagrammers posing at the Getty Villa. The light is gorgeous and the backgrounds impeccable. But this museum is also among the best places to see Greek & Roman art in the world. Use that golden light to put the spotlight on the collection.
Pro tip: The floors are beautiful at the Getty Villa and recreate an authentic Roman experience when tilework was the most important feature of a house.
Hashtags: #gettyvilla #ancientart #malibu
The Met Cloisters was created to be a contextual, immersive museum experience long before those were buzz words in the museum world.
Opened in 1938 as the medieval branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the art is not only displayed in the museum, it is a part of the actual structure of the museum. There's always a lot of selfie-taking going on inside the Cuxa Cloister, especially when the gardens are in full bloom, not to mention wedding and engagement photos, which are not technically allowed. (Be discreet and don't go when it's too busy or with too much equipment.)
In the late afternoon, the light comes streaming through the stained glass windows and leaves colorful shadows all over the galleries. Also, take advantage of late morning light to best see the fragments of paint left behind on stone carvings. You'll be surprised when you find them and will never look at white marble sculptures the same way ever again.
Pro tip: Take your smartphone downstairs to "The Treasury," the one gallery in the museum where the works of art are displayed in a more traditional museum setting, beneath the glass. Your camera's zoom feature is one of the best tools possible to look closely at the ivory carvings, especially the "Coronation of the Virgin" diptych (which is almost exactly the size of an iPhone). Zoom in on the little angel leading a monk and a king up a stairway to heaven. Zoom in closer to Book of Hours by Jean Pucelle that once belonged to the Queen of France, each page exactly the size of a credit card.
Hashtags: #MetCloisters #medieval #middleages #washheights
The "Archaeological Museum," as it is often called, is where all the treasures excavated at the Roman city of Pompeii are kept. You can spend an entire afternoon Instagramming close-ups of the intricate mosaics or pose with nude Romans, but the most fun to be had is inside the so-called "Secret Cabinet."
Pompeii was full of erotic art which posed a challenge to the 18th-century elites who were first in charge of the collection. The decision was made to display the sexy sculptures and paintings in their own private vault that was available to view by appointment only. Soon it became a must-see stop on the Grand Tour of Europe and a guide to the collection was published and then banned in France. The collection was off view for many decades before being reopened to the general public.
Inside are phallic shaped good luck charms, erotic paintings from Pompeii's brothels, and Roman patricians in various states of undress. Photos from the Secret Cabinet don't seem to violate the platform's terms and conditions, as social media rules seem to give classical nudity a fair pass.
Pro tip: Look for the marble sculpture of the woman wearing a gold bikini. It's a little Princess Lea-esque, right? Beyond the Secret Cabinet, use your zoom lens to explore the intricate mosaics. Notice how even the mortar between the glass tiles is colored to make the image appear seamless.
Hashtags: #Naples #Napoli #museoarcheologico
Storm King Sculpture Park
At Storm King in the Hudson Valley, you can walk underneath and around monumental works of contemporary sculpture inside a park. Art seems to rise out of the landscape making for some pretty cool photos. The light and seasons have a huge impact on the collection so even if you've visited Storm King before, it's an entirely different experience depending on the season. Autumn at Storm King is by far the most popular time to visit.
Pro tip: Yoga enthusiasts on Instagram will love posing next to the sculptures in a natural setting.
Hashtags: #stormking #sculpture #hudsonvalley #contemporaryart
Feel like taking a picture of an enormous, distended colon? How about skulls, conjoined twins, or Victorian medicals kits? If you want to gross out your Instagram followers you'll have plenty of opportunities to do so at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia.
Pro tip: The museum actively encourages guests to use Instagram in front of certain works like the skeleton of the world's largest man.
Hashtags: #muttermuseum #philly #muttergiant