USA Museum Bucket List

Five Swords at Storm King Art Center, by Alexander Calder, 1976. (c) 2017 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo by Jerry L. Thompson

So far, I’ve posted here a few reviews of museums I’ve visited in the U.S. and abroad, and have a huge backlog of others that I want to write about. In the midst of that project, I thought I’d take a break and share the list of my top five museums that I’ve yet to see. I don’t know when I’ll make it to any these places, but I’m keeping them in mind for future trips. Have you been to any of these? I’d love to hear your impressions, and any tips for visiting. So, in no particular order except working from east to west, I give you my list.

Storm King Art Center
New Windsor, New York

I first saw this place on an episode of the Netflix show Master of None. In the episode, Dev (the main character, played by Aziz Ansari) takes his friend visiting from Italy to an enormous outdoor sculpture park. It looked absolutely incredible. It wasn’t named in the episode, but based on the show, I figured it had to be a quick train ride from New York City. So I went online and after a bit of searching, I discovered it’s called the Storm King Art Center. It’s located in New York’s Hudson Valley. Founded in 1960, its 500 acres of sculpture amongst a beautiful outdoor landscape. Heaven!

The Frick Collection
New York, New York

Girl Interrupted at Her Music by Johannes Vermeer, 1658-59. Henry Clay Frick bequest.

I’ve been to New York City a couple of times, but have yet to make to all of the museums there that I would like to see. One that’s still on my list is The Frick Collection. I’m a bit fascinated by the weird juxtaposition of the railroad robber barons like Frick, and for that matter the financiers like J.P. Morgan, who had reputations for being hard-nosed and even cruel businessmen, but yet loved art and spent fortunes on it. That’s one of the main things that intrigues me about this museum. It’s located in Frick’s mansion, and the collection he left behind seem pretty wide-ranging, from masterpieces on canvas to porcelain to furniture.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Bentonville, Arkansas

Composition with Winch by Stuart Davis, 1932. Promised gift to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

A fairly new museum, Crystal Bridges was built with money from Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walten. Thus, it’s located in the company’s hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas. I heard of the museum some time ago, but I admit I wasn’t initially inclined to think much of it. I guess I assumed that fine art and Wal-Mart don’t exactly go together. But then I came across a video of a fascinating lecture on YouTube by the author of a new biography of one of my favorite artists, John Singer Sargent. The author was speaking at Crystal Bridges. I was so impressed that I looked into the museum more, and to my surprise, it looks like a wonderful bastion of American art that I need to visit. The grounds also seem to be filled with walking trails and beautiful trees. I hope to make it there within the next few years.

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, California

Attic Black Figure Column Krater, Athens, Greece, about 520 BC

So much to see here. I have spent some time, on and off over recent years, following the goings-on at The Getty. The big attractions for me at the museum, which is just one part of an enormous Getty complex, are the antiquities. I’m especially anxious to see their Greek pottery and Roman mosaics — two of my favorite art forms. But the Getty also has a Research Institute and a Conservation Institute. I would love to visit these, too. I’m not sure if they are open to the public. Maybe they have rare public tours, and you have to schedule your trip for the right time. It bears some investigation.

The Huntington Library, Art Collection, & Botanical Gardens
San Marino, California

The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough, 1770

I had heard of the Huntington Library, but didn’t know much about its art collection except that it is home to The Blue Boy, Gainsborough’s famous painting. Then a few years ago, I took a free online art history class called Sexing the Canvas: Art & Gender. This class is a collaboration between The University of Melbourne in Australia and the Huntington, and uses examples of art from both locations, and includes videos of walkthroughs at the Huntington, with the Melbourne professor giving her explanations in front of different paintings.  It made me want to see the place in person.

So these are my big five! Let me know if you’ve been there, and what your tips for visiting are. Want to recommend other places to visit? Please do.

Published by Rebecca Johnson

Writer and editor covering arts and culture in Austin, Texas and beyond.

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