France may have the Louvre and London the Tate Modern, but the U.S. has countless world-class institutions of art as well. Here at Paste, we’ve covered quirky museums, overlooked museums and even music-themed museums. This week, we’re bringing you nine must-visit U.S. art museums. While you don’t have to leave the country, and heck you might not even have to leave your home state to visit these institutions, the pieces they contain will take you on a visual journey around the world and through history one artwork at a time. If you’ve yet to see a Pollock, Warhol, Picasso or Monet in person, these museums are for you and your bucket list.
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.
1 of 9
New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, or the Met for short, is spread across three locations: Met Fifth Avenue, Met Breuer and Met Cloisters. Representing more then 5,000 years of art from every corner of the globe and more than two million works in its permanent collection, it's officially the largest art museum in the U.S. The Met first opened in 1872, at a different location, and today its galleries include musical instruments, paintings, weapons, clothing, sculptures and more.
Noteworthy Works: Vincent van Gogh (Self-Portrait with Straw Hat), Claude Monet (The Houses of Parliament, Effect of Fog), Edgar Degas (The Dancing Class), Rembrandt (Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer), Pablo Picasso (The Oil Mill), Jackson Pollock (Autumn Rhythm, Number 30)
Photo by Timothy Neesam, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
2 of 9
The J. Paul Getty Museum's mission "seeks to inspire curiosity about, and enjoyment and understanding of, the visual arts by collecting, conserving, exhibiting and interpreting works of art of outstanding quality and historical importance." The dual-location museum was founded by oil tycoon J. Paul Getty and consists of the Getty Center and Getty Villa in Los Angeles. The museum's main location houses a collection of pre-20th-century art with works dating back to the Middle Ages. It's housed in a Richard Meier-designed campus that also includes the Getty Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, Getty Research Institute, as well as the Getty Conservation Institute. The Getty Villa, an homage to the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum on the founder's personal property, houses a collection of nearly 45,000 rotating works from ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria. It occupies 64 acres on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean and includes a 2,500-square-foot pavilion, two formal gardens housing Roman sculptures, as well as a 450-seat outdoor Greek theater.
Noteworthy Works: Vincent van Gogh (Irises), Claude Monet (Sunrise, Marine), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (La Promenade), Paul Gauguin (The Royal End), Rembrandt (An Old Man in Military ), Canaletto (The Grand Canal in Venice from Palazzo Flangini to Campo San Marcuola)
Photo by Damien Halleux Radermeck, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
3 of 9
Formally the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, this world-class collection of art was established in 1937 through a non-profit of the same name. When it officially opened in 1939, it was known as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, but was later renamed in honor of its founder. Since 1959, it has been housed in an iconic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building on New York City's Upper East Side. The landmark cylindrical building, inspired by a nautilus shell, includes a unique spiral gallery that winds from the ground floor up to the top floor. The New York location shares a collection with a network of Guggenheim museums around the world, including the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain. The collection includes prominent works of modern and contemporary art.
Noteworthy Works: Fernand Léger (Nude Model in the Studio), Franz Marc (The Yellow Cow), Paul Klee (Red Balloon), Jean Metzinger (Woman with a Fan)
Photo by Yann Pinczon du Sel, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
4 of 9
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. is located on the National Mall. This free national art museum is spread across three locations, the neoclassical West Building designed by John Russell Pope, the modern East Building designed by renowned architect I. M. Pei, as well as a 6-acre outdoor sculpture garden. The museum's original collection was a donation from Andrew W. Mellow, who also help finance its construction in 1937. The National Gallery of Art's permanent collection includes works dating back to the Middle Ages, with a substantial collection from the Italian Renaissance. Its print collection alone is comprised of 75,000 works.
Noteworthy Works: Raphael (Cowper Madonna), Rembrandt (Self Portrait with Beret and Turned-Up Collar), Vincent van Gogh (Self Portrait), Paul Gauguin (Self Portrait), Henri Rousseau (The Equatorial Jungle), John Singer Sargent (Street in Venice), Jacques-Louis David (Napoleon in His Study), Leonardo da Vinci (Ginevra de' Benci)
Photo by OZinOH, CC BY-NC 2.0
5 of 9
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is home to an impressive collection of some 33,000 works of modern and contemporary art and includes paintings, sculptures, photography, media arts and more. It was founded in 1935 and was officially the first museum dedicated to 20th-century art on the West Coast. In 1965, SFMOMA hosted Jackson Pollock's first solo museum exhibition. The museum has been housed in a Mario Botta-designed building in downtown San Francisco since 1995. After being closed for three years as it underwent a large expansion, SFMOMA reopened in May of last year.
Noteworthy Works: Frida Kahlo (Frieda and Diego Rivera), Edward Hopper ( Intermission), Chuck Close (Agnes), Alexander Calder (Double Gong), Cy Twombly (Second Voyage to Italy, Second Version), Andy Warhol (Triple Elvis)
Photo by sswj, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
6 of 9
The Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) was founded in 1870 and first opened in 1876, It currently contains more than 450,000 works, including Egyptian artifacts, Chinese paintings, Japanese pottery, French Impressionist paintings and much more. Having undergone several transformations and expansions over the decades, today it includes the Art of the Americas Wing and the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art.
Noteworthy Works: Rembrandt (The Artist in his Studio), Gilbert Stuart (George Washington), Edgar Degas (Racehorses at Longchamp), Claude Monet (Poppy Field in a Hollow near Giverny), Mary Cassatt (Tea), Francisco Goya (Seated Giant), Childe Hassam (At Dusk, Boston Common at Twilight), Vincent van Gogh (Postman Joseph Roulin)
Photo by Thomas Hawk, CC BY-NC 2.0
7 of 9
Home to some 150,000 works from antiquity to modern day, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is officially the largest art museum in the western United States. The multi-building campus covers 20 acres in L.A.'s Hancock Park adjacent the La Brea Tar Pits. It was established in 1961 before opening to the public in 1965. Prior to this, it was part of the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art, which was founded in 1910. The campus consists or three main buildings: the Art of the Americas Building (Ahmanson Building), Frances and Armand Hammer Building (Lytton Gallery), as well as the Bing Center. The museum's courtyard features a garden of 100 palm trees and the Chris Burden-designed Urban Light installation that consists of just over 20 antique cast iron street lights from various areas around Los Angeles.
Noteworthy Works: Paul Cezanne (Still Life with Cherries and Peaches), Claude Monet (Nympheas), Rembrandt (The Raising of Lazarus), David Hockney (Mulholland Drive: The Road to the Studio), Roy Lichtenstein (Cold Shoulder)
Photo by edwardhblake, CC BY 2.0
8 of 9
Founded in 1979, the Art Institute of Chicago is the second biggest and one of the oldest art museums in the country. It covers nearly one million square feet in Chicago's Grant Park just off Lake Michigan. The museum's main entrance is guarded by two iconic bronze lion statues by Edward Kemeys, which have been a beloved symbol of Chicago since they were unveiled in 1894. The museum's east entrance features a stone arch entrance, designed by Louis Sullivan, from the former Chicago Stock Exchange. The Art Institute is home to a permanent collection of some 300,000 works coving 5,000 years. After its original building was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire, the museum has called the former World's Congress Auxiliary Building built for the World's Columbian Exposition home since 1893. In 2009, the Art Institute expanded to include the Renzo Piano-designed modern wing, which houses works by Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns and more.
Noteworthy Works: Georges Seurat (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte), Pablo Picasso (The Old Guitarist), Gustave Caillebotte (Paris Street, Rainy Day), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Two Sisters, On the Terrace), Vincent van Gogh (Bedroom in Arles), Grant Wood (American Gothic), Edward Hopper (Nighthawks), Georgia O'Keeffe (Black Cross, New Mexico) Ivan Albright (Picture of Dorian Gray), Marc Chagall (White Crucifixion), Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (At the Moulin Rouge), Diego Rivera (Portrait of Marevna)
Photo by Mark Heard, CC BY-NC 2.0
9 of 9
Officially the Museum of Modern Art, but often referred to simply as MoMA, this museum contains one of the world's best and most influential collections of modern and contemporary art. Founded in 1929 and currently located in Midtown Manhattan, the museum's collections include paintings, drawings, sculptures, photography, books, electronic media and more equaling over 150,000 artworks, 300,000 books and 22,000 films among them.
Noteworthy Works: Andy Warhol (Campbell's Soup Cans), Vincent van Gogh (The Starry Night), Frida Kahlo (Self Portrait with Cropped Hair), Jackson Pollock (Number 31), Marc Chagall (I and the Village), Roy Lichtenstein (Drowning Girl), Claude Monet (Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond), Paul Cezanne (The Bather), Henri Matisse (The Dance), Salvador Dali (The Persistence of Memory), Andrew Wyeth (Christina's World), Jasper Johns (Flag)
Photo by htmvalerio, CC BY-ND 2.0