by Visual Arts Editor Kurt Cole Eidsvig
Since its humble beginning as a colonial outpost, the United States has undergone a rapid transformation in arts and culture, making the country the recognized center of the Western art world in less than three centuries. This focus on art is reflected in the wide array of museums and expansive collections available for viewing across the fifty states. As audiences have become more sophisticated, art presentation has become more complex, giving way to incredible diversity for taking in the visual arts. While museum attendance has seen a rise in recent years there has also been a renaissance of art and art museums with new and expanded facilities, as well as specialized collections.
In an effort to keep up with growing attendance and sprawling collections, the museums in the U.S. have sought creative ways to expand their size and strength. There has been no better time in America to take in a wide range of art and exhibitions than the present, as many museums have undergone large expansion projects in recent years to support more visitors. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York nearly doubled in size, while the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston underwent a $100 million dollar expansion culminating in a new Art of the Americas wing. This boom in museum growth is by no means confined to the Northeast, as the Art Institute of Chicago became the second-largest museum in the United States in 2009 as a result of its $385 million dollar expansion project. With expansion plans in place for organizations from the SFMOMA to the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Anchorage Museum of History and Art in Alaska, all of this means more space and more art on display for museum visitors around the country.
Even amidst an economic recession, art continues to thrive in the U.S. The birth of new museums shows an increased interest in specialized collections, as well as massive efforts to reach the public. The Clyfford Still Museum in Denver is set to open in 2011 with over 10,000 square feet of space devoted to the famous Abstract Expressionist, while the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston recently opened its doors on a brand new space. Not only have the major museums expanded, or found unique ways to showcase art, but there are also new spaces better designed to satisfy our burgeoning craving for art.
As a result of the incredible economic expansion in the late 19th and 20th Centuries, American collectors were able to identify and purchase pivotal modern and postmodern works. Because of this drive to collect, some of the greatest Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, Surrealist, Abstract Expressionist, and contemporary artworks are now housed in American museums. As works by Claude Monet to Henri Matisse, Cezanne to Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol were so sought after by Americans, many have since found homes in our museums. The Impressionist and Modern collections found in the U.S. often far surpass their European counterparts, and therefore bring visitors from all around the globe to take in this amazing work. Whether in the artistic Mecca of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, or the elegance of the Getty collections in California — or any of the various stops in between — there are countless ways to appreciate the visual elegance of art throughout America.
Top US Art Museum Destinations
Books: E.H. Gombrich’s The Story of Art (there’s a pocket edition, as well) is a readable and engaging one-volume overview. Sarah Thornton’s Seven Days in the Art World gives a great look at the contemporary art world.
Websites: Christies and Sotheby’s both give up-to-date auction information, as well as videos and catalogues that are full of information about art and artists. Artnet has information on the latest art transactions, and a number of original works for sale through their network. The Art Newspaper is the art professional’s guide to transactions and news in the art world. Art in America and ArtForum allow visitors to browse their print editions, and both offer access to exclusive online content.