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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia: Art Museums

Welcome to Philadelphia, home of a burgeoning art scene that feels a little bit like Manhattan’s Lower East Side if the Lower East Side were still populated by enthusiastic artists squatting in vacant apartment buildings. That is, there is a sense of authenticity in Philadelphia — probably because so much remains untouched. Though the city is home to numerous museums, as well as galleries, artists’ cooperatives, and open studios, the effects of the art market (for better or for worse) have yet to spread. Most famous and traditional perhaps is the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with over 225,000 objects in its permanent collection. Exhibitions there range from the paintings of Van Gogh to English embroidery to the photographs of Lee Miller. It is, in a sense, an encyclopedic museum.

Despite the many exhibitions devoted to American History (and the reputable collection at the PMA), Philadelphia’s art scene may be better known for what it is now than for what has already happened. The Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, for example, has long been known for its controversial shows exhibiting contemporary artists, some recognized, many still relatively unknown. The Institute is an established version of what fills the galleries and collectives in much of the rest of the city. While many of these artists are profoundly talented, they have managed to exist away from the frenzy of New York, so their work and processes still feel undiscovered. This sense of newness is characteristic of Philadelphia’s art scene overall: it is still fresh enough to be cool without seeming jaded.  (Gracie Linden)

Philadelphia Art Museums: Art Museums Around Philadelphia

Below are our Philadelphia Art Museum recommendations, with information on location, admission, transportation/parking, museum history and other points of interest in Philadelphia Art.

African American Museum in Philadelphia

The museum is the only one of its kind in the country to be funded by a major municipality. It seeks to preserve art and artifacts that represent the African American and diaspora. It was founded in 1976, the same year as the U.S. Bicentennial. Its mission is to tell the African American story through a wide range of subjects, including the Civil Rights movement, arts and entertainment, sports, politics, …more…

Allentown Art Museum (Allentown, PA)

Founded in 1934, the Allentown Art Museum has fulfilled its mission – to enrich the lives of the widest possible audience of visitors – for over 75 years. Serving over 100,000 visitors annually, the museum offers more than 17,000 works of art which span nearly 2,000 years of cultural heritage. ...more...

Barnes Foundation

Note: the Barnes Foundation building in Merion closed in July 2011. The art collection is now displayed in its new building in Center City, Philadelphia. The Merion location will reopen in the late summer of 2012 as the home of the beautiful Arboretum and to its horticulture program.

Assembled by Dr. Albert Barnes, this can’t-miss stop for Impressionist fans has more than 180 Renoirs (by far the most in the world …more…

Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia

The ICA at the University of Pennsylvania was founded in 1963. Since then, it has become one of the country’s premier institutions for displaying and promoting contemporary art and artists. It has developed a reputation for discovering contemporary artists that later become renowned on the international stage.

The institute has no permanent collection, but presents exhibitions three times a year. It has exhibited works by Maira Kalman, Tavares Strachan, Joshua Mosely …more…

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA)

Founded in 1805, the PAFA is the nation’s first and oldest art museum. Located in one of the best examples of Victorian Gothic architecture in the United States, each of the museum’s galleries are devoted to a specific aspect of American art.

A second building, the Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building, at 128 Broad Street, was occupied by the PAFA in 2006.  Most of it is used by the School of Fine …more…

Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent

Note: The Philadelphia History Museum is currently closed for renovation and will reopen in 2012.

In 1938, inventor and radio pioneer A. Atwater Kent purchased the former Franklin Institute building at 15 S. 7th St. and gave it to the city on the condition that it house a museum, named after him, that would be dedicated to the history of Philadelphia. Founded that year and opened to the public in 1941, …more…

Philadelphia Museum of Art (The PMA)

Situated at the end of Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the heart of Philadelphia, the infamous Rocky-run location of this museum alone ought to be enough to wrangle any visual enthusiast. However, with holdings that range from treasures of the Middle Ages to modern masterpieces, the geographic location of the building is certainly not the only worthy attribute of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. ...more...

Rodin Museum

This museum features the largest collection of art by Auguste Rodin outside France. It includes bronze castings, plaster molds, drawings, prints, and letters from the sculptor. The institution was founded by Jules Mastbaum, a movie theater magnate, who began to collect works by Rodin in 1923. In only three years, Mastbaum’s collection was the largest excluding France. The city of Philadelphia opened the museum in 1929. ...more...

Woodmere Art Museum

The Woodmere first opened in a Chestnut Hill mansion in 1940. The space is provided by the former home of Charles Knox Smith, a Philadelphia oil magnate. It includes nine galleries and salons that host changing regular and special exhibitions each year, as well as works from the permanent collection.

Today the Woodmere’s permanent collection has more than 2,500 works, many of which are by renowned Philadelphia and regional artists. It …more…