Art Question: What’s your favorite art museum?

February 19, 2010

I have a habit of, when I travel, absconding immediately to the nearest art museum. I neglect even the most vital tourist activities (various towers, mountain peaks, cathedrals, piazzas, antiquities, Disney parks, stadia, canals, funiculars, and botanical gardens), often at great experiential expense.

Simply put, here is a list of notable (note that I’ve excluded the Portland Art Museum and anything billed as an art collection in Las Vegas, et cetera) art museums I have visited. You will find reading a list of notable art museums I have visited interesting. You will.

After we experience this list together, you will see that I have favorite art museums. And then you will tell me about your favorite art museums, so I can visit them, especially if they are in western Europe because, hey, I am about to be up in there.

I am at the Museo del Prado, Madrid. Making fun.

Museums, Of Note, To Which I Have Been

These are purposely in no order.

  • Musée du Louvre, Paris
  • National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
  • Musée d’Orsay, Paris
  • Museu del Prado, Madrid
  • Museum of Modern Art, New York*
  • Centre Pompidou, Paris
  • Art Institute, Chicago*
  • Pergamon Museum, Berlin
  • Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid*
  • Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin
  • Tate Modern, London
  • Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

And My Favorite

My very favorite art museum? The Art Institute of Chicago. I’ve been there three times. I get to go again in May.

I love the Art Institute for its gorgeous collection of early-to-mid 20th-century painting and overall sense of civic community.

Second and third place go to MOMA in New York and Reina Sofía in Madrid, respectively. The Reina Sofía has a splendid section of Mark Rothko, while MOMA is like a slideshow of everything I ever learned in art history classes.


David and Sculpture on Flickr

David admiring art

Some art is funny. Like chubby babies fighting goats?

Miniskirt and four inch heels: TOTALLY APPROPRIATE garb for the Prado.


  1. Chad says:

    I love the Getty museum in L.A. It has free admission, a great collection and on a rare clear day it has an awesome view of Los Angeles.

  2. Lyza Gardner says:

    Hah! I almost put the Getty on my list but wasn’t sure if it counted as a “full-blown” art museum.

  3. Todd says:

    I remember really enjoying the SF MOMA. Didn’t have enough time, but I rarely do (typically, my body is done before my brain is).

    Kiasma in Helsinki was also memorable. Not that I really got to understand the Finnish psyche in our short time there, but all the same, it somehow seemed “very Finnish”. There was one installation there I really enjoyed, even if it was a bit gimmicky.

    But — and I’m going to sound provincial in saying so, though if anything, I chalk it up to the nostalgia for my college days — I really do think the Houston art museum scene is top notch. The Contemporary Art Museum there is small, and as such, seemed to have no permanent works. But lots of good stuff there. The MFAH is, at the very least, large. And then there’s the excellent Menil, along with its satellite of micro-museums, the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum, the Cy Twombly Gallery, and, of course, the Rothko Chapel.

  4. Amy says:

    Santa Barbara’s Museum of Art is really wonderful. It has some really great rotating shows and my favorite is a section of CA artists. It’s laid out in a lovely way with sections that are small enough to be intimate.
    My favorite show was last year when they did a survey of children’s book illustraters, with actual mock ups and pencil sketches (even erasure marks).
    My favorite place to escape!

  5. Fran says:

    The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin has manuscripts that are thousands of years old. Egyptian papyrus, ancient Chinese writing, books from the first years of the Christian Era. Admission is free, too. When I was there in 2001, the exhibits included a little village of houses made from building in print ads. I so want to create a village just for me.

  6. dtwood says:

    my vote is the Peggy Guggenheim museum in Venice ( with an amazing sculpture garden. also was a bit smitten with the house Picasso’s museum in the Marais District of Paris ( enjoy.

  7. doug says:

    what Todd said about Houston (esp. the Rothko Chapel and Menil) and dtwood said about the Guggenheim in Venice; also, the Miro Foundation in Barcelona and the Maeght Foundation outside of Nice. And I went someplace in Brussels that was very impressive, but at gunpoint I couldn’t tell you the name.

  8. Preston says:

    My favorite is Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum. It is enormous, exudes old world sophistication and charm, and has comfy chairs everywhere so you can just sit and take everything in.

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