Most of you are aware that the City of Brotherly Love is filled with history – the Liberty Bell anyone? – as well as fabulous food – hello you yummy Philly cheesesteaks! But did you also know it is filled with world-class art? Indeed, it is and we here at Beyond Times Square have chosen five museums in Philadelphia that are great places for you to explore to get your art fix the next time you visit the city. Check them out below to see which pleases your “palette.”
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Ok I am going to show my age here. Remember those steps that fictional boxer Rocky Balboa famously ran up in the major motion picture of the same (first) name? Yup – this is that museum. But obviously that is not its claim to fame. What is? The fact that it is one of the largest art museums in the United States for one. And that it is also one of the most significant thanks to its extensive collection – 240,000 pieces of artwork that spread across 2000 years. Ancient world, medieval times, the Renaissance, American, East and South Asia, the Impressionist movement and contemporary art are all represented here as well as pieces from three of the most well-known artists in history – Picasso, van Gogh and Renoir. Oh, and the second largest collection of arms and armor in the country calls the Philadelphia Museum of Art its home too. With rotating exhibitions, spirited programs and events for the entire family and a one-acre outdoor sculpture garden – you’ll want to sprint up those steps just like Rocky!
The second museum on our list comes courtesy of Jules Mastbaum – a man once referred to as “the king of cinema.” Jules, a Philly native and movie theater magnate, was a collector of pieces from French sculptor Auguste Rodin and gifted them all – along with the French gardens he had designed to showcase them – to Philadelphia in the 1920s. Housed both indoors as well as outdoors in a formal garden, you’ll find over 120 of Rodin’s sculptures on display as well as various drawings and paintings. Among the work is perhaps two of his most well-known pieces – The Thinker and The Gates of Hell. Fun fact – Philadelphia was the first city in the U.S. to exhibit his art so it’s quite fitting that the largest collection of his works outside of Paris found its home here. The collection is not stagnant either – it actually rotates every two years. Note: This is the only one of the museums in Philadelphia that we are featuring that has an everyday “pay what you want” admission model.
Instituted by another Philadelphia native – Albert C. Barnes – the Barnes Foundation was created with the noble goal of teaching all classes of citizens how to look at and ultimately appreciate art. An avid art collector – Barnes interestingly enough actually halted the work in his factory (he was the co-creator of an antiseptic) for two hours each day to hold art appreciation classes and discussions for his workforce. As you may have guessed, it is from here that his desire to teach anyone and everyone an understanding of art grew into what is now the Barnes Foundation. What to expect here? A fabulous permanent collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art which Barnes amassed from 1912 to 1951 that includes works from Renoir, Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Cezanne and van Gogh as well as Native American ceramics, African art, Pennsylvania German furniture and more. In addition, there are also rotating temporary exhibitions throughout the year and, of course, art education classes – both in-person and online that also vary with new courses offered every month.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
As both a museum and a private art school – the first and the oldest in the United States – the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is one of the city’s principal art hubs. Started in 1805 by the trio of Charles Willson Peale, a painter and scientist, William Rush, a sculptor, as well as other artists and business leaders – PAFA is housed in a historic landmark building that showcases over 16,000 pieces. In fact, its collection is internationally lauded and includes works that span from the 18th- and 19th-century masters including Benjamin West, Mary Cassatt and more, to contemporary painters such as Kehinde Wiley, Mickalene Thomas and Andy Warhol, among others. In addition to the permanent collection, as well as a slew of temporary exhibits, the students of PAFA hold their Annual Student Exhibition – or ASE – every spring in what has become a highly anticipated even in the City of Brotherly Love, as it allows the public to purchase pieces from those who may very well become the next world-famous name in the art world.
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
Undoubtedly unlike any museum you have ever frequented – Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens was born thanks to the desire of Isaiah Zagar – an award-winning mosaic artist – to enhance the appearance of his South Street Neighborhood back in the 1970s. This indoor/outdoor art gallery is created entirely out of discarded tiles and mirrors as well as used bicycle wheels and ceramic dishes that are transformed into stunning mosaics. After Zagar spend decades creating “walls” of mosaics with his finds – bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” – it faced the very real possibility of being torn down in 2004. Luckily, the neighborhood would rally to not only preserve his work – but to transform it into this non-profit venture. Besides this completely unique expression of art, PMG also hosts hands-on experiences, concerts and more. And – for an in-depth private tour of this masterpiece and others throughout the city, your friends at Beyond Times Square offer a Magic Gardens & Murals of Philadelphia Private Walking Tour that also includes admission.
Yes, dear readers – art museums in Philadelphia are plenty and depending on your taste in art and the length of your trip you have these five options to choose from, among others, the next time you head to the city. And one last suggestion – don’t head to Philly without reaching out to our team of destination experts here at Beyond Times Square. We are ready and waiting for your call and have tons of great ideas including tours to participate in, places to eat, accommodations and more – and would love to help you plan your Philadelphia getaway today!