Perhaps you’ve once stepped into New York’s Museum of Modern Art – also fondly known as the MoMa – and found its extensive collections much too mind-boggling; or perhaps you just cannot be bothered to jostle with the impenetrable summer crowds at the Louvre. Or could it possibly be that you’ve already been to each and every one of these iconic museums, that your trips to these great cities now feel utterly meaningless?
Whatever it may be, you’re indubitably hungering for a cultural education beyond what you can find on the Internet. Thankfully, the art world is constantly expanding and ever-changing. So here are five other similarly acclaimed art museums, where you wouldn’t expect to find the Mona Lisa – and the masses that she draws.
Instead of visiting the Tate Modern, make a trip down to… The Hepworth Wakefield
Recently beating out the newly-expanded Tate Modern and the Sir John Soane’s Museum to the title of the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017, the Hepworth Wakefield, is proof that the epicenter of British art is shifting away from London. Named for the distinguished modernist artist and sculptor, Barbara Hepworth, the Yorkshire establishment opened in 2011 and boasts one of the most comprehensive archives of the artist’s own works, in addition to a permanent collection spanning from the 16th Century to the present day.
You’ll also find carefully curated exhibitions featuring works by artists Henry Moore and György Gordon. Always bustling with its regularly-held art workshops and tours, the Hepworth Wakefield is most definitely worth a visit.
The Hepworth Wakefield is located at Gallery Walk, Wakefield, WF1 5AW, UK, +44 1924 247360. Open daily from 10am – 5pm. Entrance is free.
Leave the maddening crowds of the National Gallery, and go to… Dulwich Picture Gallery
If modern art is not your thing, and you long for the days when you could actually understand the paintings on the wall, head over to the scenic Dulwich Picture Gallery in the quaint South London district of Camberwell. Established shortly after the French Revolution, when the most lavish French palaces were being stripped off their artistic finery, the museum instantly attracted donors who sought to bring France’s treasures across the Channel, and house them in the safe confines of Britain. The Dulwich Picture gallery, thus, holds one of the country’s most magnificent collections of Old Master paintings, including Rembrant’s famous “Girl at the Window” to Poussin’s early masterpiece, “The Triumph of David”.
In its bicentenary this year, the gallery has been hosting a series of major shows, including a survey of American artist, John Singer Sargeant’s watercolours in June. This October will see the first UK retrospective of the Finnish illustrator, Tove Jansson, who is better known for having authored the Moomin series.
Instead of going to a “famous” museum in New York, check out…RISD Museum
New York City has, unquestionably, one of the most vibrant art scenes in the world, with gallery openings happening every other night and too many pop-up exhibits to count. With this hyper-saturation of the scene, an “art fatigue” seems to plague the city. Four hours away from Manhattan, the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has gathered more than 100,000 art objects in its various museum collections that span from ancient Egyptian art to 18th Century Japanese textiles. Beyond its remarkable range, however, is how well-organised and informative its displays are. A stroll through the museum’s galleries feels like Art History 101, only with more stimulating visuals and less droning. So the next time you’re in the East Coast and need some artistic inspiration, why not make a trip down to the art college’s museum, and wander through its fine displays?
Instead of waiting in snaking lines at the Louvre, pop by… Petit Palais
Across the street from the larger and much more imposing Grand Palais, the Petit Palais (which literally translates into “small palace”) is an easily-overlooked gem in Paris. Built in 1900 for the Exposition Universelle, the intricate Beaux-arts-style architecture of the museum itself is something of a sight to marvel at. Symmetrical arches and exquisite painted ceilings adorn the building’s stunning interiors, which open out into a spacious courtyard where you can spend an afternoon amidst its lush greenery. But should you rather ruminate on the beauty of art over the beauty of nature, the museum also contains a notable collection that sufficiently rivals those of its grander counterpart or the better-known Musée D’Orsay.
On display is usually such a plethora of spectacular Renaissance paintings and works by the most influential French painters of the 19th Century, that from the moment you step into the museum’s plenteous galleries, you wouldn’t know where to look.
Petit Palais is located at Avenue Winston Churchill, 75008 Paris, France, +33 1 53 43 40 00. Open daily from 10am – 6pm. Admission to the permanent collections is free.
Don’t miss the Galleria Nazionales or the Palazzo Venezia in Rome, but do make time for… The Museo Centrale Montemartini
Though slightly hard to find, the Museo Centrale Montemartini ought to be a stop on your tour of Italy. Its classical Greek and Roman collection is devastatingly beautiful, and the juxtaposition of these gorgeous sculptures against the dark machinery, the pipes, scaffolding, ladders and wrenches, of the abandoned power station within which they are showcased is absolutely brilliant. Such a contrast is one that should not work in theory – and yet, the extremities of both these aesthetics set each other off with such coherence that the unusual backdrop feels almost essential to these ancient masterpieces on display. Whilst classical marbles may be plentiful in Rome, the Centrale Montemartini stands out by setting these dazzling pieces in a brand new light.