Art,  Museums

How To Find One Magical Museum of Art

Tired of cookie-cutter museums with antiseptic white walls and uninspired exhibitions, we started our search in New York City, then traveled to the Midwest, and finally flew to California in order to find a special home for art lovers — one magical museum of art. We visited the Brooklyn Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, SFMOMA, the Norton Simon Museum, the Getty Center, the Broad, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Brooklyn Has One of the Best U.S. Museums

The Brooklyn Museum was planned to be the largest museum of art in the world when it was founded in 1898. The original design called for a museum four times as large as what was created when the initial phase of construction ended in 1927.

Today, the Brooklyn Museum possesses an art collection with 500,000 objects, New York City’s second largest after the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. Thanks to major renovations near the end of the 20th century the Brooklyn Museum is now revitalized, and since 2007 “The Dinner Party” by Judy Chicago has been on permanent display as the centerpiece for the museum’s Center for Feminist Art.

The COVID-19 pandemic, with its negative impact on museum revenue, led the museum to sell dozens of paintings including works by Corot, Courbet and Lucas Cranach the Elder in order to care for its expansive collections of African, Egyptian and American art. Committed to presenting vibrant temporary exhibitions — from traditional to challenging, and perhaps edgy — the Brooklyn Museum remains popular within the local community and far beyond the borough.

The Outskirts of Cairo, 1872 by Louis Comfort Tiffany
Starting at the Colonial period, art from the United States is heavily represented at the Brooklyn Museum
On the Heights, 1909 by Charles Courtney Curran
Summer Showers, circa 1865 by Martin Johnson Heade
A Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie, 1866 by Albert Bierstadt
Woman in Gray, 1942 by Pablo Picasso

With 90 paintings on display from its permanent collection, the presentation entitled “MONET TO MORISOT — The Real and Imagined in European Art” illustrates the depth of fine art possessed by the Brooklyn Museum and its willingness as an institution to question how the traditional canon for collecting European art was constructed through the narrow lens of gender, class and colonialism.

Portrait of Mlle Fiocre in the Ballet “La Source,” 1867 by Edgar Degas
The Doge’s Palace, 1908 by Claude Monet

MONET TO MORISOT will be displayed through November 12, 2023

Portrait of Madame Léon Maître, 1882 by Henri Fantin-Latour
The ceremonial banquet table by Judy Chicago is a long-term installation at the Brooklyn Museum
Place settings for Virginia Woolf and Georgia O’Keeffe above a tiled floor with the names (inscribed in gold) of 999 other women

Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party”

The Brooklyn Museum describes “The Dinner Party” as “an important icon of 1970s feminist art and a milestone in twentieth-century art.” This groundbreaking and influential work of art, created between 1974 and 1979 by Judy Chicago, is set on a gigantic triangular banquet table with 39 place settings. Each setting — complete with utensils, a gold chalice and a painted porcelain plate containing vulvar/butterfly motifs — commemorates the achievements of a distinguished woman from history.

Embroidered runners honoring Eleanor of Aquitaine and Hildegarde of Bingen
Inside the Brooklyn Museum
Amarna carving in limestone, circa 1352-1336 B.C.E., showing Nefertiti & a male, possibly Tutankhamun

A Special Exhibition About Queer / Asian Identity & Culture

Coolieisms, aka: Sly Son Goku turns 23, 2021 by Oscar yi Hou

The Brooklyn Museum is presenting the exhibit EAST OF SUN, WEST OF MOON in its Gallery of Contemporary Art through September 17, 2023. This fantastic show featuring 11 paintings by Oscar yi Hou marks his first museum solo in the United States. These works of art are purposefully anachronistic, and yi Hou often casts himself and his friends as masculine East Asian figures from Western popular culture and history. The cranes shown in the background, above and below, indicate that these paintings may also be considered self-portraits by yi Hou, since his given Chinese name refers to an idiom involving a bird. Born in Liverpool in 1998, now a Brooklyn resident, Oscar yi Hou chooses complex iconography to challenge long-standing stereotypes of the queer, Asian creative community.

Leather Daddy’s Highbinder Odalisque, 2022 by Oscar yi Hou
Gold Mountain Cruiser (The Mineshaft’s after-hours trade), 2022 by Oscar yi Hou
Old Gloried Hole, aka: Ends of Empire, 2022 by Oscar yi Hou
Enjoy the beauty of Lincoln Park as you head up to the Legion of Honor by foot, car or Bus # 18

The Legion of Honor, San Francisco

Alhambra, Patio de los Leones, 1895 by John Singer Sargent
Alhambra, Patio de los Arrayanes, 1879 by John Singer Sargent
The Reply (The Letter), 1874 by James Tissot
Gallery of the HMS Calcutta, 1876 by James Tissot
Waiting (In the Shallows), 1873 by James Tissot
The Last Evening, 1873 by James Tissot

The Legion of Honor is known for its classy exhibitions of fine art and fashion. If you did not get a chance to see the show “James Tissot: Fashion + Faith” (2019-2020) organized with the Musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie, and the collaboration with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. entitled “Sargent and Spain” (2023), the good news is you have plenty of time to savor “The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England” from June 14 through September 24, 2023 at the Legion of Honor.

Elizabeth I (The Rainbow Portrait), circa 1602 attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts The Younger

More than 100 objects (including the iconic portraits shown below) are on view here tracing the emergence of a distinctly English style through the artistic patronage of the Tudor courts in the 1500s.

ABOVE: Hermann von Wedigh III, 1532 by Hans Holbein the Younger. BELOW LEFT: Queen Elizabeth I, 1575 by an unknown artist. BELOW RIGHT: Mary Tudor, Later Queen of France, 1514 by Michel Sittow
ABOVE: Henry VII, 1505 by an unknown artist. BELOW: Edward VI, 1547-50 by Guillim Scrots
The Sultan of Morocco, 1600 by an unknown artist

Having already been seen at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Cleveland Museum of Art, the presentation of “The Tudors” at the Legion of Honor will be your final opportunity to appreciate this exhibition in person. The show will close in San Francisco on September 24, 2023.

The permanent collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco includes 50 objects in bronze, marble & plaster created by Auguste Rodin
The Grand Canal, Venice, 1908 by Claude Monet

Heading North from San Francisco

Muir Woods

Should you want to take a break from museums and city life, we recommend you visit wine country in Napa Valley, the redwood forest at Muir Woods and the charming waterfront in Sausalito — all of which can be accomplished in a one-day trip north of San Francisco.

Harbor in Sausalito
The journey from Sausalito into San Francisco offers a fantastic view of the Bay
Dedicated to modern & contemporary art, SFMOMA has been at 151 Third Street since 1995

Founded in 1935, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) underwent a major three-year-long expansion from 2013 to 2016 which doubled the museum’s gallery space, and provided almost six times as much public space — perfect for exhibiting large-scale sculpture, contemporary art, and spacious retrospectives such as the show devoted to Frank Bowling.

Throwback, 1976 by Tony Smith
Delusions, 2000 by Richard Mayhew
A Portrait of the Artist — Indoors, 2012 by Paulina Olowska
I am a Rainbow Too, 2018 by Jeffrey Gibson

“Frank Bowling: The New York Years 1966 — 1975” will close on September 10, 2023

Several journeys across the Atlantic Ocean affected the life and art of Frank Bowling, who was born in British Guiana in 1934 and lived in London from 1953 until 1965. This exhibition at SFMOMA explores Bowling’s innovative movement toward abstraction during the decade he lived in New York. His cross-cultural paintings exploring transformative techniques are imbued with historical awareness and personal significance.

Night Journey, 1969-70 by Frank Bowling
Trois Disques, 1967 (far left) & Big Crinkly, 1969 (center) by Alexander Calder. Tony Smith’s Throwback (right)
A detail of One-way Colour Tunnel, 2007 by Olafur Eliasson
Eliasson’s One-way Colour Tunnel was used as a passageway for museum-goers in 2021-22
Palace of Fine Arts
Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District, San Francisco
A 2-hour drive by car or bus south leads to the lovely white sand at Carmel-by-the-Sea, a small beach city

Norton Simon’s collection is unique among U.S. Museums

Autumn: The Chestnut Gatherers, 1894 by Georges Lacombe

In Southern California, the pleasant city of Pasadena with 136,000 residents is a perfect place for art lovers to relax for a few days. In fact, you might find the Victorian and art deco buildings located in the center of Old Pasadena so attractive that you will decide to use Pasadena as a base for exploring Los Angeles.

Pasadena is the primary cultural center of the San Gabriel Valley due in large part to the Norton Simon Museum, where a $5,000,000 renovation in 1995 by Frank Gehry resulted in more intimate galleries and improved lighting to house the 11,000 objects in the collection of European and Asian art.

The Holy Women at the Sepulchre, circa 1611 by Peter Paul Rubens
The Abduction of Psyche by Zephyrus to the Palace of Eros, circa 1808-20 by Pierre-Paul Prud’hon
AL 3, 1926 by László Moholy-Nagy
Brittany Landscape, circa 1888 by Emile Bernard
Young Woman in Black, circa 1875 by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Exotic Landscape, 1910 by Henri Rousseau
Madame Manet, 1874-76 by Édouard Manet
The gardens at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena contain sculpture by Rodin, Maillol, Brancusi, Moore, Hepworth & Noguchi
The Approaching Storm, 1870 by Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la Peña
Portrait of a Boy, 1655-60 by Rembrandt van Rijn
Thatched Cottage in Normandy, circa 1872 by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot
Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose, 1633 by Francisco de Zurbarán
St. Ignatius of Loyola, circa 1620 by Peter Paul Rubens
The Liberation of St. Peter, 1618 by Hendrick van Steenwijck the Younger
Madonna and Child with Book, circa 1502 by Raphael
White and Pink Mallows in a Vase, 1895 by Henri Fantin-Latour
Patrons admiring paintings by Courbet and Mouth of the Seine at Honfleur, 1865 (above right) by Claude Monet
The Pont des Arts, Paris, 1867-68 by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
The Star: Dancer on Pointe, circa 1878 by Edgar Degas
Portrait of the Artist’s Mother, 1888 by Vincent van Gogh at the Norton Simon Museum
Los Angeles City Hall (completed 1928) houses the offices of the Mayor & L.A. City Council
Eiko Ishioka was posthumously nominated for an Oscar in 2012 for the film Mirror, Mirror. Born in Tokyo, Japan, Eiko Ishioka won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design in 1992 for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Art Lovers TIP: By car or train, travel from Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles takes about 30 minutes. Film lovers should visit the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, located next to LACMA, to see the costume (above) designed for Julia Roberts in Mirror, Mirror. An exhibit on Casablanca continues through March 17, 2024. An immersive film experience created by Pedro Almodóvar can be seen until April 7, 2024. The Godfather exhibition may be enjoyed through January 5, 2025.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has grown enormously since its founding in 1961 to become the largest art museum in the western United States, and receives 1,000,000 visitors each year.

Flowers & Plants of the Four Seasons, late 18th century by Yamaguchi Soken
I.B.M. Disc Pack, 1965 (oil on canvas, above) by Lowell Nesbitt & Untitled, 1962 (below) by Desmond Paul Henry
Digital art (above) from “Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age 1952 — 1982” closed on July 2, 2023
Eko Skyscraper, 2019 by Njideka Akunyili Crosby
The Octoroon Girl, 1925 by Archibald J. Motley Jr.
These enthralling portraits from the “Afro-Atlantic Histories” exhibit are on view until September 10, 2023
“Another World — The Transcendental Painting Group” exhibit (above & below) closed on June 19, 2023

While the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is closed for extensive renovations, “The Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA” building on the same site (5905 Wilshire Boulevard) remains open, presenting works of art from the permanent collection plus focused exhibitions such as the upcoming show “Eternal Medium: Seeing the World in Stone” from August 20, 2023 — February 11, 2024. This exhibit will demonstrate the impressive use of stone, especially richly patterned and vividly colored stone, as a diverse medium for the creation of art.

Woman with Blue Veil, 1923 by Pablo Picasso on display at LACMA
The Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, designed by Frank Gehry, opened in 2003
An installation of paintings by Roy Lichtenstein inside THE BROAD

The Broad Museum

Liz, 1963 by Andy Warhol
River Valley, 1985 by Roy Lichtenstein
Tulips, 1995-2004 (center) by Jeff Koons
Untitled, 1988 by Jack Goldstein

Keith Haring: Art Is for Everybody

The Broad is presenting the first-ever museum exhibition in Los Angeles of the oeuvre created by the American Keith Haring (1958 — 1990). Featuring 120 works, including drawing, video, sculpture, painting and other mediums, this expansive overview entitled “Art Is for Everybody” can be seen in L.A. from May 27 through October 8, 2023 before the show travels to Toronto in November, and to Minneapolis from April through September 2024.

Untitled, 1984 by Keith Haring

Yayoi Kusama

Patrons enjoying Longing for Eternity, 2017 one of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms in the Broad’s collection

The Getty Center

Irises, 1889 by Vincent van Gogh
The Getty Center has five Pavilions, one of which is devoted to Special Exhibitions
Still Life with Flowers and Fruit, 1869 by Claude Monet
Bougainvillea trees (at left) in the Central Gardens, where a gentle stream flows beneath a bridge (right)
Portrait of Princess Leonilla, 1843 by Franz Xaver Winterhalter
Mars and Venus, An Allegory of Peace, 1770, by Louis-Jean-Francois Lagrenée
Portrait of Jeanne Kefer, 1885 by Fernand Khnopff is on view at the Getty Center
Bougainvillea “trees” are formed using custom-made trellises. Below: freeway from Brentwood into L.A.


We owe special thanks to Alberto Uribe for his depth of knowledge about the arts scene in California. Alberto Uribe is a true lover of the arts, and this article was made possible through Alberto’s generosity, command of history, and kindness.

The Cleveland Museum of Art

The Cleveland Museum is a knock-out and, like the Brooklyn Museum, offers programs, artwork and exhibitions that speak eloquently to both the local community and to a larger audience of art lovers on the national and international levels.

We feel we have found our magical destination for culture in Cleveland. We’ve decided to return to Ohio in the autumn of 2023 to continue our exploration of everything the Cleveland Museum of Art has to offer visitors who make the effort to venture inland from the coasts, beyond more established big-city institutions.

Why Born Enslaved!, 1868 sculpture by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux & Apollo and the Muses, 1800 by Charles Meynier
Twilight in the Wilderness, 1860 by Frederic Edwin Church
Faience Charger, circa 1880 by Theodore Deck
The Laundress, circa 1873 by Edgar Degas {Pasadena, Norton Simon Museum}

The Cleveland Museum of Art, one of the 10 Best U.S. Museums, will present an exhibition entitled “Degas and the Laundress: Women, Work, and Impressionism” from October 8, 2023 through January 14, 2024. We hope you will choose to return here in the future to read our upcoming article on the cultural attractions to be found in Cleveland, Ohio, which also includes the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame images include Aretha, Tina, Janis, Steven Tyler & Parliament-Funkadelic
Cleveland Museum of Art

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