If you enjoyed my post about Texas’ 30 best museums, I’m sure you’ll love this post showcasing the best art museums in the US.
From the museum with the biggest collections, to the US museums with unique pieces you just shouldn’t miss, here are 12 of my favorite (and many other people’s favorite) museums in America.
Best Art Museums in the US by Size
Some of the best art museums in the US are also the largest in size.
1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)
- Address: 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028
- Size: The main building is about 2,000,000 square feet
- Tickets: $12 to $25, depending on special displays
- Hours: Opens at 10 am and closes 5:30 on Sundays to Thursdays, but until 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
- Number of Artwork: Over 2 million
- Notable Pieces: Van Gogh’s 1887 “Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat,” Duccio di Buoninsegna’s “Madonna and Child,” Rembrandt’s 1653 “Aristotle with a Bust of Homer,” Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux’s 1867 sculpture “Ugolino and His Sons,” and Raphael’s ca-1504 “Madonna and Child enthroned with Saints” altarpiece, among others.
Simply known as “MET,” the Metropolitan Museum of Art is home to more than 2 million pieces of art and 19 separate departments for its permanent collection alone.
This upper east side New York museum opened in 1870 and continues to be in the top five most-visited art museums in the world.
2. Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)
- Address: Grant Park (111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago)
- Size: 264,000 square-foot
- Tickets: It is free for Illinois residents every Wednesday evening from 5-8 pm, but ranges between $19 and $29 for visitors
- Hours: 10:30 to 5pm from Saturdays to Tuesdays and up to 8pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
- Number of Artwork: Over 300,000
- Notable Pieces: Vincent van Gogh’s “The Bedroom,” Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks,” Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” and Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies” to name a few.
The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest museums in America, having been built in 1879 as a school for the fine arts.
This museum has an impressive miniature collection and one of the largest Claude Monet paintings.
3. National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.)
- Address: Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC
- Size: 271,000 square feet
- Tickets: The National Gallery of Art is free to all visitors.
- Hours: Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 5pm and extended for an extra hour during Sundays. It closes on Christmas Day and January 1st.
- Number of Artwork: Over 140,000
- Notable Pieces: Two Vincent van Gogh paintings (an 1889 “Self-portrait” and the 1890 “Girl in White”), Raphael’s 1504–05 “Cowper Madonna,” Claude Monet’s 1880 “The Artist’s Garden at Vétheuil,” and Pablo Picasso’s 1905 “Family of Saltimbanques,” among others.
The National Gallery of Art, along with its Sculpture Garden, is one of the most beautiful museums in America.
Built in 1937 with 126 paintings and 26 sculptures from financier Andrew Mellon’s collection, this museum now has almost 4,000 European and American paintings and nearly 3,000 European and American sculptures.
4. Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA)
- Address: 465 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115
- Size: 20,500 square feet
- Tickets: $10 to $25
- Hours: Opens 10 daily and closes at 5pm on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, then up to 10pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
- Number of Artwork: Over 450,000
- Notable Pieces: The Museum’s most prized possessions are world-renowned masterpieces such as Gauguin’s “Where Do We Come From?” and Millet’s “The Sower,” along with works by Rembrandt, Degas, Sargent, and van Gogh.
Opened in 1876, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is one of the most comprehensive art museums in the world.
With a diverse collection from Japanese pottery to Egyptian artifacts, impressionist paintings to Chinese calligraphy, to the photograph collection of Hollywood’s own Herb Ritts, the Museum of Fine Arts is definitely a must-see when you’re in Boston.
5. Minneapolis Institute of Art (Minneapolis, MN)
- Address: 2400 3rd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN
- Size: 473,000 square feet
- Tickets: General admission is free, but tickets are required for special exhibitions, events and classes.
- Hours: Closed on Mondays. On other days, the museum opens at 10am and closes 5pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The museum is open until 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays.
- Number of Artwork: More than 90,000
- Notable Pieces: Vincent van Gogh’s 1889 painting “Olive Trees,” “The Doryphoros” Italian sculpture dating back to 120-50BC, Rembrandt’s “Lucretia” painting, and Do Ho Suh’s armor sculpture “Some/One,” among others.
The Minneapolis Institute of Art may be one of the largest museums in America, but it only has space for 5% of its collection.
Those 87,000+ pieces of art, however, showcases numerous Asian art and 17th Century Dutch Masters, Fauvist, Cubist, and Expressionist art.
You get to see works by Matisse, Monet, and other renowned artists side by side breathtaking creations like the 40,000-year-old sculptures featured prominently at the museum.
6. Denver Art Museum (Denver, CO)
- Address: 100 W 14th Ave Pkwy, Denver, CO 80204
- Size: 15,000 square feet
- Tickets: From $8 to $13, but general admission is free on the first Saturday of every month
- Hours: Open every day from 10 am until 5pm, except on Fridays when the museum extends until 8pm.
- Number of Artwork: More than 70,000 pieces of art
- Notable Pieces: Isaac Jouderville’s “Minerva reading,” Camille Pissarro’s “The Hay-makers,” Claude Monet’s ” Le Bassin des Nympheas” and “Path in the Wheat at Pourville,” Thomas Hudson’s “The Radcliffe Family,” and Camille Pissarro’s “Banks of the Oise at Pontoise,” to name a few.
This futuristic-looking museum in Denver is an architectural marvel both inside and out.
When it comes to the pieces it hosts, Denver Art Museum has an extremely diverse collection from central American artwork to Taos art pieces and even pop culture exhibits like original Star Wars costumes.
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Famous Art Museums in America
The following art museums in America aren’t technically the biggest in size (or have the most number of collections), but they’re popular for varying reasons.
7. Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, OH)
- Famous For: High-tech ArtLens Gallery
- Address: 11150 East Blvd, Cleveland, OH
- Size: 592,500 square feet
- Tickets: The museum’s collections are FREE of charge to visit. Some special exhibitions may carry a charge and tickets may be purchased online.
- Hours: Closed on Mondays, but open 10 am from Tuesdays to Sundays and closes until 5pm (except on Wednesday and Friday when the museum extends until 9pm).
- Number of Artwork: Over 60,000 works of art
- Notable Pieces: From Rodin’s “The Thinker” sculpture welcoming you outside, to Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe, and a host of paintings, sculptures, textiles, decorative objects, medieval armor, and other art spanning 6,000 years, there are works from Renoir, Gauguin, Corot, Eakins, Monet, Cezanne, van Gogh, Odilon Redon, Rousseau, Picasso, Botticelli, Caravaggio, del Sarto, Filippino Lippi, and so much more.
The Cleveland Museum of Art is over 100 years old.
What this museum lacks in quantity (there’s only 60k+ pieces there so far), it makes up in quality.
It has an impressive collection of American, European, Asian, African, pre-Columbian, Islamic and ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian art.
8. Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, PA)
- Famous For: Rocky Bilboa’s workout at the steps and a comprehensive Indian art collection
- Address: 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA
- Size: 633,825 square feet
- Tickets: From $14 to $25
- Hours: Closed on Mondays, but open 10 am from Tuesdays to Sundays and closes at 5pm (except on Wednesday and Friday when the museum extends until 8:45 pm).
- Number of Artwork: Over 240,000 pieces
- Notable Pieces: “The Battle of the Kearsarge and the Alabama” by Edouard Manet, Mary Cassatt’s “Family Group Reading,” one of Van Gogh’s Famous “Sunflowers,” “Princess X” sculpture by Constantin Brancusi, and “Portrait of Mademoiselle Legrand” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, among others.
This impressive architectural marvel opened in 1928 on a hill at the end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Walking up its famous steps is already a unique experience, but witnessing the artwork of the greats like Thomas Eakins, Charles Willson Peale, Monet, Renoir, Manet, Pissarro and Degas in person.
9. Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, MI)
- Famous For: Diego Rivera’s expansive mural known as Detroit Industry murals
- Address: 5200 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202
- Size: Over 715,000 square feet
- Tickets: From $6 to $14
- Hours: Closed on Mondays, but open from 9am to 4pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, then until 10pm on Friday. On weekends, the museum is open from 10 to 5pm.
- Number of Artwork: 65,000 works of art
- Notable Pieces: Vincent van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait,” Bob Thompson’s “Blue Madonna,” Robert Rauschenberg’s Creek, Claude Monet’s “Rounded Flower Bed,” “A Woman” by Hans Holbein the Younger, and the Grand femme debout II sculpture by Alberto Giacometti
Founded in 1885, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is the best museum in the city with over 100 galleries.
It showcases everything from mummies to modern art, African masks to the impressive armor collection.
Two must-see spaces are the entire Rivera Court and the General Motors Center for African American Art, which is part of the DIA with over 400 pieces in various media by African American artists.
10. The Getty Center and Getty Villa (Los Angeles, CA)
The J. Paul Getty Museum of Art, called as “Getty Museum” is housed in two locations – one at the Getty Center and the other at the Getty Villa. Both locations are equally impressive architecturally and focus on Western art.
The Getty Center features medieval through modern Western art with European and American art.
There are over 400 paintings, 900+ drawings, 70,000 photographic images, and over 2100 sculptures and thousands of manuscripts. The Getty Museum is renowned for having the most manuscript art in the world.
The Getty Villa has a focus on ancient Greek, Roman, Etruscan art and has around 40,000 pieces.
- Address: The Getty Center is in the Brentwood neighborhood (1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA), while Getty Villa is located in the Malibu neighborhood (17985 Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacific Palisades, CA).
- Tickets: Both locations have free admissions, but have $20 parking fee.
- Hours: Both locations are closed on Mondays, but open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10 am onward.
- Notable Pieces: Van Gogh’s “Irises,” “Wheatstacks, Snow Effect, Morning” by Claude Monet, “Venus and Adonis” by Titian, “Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino” by J.M.W. Turner, “After the Bath, Woman Drying Her Back” by Edgar Degas, and so much more.
My Favorites from the Best Art Museums in the US
They may not be considered as the best art museums in the US, but they’re my favorite art stops. If you’re going on a trip to any of these cities, I recommend you check them out:
- 11. MoMA or Museum of Modern Art (Manhattan, New York) – This museum is renowned for having the most Modernist art in the country. Aside from showcasing the work of greats like Picasso, Van Gogh, Dali, Henri Rousseau, Matisse, Andrew Wyeth, and Pollock, there are other highly-inspiring pieces (about 150,000 of them), as well as “22,000 films and 4 million film stills.”
- 12. Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, DC) – This US museum is a very inclusive institution with over 7,000 artists represented since the colonial period to the present. The Renwick Gallery is the museum’s free-to-enter space with plenty of American and Latin contemporary craft and decorative art.
Do you love art as well? Which US museums have you been to lately?
Which do you recommend is a must-see or must-skip? I’d love to know…