Top Ten U.S. Art Cities

For a culture-minded vacation—whether you want to admire breathtakingly beautiful art, stimulate your creativity, or get provoked by the edgy and offbeat— here's our list of ten don't-miss cities.
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10. Fort Worth, Texas
A mix of cowboy history and high culture, Fort Worth boasts two world-class museums. The Kimbell Art Museum is a jewel with an exquisite selection of European art from antiquity to 20th-century masterpieces by Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Seurat, plus Asian and Pre-Columbian art. It's often the only stop in the United States for touring exhibits. The Modern Art Museum houses mostly post-1945 art, particularly New York School stars like Jackson Pollock, in a dramatically designed, light-suffused structure with a reflecting pool by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando of Japan. American art only, especially Western landscapes and photographs, is on display at the Amon Carter Museum.

9. San Antonio, Texas
Some four hours and change down the road from Fort Worth, you'll find burgeoning San Antonio. Quirky art installations line the newly expanded, restaurant-crammed River Walk, which now extends to the San Antonio Museum of Art. The museum's Latin American art collection, donated by Nelson Rockefeller and ranging from Mexican folk art to pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial art, is considered North America's biggest. The McNay Art Museum is a lovely Mediterranean-style villa with stenciled ceilings, hand-painted tiles, and a central courtyard—the former home of oil heiress Marion Koogler McNay—that houses a captivating collection of Post-Impressionist, early 20th-century European and American, and Medieval art. The Blue Star Arts Complex is the heart of the city's contemporary art scene, with galleries and artists' lofts in renovated warehouses. The Museo Alameda, a Smithsonian affiliate, displays Latino art in a building with a vivid cut-out facade design inspired by the Mexican craft of "cut paper."

8. Boston, Massachusetts
In a Venetian palazzo-style building with a lovely fountain-filled courtyard, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum displays Italian Renaissance, Old Masters, and Post-Impressionists like Degas and Matisse. The encyclopedic Museum of Fine Arts features the biggest Monet collection outside of France (three dozen paintings), plus outstanding Egyptian, Nubian, and American art collections. Edgy, innovative art is found in a striking waterfront building at Institute of Contemporary Art, where exhibits have included topics such as artists' materials and processes.
View our Boston Photo Gallery.

7. Houston, Texas
The Museum District is a cluster of 18 museums, most notably the Museum of Fine Arts, the biggest museum in the Southwest, where an astonishing gold jewelry and artifact collection from Africa, Indonesia, and Latin America is displayed, as well as Roman, Egyptian, and Greek antiquities, two Rembrandts, one of the world's ten biggest photo collections (more than 20,000 photographs), and a robust American painting collection. A large Surrealist collection, starring Magritte, Ernst, and Picasso—plus items they owned that spurred inspiration—is showcased at The Menil Collection, which also features Pop Art from Warhol and Rauschenberg, and European and Near Eastern antiquities. The Menil campus in the leafy Montrose neighborhood also includes The Rothko Chapel, a stark octagonal chapel designed by Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko, and a Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum housing 13th-century frescoes for serene sanctuary. For truly offbeat art, the Orange Show is a wildly eccentric structure of mosaic tile, concrete, and found art that a self-taught artist built to celebrate his love of the orange, while in the Art Car Museum, autos are canvases for exuberant art. In Project Row Houses, avant-garde art is displayed in shotgun-style houses.

6. Chicago, Illinois
The second-largest museum in the United States, the expanded Art Institute of Chicago is renowned for its French Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, Dutch Old Masters, six Chagall stained glass windows, and modern and contemporary art. Chicago itself is also a vast open-air museum of public art, particularly in Millennium Park, where popular modern works like the video-projecting Crown Fountain and Anish Kapoor's giant steel Cloud Gate sculpture are on display. In downtown, more than 100 sculptures and installations by the likes of Picasso, Miro, Chagall, Moore, and Stella adorn plazas, lobbies, and the River Walk. The River North neighborhood houses one of the biggest gallery concentrations in a former manufacturing district, and many galleries stay open late one night each month here, as well as in the Hyde Park, Pilsen, and Bridgeport neighborhoods.
View our Chicago Photo Gallery.

Published: 15 Jun 2010 | Last Updated: 31 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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