Philadelphia’s best-known canvas, The Declaration of Independence, is one of the world’s premier political and historical masterpieces. It no longer resides in Philadelphia, but its enthusiastic spirit of independence roams free, creating a thriving art scene for artists and art lovers from around the world. It has been a momentous year in art for Philadelphia, so make a trip to check out all that its local museums, galleries and institutions have to offer.
Arthur Frommer of Frommer’s Guidebooks writes, “upcoming developments…will make [Philadelphia] a real contender for the top American position in the world of art. Three imminent openings of new art museums and museum exhibits will make Philadelphia the equal of any other U.S. city in the cultural field.” Intrigued? Check out our list of the top ten must-see art destinations in Philadelphia to find the one that brings out the creative spirit in you.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art
While the Vincent van Gogh exhibit and its sunflowers and sheaves of wheat has moved on, this museum always has something special up its sleeve for the next museum-goer, be it the iconic garments from Ronaldus Shamask: Form, Fashion, Reflection, the sculptures of Cy Twombly, or Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life, opening October 27, 2015.
Note: Visitors to the exhibit can take advantage of discounts on Amtrak rail travel throughout the city; information is available at philamuseum.org.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
If you missed Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit, kick yourself a little and then discover there are plenty of experiential works and comics-inspired paintings to make it worth stopping here along your artsy tour of the town.
If you happen to make your visit to Philadelphia on the first Friday of any month, you’ll be treated to the longstanding tradition of open houses at galleries and boutiques in the historic Old City neighborhood, known as First Friday. Today several other neighborhoods like Northern Liberties and East Passyunk have joined the First Friday festivities with their own art-themed events and activities. Wandering in and out of local galleries is one of the best ways to see art from the ground up in Philly.
The Mural Arts Tour
Murals are a signature sight in Philadelphia, thanks in part to a 1984 initiative started by the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network. You’re likely to spot several towering works of outdoor art (there are over 3,000) as you stroll around the city or ride the rails on the new Love Letter Train Tour. Get a closer look, plus an insider perspective and background info, during a guided Mural Arts Tour. You can choose a walking or trolley tour, and pick from several themed options (spirituality? love? culinary arts?) to suit your personal interests.
The Franklin Institute
For a kid-friendly art destination, hit children’s favorite The Franklin Institute for Next Stop Mars, Learn the Science of Sports, and Meerkats 3D if there’s time. The exhibits are hands-on here, so visitors of all ages can get creative with video game design, architecture, theme park engineering, DJ technology and more. Who knows what future interests you’ll spark?
A stroll around Philadelphia would not be complete without a sighting of the glittering mosaic work of local artist Isaiah Zagar. While you’ll surely notice Zagar’s work on buildings around town, especially in South Philadelphia, his Magic Gardens are the pinnacle of his artwork. This walk-through site showcases the depth and resourcefulness of Zagar’s prolific mosaic work. Take the kids on a stroll through the Magic Gardens on a sunny day, and watch their imaginations come alive.
The Philadelphia Flower Show
If you consider intricately crafted landscapes and sculptures of flowers to be living, breathing works of art, then The Philadelphia Flower Show should be your destination. Come March 2-10, 2013, the British Invasion theme promises to be a “Brilliant” spectacle of royal proportions, so expect to see all sorts of icons represented, like red telephones, Parliament, football, the Duchess of Cambridge, the Gherkin, Twiggy, Beefeater gin, and of course, The Beatles.
Under renovation since 2008, Philadelphia’s Rodin Museum has recently reopened. Outside the Musée Rodin in Paris, Philadelphia’s Rodin museum features the largest collection of works by the artist, nearly 130 sculptures, and includes bronze casts of his instantly-recognizable The Thinker, as well as of his final work, The Gates of Hell.
The Barnes Foundation
The newly reopened Barnes Foundation is widely thought to be the crown jewel of the Philadelphia art world. The long-awaited, controversial museum project relocated the peerless art collection of the late Dr. Albert Barnes (think: 69 works by Cezanne, 59 by Matisse, 49 by Picasso and 181 by Renoir alone!) from its small campus in suburban Philadelphia to the center of the city, where it joined several other prominent museums along the Ben Franklin Parkway.
How to get to Philly from NYC:
Take Megabus or Consult the Philadelphia Transportation guide in the Transportation Advisor section of offMetro.com NY.
Photo: By Karolina Skupien, courtesy of Art Resource, NY/Art Resource
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