Unmissable galleries and museums from around the world

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The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain is an outpost of the Guggenheim in New York. Famous for its modern and contemporary art. Photo / 123rf

Having been limited to local institutions for so long, do you crave the great museums and galleries of the world? Start dreaming, even planning a pilgrimage to these cultural treasures, which you want to visit for the first time, or come back to see favorite objects and deepen the often enormous collections.

Find other inspirations on their websites. Many large institutions have not only digitized their collections, but have also dramatically improved their virtual offerings, including tours, lectures and art classes during the pandemic.

Le Frick, New York

While the Metropolitan Museum of Art can be overwhelming, this small nearby institution offers an hour or three of wonder and serenity. Feel immediately soothed by the fountain and the greenery of the gated entrance courtyard – a reminder that The Frick was originally home to a wealthy collector of 19th-century art.

Continue from room to room, some of which include antique furniture, porcelain, clocks and rugs by Henry Clay Frick. However, it is his paintings that really leave you speechless. They include portraits of Gainsborough, Velazquez, Rembrandt and Holbein, fascinating landscapes by Turner, exquisite domestic scenes by Vermeer, and rooms reminiscent of Versailles with walls covered in frivolities by Boucher and Fragonard.
frick.org

Advice: Entrance fee on Thursday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Orsay Museum, Paris

This Belle Epoque station, transformed into a showcase of French art from 1848 to 1914, is only surpassed by the unmissable Louvre in Paris. The original high glass ceiling makes it a pleasant place to stroll, beyond the riches including the sculptures by Rodin and François Pompon, whose colossal marble polar bear has a resolutely Art Deco style.

The Musée d’Orsay also has the world’s largest collection of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. It’s featured on the top floor (next to the station’s massive clock faces), so save your time and energy. Highlights include Van Gogh’s Starry Night on the Rhone and several paintings of Rouen Cathedral by Monet that capture varied lighting effects.
museum-orsay.fr

Advice: Lunch under the chandeliers and painted ceilings of the original station-hotel restaurant.

The Musée d'Orsay in Paris is housed in an old train station with the original high glass ceiling.  Photo / 123rf
The Musée d’Orsay in Paris is housed in an old train station with the original high glass ceiling. Photo / 123rf

The V&A, London

There’s plenty to consider for culturally-oriented tourist London itineraries, including the British Museum and Tate Modern, but for decorative art and design, don’t miss what was originally known as of Victoria and Albert Museum. This expansive, richly decorated Victorian-era complex features the world’s first café-museum, itself a work of art with colorful tiles.

From fashion to furniture, the V&A collection of more than two million objects spans 5,000 years of creativity. Highlights include the 8m mouth-blown glass chandelier by Dale Chihuly, a jeweled butterfly ring donated by Beyonce and the original manuscripts and drawings by Beatrix Potter. vam.ac.uk

Advice: Forget about seeing all 145 galleries in one visit. Pick a few areas of interest and, since it’s free, consider coming back another day.

For decorative art and design, don't miss what was originally known as the Victoria and Albert Museum and is now commonly referred to as The V&A London.  Photo / 123rf
For decorative art and design, don’t miss what was originally known as the Victoria and Albert Museum and is now commonly referred to as The V&A London. Photo / 123rf

Guggenheim, Bilbao

The Prado de Madrid has long been Spain’s premier cultural institution, but this outpost of New York’s Guggenheim is the place to be for modern and contemporary art. Since opening in 1997, the swirling structure of titanium, limestone and glass designed by Frank Gehry has single-handedly transformed the fortunes of the industrial city of Bilbao.

The Iberian Guggenheim features international and Spanish artists, including from the local Basque region. Permanent works include Jeff Koons’ giant puppy covered in live flowers and Richard Serra’s weathered steel installation that fills an entire gallery. The frequent temporary exhibitions are the main attraction, however, apart from the building itself.
guggenheim-bilbao.eus/en

Advice: Book online to avoid the long lines in summer and during the holidays.

Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

Russia has never been a popular destination for Kiwis, so chances are you haven’t visited the world’s largest art museum. Put it on the to-do list, as this complex of imperial buildings – including the Winter Palace – is to be seen only for its opulent architecture and interior decor.

Just be prepared for a cultural overload, despite only a fraction of the Hermitage’s three million items on display. From prehistoric art to classical antiquity, Renaissance and modernism, it’s a seemingly endless banquet. Highlights include two paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, a 19-ton jasper vase, and an 18th-century peacock clock.
Hermitage Museum.org

Advice: Lasting more than five hours, a virtual one-shot journey through the Hermitage was filmed last year. Find it on YouTube.

The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, is the largest art museum in the world.  Photo / 123rf
The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, is the largest art museum in the world. Photo / 123rf

Grand Egyptian Museum, Cairo

You may have visited the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, long packed with antiques, including the iconic Tutankhamun mask. It’s different, and you sure haven’t been because it doesn’t open until the end of the year. Unlike the old neoclassical institution, the Grand Egyptian Museum is so large that it will exhibit the entire King Tut collection of over 5,000 objects, many of which have never been shown before.

This striking angular structure overlooking the Pyramids of Giza will house artifacts from museums and storage across Egypt, including an imposing 3,000-year-old stone statue of Ramses II already waiting to greet visitors at the entrance.
grandegyptianmuseum.org

Advice: Not to be confused with the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, which opened in April.

Check alert level restrictions and advice from the Department of Health before traveling. covid19.govt.nz and safetravel.govt.nz


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