~ / Dan Schlosser / lists /
Museums

Published on August 24, 2019.

One of my favorite things to do, both at home and while traveling, is visiting museums. As a kid, I hated them, because I always felt pressured to learn and understand the story behind everything I saw. In fact, I sort of thought that was the point. Over the years, I've found a new joy in just walking through museums (especially art museums) aimlessly. And I love it! This is a running collection of my favorites, roughly ranked:

Museum of Old and New Art (MONA)

Hobart, Tasmania | Map

I quickly fell in love with MONA for its architecture. Built mostly underground into the side of a hill, the building is at once unremarkable from the outside and stunning on the inside. Even more impressive was the exhibition and curation. My favorite pieces were several by James Turell, an American MacArthur Genius Grant-winning artist that works mostly with light and space.

The Louvre

Paris, France | Map

I mean, it's the freaking Louvre. I have spent entire days wandering the halls of the Louvre and still left feeling like I had only seen a fraction of the museum. While there are many other reasons to travel to Paris, the Louvre alone is reason enough. I especially love the west wing, where five massive rooms are filled entirely with sculpture.

D. T. Suzuki Museum

Kanazawa, Japan | Map

The D. T. Suzuki museum is more experience than museum. While there is a small exhibition space that offers a historical look into this Japanese Zen philosopher, what pulls me back to Kanazawa to return here is the large outdoor contemplative space. Several times larger than the exhibition space indoors, this outdoor pool and walking area is intended for contemplation of Suzuki's writing and work.

Louisiana Museum

Humlebaek, Denmark | Map

While a bit out of the way for visitors to Copenhagen, the Louisiana Museum is a must-visit. Architects Jørgen Bo and Wilhlem Wohlert transformed a suburban villa into a circular exhibition route that meanders between galleries and nature, above and below ground, from the forest to a lake, and to the sea. In my visit, I thoroughly enjoyed the permanent collection in the sculpture garden, and the rotation of modern and contemporary art in the three galleries. I speant nearly a full day at the Louisiana and I'd recommend anyone visiting Copenhagen to do the same.

Mori Art Museum

Tokyo, Japan | Map

I've been to the Mori Art Museum twice, and was seriously impressed both times. The first was an exhibit on Japanese architecture, and the second was an exhibition called "The Soul Trembles" which very much lived up to its name. Located at the top of Mori Tower in Roppongi, the musueum has no permanent collection, just several gallery spaces. While I can't predict what will be on display in the future, I very much like the curators' taste.

Dia:Beacon

Beacon, NY | Map

New York City has no shortage of fantastic museums to explore within its limits. But just a few miles north of the Bronx sits Beacon, New York, home of Dia:Beacon, an art museum on the banks of the Hudson River that houses a massive permanent collection of massive artworks, as well as a few special exhibitions. The museum occupies a Former Nabisco box-printing factory, which means awesome high ceilings, beautiful lighting, and even a creepy basement.

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

Copenhagen, Denmark | Map

Composed largely of the private collection of one wealthy Danish art collector, Glyptotek has it all. The atrium is like that of the Frick Collection in New York, but sevearl times larger. The collection of Danish, Roman, and Greek sculpture may not rival that of the Louvre, but the presentation of the sculpture might. Located in downtown Copenhagen, Glytotek is easily accessible and a must-visit for travelers to Denmark.

Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Tel Aviv, Israel | Map

Visiting Tel Aviv, I did not expect to be as impressed with the Tel Aviv Museum of Art as I was. Not only does the museum feature a striking exterior and a mind-bending interior design, it also featured compelling contemporary and modern art. The collection, while smaller, was impressive to me and made for a fantastic visit.

Musée d'Orsay

Paris, France | Map

Just meters from the Louvre Museum, the Musée d'Orsay is a far less overwhelming yet still quite impressive collection of impressionist painting, sculpture, and more. Plus, the view of the Seine from the top floor is excellent.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

New York, NY | Map

The only museum in my mind that can try to rival the Louvre is the Met. Having spent time living in the Upper East and Upper West Sides of New York City, getting to casually pop into the Met on an afternoon or evening is a privilege. Newcomers will flock to the Greek and Roman collection or to the preserved and recreated Egyptian tomb, but even after several visits I'm still finding new corners of the American Wing or enjoying temporary exhibitions.

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art

Kanazawa, Japan | Map

While the D. T. Suzuki Museum wins "best in Kanazawa, Japan" for me, I remain quite impressed with the collection of contemporary art in the 21st century museum. I still think about one exhibit that still has me theorizing how it was created. While that exhibit did not allow photography, this underwater pool exhibit did. See how they did it?

MoMA PS1

New York, NY | Map

While most New York tourists and locals alike have been to the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street, far fewer have made it across the East River to MoMA PS1, a branch of the museum situated in a former Long Island City elementary school. While I've thoroughly enjoyed the rotating set of exhibitions (the permanent collection is quite small), their summer Warm Up concert series is a big draw.

21_21 Design Sight

Tokyo, Japan | Map

Located near Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi, 21_21 Design Sight is a gallery space with rotating exhibitions. Built largely underground in a public park, the experience of descending into the gallery space is absolutely fantastic. Both times I visited, the exhibits (largely contemporary artists) impressed me with the creativity and attention to detail.

MoMA

New York, NY | Map

The New York MoMA was the first modern art museum I visited as a conscious adult. While I firmly believe the MoMA is a must-visit for tourists and first-timers, I've been occasionally less lucky with some temporary exhibitions, but most of the time MoMA nails it. With exhibitions like their Charles White retrospective and the curious handcrafted cityscapes of Bodys Isek Kingelez, MoMA has a lot to offer.

Thorvaldsens Museum

Copenhagen, Denmark | Map

The Thorvaldsens Museum presents the life's work of Bertel Thorvaldsens, a Danish sculptor who rose to fame in Rome around the turn of the 19th century. The museum thoughtfully curates his work by leading visitors through a passageway of small rooms, each of which contain a single large sculpture, and some supporting works. I highly recommend the free audio guide, which aids in the critical analysis and understanding of Thorvaldsen's work.

The Tate Modern

London, United Kingdom | Map

When I think of the Tate Modern, it's hard not to jump straight to the fantastic view of London that you can get from the observation deck. But aside from the stunning view, the Tate Modern has also impressed me with striking installations and exhibits. I'm looking forward to returning to London with enough time to give this museum a proper visit; in the past I've only had the opportunity to visit one or two floors.

Whitney Museum of American Art

New York, NY | Map

New York's newest major art museum is also one of my favorites. I first heard about the Whitney when the New York Times did its interactive profile on the building shortly before it opened. And when I first visited the museum, situated at the southern terminal of the High Line, I was impressed. Not with the art per se, as much as the building, the placement in the far West Village, and the experience of walking between its many balconies. Since then, I've enjoyed a few of the Whitney's exhibitions across of a few visits. It's not the place I'd spend an entire afternoon in, but it's definitely fun to visit, especially with first-timers or friends.

The Danish Museum of Art & Design

Copenhagen, Denmark | Map

With a stunning permanent collection of Danish design pieces and an expertly curated rotation of exhibitions, I was thoroughly impressed with the Design Museum. I got to see an exhibit on Bauhaus on my visit, and enjoyed a delicious salmon smørrebrød in the cafe. The best part of the Design Museum, though, is the collection of chairs, presented in a memorable albeit intimidating hallway of display cases.

Storm King Art Center

New Windsor, NY | Map

This outdoor sculpture complex definitely stands out on this list as one of the stranger museums. Located just a twenty-minute drive away from Dia:Beacon, this outdoor space is designed to be walked, biked, and explored in any order you so choose. Storm King is home to many massive sculptures that wouldn't fit in any other museum or space, and for that reason alone it's worth a visit. Especially on a day with good weather, Storm King is an outdoor afternoon worth experiencing.

Acropolis Museum

Athens, Greece | Map

It's hard to weigh the experience of visiting the Acropolis Museum alone. When visiting Athens, there isn't a single tourist that doesn't make it to the Parthenon, the ancient ruin on a hill located in the center of the city. However, many don't talk about the museum at the foot of that hill dedicated to the history and art of the Parthenon and Acropolis. Contemporary architecture and ancient artifacts are a great combination, and a coffee on the balcony is a great way to top it off. The main attraction, however, is the Parthenon gallery on the third floor, where you can see a full recreation of the Parthenon's frieze (sculpted walls) that combines real artifacts with replicas.

Statens Museum for Kunst

Copenhagen, Denmark | Map

Statens Museum for Kunst houses an impressive collection of French, Danish, and other European paintings from the 17th to 19th centuries. While the museum also displays modern and contemporary art in it's new expanision, I found the older work more compelling. The exception to that rule was the beautiful atrium space that connects the new and old buildings.

Sydney, Australia | Map

Located in downtown Sydney, the Art Gallery of New South Wales has a great set of free exhibitions as well as some paid ones. The highlight for me was definitely the large collection of Australian artists, although I also enjoyed CHINESE BIBLE, an exhibition about revolution and art in China.

The Vatican Museum

Athens, Greece | Map

If you visit the Vatican, you'll most likely end up spending time in the Vatican museum, a large collection of European, Asian, and African art collected (stolen?) by the church over the years. The collection is damn impressive, although the presentation is quite overwhelming. Visitors pack the hallways, making the museum feel more like one long line than something to be taken at your own pace.

ARKEN Museum for Moderne Kunst

Ishøj, Denmark | Map

Located 45 minutes west of Copenhagen, ARKEN is a solid half-day trip from Copenhagen. I found several pieces that I enjoyed in ARKEN's collection, including Ai Weiwei's Circle of Animals. While the relatively small size of the museum may not make it work everyone's visit, I enjoyed walking around the grounds in addition to viewing the collection.

The Frick Collection

New York, NY | Map

For me, the Frick is very hit or miss. I absolutely love the building and grounds, especially during member events when it's less crowded. I also really enjoy the curators and staff; every tour I've gone on has been very personalized and engaging. Much of the Frick collection is made up of fantastic pieces that you can't find elsewhere, but there are also those that don't do much for me. I tend to camp out on the museum listserv and watch out for interesting events or talks.

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

New York, NY | Map

While I love so much about the Cooper Hewitt, I sometimes feel like there's a bit of a generational divide when I visit. When I think of design, I think of the kinds of problem solving that has made its way into everything in our lives: architecture, technology, kitchen appliances, door handles, clothes, tools, and more. In many ways, it's the 99% Invisible definition of design. While Cooper Hewitt understands this definition on paper, I often get the sense that the curators still hold the 1960s / 1970s sense of the definition. I often find fantastic textile design pieces or interesting architectural models, but I rarely find the connection to my everyday life. I'm not asking for more touchscreens or video projectors (Cooper Hewitt has those), just a more modern approach. That said, for what it is, Cooper Hewitt really hits with some fantastic exhibitions that are hard to find elsewhere.

The Tokyo National Museum

Tokyo, Japan | Map

The Tokyo National Museum is definitely impressive. It has an excellent collection of Japanese historical pieces, from screen paintings to samurai armor and weapons. On my first visit, I hung onto every detail. Status, pottery, and numerous artifacts fill two stories of this sizable building. I especially enjoy the architecture of the Gallery of Horyuji Treasures, which stands in front of an ultra-reflective pool. Repeat visits have been less exciting, as the collection does not change frequently, but it's absolutely worth a visit for first-timers in Tokyo.

The Australian Museum

Sydney, Australia | Map

My first impression of the Australian Museum was not entirely positive. It has a bit of natural history blended with earth science, and felt like it was primarily targeted at kids. While I wasn't thrilled by the permanent collection, I thoroughly enjoyed an exhibition of Australian photography contest winners.

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom | Map

The British Museum may be one of the most impressive museums in the world, but I haven't had quite enough time to explore and enjoy it. On my first and only visit, I saw the Rosetta Stone, the Egyptian wing, and a visiting exhibition about prescription drug use, but overall did not leave impressed. I think a redo is in order.

SF MoMA

San Francisco, CA | Map

If you're in San Francisco, the SF MoMA is certainly worth visiting. In my opinion, it's the best art museum in the city. That said, no piece in the collection makes the museum unmissable. I enjoyed my first afternoon there, and have been less inspired on return visits. The outdoor terraces are a welcome counterbalance to the gallery spaces, and the more memorable parts of the museum.