My first visit to this eastern American city focused on the Philadelphia Museum of Art, an amazing gallery of over 200,000 paintings and one of the largest collections of art in the United States. The museum is also famous for its steps, which were solidified as a pop culture icon thanks to the 1970s film Rocky.
With such a institution at its heart, it’s no surprise that the city has many other art lures from the traditional to the contemporary. Here’s a list of galleries that definitely should be on any art lover’s list:
The now-public private collection of Dr. Albert C. Barnes is a plethora of well-known 19th century artists such as Manet, Renoir, Matisse, Modigliani, Seurat, Cezanne, Degas and Gaugin. The collection is housed in a newly constructed contemporary facility with galleries designed to resemble the Barnes home. Unique furniture, iron and metalwork, African art and other distinct pieces are displayed alongside the paintings and sketches, an overwhelming foray into the mind of Dr. Barnes.
The city of Philadelphia decided to combat tagging and destructive graffiti with community-based art celebrating the culture, history and people of the city. Now the city boasts the largest mural arts program in the United States. Throughout the city there are several two-, three- and four-storey high murals created by artists with the help of local schools and community groups. Self-guided walking tour maps are available online.
This tranquil museum contains the largest collection of Rodin sculpture outside of France including one of the three original casts of Rodin’s most important work, The Gates of Hell. The manicured grounds are a lovely respite no matter what time of year, and include a cast of Rodin’s Thinker and the collection inside shows the sculptor’s technique in marble and bronze.
This visionary art installation is the mad genius of Isaiah Zagar, who took an abandoned South Street vacant lot near his studio and transformed it into a mosaic and sculpture creation of pathways, commentary and figures. The space is now used as a gallery and community arts centre. This contemporary manifestation of Zagar’s mind is intriguing, mind-boggling and definitely photo-worthy. If you like it, wander the neighbourhood to see smaller installations by Zagar on residential front doors, garage doors, parks and even a church.
For those who want to experience art while shopping or heading out on the town, the city’s downtown core has several iconic sculptures; from a classic bronze of former Philaldelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, to favourite son Benjamin Franklin at his printing press, to Robert Indiana’s famous LOVE sculpture, there’s plenty of art to see while on the streets of Philadelphia.