Imagine what a dull, depressing, and uninspiring place the world would be without art. Art museums may be worth adding to your itinerary during your travels, whether you are an artist yourself, or simply appreciate art.
The way you take in the work, and the amount of talent it took to make it, is entirely your choice. A museum can be a great site for a first date, as there is so much that can spark conversation. You can go alone and peruse the work at your own pace. It’s also common to find art students sitting or standing before a painting, their brows knitted in hyper-focus as they sketch what they see, while guides give tours in various languages.
If you want to see the best of the best, here are some art museums to consider.
Located in Madrid, the foundations of this museum go all the way back to 1785, and the monarch at that time, King Charles III, had other plans for it originally. It only became an art museum by order of his grandson, Ferdinand VII, and over the years, it has acquired paintings by Spanish masters and others. Two famous examples include, Las Meninas (The Ladies in Waiting) by Diego Velázquez and Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco Goya, an especially gnarly image.
Once a royal palace, people flock here from all over the world for the paintings, jewelry, and sculptures, not to mention the nearby Jardin de Tuileries, a nice environment for a coffee and a stroll. The museum itself is so enormous, you’ll need several days, if not longer to properly see everything. La Grande Odalisque, with her deliberately elongated spine is on display, a well-known painting by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.
The Louvre is also home to what is perhaps the most famous work of art in the world— the Mona Lisa, which is on display behind bulletproof glass. The interest Leonardo DaVinci’s painting has generated over the years is larger than life, but you might be surprised by how small it is in person.
In 2018, Beyoncé rented out the Louvre to film the music video for her song, “Apeshit.” The visuals were a celebration of black excellence, from paintings of black figures, to the dancers moving in flawless formation on the steps before the headless statue of Nike.
Over the years, there have been calls for the Louvre and other French museums to return African art, sculpture, and other treasures stolen during colonial eras. In 2020, the French National Assembly voted to return 26 treasures stolen from Benin, a country in West Africa, and a sword to Senegal. But considering that France alone is in possession of approximately 90,000 African artifacts, this is barely a drop in the bucket.
Located across the Seine from the Louvre, this museum is a must if you are a lover of the titans of Impressionism like Manet, Monet, Renoir and their colleagues. Outside that, you’ll find one of Vincent van Gogh’s many self-portraits, identifiable by his long, visible paint strokes. A sensual painting of a female nude is L’Origine du Monde (The Origin Of The World) by Gustave Courbet, which was quite controversial at its debut.
One of New York City’s top tourist destinations, and though not as large as the Louvre, you’ll still need to pace yourself to take in the dizzying array of paintings, sculpture, and photographs, which cover some 5,000 years of world culture, from every corner of the globe.The MET faced criticism in 1969, for its “Harlem On My Mind” exhibit, highlighting “the creative capital of Black America in response to The Civil Rights Movement. The chief problem was the exclusion of work by Black artists, such as Romare Bearden, Faith Ringgold, and Jacob Lawrence—all of whom were living in Harlem at the time, creating works that would have easily fit the exhibition’s narrative.
Even in 2021, there is ample work to be done as it relates to diversifying the art displayed in major art institutions.