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12 Neat Museums You Really Should Visit

As part of Artful Vagabond’s Ask the Artists series, Serena Kovalosky asked artists to send in their favorite museum and describe what inspired them – museums that might be lesser-known to the general public but with fascinating collections. Read on and you’ll meet the artists and discover new destinations that might inspire your next day trip or vacation!

1 – Museum of Jurassic Technology, California, USA

The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, California is a tiny museum known to locals. It inspires me because there’s nothing like a little dip into an unusual environment to jostle your imagination. I first saw the website and couldn’t understand what it was all about. After visiting, I still felt mystified but it left me wanting more. I can’t quite explain even what it is. Some featured exhibits include The Stink Ant from Cameroon, The Decaying Dice of Ricky Jay, and tributes to Russian Space dogs. There’s also a few peculiar dioramas, an upstairs theater hidden behind a curtain and an attic tea room. I’ve heard from neighbors that the owners of the museum live in caravans in the back alley and play the accordion late at night. I don’t want to tell much more because it’s just something to experience in person.

"Face to Face" by Susan Tompkins. Copyright © Susan Tompkins

"Face to Face" © Susan Tompkins

Museum of Jurassic Technology review submitted by:

Susan Tompkins, California, USA
Painting, collage, mixed media
susantompkinsart.com

Image credits:
Face to Face

Susan Tompkins
Acrylic, ink, watercolor, mixed media

Image courtesy: Susan Tompkins

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2 – Rubin Museum of Art, New York, USA

One of my favorite museums is The Rubin Museum of Art in New York City. I discovered it back in 2010 on one of our “art gawking” trips. While there we went to see “The Red Book of C.G. Jung, Creation of a New Cosmology” for no other reason than it sounded interesting and was a new museum for us. The Rubin Museum is “dedicated to the art of the Himalayan Asia.” I call it the Tibet Museum. The interior is supportive of a meditative spirit with its subdued light. A series of small sculptures was exhibited so that our walk was serpentine rather than linear. The experience was quiet, reflective, and perhaps prayerful and, for me, the art was in perfect sync with the museum’s interior. The Rubin’s exhibits offer a connection similar to that of the Polynesian art wing at the Met with its raw power and rugged expressions, although the Rubin’s works are more refined and elegant.

Whispering for the Dogs to Come Home by Andy Frost. Copyright © Andy Frost

"Whispering for the Dogs to Come Home" © Andy Frost

Rubin Museum of Art review submitted by:

Andy Frost, New Hampshire, USA
Painting
andy-frost.com

Image credits:
Whispering for the Dogs to Come Home
Andy Frost
Acrylic, enamel and mixed media on canvas

Image courtesy: Andy Frost

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3 – Shri Bhavani Museum, India

The Shri Bhavani Museum in Aundh, India is surrounded by nature – a peaceful setting for this art museum’s collection of miniature paintings, sculpture and portraits. Included in the collection are paintings by well-known Indian artists such as Rao Bahaddur Dhurandhar, Baburao Painter, and Madhav Satwalekar. Three paintings by Raja Ravi Varma are the pride of the museum. The Shri Bhavani Museum has a large collection of stone sculptures including the famous Mother and Child by Henry Moore.

The Searching © KL Santosh

"The Searching" © KL Santosh

Shri Bhavani Museum review submitted by:

KL Santosh, Mumbai, India
Matchsticks and mixed media, installations
K L Santosh

Image credits:
The Searching

KL Santosh
Matchsticks on canvas

Image courtesy: KL Santosh

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4 – Beat Museum, California, USA

The Beat Museum in San Francisco, California has an amazing collection of historical pieces, literature, photographs, art and memorabilia from the Beat Generation. Located in the North Beach neighborhood, across from the iconic City Lights Bookstore, it’s the most thriving and creative part of San Francisco. The Beat Museum represents the spirit of the Beat Generation: tolerance, compassion and having the courage to live your individual truth, and inspires the pursuit of personal freedom. One of my favorite objects in the museum is a replica of Neal Cassady’s 49 Hudson used in the movie based on Jack Kerouac’s book, On The Road.  Also on display are original book covers such as Naked Lunch, poems from the time: Howl and paintings by Poet Laureate Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

"People's Poet Laureate" © Nancy Calef

"People's Poet Laureate" © Nancy Calef

Beat Museum review submitted by:

Nancy Calef, California, USA
Painting, sculpture
nancycalefgallery.com

Image credits:
People’s Poet Laureate
Nancy Calef
Oil, sculpture, fabric, found objects on canvas

Image courtesy: Nancy Calef

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5 – Morris Museum, New Jersey, USA

I really like to support local museums (in New Jersey) and although this one isn’t unknown, the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey is on a slightly smaller scale than many others. One of the best things about it is that half the structure is built within an historic, brick mansion and you can actually go within some of the restored rooms where antiques and portraits of famous political and social figures that frequented the mansion are on display. Another favorite feature for me is their amazing, permanent exhibit of automaton figurines and musical instruments from the late 1700s to the early 1900s from the US and Europe. They served as a major source of entertainment, especially for the wealthy, and the exhibit is set up so you feel as if you are walking back through time…and much of the exhibit is interactive as well. The Morris Museum also has a wide variety of rotating works by local and international current artists working in all types of media so it can be very inspiring.

"Night Creature" © Lauren Curtis

"Night Creature" © Lauren Curtis

Morris Museum review submitted by:

Lauren Curtis, New Jersey, USA
Mixed media, painting, pen & ink, collage, photography
laurencurtisart.weebly.com

Image credits:
Night Creature
Lauren Curtis
Photos of x-rays with collage of other original photos

Image courtesy: Maya Korlas-Martin

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6 – Ordrupgaard Museum, Denmark

My favorite is Ordrupgaard in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is cozily located in a forest on the outskirts of the city – (look for the beautiful bluebells in April!) – and it is designed to be a place of thought, creativity and relaxation. The new extension for the café was designed and built in 2010 by the British architect Saha Hadid. (Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid, DBE is an Iraqi-British architect). The museum holds changing exhibitions by such artists as Van Gogh, Gauguin and Marie Cassat, as well as by Danish and Swedish acclaimed artists. The combination of old building’s location in a charming parkland and new modern design truly inspires me every time I come to see the artifacts and paintings. What is on display in this gem of a museum is truly comforting art.

"Udsigt til Gronnegade" - Copyright © Maya Korlas Martin

"Udsigt til Gronnegade" © Maya Korlas Martin

Odrupgaard Museum review submitted by:

Maya Korlas-Martin, Copenhagen, Denmark
Painting
www.mayakorlas.com

Image credits:
Udsigt til Gronnegade

Maya Korlas-Martin
Watercolor

Image courtesy: Maya Korlas-Martin

 

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7 – Akron Children’s Hospital, Ohio, USA

My favorite museum is not exactly a museum. It is Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron, Ohio. There are a great number of artworks displayed throughout the hospital, many that were created by professionals and many that were created by children during workshops with professionals. I find it inspiring because the art turns the hospital into a positive and encouraging environment, where it could easily be scary and sad. The emphasis on healing through creativity emanates throughout the hospital. I have gone to visit just to experience the art because it is so fascinating! I am proud to have some of my own artwork in the collection, which is displayed on the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Waggin Tongues (Greyhound Dog) © BZTAT

"Waggin Tongues" (Greyhound Dog) © BZTAT

Akron Children’s Hospital review submitted by:

BZTAT, Ohio, USA
Painting, drawing, digital art
bztatstudios.com

Image credits:
Waggin Tongues (Greyhound Dog)
BZTAT
Painting

Image courtesy: BZTAT

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8 – Maeght Foundation, France

Although I’m a New Yorker living in the midst of so many great museums, I keep a special place in my heart for the Maeght Foundation in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France for the magical way it is wedded in the spectacular site. Located in beautiful Provence near a small town where Marc Chagall once lived, it contains one of the most important private collections of modern and contemporary art including paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics etc. The foundation incorporates galleries and gardens with monumental sculptures. The building was designed by the Catalan architect Josep Lluis Sert.

"Utility Plant" © Toni Silber-Delerive

"Utility Plant" © Toni Silber-Delerive

Maeght Foundation review submitted by:

Toni Silber-Delerive, New York, USA
Painting
tonisart.com

Image credits:
Utility Plant

Toni Silber-Delerive
Oil on canvas

Image courtesy: Toni Silber-Delerive

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9 – Lake Eustis Museum of Art, Florida, USA

When I moved to Eustis, Florida I was greatly surprised to discover the Lake Eustis Museum of Art. This quaint museum, with its beautiful exhibitions and lake views, is a wonderful destination for any art-lover. Patrons get to experience a variety of thought-provoking art and artistic styles. While discussing an exhibit with the museum’s director, Richard Colvin, he informed me about a group of local artists that meet at the museum to paint and critique each other’s work. I started attending the meetings and under their tutelage my art began to greatly improve. I still paint with these talented individuals. The museum is very dear to my heart and the people there have encouraged me to continue to grow as an artist.

"Purple Dancer" © Belina Wright

"Purple Dancer" © Belina Wright

Lake Eustis Museum review submitted by:

Belina Wright, Florida USA
Painting
bwrightart.com

Image credits:
Purple Dancer

Belina Wright
Painting

Image courtesy: Belina Wright

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10 – Museo Civico, Italy

My choice is The Museo Civico in Sansepolcro, Tuscany, Italy. Although this small, but beautiful museum is tucked away on a scenic street in the remote village of Sansepolcro, Italy, it houses some of the most famous work of the Renaissance great Piero della Francesco. His home town is the owner of The Resurrection and the Madonna della Miseracordia. The former fresco was labeled by Aldous Huxley as “The greatest painting ever painted.” In World War II it was saved from possible destruction by a Bristish officer who refused to train his cannon on the city. I visit as often as I can. Sitting on a wooden bench before both of the works, I can step back into Piero’s time and am inspired by his soft brushwork, luminous color, remarkable geometry and composition. It is my favorite. (For more information, visit the link below and click on “books”).

Museo Civico review submitted by:

"Hecuba" ©  Pat Musick

"Hecuba" © Pat Musick

Pat Musick, Vermont
Mixed media sculpture
camusart.com

Image credits:
Hecuba

Pat Musick
Canvas, steel, stone

Image courtesy: Pat Musick

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11 – Fairbanks Museum, Vermont, USA

The Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury, Vermont is an amazing place, featuring a whale skeleton from Lake Champlain, Hudson River school paintings and a wide array of natural science exhibits and fine art – a true gem of the North Country! A building and collection that are surprising and unexpected, but a delightful experience for all ages… and I’m not one who generally enjoys museums!

 "Gulls on Piers" © Lee Krohn

"Gulls on Piers" © Lee Krohn

Fairbanks Museum review submitted by:

Lee Krohn, Vermont, USA
Photography
leekrohnphoto.smugmug.com

Image credits:
Gulls on Piers

Lee Krohn
Photograph

Image courtesy: Lee Krohn

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12 – Nicolae Grigorescu Memorial Museum, Romania

I would say that most of all I appreciate the Nicolae Grigorescu Memorial Museum in Campina, Romania. I don’t know if Grigorescu is famous in Europe or beyond – here in Russia only a few people know his name – but people are proud of him in Romania, and rightly so. Much of Grigorescu’s artwork is exhibited at the National Museum of Art of Romania in Bucharest, but this house-museum is in the town of Campina, where one can also visit the artist’s home and workshop and see the inspiration he used in his still-life paintings as well as the tools he used in his work. The house itself is beautiful. There are many portraits of his bull in the museum: Nicolae Grigorescu had a white bull, which was so attached to his master that after Grigorescu’s death, the bull also died soon afterwards. Actually I don’t know why I appreciate this museum so much. Perhaps it’s the atmosphere, its placement in such a beautiful environment, and the fact that I had experienced the paintings by this wonderful artist in person for the first time in my life, with my own eyes.

"January Snow"  © Daniil Belov

"January Snow" © Daniil Belov

Nicolae Grigorescu Museum review submitted by:

Daniil Belov, Moscow, Russia
Painting
daniil-belov.com

Image credits:
January Snow

Daniil Belov
Oil on canvas on hardboard

Image courtesy: Daniil Belov

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If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like a previous post on the artists’ choices for their Top Museum Picks Around the World!

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