Visiting museums in California is obligatory for all those who are enjoying an arty road-trip through this US state. One might argue that New York holds the position of the center of contemporary art in America. However, museums in California have so much to offer as well, and in this article, we are presenting ten museums you have to visit while you’re in the Golden State.
An arty road-trip in one of the US largest states may start in the north. The cities of Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Fe can be proud of their amazing art scenes. Apart from museums that contain huge collections of American and international contemporary artworks, many great galleries and alternative art spaces can be found in these cities (particularly in San Francisco). Southern California also has a number of great museums with artworks of the most important modern and contemporary artists. In San Diego and Los Angeles, one can find big public collections in both private and public museums. Naturally, Los Angeles, as the biggest city in California has the best museums in the state, while the city can be listed as one of the global centers of contemporary art.
Finally, while discovering all the richness of every important museum in California, one can relax a bit by enjoying the beautiful nature of California that has always been a big inspiration for many artists. From rocky coast with beautiful beaches, through the mountains and hills to the deserts – California is certainly one of the most beautiful US states, county by county, whose nature and cities should be explored during an arty road-trip through this wonderful state with amazing history.
Editors’ Tip: Made in California: Art, Image, and Identity, 1900-2000
Californian art has a really rich history. Made in California – these words certainly sounds like Made in Hollywood, but Californian art is so much richer (from Sacramento to San Jose). Every county has something to offer. We recommend you the book that is entitled Made in California: Art, Image, and Identity, 1900-2000. Drown from the monumental exhibition that had more than 1,200 artworks and pieces of ephemera from many public and private collections, Made in California is an image-driven look at the past century, featuring more than 400 works in a range of media, from painting, sculpture, prints, drawings, and photographs to furniture, fashion, and film. The book also includes more than 150 cultural artifacts such as tourist brochures, posters, labor union tracts, personal letters, and government reports that convey the richness and complexity of twentieth-century California.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is a non-profit organization that holds an internationally recognized collection of modern and contemporary art. The SFMOMA was the first museum on the Western Coast exclusively devoted to 20th-century art. In May 2016, it was re-opened after three years of renovation and expansion. Its collection includes over 33,000 works. Some of the most remarkable works that can be found here are Georges Braque’s Violin and Candlestick and Henri Matisse’s Femme au Chapeau (Woman with a Hat).
Oakland Museum of California is a museum dedicated exclusively to the art, history, and natural science of California. Everyone who wants to explore and discover the Californian art and it’s rich history should visit this museum. Established in 1969, it contains more than 1.8 million objects of different kind. In addition, it owns more than 70,000 examples of Californian art and design.
The Broad is a contemporary art museum in Downtown Los Angeles. It’s named after philanthropist Eli Broad, who financed the $140 million building which houses the Broad art collections. The stunning building where the museum is located was designed by architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro and structural engineering firm Leslie E. Robertson Associates. Here, you can find remarkable artworks by some of the most recognized artists of the 20th Century (including Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, and Roy Liechtenstein).
Los Angeles County Museum of Art or LACMA is one of the biggest museums in the United States, and is the largest art museum in the western United States. It holds more than 150,000 works – from Ancient times to present day. The LACMA regularly organizes exhibitions and other art events. Here you can find famous paintings by Old Masters (i.e. Rembrandt), but also works by contemporary Masters of the 20th Century, such as Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, Willem de Kooning, Joan Miró and many other.
San Diego Museum of Art is the region's oldest and largest art museum. The pieces in this museum have been created in a tim span reaching from 5000. BC to 2012. The museum is particularly focused on Spanish art, as it has important works by Goya, Murillo, Zurbarán, Cotán, Ribera and El Greco. Works by Old Italian Masters are also significant part of the Museum’s collection, with a remarkable collection of contemporary art.
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco is comprised of the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park. There are 150,000 objects in the permanent collection, of which 90% are digitally photographed and cataloged, and about 3,000 objects are on view at any one time. The Museum is organized into six areas, each with a curatorial staff. Amazing works by important artists such as Pablo Picasso, Ed Ruscha or Max Ernst can be found in this museum.
The Getty Center in Los Angeles, California, is a campus of the Getty Museum and other programs of the Getty Trust. Located in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, this place is known for its amazing architecture, gardens, and panoramic view of Los Angeles. The J. Paul Getty Museum (part of the Getty Center) contains rich collection of pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts; and 19th- and 20th-century American and European photographs. The famous Van Gogh’s Irises can be found in this very museum.
Long Beach Museum of Art is located in Long Beach, California and was founded in 1950. The Museum's permanent collection includes around 3,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, works on paper, and decorative arts objects. The collection largely contains artworks of 20th century European art and California Modernism. In addition, the Museum is home to quite remarkable contemporary Californian artworks.
Norton Simon Museum is a place that all true contemporary art lovers have to visit. It’s located in Pasadena, and it’s collection contains remarkable pieces from the 14th and 16th century, Modern and contemporary art, as well as pieces of Asian art. Norton Simon Museum has pieces by figures such as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Donald Judd, Frank Stella, Helen Frankenthaler, and many others. In addition, the Museum is home to many great sculptors, including those created by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and Isamu Noguchi.
California has always been under big influence of Latin American culture, due to historical and geographical reasons. Latin American influence can be seen in Californian architecture, lnguage, life-style... Therefore, it’s not surprising that one of the most important Latin American Art Museums is located in Long Beach. The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) that was founded in 1996 is the only museum in the United States of America dedicated to modern and contemporary Latin American art. While its exhibitions attract thousands of visitors, the permanent collection consists of more than 1,500 works of painting, sculpture, drawing, mixed-media, photography and video art of some of the most important figures in Latin American art.
All images used for illustrative purposes only.