One of the first things I like to do when I touch down in a completely new destination is to find the art galleries. Exploring cities, eating different foods and meeting locals are all great, but there’s nothing quite like learning about another culture by seeing the art it’s produced.
Here is a list of galleries I think every art lover needs to visit at least once in their lifetime…
The Louvre (Paris)
If you spend a minute in front of each artwork in the Louvre, it would take you three weeks straight to see everything. The museum is divided into eight curatorial departments featuring pieces across diverse categories from European masterpieces to ancient antiquities, so a good plan of attack is to select two wings to get stuck into for the day. A handy tip, don’t enter through the main pyramid, take the lesser known Port de Lions entrance and avoid the long queues. Oh, and the Mona Lisa is on the first floor in the Denon Wing.
Vatican Museums (Rome)
The Vatican Museums is a group of 54 galleries displaying an immense collection that’s been centuries in the making. Tackling it can be overwhelming, so if you’re short on time, you may want to take a guided tour; listening to a passionate art lover talk about some of these works can be infectious. Look out for Wenzel Peter’s ‘Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden’ which pulls off the remarkable illusion that you can peer around the corners in this two dimensional painting, Caravaggio’s grubby, realistic depictions of Christ and of course, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.
The Met (New York)
Its two million-piece collection is generously spread over two million square feet, so if a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art seems daunting, you may want to consider a pre-arranged itinerary designed by the curators. These range from highlights tours to family-friendly treasure hunts, some available with a helpful audio guide. This encyclopaedic museum prides itself on having one of the most impressive permanent collections of antiquities with some of the most valuable pieces belonging to the Egyptian department including its centrepiece, the dismantled Temple of Dendur.
National Palace Museum (Taipei)
Preserving Chinese art often fell at the mercy of Japanese invasions and civil wars, and this collection withstood three relocations since the museum’s original establishment in Beijing. The National Palace Museum is well worth a visit simply by virtue of being the world’s finest collection of Chinese art with a depth of pieces so immense that displays are often on rotation. Collections range from beautiful calligraphy paintings to Buddhist artefacts preserved from as early as the Neolithic age. Free guided tours are offered in English and depart daily at 10am and 3pm.
This one comes out of left field as a personal favourite. The Museum of Old and New Art is a newcomer to the art scene having only recently opened in January 2011. It has already gained a reputation for its cutting edge contemporary pieces that don’t skimp on the shock value, so come expecting effective emotional experiences and keep an open mind that they may not always be positive. The museum’s most notable feature is its high-tech approach to audience engagement; all visitors receive an ipod touch with location-tracking, feeding you information about notable pieces in your immediate vicinity which is a nifty feature. But more boldly, the device forces you to form some sort of opinion on the pieces in front of you, asking you to choose whether you ‘hate’ it or ‘love’ it, displaying the often interesting results accumulated from previous viewings.