I really like going to museums, and I've been to a few, well, ok, more than a few. Being from California, I've been to most of the major ones around here, and when I travel I usually try to work one or two into the schedule. Here are the ones around here that are my favorites.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I've been here many times, especially when it was on Van Ness Street. It used to be free every first Tuesday evening of the month, and I would make it a point to hit the big shows by well known artists. I've seen exhibitions there focused on Picasso, Stella, Pollack, Rauchenberg, Rothko, Calder, Warhol, and a bunch more that I can't remember right now. Their new building South of Market is really cool but I've only been there a couple of times, and have never seen work by what I would call a "major" artist there, but maybe I haven't been paying close enough attention.
The De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. Been here many times too, they have a really fine collection of Asian art there, and there are some pretty cool art nouveau murals in the foyer, I hope they save these as they are in the process of ripping the whole building down now and rebuilding it to be earthquake safe. I've seen a lot of shows here but one that stands out in my mind is one of Bierstadt's work of nineteenth century western landscapes. Really huge pieces like 15 x 20 feet but with exquisite detail.
The Getty. I've been to the old one in Malibu and the new travertine one perched above the 405 in Westwood. WHAT an incredible collection, everything from ancient Greece to the
impressionists and just about everything in between. This is without a doubt THE collection on the west coast, and the new complex of buildings are THE best designed and built gallery spaces I have ever seen in my life. See it if you can, if you like art, this is absolute nirvana. I understand they are building a new museum at the old site in Malibu, mainly to permanently house the Greek, Roman, and Egyption antiquities. I can't wait! Here's a little tip for seeing this place, it's free and you don't need any kind of reservation to get in, but if you want to drive there, you have to get a reservation to park your car, and this can take months to get. Leave the car in downtown Westwood in one of the many parking lots there, and ride the municipal bus or your bike to the museum. It's cheap and fast, and seeing the museum is well worth this slight inconvenience.
The Huntington Library and Museum and don't forget those unbelievable botanical gardens, in Pasadena. Where else in the world can you see Gainsborough's "Blue Boy", a Gutenberg Bible, and the world largest, stinkiest flower all on the grounds of a true American palace? Nowhere, mon cheri'!
The Musee Mechanique, at the Cliff House in San Francisco.
This is a funky little museum of late ninteenth and early twentieth century coin operated amusements, like nickelodeons, games and other really cool, really American stuff. I doesn't rate artistically with the other museums on my list, but as far as the fun factor is concerned, it is unequalled in my experience.
The Norton Simon, also in Pasadena. This is a collection of mainly nineteeth century european art, a lot of impressionist, expressionist, and the like pieces here. Renoir is particularly well represented. There is also a collection of Asian art, and some Egyption and Classical Greek stuff here, mainly statuary, but these pale in comparison with the main collection.
William Randolph Hearst's home in San Simeon, popularly known as "Hearst's Castle". You won't find work by many well known "name" artists here, but the collection of antiquities and renaissance and baroque art is impressive. The buidings and grounds here are also spectacular. It was designed and built over the span of about fifty years by Hearst himself and his long-suffering architect Julia Morgan. She must have been one supremely patient woman!
The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Been here a few times, saw a really impressive display of Jackson Pollack's work here, and Diebenkorn, and Rothko and the 3-D collage guy, what the heck is his name? Oh, well.
These I have seen when I was away from home.
The Louvre. Got there at opening time, 9:00 am I think, and ran directly to the "Mona Lisa" to get a few moments alone with her before the throng arrived. The hype on this is not just hype, that is one incredibly beautiful and mysterious painting. This place is almost too big to see in one day, after a while I found myself walking around, seeing an El Greco here and a Rembrandt there and not being able to really appreciate them because I was in total sensory overload. I'd like to go back and spend some more time here, definately.
The British Museum. This is another one that will boggle your mind. The "Elgin Marbles" are the main draw here and they are astoundinly beautiful, but I think the Greeks are right, the British ought to return them or at least pay some kind of reparation for them, they were stolen from the Parthenon, pure and simple. Around almost every corner here you will find something that will really amaze you, like the Rosetta Stone, the hall of Roman statuary, the Egyptian mummies, the suits of armor and medieval weapons collection, the exhibit of the history of clocks and timekeeping, and on and on. A "must do" while in old London town.
The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. All Van Gogh, all the time! If you like this artist (and I do) this is the finest collection of his work in the world. I think it would really
astonish Vincent, if he knew what a fuss we are making over him today.
The Musee Orsay in Paris. This is the finest collection of purely nineteeth century european art I have ever seen. Name an impressionst, they're here, name an expressionist, they're here too, name a famous art-nouveau figure, that's right, here. The venue is a converted train station built around the turn of the twentieth century, powerful and beautiful in and of itself. This place is great!
The Musee Rodin, also in Paris. Rodins old house and grounds. All of his most famous and recognizable work is here, The Thinker, The Gates of Hell, The Burghers of Calais, The Kiss, etc, etc. And quite a few lesser known works and studies for larger works that are just as good as the really famous pieces. There's also a small gallery of paintings in the house that were mainly given to Rodin during his lifetime by his circle of friends who happened to be some of the most influential artists of the late nineteenth century. There is a particularly interesting Van Gogh here that he painted especially for Rodin done in the Japanese style. Really unique.
The Reichsmuseum, in Amsterdam. Rembrandt and of course the other Dutch Masters are featured here. Kind of got rushed through this one, I was on a tour, and they kept us to a strict timetable. I would like to go back someday. This is without a doubt one of the great museums of the world.
The Imperial Palace, in Bangkok, Thailand. The buildings, statuary, and artwork here is stunningly beautiful, abundant, and most of it is covered in pure gold. Really kind of other-worldly, I thought.
The Temple of the Big Buddah, in Nara Japan. (not it's real name, but I don't speak Japanese) This is an ancient temple that just happens to be the largest wooden building in the world and houses the largest religious statue in the world, of Buddah, of course. He's depicted in the traditional seated posture, with one hand raised, palm facing the viewer, and one hand open, palm up. I think the Buddah is about fifty feet high, and cast of solid bronze.
The Palace at Versailles, outside Paris. This is the palace built mainly by Louis XIV in the eighteenth century. The buildings, furnishings, and artwork is opulent and the epitome of regal excess. The gardens here are very beautiful.
Schunbrunn Palace, outside Vienna Austria. This is the palace of Maria Teresa and the Hapsbourg line of Holy Roman Emperors. Built to compete with Versailles in terms of opulence and regal brilliance. Those heating stoves they have in almost every room are unbelievable. The whole place is really grand and everything, but that yellow paint job on the outside has got to go!
The 1876 Philadelpia Exposition museum at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. I've been through most of the other buildings at the Smithsonian, but this is the one that really fascinated me. It's a snapshot of one moment in our history. It's mainly an exhibit of machinery and other manufactured products of the day, and is really a celebration of American optimism and the ingenuity of that time.
The Tower of London. What can I say, the crown jewels, the ravens, the Thames, the Yeoman Warders, the execution sites, the moat, The royal residences, about a thousand interesting stories from it's history, this place has it all.
Well, that's about it for my favorites, be seeing you, Tim.
[ 04-26-2001: Message edited by: tim10001 ]