Top 5 Contemporary Art Museums to Visit in the US

In a century of new gatekeepers and evolving mediums of expression, contemporary art has challenged the very nature of art itself.

Contemporary art comes in many forms/mediums, making it impossible to define. Its influence extends into pop culture from Cronenberg’s seminal VideoDrome to the album art for Sonic Youth’s Goo.

Picasso, Dali, Warhol, and Pollock laid the early foundations of the modern and postmodern revolutions of the 20th century. Taking advantage of contemporary materials and abstract expressions, contemporary art grew to encompass everything from revamped impressionist paintings to atmospheric soundscapes.

Contemporary art can be more engaging than going to the Metropolitan Art Museum and more prescient. If your art taste ranges from abstract to the straight up weird, than these are the top 5 contemporary art museum to visit in the US right now.

Museum of Modern Art of New York

Located in central Manhattan, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) of New York houses one of the largest collections of modern and postmodern art across the world. MOMA houses well over 600,000 square feet of gallery space and recently opened its first floor free to residents of New York City.

MOMA’s most famous paintings include Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Time, Claude Monet’s Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond, and Kazimir Malevich’s White on White. The museum regularly features exhibitions from world renowned artists, cinema screenings, and even houses Andy Warhol’s infamous Campbell Soup Cans.

Visitors can tour MOMA’s adjacent library that houses over 300,000 books and 40,000 files of ephemera about renowned artists. Walking room-to-room, visitors may feel like they’re in a dream as wall exhibits jump to life around you and surrounding portraits stun the imagination.

Be sure to read the New York Times or the local press for exhibitions occurring during your visit. Stop at any number of its in-house restaurants for a bite to eat and its renowned gift shop for some great NYC souvenirs.

Institute of Contemporary Art of Boston

The Institute of Contemporary Art of Boston (ICA) represents an amazing architectural achievement and renowned artwork in itself. Designed by Diller Scofidio and Renfro, the ICA was dubbed one of the most beautiful buildings in Boston. Its openness and varying waterfront views is sure to draw anyone in the area to the foot of its grand staircase.

There’s simply no shortage of things to view or experience at the ICA. The ICA combines everything from dance, architecture, sculpture, live performance art, educational seminars, post modern paintings, and media arts into one beautiful experience.

You can always find a live performance happening during your visit to the ICA. With such a large gallery, the ICA saves money by using aggregated energy and provides fundraising events to support its artists exhibits and its own arts education program.

Visitors can put on a pair of comfortable headphones and drift out to the ethereal experience of viewing Steve Mcqueen’s Ashes. Support a starving artist and view any of its up-and-coming solo artist exhibits it features daily.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love” by going to the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco. Look through the extensive Georgia O’Keefe collection, who’s considered to be the mother of American modernism.

The San Francisco MOMA was the first contemporary art museum to open on the west coast and was the site of the first Jackson pollock exhibit in the world. This artistic marvel has since grown to include an extensive sculpture collection, media arts exhibits, and regularly-featured live speeches and talks.

Being one of the most open and extensive art galleries in the world, they recently developed a new way to account for its lack of space to host all of its gallery pieces. Text “Send me” with a keyword, emoji, or color to 572-51 and you’ll be sent back a personal art piece to match your mood.

The San Francisco MOMA also features live soundtrack exhibitions and provides active media performances where users interact with TV’s, photos and so much more.

Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago

The Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago (MCA) has become famous worldwide for art exhibits that encourage an active viewing experience. Visitors will be immediately awestruck by its collection of strange postmodern artworks that include a photo of a photo of an eye or a smoking Madonna image.

Being the place where Jeffrey Koons hosted his first solo exhibit is inspiring in its own degree, but this museum also features extensive tours that regularly include Simon Starling and Doris Salcedo exhibits. Be sure to check out Andy Warhol’s hilarious Vote McGovern silkscreen image, along with many of his other famous silkscreens.

The gift shop at Chicago’s MCA is considered one of the best in the world. Visitors may be confused but delighted to take home their complimentary “emotional baggage” tote bag with them.

The museum’s glass walls also provide a surreal viewing experience of the city and Lake Michigan. The scene of the city and the surrounding lake only fit too well with the art.

Guggenheim Museum of New York City

Finally, no list of contemporary art museums would be complete without the all-inclusive Guggenheim Museum. Located in the Upper East Side, The Guggenheim features an extensive collection of impressionist, post-impressionist, modern, and postmodern paintings and art exhibits.

Originally dubbed the “Museum of Non-Objective Painting”, it’s building is modeled around spiraling, concentric circles that provide a unique city view on every floor you travel through. Frank Lloyd Wright once described the Guggenheim as the “temple of spirit” as guests slowly descend upward toward the starlight at its peak.

The Guggenheim features historic paintings as well as modern day live performances. It’s the perfect blend between two worlds and two cultures. The past, present, and the future are one in its wide ranging themes.

Check out Picasso’s famous Woman with Yellow Hair, Richard Serra’s Matter of Time, or Kazimir Malevich’s Morning in the Village after Snowstorm exclusively at the Guggenheim.

Katrina Toporcer

Head of Content for LSEO, Katrina has a varied background researching medicinal plants, supporting animal welfare, and constantly learning with a notebook & pen nearby, whether she's at a live show or the library.

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