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Art Break: Love (and Art) Abounds in Philadelphia, So Plan Your Trip Now

Philadelphia museums

By A. E. Colas, Contributing Writer, August 20, 2018

Sometimes at Art Break we feel the need to get out of town but not wander too far. We want to keep the conveniences of great food, interesting art, and cool people – you know, everything we have here, but more relaxed. So, when we get in that mood, the only thing to do is go to Philadelphia. Located less than 90 minutes away by train or about 2 hours by car from NYC, the city has everything we need to recharge and enjoy a day or a weekend break. Use our map to plan some Philly fun for yourself!

(And if you can get there this week, two museums are finishing up some interesting exhibits: The Fabric Workshop and Museum has a show called Ursula von Rydingsvard: The Contour of Feeling and the African American Museum in Philadelphia is presenting Collective Consciousness: The Art of Social Change. Both shows are eye-openers for visitors, presenting new ideas about what art and history can be in the 21st century. Of course, these two institutions also contain excellent permanent displays so whenever you go, you’re sure to see something interesting and informative.)

Philadelphia museums

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art is a superlative collection of art and is one of our personal top ten museums of the East Coast. Their consistently excellent exhibitions will keep you returning to this crown jewel of the city season after season, just like us. This summer’s offerings include: Modern Times: American Art 1910-1950 (April 18 – September 3), Design in Revolution: A 1960s Odyssey (February 3 – September 9), Rachel Rose: Wil-o-Wisp/The Future Fields Commission (May 2 – September 16), and Face to Face: Portraits of Artists (June 26 – October 14).

Philadelphia museums

Great Stair Hall of the Philadelphia Museum of Art with Gilded Diana; photo: Andrea Nunez.


Penn Museum

Exterior of the Penn Museum; courtesy of the museum.

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (aka Penn Museum), is a comprehensive collection of material that reflects this institution’s excellent academic credentials in these fields. The variety of special exhibitions this summer ensures that every visitor will find something of interest. “What in the World?” Early Television Meets the World of Archeology (through September 2), Imagine Africa with The Penn Museum (through September 2) a visitor-driven exhibit the museum is using to help create and shape a new permanent installation for the continent, Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Syria and Iraq (through November 25) and many more shows. In the permanent galleries there is an outstanding collection of global artifacts including our favorite ancient work, the Ram in the Thicket. Even though it’s been heavily restored, we love it for capturing a lively moment that transcends time.

Rotunda Penn Museum

The Rotunda of the Penn Museum; courtesy of the museum.


Penn Museum

A view of Islamic ceramic art in the Middle East Galleries; courtesy of the Penn Museum.


Philadelphia museums

Exterior view of Rodin Museum; courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Rodin Museum is an exceptional museum, one of two in the world dedicated to the great French artist, the other being in Paris. In the American one, you’ll find a general collection of his works, along with loans from a variety of sources. There is also a beautiful garden with several sculptures on view – don’t forget to post your selfie next to The Thinker! A tour is offered Wednesday—Monday at 12 noon and is included in the admission cost. On the second Saturday of every month, visitors are offered the opportunity to sketch the works (materials provided). You can also bring your own drawing materials on other days, click here for details.

Philadelphia museums

Auguste Rodin: The Thinker outside Rodin Museum; photo: Barbara Proud / courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


Barnes Foundation

Exterior of Barnes Foundation; courtesy of Barnes Foundation.

Barnes Foundation was created by Albert Barnes, who had a unique interest in the educational power of art, creating a progressive environment of learning within his business operations. The collection is world famous for good reason, with an enormous variety of works ranging across centuries and regions around the world. Today, the Barnes offers classes, lectures, and gallery tours for all ages, details are here. The temporary exhibit this summer is Renoir: Father and Son/Painting and Cinema (until September 3) with a daily tour on offer for the exhibit (separate cost, details here. Admission to the show includes the permanent collection as well.

Gallery in Barnes Foundation

Interior gallery in Barnes Foundation; courtesy of Barnes Foundation.


Philadelphia museums

Benjamin Franklin Memorial (inside the Franklin Institute); courtesy of the Franklin Institute.

The Franklin Institute is that rare thing: a museum that educates, enlightens, and entertains everyone who walks through the doors. With their high-energy exhibits Game Masters (through September 3), Escape Rooms (ongoing), Sports Zone (ongoing) and others, you’ll be exercising your body and mind while having a great time. There’s also an observatory for observing the sun in real-time and IMAX theater showing four different films with scientific themes.

Philadelphia museums

Joel N. Bloom Observatory at the Franklin Institute; courtesy of the Franklin Institute.


Interior view of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; courtesy of PAFA.

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts balances dual identities as a nationally renowned educator in the arts and a museum with a strong collection of 19th through 21st century American art. Many memorable pieces on view are from alumni, reinforcing the PAFA’s reputation as a nurturer for generations of great American artists. This summer features three special shows displaying the strengths of this marvelous institution: Impossible Archive (through September 2), Far From Home: Low-Residency MFA Exhibition (through September 7), SWARM, (through September 9), Infinite Spaces: Rediscovering PAFA’s Permanent Collection (through September 9). The major exhibit for the fall will be Rina Banerjee: Make Me a Summary of the World (October 27, 2018 — March 31, 2019).

Opening reception for SWARM and Infinite Spaces: Rediscovering PAFA’s Permanent Collection; courtesy of PAFA.


For ZEALnyc‘s complete list of New York City art and museum exhibitions and shows click here.

For the latest news in New York City art, museums and galleries click here.


Cover: Robert Indiana: ‘LOVE;’ installed in John F. Kennedy Plaza in 1976 for America’s Bicentennial Celebration; courtesy of Philadelphia Public Art.


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