15 Worldwide Art Museums and Galleries

Large or small – grand or simple – any building set aside to display the creative work of artisans can be designated an art museum or gallery. Both private and public collections have been established throughout the globe and over time, mediums on display have grown more eclectic. From oil paintings and sculptures to drawings, textiles, photographs, glass and “found art,” museums are repositories of cultural treasures that are safeguarded, not just for our viewing pleasure but for generations to come. How many of these have you visited?

1.The British Museum in London

Website: https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london
Home to a variety of works produced between ancient times and the Renaissance, this bastion of British holdings hosted, according to several resources, between 5- and 6.9-million art lovers annually before Covid imposed visitor limits. At present, the facility’s inventory numbers 8 million pieces that include those created by masters that run the gamut from Da Vinci and Michelangelo to Van Gogh. This facility’s holdings include the Mummy of Katebet and the world-famous Rosetta Stone, vestiges of the U.K.’s colonial past.

2. The Louvre Museum in Paris

Website: https://www.louvre.fr/en
It would be hard to miss the presence of Paris France’s Louvre Museum thanks to its iconic glass pyramid. Beneath the dome lies 782,910 square space of galleries, working space for scholars and enough room to host 7.3- to 10.2-million visitors annually. Why the disparity in numbers? Folks gathering statistics don’t agree but they all laud the museum’s remarkable gathering of 380,000 works of art that include Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

3. State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg

Website: https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/portal/hermitage/
Once home to Russian czars, this museum complex occupies over 700,000-square-feet to house the world’s largest collection of paintings, some of which harken back to the Stone Age. While 4.1 million people visit annually, they are only made privy to a small number of the facility’s 3 million works of art that included masterpieces by Rubens, Titian, da Vinci, Picasso, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Cézanne, and Goya.

4. Rijksmuseum Museum in The Hague

Website: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl
Established in The Netherlands in 1800, this museum was relocated several times and was the recipient of a renovation between 2003 and 2013 that was so extensive, access to works was minimal. Once fully reopened, the public regained access to 1 million works of art including treasures produced by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer. Despite competing with two other popular museums in the Netherlands — the Van Gogh Museum hosting 2 million visitors each year and an equal number of Mauritshuis Museum guests – The Rijksmuseum remains a favorite attraction hosting 2.5 million visitors annually.

5. Museo del Prado in Madrid

Website: https://www.museodelprado.es/en
This Madrid museum boasts 3 million visitors a year and has remained in the same location since 1819. Holdings include 11th to 18th century Spanish masters in addition to works by Van Dyck and Rembrandt. Housing around 8,200 drawings, 7,600 paintings, 4,800 prints, and 1,000 sculptures — plus historic documents and national artifacts — The Prado is home to Diego Velazquez’s world-famous Las Meninas, Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights and Francisco Goya’s The Third of May 1808.

6. Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City

Website: https://www.metmuseum.org/
Home to 2 million+ artifacts housed within 17 curatorial departments, this museum’s reputation is as splashy as its holdings. Once located on Fifth Avenue, the largest museum in the U.S. was founded in 1870, but didn’t open to the public until 1872. Known as much for its annual, celebrity-filled gala as for its treasures, The Met draws 7+ million visitors eager to view works by David, Monet, Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh, and Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Gallery 632 houses 5 of only 36 known Johannes Vermeer works to survive today.

7. Tate Modern in London

Website: https://www.tate.org.uk/
For fans of the modern art movement, the Tate is mecca, as evidenced by the museum’s annual 5.9 million visitors. The Tate’s collection resides within a building space that once housed a power station until innovators turned it into world-class exhibition space in 2000. Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth was on hand to cut the ceremonial ribbon. Surrealists are well represented at this facility. Included are several of Salvador Dali’s masterpieces in addition to Lichtenstein, Picasso, Warhol, Goldin, Boccioni, Mondrian, and Mark Rothko works – all of which make this relatively new museum a popular stop for art lovers when visiting London.

8. Musee D’Orsay in Paris

Website: https://www.musee-orsay.fr/fr
Listed among the international museums whose exhibition halls served other purposes, the Musee D’Orsay was originally constructed as a train station to serve the needs of visitors to Paris who were expected to flock to the Universal Exhibition of 1900. There is no shortage of highly-recognizable art within this institution renowned for 19th and 20th century masters. Visitors come to see the world’s leading Impressionists — Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, and Cézanne — in addition to Vincent van Gogh’s iconic self-portrait. On average, 3 million visitors tour Musee D’Orsay annually, about half the number of art lovers visiting the Louvre.

9. Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris

Website: https://www.mam.paris.fr/en
A relative newcomer to the Paris museum scene when it opened in post-War Paris in 1947, the Musee National d’Art Moderne is known for housing the largest collection of contemporary art in the world, the major reason around 3.3 million people show up at this center to browse 100,000+ works of contemporary art. Divided into galleries that segregate the modern art created between 1905 and 1960 and second gallery focused on modern classics produced after 1960, visitors not only find Picasso, Lichtenstein and Warhol well represented but some of the hottest new modernists of the current era.

10. Centro Cultural Banco in Rio de Janeiro

Website: https://ccbb.com.br/
The Centro Cultural Banco de Brasil is climbing international museum ranks by attracting 2.2+ million visitors annually. Headquartered within a neoclassical building in Rio’s historic district, this museum opened in 1989, and has since become one of Brazil’s most important cultural institutions. A large collection of post-Impressionist masterpieces is included in this museum’s collection, but for visitors, there’s more to do than just browse art. The building includes a cinema, two theaters and the only permanent display of Brazil’s currency evolution on Earth. Visitors say that they are thrilled to see the work of masters in the Western Hemisphere so they don’t have to travel to Europe!

11. National Art Center in Tokyo

Website: https://www.nact.jp/
Including Asian institutions on lists of important worldwide galleries has begun trending and an easy qualifier is the National Art Center in Tokyo Japan that surpassed 2 million in attendance at its very first exhibition. Opened in 2007, this is not an art gallery in the traditional sense since there are no permanent exhibits. Instead, this museum hosts monumental traveling shows like the Monet installation that got this museum off to an impressive start with the center’s first 2-million-person turnout. Experts agree that if this Tokyo center continues to host world-class collections, it has the potential to compete with or surpass annual visitor numbers registered at the Rijksmuseum, the British Museum, and Russia’s Hermitage.

12. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City

Website: https://www.moma.org/
This wildly popular museum may have opened its doors just 9 days after the stock market crash of 1929, but it has evolved into one of the world’s most sacred repositories, featuring 200,000 works of modern and contemporary art. This institution is indebted to the Rockefeller family who, in concert with friends, contributed 150,000 of these works of art. Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” is one of the stars of this museum’s collections, as are Dali, Picasso and Warhol masterpieces. An iconic self-portrait of Frida Kahlo hangs here too. Closed due to Covid restrictions and space expansions, the MoMA just reopened on October 21, 2021.

13. Museums of The Vatican in Rome

Website: https://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/it.html
While Florence is home to the Uffizi Gallery where Botticelli, Titian, Caravaggio, and da Vinci masterworks represent one of Europe’s largest gatherings Italian Renaissance masters, the Vatican Museums – dating back to 1506 and now occupying former papal palaces – has become a unique repository for 70,000 artifacts, the most famous among them being the Sistine Chapel. Each year, more than 6 million visitors enter the palatial halls once frequented by members of the Borgia and Medici families. For Asian visitors, trips to see the Museums of the Vatican are considered sacred pilgrimages, whether or not the Pope is in residence.

14. National Gallery of the UK in London

Website: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/
With an impressive 6.2 -million visitors annually, the National Gallery, located at its imposing Trafalgar Square headquarters, was launched in 1824 when the British government bought 38 paintings from the heirs of philanthropist John Julius Angerstein. Over time, this facility became a repository of 2,300 paintings created between the mid-13th century and the start of the Industrial Revolution in 1900. Visitors not only come to study the works of Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Monet, but to see one of the few surviving copies of Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers and classics by Jan Van Eyck, Hans Holbein, John Constable and Joseph William Turner.

15. National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

Website: https://www.nga.gov/
For Americans who love European masters but consider artisans born in the U.S. to be equally important, visitors are made privy to works by the one and only Mother of American modernism, Georgia O’Keeffe – most notably her “Jack-in-the-Pulpit” series of larger-than-life flowers and symbols of the nation’s western heritage. An impressively large renovation to the Gallery’s east building expanded space to accommodate 500+ works by Calder, Rothko, Pollock, and Warhol. This museum is home to the only piece of da Vinci art on public display in the United States: Ginevra de’ Benci. First opened in 1937 as a private gallery dedicated to the display art dating from the Middle Ages, the museum also houses select works by Monet, Van Gogh and Picasso.

FAQ Section:

Q: Where is the most famous art museum in the world located?

A: According to Forbes magazine editors and other ranking resources, the most famous art museum in the world, the Louvre, is in Paris.

Q: What are the 3 largest art museums in the world?

A: According to both Wikipedia and other websites tracking square footage based on exhibit space at museums around the globe, the largest museums on record are currently St. Petersburg’s Hermitage (100,000 square feet), Paris’s The Louvre (72,735 square feet) and the National Museum of China (65,000 square feet).

Q: How many art museums are there in the world?

A: At present, an estimated 202 nations host a total of 55,000 museums, not all of which are well known. Statista research claims that the U.S. is home to 33,082 museums, more than the combined number of museums in Germany, Japan, Russia, France, Brazil, Italy, and the UK!

The phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is attributed to Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, but the same might be said about museums and art galleries since national loyalties and pride weigh heavily on the opinions of people who believe that their cultural institutions are the best, most unique ones in the world. One thing can be stated for certain: The more museums art lovers visit during their lifetimes, the more enlightened he or she becomes, and isn’t that exactly why artists crafted their masterpieces in the first place?

Resources
https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/approaches-to-art-history/tools-for-understanding-museums/museums-in-history/a/a-brief-history-of-the-art-museum-edit
http://www.historyofmuseums.com/museum-history/history-of-art-museums/
https://www.artspace.com/magazine/art_101
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/museum-galleries
https://www.statista.com/statistics/1201825/top-countries-by-number-of-museums-worldwide/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_art_museums
https://grammarist.com/phrase/beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the/

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