An Art Lover’s Guide to Philadelphia
Philadelphia is a hub for the arts – and the scene is exponentiated when you factor in both the cultural diversity and rich historical tradition the city has to offer. Being one of America’s founding cities, Philadelphia has had years to curate, foster, and create one of the country’s most empowering arts scenes to date, and we’re here to help you navigate and experience some of the City of Brotherly Love’s best and brightest gems.
Barnes Museum of Art
The Barnes is home to one of the world’s greatest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modernist paintings, with especially deep holdings in Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso. Assembled by Dr. Albert C. Barnes between 1912 and 1951, the collection also includes important examples of African art, Native American pottery and jewelry, Pennsylvania German furniture, American avant-garde painting, and wrought-iron metalwork. The Barnes Collection was originally located in the suburbs, but has found new housing along “Museum mile” at 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The Rodin Museum
Located in Philadelphia is one of the world’s great collections of works by Auguste Rodin—and the only dedicated Rodin Museum outside France. With nearly 150 bronzes, marbles, and plasters, the distinguished collection housed in the Rodin Museum represents every phase of Auguste Rodin’s career. Located on Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway—which was intended to evoke the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris—the elegant Beaux-Arts–style building and garden offer an absorbing experience. Visit the collection at 2151 Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Philadelphia Magic Gardens
Magic Gardens is one of Philly’s most unique rarities – have you ever heard of folk mosaic work? We hadn’t either until we encountered Isaiah Zagar’s tiled “garden.” Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is a nonprofit art museum and gallery space located in Isaiah Zagar’s art environment at 1020 South Street. Spanning half a block, the space was created using nontraditional materials such as folk art statues, found objects, bicycle wheels, colorful glass bottles, handmade tiles, and thousands of glittering mirrors. The site is enveloped in visual anecdotes and personal narratives that refer to Zagar’s life, family, and community, as well as references from the wider world such as influential art history figures and other artists and environments.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Located at the end Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is located in the center of downtown Philadelphia, commonly known as “Center City.” The museum is a work of art inside and out – its historic and pantheon-like presence being almost as notable as the unique and awe-inspiring collections the museum hosts seasonally and permanently. The museum hosts a diverse set of collections – its permanent ones including a life-size and walk-through rendering of a Japanese tea-house, an extensive collection of Medieval armor, and Claude Monet’s famous water lily scene. The museum is located at 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The African-American Museum in Philadelphia
If you didn’t know, now you do: Philadelphia is currently home to one of the largest populations of African-Americans in the United States due in part to the post-slavery migrations and the city’s notable history as a “free state” during the Civil War era. This inundated history has left many relics of the African-American experience, a narrative that we continue to reinvent and explore through our expressions. The African American Museum in Philadelphia is the first institution built by a major United States city to house and interpret the life and work of African Americans. The museum is committed to telling the story of African Americans in all its permutations: family life, the Civil Rights movement, arts and entertainment, sports, medicine, and much more. You can visit the museum at 701 Arch Street, and we highly recommend that you do.
Carré D’artistes is focused on one task—bringing high-end original contemporary artwork to everyone. Fundamental to the Carré d’artistes’ philosophy is making high end art accessible financially and geographically via their international network of gallery spaces. The gallery is an international enterprise having locations all over the world – their Philadelphia gallery being their founding home. You can find the gallery on 104 South 13th Street.
Mural Arts Philadelphia
Philadelphia has been called “The City of Murals” throughout contemporary history – and that’s largely in part to the work done by Mural Arts Philadelphia, a foundation devoted to both the civic beautification and cultural unification of the city. Mural Arts engages communities in 60–100 public art projects each year, and maintains its growing collection through a restoration initiative. The murals feature the work of local artists and often feature content focused on the program’s mission of being an active agent of change via public art. When visiting Philadelphia, do not overlook the Mural Arts tour – which can be self-guided, on foot, or via trolley. It’s an amazing way to see the city, and in color.
The Library bar is a quaint two-room nook that is as intimate as it is swanky. Tucked on the ground floor of the Rittenhouse Hotel, the bar is a 20-seater niche with walls adorned in notable literature – the seventeen page cocktail menu being amongst the more popular reading to choose from. Look for carefully crafted cocktails and a masterfully curated wine selection from sommelier Justin Timsit. Although the library facade may lead you to believe otherwise, we recommend you swap your library card for your best fit – the latter will guarantee you entry.
The Philadelphia Orchestra
One of the “big five” American Orchestras, the Philadelphia Orchestra provides a musical experience like none other. A longstanding fixture of the city’s musical fabric, the orchestra is well regarded and consistently performs in either the Kimmel Center or the Mann Center for the Performing Arts. The orchestra is a venue for any type of night – whether it be casual entertainment or a traditional date night out.
Visit Antique Row
Between the famed eating & craftsman hall, Reading Terminal Market, and Antique Row – also known as Pine Street – you’ll have ample opportunity to shop ‘till you drop. Pine Street is home to numerous high-end stores and curiosity shops that cater to seasoned and novice collectors alike. Just feel like window shopping? Don’t fret – the street is notorious for street vendors selling goods and curiosities from many a far-flung country.
The Annenberg Center
Founded in 1971 by a philanthropic donation from the notable Annenberg family, the center is affirmed in championing its core belief in the power of the arts to transform lives. The Annenberg Center embraces creative expression from the past and the present, of local and global origin, to expand the worlds of all who participate. Annual programming includes dramatic touring theatre, jazz, world music, culturally-specific roots programming (including African, Asian, Latin, and Irish work), dance and local Philadelphia artists.
By Iman Floyd-Carroll