The City of Brotherly Love has a long and storied history of free thinking individuals. Much of its culture is inextricably linked to the freedom of expression. This foundational ideal of the American Experiment is still explored today in the halls of Philadelphia’s world class art museums.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

The structure itself is a miraculous work of art. Famously portrayed in an iconic scene of the movie Rocky, The Philadelphia Museum Art is a great place to start a tour of the city and its impressive art obsession. The halls of the museum display renowned pieces that tell stories of the centuries; artifacts from the middle-ages, works of the Impressionist era and an extensive modern art collection. On permanent display are classic pieces by Van Gogh, Picasso, Duchamp and Kahlo. The special exhibitions held at the museum present works of art from around the world. Take advantage of the tours offered daily, they’re free with admission and will direct you to all of the must see spots. The breathtaking Great Stair Hall showcases an incredible golden statue of Diana. There is a remarkable collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings featuring Renoir, Monet, Manet and Degas in the New European Galleries. In the American art collection, experience the impact of Philadelphia on United States history. Throughout the year, PMA features multiple ongoing and rotating exhibits.

An Informal Guide to the Art Museums of Philadelphia - The Wise Traveller - Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

The internationally esteemed permanent collection at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts includes many notable artists from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The academy museum focuses on the collection of historic, modern and contemporary American art. Also prioritized are works from women, minorities and other marginalized groups that struggle to gain representation in the popular art world. Multiple exhibits are on display for various lengths of time. Many online events are available to attend. Other offerings are continuing education courses and youth and family programs. Annual student exhibitions commence in May and continue through June.

Penn Museum

Take a stroll through ancient history and explore artifacts, sculptures and architecture that look like they belong on a movie set. Notable galleries include Egypt, Native American Voices, Asia, Africa, Rome, Greece, Etruscan, Middle East and Mexico & Central America.  A variety of unique and intimate exhibitions are included with admission. There is a single-case Spotlight Gallery that rotates regularly. Be sure to look into their tour offerings, where an expert will plunge you into the stories beneath all of the prized treasures and artifacts.

Institute of Contemporary Art

The Institute of Contemporary Art displays works that are extremely current, topical and experimental. Admission is free for all; an effort to connect the community to new, trending works of art. As a part of the University of Pennsylvania, the cozy museum does not collect art but features rotating exhibitions and installations. It is one of the only kunsthalles in the United States. The institute was established in 1963 by Holmes Perkins, the dean of the school of architecture. His desire was to find and display what was “new and happening” in the arts. This philosophy was apparent when the institute  organized and held Andy Warhol’s first solo museum show in 1965.

An Informal Guide to the Art Museums of Philadelphia - The Wise Traveller - Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

The one-of-a-kind museum is located on South Street, the walls covered with colored glass and shattered ceramics. The magic gardens certainly accomplish its goal of promoting visionary, folk and mosaic art. Local artist Isaiah Zagar is the mastermind of this grand work, along with many other public mosaics throughout South Philadelphia. Tours are offered of the site and surrounding neighborhood, revealing and interpreting multiple local murals. Every second Sunday of the month, family oriented workshops are offered at the gardens. These programs are free with the purchase of a museum ticket. Buy your tickets in advance online, they can’t be purchased on site. A place this extraordinary should not be missed by any adventurous art lover.

This is an extremely abbreviated list of operating museums and galleries. Art enthusiasts should explore the historic city and all its exquisite offerings. Incredible works of antiquity and modernity displayed in these museums are a testament that the spirit of freedom of speech, assembly and expression are still to this day alive and well in Philadelphia.