AAA Travel Tips & Articles / Philadelphia's Must-See Art

Philadelphia's Must-See Art

Woodmere Art Museum/Darryl Moran
By AAA Travel Editors
August 23, 2018
Philadelphia’s art scene offers everything from Renaissance masterpieces to brand-new public murals. On your next visit, check out Philly’s amazing collections; no matter the age or subject matter, this art will encourage you to look at the world from a different point of view.
The Barnes Foundation
Wikimedia Commons/Thekohser
The Barnes Foundation
2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.
(215) 278-7000
Dr. Albert Barnes, a believer in the transformative powers of art, began his collection in the early 1900s and displayed the works at his home in Merion, Penn. A century later, the art was relocated to Philadelphia and now resides in a new building, but Barnes’ “ensemble” layout—where works of art and everyday items that share some visual feature reside next to each other—was retained. This AAA GEM® attraction is a must-visit for many reasons, but especially if you are a fan of Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso or Renoir; there are 355 works by these four artists alone.
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4FR/iStockphoto.com
Institute of Contemporary Art
118 S. 36th St.
(215) 898-7108
This one’s a bit different from the other museums in this article because it is a non-collecting facility that instead presents changing exhibitions. Since its founding in 1963, this University of Pennsylvania institution’s focus has been to showcase art that interprets contemporary cultural, political and social issues. There’s no admission fee, so you can drop in as often as you’d like to see the current art displays.
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Art displayed throughout the city that is seen while taking the Mural Arts Philadelphia Tour in Pennsylvania
City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program/Steve Weinik
Mural Arts Philadelphia Tours
128 N. Broad St.
(215) 925-3633
The Mural Arts program began in 1984 as a way to curb graffiti in Philadelphia by creating public art instead. Now there are 4,000 city murals, and more are always popping up. Take a guided walking, trolley, train or Segway tour to explore Philly’s neighborhoods and the murals that reflect the city’s heritage. While not a museum per se, this experience exposes you to a lot of art in a short amount of time.
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Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, philadelphia
Courtesy of Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
118-128 N. Broad St.
(215) 972-7600
This AAA GEM attraction was America’s first museum and school of fine arts; it was founded in 1805, when the American Revolution was just recent history, and it continues to serve as both an educational institution and museum. You’ll encounter works by superstar American artists like Mary Cassatt, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keefe, Benjamin West and Andrew Wyeth along with contributions by PAFA students. Claes Oldenburg’s “Paint Torch” sculpture in Lenfest Plaza, which lies between the academy’s two buildings, is a great outdoor photo op.
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Visitor examining art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Pennsylvania
Courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia Museum of Art
2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.
(215) 763-8100
Those famous steps from the “Rocky” film series have earned a special place in American pop culture, but once you’ve made your ascent, don’t stop there. Head inside the AAA GEM attraction to experience one of the country’s largest art museums. The main building was constructed for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, and today its collection has expanded to more than 240,000 objects. Highlights include works by Marcel Duchamp as well as the Constantin Brancusi and Auguste Rodin sculpture collections. The Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building across the street houses the museum’s library and hosts temporary exhibits.
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Exterior shot of the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia Pennsylvania
Courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art
Rodin Museum
2151 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.
(215) 763-8100
We have Philadelphia philanthropist Jules Mastbaum to thank for the Rodin Museum. In the 1920s he began collecting Rodin works and created a plan to build a museum and garden in which to display them for the public. Sadly, he died before construction began, but his family ensured the project’s continuation and the museum opened in 1929. Among the more than 200 original sculptures and casts is a cast of Rodin’s most recognizable piece: “The Thinker.”
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Second Bank of the United States Portrait Gallery
Wikimedia Commons/Beyond My Ken
Second Bank of the United States Portrait Gallery
420 Chestnut St.
(215) 965-2305
Part of Independence National Historical Park, this 1824 Greek Revival building once served as the Second Bank of the United States and a custom house. Now it is home to a free AAA GEM attraction featuring nearly 200 portraits and sculptures of early Americans who helped shape the new nation, like military personnel and signers of important documents. Artist Charles Willson Peale, one of the PAFA founders, painted more than 100 in the collection himself.
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Exterior shot of the Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia Pennsylvania
Woodmere Art Museum/Darryl Moran
Woodmere Art Museum
9201 Germantown Ave.
(215) 247-0476
Woodmere Art Museum is the result of a noble plan started by Philadelphia civic leader Charles Knox Smith in 1898 when he bought this Victorian stone estate for the purpose of sharing his art with the public; his museum opened in 1910. The 6,000-piece art collection with works ranging from the 1700s to the current era focuses on Philadelphia artists. Paintings by Hudson River School followers are a highlight, as are outdoor sculptures on the grounds.
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