Art Museums Every Southerner Should Visit
There are few better ways to spend an afternoon than in an art museum wandering the halls, browsing the galleries, and being astonished. The South is home to countless breathtaking collections that include work by fantastic Southern artists as well as some of the best-known painters, sculptors, and photographers from across the globe—your Picassos, Cassatts, Dalís, and Rodins, for example. These collections span millennia, from prehistory to present day, and, while they currently live in the South, these works of art have their origins in destinations across the globe. Every Southern state is home to dynamic museums with captivating collections—here are a few of our favorites.
These Museums House both Southern Art and World-Renowned Pieces
Birmingham Museum of Art
Located in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, the Birmingham Museum of Art is home to more than 27,000 works of art, including paintings, sculpture, prints, and decorative arts from around the globe. The museum offers a weekly Slow Art series, which is led by a dedicated team of docents and allows visitors to take a deep dive into the museum’s impressive collection and its ever-changing special exhibits. Admission to the museum is free.
Chrysler Museum of Art
Norfolk’s Chrysler Museum of Art, formerly known as the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences, has one of the largest glass collections in the world, with art spanning three millennia, along with impressive painting and sculpture collections. General admission is free. If you can’t make it to Norfolk for an in-person tour, you can wander through the museum’s collections online.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Founded in 2005 by the Walton Family Foundation, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is set on a 120-acre patch of Ozark forest crisscrossed by trails. It showcases a growing permanent collection of American art spanning five centuries, including work by Norman Rockwell, Georgia O’Keefe, and Andy Warhol. General admission is free, thanks to Walmart.
Frist Art Museum
The Frist Art Museum is a non-collecting museum, which means that it has no permanent collection. Instead, it houses exhibitions, which change frequently. The museum also organizes events, workshops, and other programs, which make the space a dynamic place to visit. Admission is free for museum members and visitors 18 and younger; adult admission is $12.
Don’t miss: Current Exhibitions
High Museum of Art
Located in downtown Atlanta, the High Museum of Art was established in 1905 and is now home to a permanent collection comprising more than 16,000 works of art. In 2005, it expanded into Midtown Atlanta with a second location at The Woodruff Arts Center. See their website for ticketing information.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Exciting special exhibitions and a stunning permanent collection (including works by crowd-favorites Picasso, Renoir, and Monet) fill the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which is located in the heart of the city’s Museum District and holds more than 65,000 works of art spanning artistic periods around the globe.
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
New Orleans, Louisiana
Located on Camp Street in New Orleans’ Warehouse Arts District, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art was established in 1999 and moved to its current location in 2003. Its permanent collection was amassed through private donations and now totals more than 4,000 pieces of art, including paintings, sculpture, and photographs from artists across the Southern states. See their website for ticketing information.
The Salvador Dalí Museum
St. Petersburg, Florida
Located on One Dali Boulevard in St. Petersburg, Florida, this museum houses a permanent collection made up of works by surrealist artist Salvador Dalí. The works found here include well-known Dalí pieces, including objects, prints, paintings, and photographs that have become part of our shared cultural imagination. See the museum website for ticket pricing.
Don’t miss: Daddy Longlegs of the Evening-Hope! (Araignée du soir, espoir) (Dalí) and Disappearing Bust of Voltaire (Dalí)
The Menil Collection
The Menil Collection is part of the legacy of esteemed art collectors Dominique and John de Menil. The museum is part of Houston’s Museum District and is home to special exhibitions and permanent ones, spanning centuries, which are built from the couple’s decades of collecting. The de Menils were also responsible for the founding of the nearby Rothko Chapel, which is a meditative space home to canvases by Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman's Broken Obelisk sculpture. Admission to the museum and the chapel is free.