Best Places to See Art: Philadelphia

 Love Sculpture - John F Kennedy Plaza in Philadelphia - Downtown, by Photography By Sai
 Love Sculpture - John F Kennedy Plaza in Philadelphia - Downtown, by Photography By Sai
 Love Sculpture - John F Kennedy Plaza in Philadelphia - Downtown, by Photography By Sai

The City of Brotherly Love is known for its revolutionary history, cheesesteaks, and the place Rocky ran up the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the original Rocky movie. For this article, we are focusing on the food and the art, though we know Philadelphia’s rich history contributes to the experience of both.

The city in which America first declared its independence is by no means lacking in places to go and things to see. While you’re building your itinerary for a culturally immersed visit to Philly, in between visiting the liberty bell and the Betsy Ross house or your tour of Independence Hall, make sure that you’re dedicating at least a day to experiencing the art. From the world-class museums of Fairmount to the fabulous galleries of the Old City District, there are options aplenty.

 

Museums

1. The Philadelphia Museum of ArtPhiladelphia Museum of Art, photo by John Marshall

First things first. After you’ve arrived at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and viewed the statue in his likeness, we fully endorse running the stairs and doing the Rocky pose at the top. We’re told it’s a rite of passage for all visitors to the art museum.

Once you have that out of your system, prepare to be impressed by the master artists whose works are part of the collection at the Philadelphia Museum, including the likes of Degas, Cezanne, and Monet. The museum encompasses 200 galleries with one of the most comprehensive collections of American, Asian, and European art.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art boasts the largest collection of works by French artist Marcel Duchamp, known for his impressionist and post-impressionist work. Duchamp is famous for such works as “Nude Descending a Staircase,” a progressive piece for the time period, and one which challenged traditional notions of acceptable art. He was closely associated with avant-garde artist-photographer Man Ray based on their common irreverence toward traditional artistic expectations and their shared interest in Dada and the Surrealist movement. Some of Ray’s works are also part of the museum’s collections.

2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia PA

https://www.philamuseum.org/

2. Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

As part of our quest to identify the best art venues in the city, we are also seeking out unique spaces beyond the walls of the formal gallery or traditional museum. With this in mind, we suggest a visit to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. The not-for-profit museum features unique works created utilizing handmade tiles, bottles, mirrors, wheels, as well as international folk art to produce amazing mosaics and art spaces. Some are indoor spaces but most are exterior buildings, with each one telling a more interesting story than the last.

The museum was created by artist Isiah Zagar, who has been committed to beautifying Philadelphia neighborhoods since he moved to the city in the 1960s. Starting with buildings near his South Street studio, area residents noticed the mosaics and the concept took off, eventually incorporating as a non-profit and opening to the public in 2008. You can explore the 15 murals and artworks which cover a one-mile area on your own, or take advantage of the guided tours.

1020 South Street, Philadelphia PA

https://www.phillymagicgardens.org/

Galleries

Spanning from Vine Street to Walnut and 7th Street to the Delaware River within the Historic District is what is known as the Old City District. With a thriving arts scene, the area is a great place for gallery hopping, and neighborhoods include fashionable boutiques, charming restaurants, and live music venues and other entertainment. Not unlike Philly’s museums, it is difficult to list all the great galleries, but we are highlighting a few of our favorites while incorporating a mix of different styles.(source: Old City District on Facebook)

1. The Center for Art in Wood

As you might expect, the center is engaged in all things art, design and craft relating to wood, featuring collections, exhibitions, residencies and research. In operation since 1986, the center’s permanent collection features 1,200 objects and its research arm includes images and other documentation relating to wood-made creations as well as the history of woodturning and wood making.

141 N 3rd Street, Philadelphia PA

https://centerforartinwood.org/

 

2. The Clay Studio

The Clay Studio has something for everyone - a gallery with a permanent collection featuring local artists and clay masters, a studio where makers of all skill levels create throughout the morning and night, and a “claymobile” that brings the gift of art instruction and opportunity to various communities of Philadelphia, as well as a shop to browse art.

137 N 2nd Street #139, Philadelphia PA

https://www.theclaystudio.org/

3. Muse Gallery Artist Cooperative

Showcasing a host of different types of art, Muse Gallery Cooperative provides space to “encourage and promote artistic expression.” With rotating exhibitions, shows feature local artists whose specialties include abstract, conceptual, and representational forms.

52 N 2nd Street, Philadelphia PA

https://musegalleryphiladelphia.com/

4. Arch Enemy Arts(source: Arch Enemy Arts on Facebook)

Unique, eclectic, jarring, haunting, and bizarre are just a few of the adjectives that come to mind when one is introduced to the artworks at Arch Enemy. And we mean them all in a “good way.” This gallery and boutique have been in operation since 2012. With a focus on lowbrow and pop surrealism, Arch Enemy has been selected for numerous “Best of Philly” awards.

109 Arch Street, Philadelphia PA

https://www.archenemyarts.com/

Cuisine

There are hundreds of incredible restaurants in Philadelphia, but some stand out from the crowd. With this in mind, in researching the options, we suggest you experience fine dining on the “only restaurant venue on a tall ship today in the world.”

Moshulu

What we like about Moshulu is that it has just the right mix of tourist appeal, delicious food, and amazing waterfront views. Located in Penn’s Landing, Moshulu is named for the century-old sailing vessel within which the restaurant is located. According to their website, Moshulu is “the oldest and largest square-rigged sailing vessel still afloat.”(source: Moshulu on Facebook)

“Moshulu” is a Native word that means “one who fears nothing.” With a distinguished history as an international carrier of everything from coal to grain to lumber, Mushulu has now settled into her role as a restaurant and bar, and quite successfully so. As you might expect the AAA Four Diamond restaurant serves a variety of sushi and seafood, as well as other classic American fare.

401 S Christopher Columbus Boulevard, Philadelphia PA

http://www.moshulu.com/

 

We hope we’ve provided you with some great ideas for viewing art in Philadelphia. If you aren’t ready to commit to the trip quite yet, check out original art in similar styles to those we’ve spotlighted, such as minimalism, pop, and surrealism.