Recently I got to spend a few days visiting friends in Balitmore, Maryland. It’s a nice city, with a ever-changing reputation. I only really knew Baltimore as the backdrop for the famous Broadway musical Hairspray, though I’m constantly hearing more and more about Balitmore being a foodie destination. I’ll have to visit again to further explore that, but I did spend some time wandering the city’s galleries and exhibition halls. Here’s my tips for the best art museums in Baltimore.
American Visionary Art Museum
Without a doubt, this is the quirkiest and by far the best art museum in Baltimore. There are crazy, random exhibits outside, getting you in the mood even before you get inside. The building itself is fairly simple, and the exhibits cover the gammut of media, from installations to paintings and even quite a few interactive pieces, including a fun game installed in the corner of the cafe upstairs.
The museums focus is on self-taught artists, and the curators of the museum clearly embrace the unusual and unorthodox. Don’t miss the building just past the main exhibit hall (where you buy tickets); there are a few additional installations as well as a viewing deck with a great view of the Inner Harbor.
The Walters Art Museum
The Walters Art Museum is a free museum (special exhibits paid/ticketed), and has an extensive permanent collection across three buildings. The collections have focus areas on things such as ancient art, Asian art, Islamic pieces, Medieval, Renassance, and Baroque. The main building, called the Charles Street Building, is a wonderful palazzo structure that is almost an exhibit itself. A more modern building called the Centre Street building is the second, and there’s also the Hackerman House, a Greek-revival mansion, which is where the Asian art is housed.
The Baltimore Museum of Art
The Baltimore Museum of Art (or BMA, for short) focuses on 19th-century, contemporary, and modern art. It’s home to the largest holding of pieces by Henri Matisse, but the full archives of the museum surpass 90,000 works of art! Also popular are the two landscaped gardens on site. Admittedly, I love modern art, so the pop art, abstracts, and minimalism pieces are a huge draw for me. Definitely one of the better art museums in Baltimore – and it’s free!
They call Balitmore a city of neighborhoods, and you’ll find there are 72 historic districts in the city! Most of the art museums in Baltimore, as well as shopping, food and other attractions, are concentrated in the Inner Harbor, Fells Point, Mt Vernon, and Little Italy.
The Contemporary Museum, as the name implies, focuses on contemporary works. An interesting thing to note is that the museum, since it’s opening in 1989, rotates location on a regular basis. Whether a car dealship, old bus station, or warehouse, the museum incorporates locations into its exhibits, making every new locale unique! Note: The museum is currently relocating (again) but details haven’t been released as of publication.
The venue is closed on Monday and Tuesday, but if you happen to miss it, you can always stroll by to see what happens to be on display in the windows – usually it’s something interesting, like the strange lights/magnetic structure pictured above.
Baltimore Tattoo Museum
We started on a quirky note so why not end on one as well. As one can imagine, the Baltimore Tattoo Museum offers full tattoing services, seven days a week. A visit here will educate you into the intimacies of tatto art, a craft that goes far back – such as the traditional Japanese tattoos, or the intracte designs of New Zealand’s Maori.
If you want a tattoo and just haven’t seen the design that suits you, then this is your destination – with just shy of a bazillion tattoos, if you don’t see it here, it probably isn’t possible.
Photo Credits: Author, Venue Photo, Venue Photo, Venue Photo, Fuzzy