Arts & Culture

10 Must-See Museums Around The World: How Many Have You Been To?

Ateneo Art Gallery managing curator Yael Buencamino-Borromeo recommends these art museums off the beaten track.
IMAGE Courtesy of Musee D'Art Moderne De La Ville De Paris

While the Louvre, MoMa, and the British Museum should be on any art lover’s must-visit list, Yael Buencamino-Borromeo, the Ateneo Art Gallery’s managing curator, has her own lineup of often-overlooked gems also worth checking out.

1. New Museum, New York. One of the things I love most about this museum is how inviting it is. The entrance, with its glass wall and door right on the sidewalk, mimics that of surrounding retail establishments. The art inside is what you would expect to find inside a building that looks like a sleek, misaligned stack of boxes with a rainbow-like logo—contemporary and, at times, playful, as was the Urs Fisher exhibit that I viewed there during my first visit. The New Museum does a great job of making contemporary art accessible.

New Museum, New York

2. Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne. ACCA is a kunsthalle (a space for art exhibitions) rather than a museum, so what you see—? from the art to the way the spaces are configured, lit, and laid out—changes with each exhibition. This is what makes it a joy to visit; you get a different experience each time you go. It’s like opening a beautifully wrapped gift? each time. The rust-colored structure that calls to mind the history of the area as an industrial site is in itself worth seeing. Its impenetrable skin heightens the anticipation of what awaits inside.

3. Museo Ilocos Norte, Laoag.  This museum is a wonderful example of adaptive reuse. It was a stroke of genius to transform this old Tabacalera warehouse into a museum about the life of Ilocos Norte because the structure itself reminds us of how economically important tobacco was for the region and how it shaped its history. Inside are displays that give us a glimpse of Ilocano life of yesteryears—agricultural and farming implements, costumes, a tobacco drying flue, musical intruments, even an entire Ilocano house that one can enter.


4. Palais de Tokyo, Paris. A really cool and fun art space. It looks like a giant warehouse with cavernous halls of unfinished cement that serve as a perfect blank slate for contemporary art projects that are ambitious in both concept and scale. The architects seemed to delight in the aesthetic of the large, bare, gray interiors, and soaring ceilings, retaining an open plan with only panels of wire ?frames on wheels delineating the space for the very hip store and the café. You get the sense that teenagers on skateboards are about to appear at any moment. The café has a futuristic retro feel. With light fixtures resembling UFOs, the Jetsons would be quite at home having a meal here.

5. Museo Sorolla, Madrid. A delightful way to while away a couple of hours in Madrid. It is akin to visiting the house of a cultured uncle who has surrounded himself with beautiful things. Sorolla’s Impressionist beach scenes and portraits hang salon-style in persimmon-colored rooms furnished with exquisite furniture and sculpture. His fondness for pottery and ceramics is particularly evident in a small room where blue and white tiles decorate the walls and a collection of lusterware is displayed. With such a welcoming setting and so much to see, you could stay for hours. The gurgling fountain, trees that shade you ? om the warm summer sun, potted plants, neatly manicured hedges, and accents of colorful tiles in the lovely terracotta-floored courtyard all seem to conspire to make you want to to linger a little longer in the world of Joaquin Sorolla.


Museo Sorella, Madrid

6. Musee de L'Annonciade, St. Tropez. This is a gem of a museum, within walking distance ? om the wharf where sailboats dock. Originally built in the 14th century as the Chapel of the Annunciation, it now houses a wonderful collection of impressionists and post-impressionists: Matisse, Bonard, Dufy, and Signac, to name a few. Because a number of the works here were painted when the artists visited the region, the viewer is apt to experience a sympathetic joy at seeing the same vistas and being bathed in the same light that inspired the artists.

7. Musee D'Art Moderne De La Ville De Paris. Often overlooked in favor of the more famous Centre Pompidou, this museum is well worth a visit if only to see the Salle Dufy and Salle Matisse. The Salle Dufy houses the Electricity Fairy, an enormous mural painted by Dufy for the 1937 International Art and Technology Exhibition, which was held in the building that is now the museum. It is a vibrant celebration of light and the wonders of electricity. When I was there, a Nam June Paik robot comprised of TV sets stood in the middle of the hall, a clever artwork pairing.

Musee D'Art Moderne De La Ville De Paris

8. Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University, California. What l love most about this museum is the outdoor sculpture on the ?front lawn. The Cantor Arts Center has one of the largest collections—more than 70 pieces—of Rodin’s works outside of Paris. The Rodin Sculpture Garden alone is home to 20 of Rodin’s major bronzes, including his iconic Gates of Hell. Be the California sky sunny or overcast, it is always a pleasure to stroll through this garden, viewing such magnificent art.


9. Pinto Art Museum, Antipolo. A visit to Pinto Museum is on the top of my list of “things to do in Manila” for both tourists and locals. It is a wonderful museum that everyone can enjoy. In a beautiful compound of lush gardens dotted with contemporary sculpture stand several mission-style structures functioning as exhibition halls for the spectacular collection of Dr. Joven Cuanang. Over the past few decades he has acquired the works of the best Filipino contemporary artists. Dr. Cuanang’s preference for figurative works, plus the very ?friendly setting in which they are presented, make the art more accessible to a broad audience. It’s one of those places that makes you proud of the Philippines.

Pinto Art Museum

10. Fondation Maeght. A definite must for art lovers. Unlike other museums where art and architecture evolved separately, at Fondation Maeght they were conceived together. Some of the most important artists of the 20th century were commissioned to create work for the building and the gardens. Georges Braque did the pool and a stained glass window, Marc Chagall, the mural mosaics. While meandering through the property, you come across sculptures by Giacometti and Calder among many others. It is an amazing collection of modern art.

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Nicole Limos Morales
Managing Editor
Nicole’s career in publishing began in 2006. Before becoming Town & Country online’s managing editor, she moved from features editor to beauty editor of the title’s print edition. “The lessons in publishing are countless,” she says. “The most crucial ones for me? That to write best about life, you need to live your life. And another I still struggle to live by: ‘Brevity is a virtue; verbosity is a vice.’”
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