Whether you’re in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Chicago, these short city getaways are like field trips for art lovers.
You know it’s road-trip season when the galleries have switched to summer hours, and the streets are empty on weekends, as everyone tries to escape the sweltering city heat. There’s no quicker relief from the dog days of summer than a weekend jaunt outside of the city. And luckily, there is plenty of art to be seen along the way. Here at artnet News, we’ve compiled a list of art-themed day trips originating from five cities across the country: New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. Each trip can be done in a day (or a weekend), and all of them showcase artwork you’d never be able to see without leaving the city limits. So gas up, pack a lunch (or overnight bag) and hit the road.
1. New York to the Hudson Valley
Starting point: The Museum of Modern Art
End point: Storm King Art Center
Duration: 3 hours 10 minutes (route)
Take a trip through Postwar and contemporary art, starting with Robert Rauschenberg’s retrospective at MoMA, and ending the day with a sunset stroll through Storm King’s idyllic sculpture garden in the Hudson Valley.
After enjoying the works of Rauschenberg, head northeast to the Brant Foundation in neighboring Connecticut, which houses Peter Brant’s contemporary art collection. Once there, book a tour of the current group show “Animal Farm,” curated by artist Sadie Laska. The exhibition features over 50 works from pop favorites such as Jean-Michel Basquiat to other artists heavily influenced by pop and media culture, such as Thorton Dial, Nina Chanel Abney, Carol Rama, Julian Schnabel, Henry Taylor, and many more. “Animal Farm” is on view through October 1.
Next, head up to Philip Johnson Glass House in the New Canaan, Connecticut. The famed Modernist home sits a top a 49-acre plot of land and also houses the architect’s prominent collection of painting and sculpture. After, head north to Ridgefield to the Aldrich Museum, which is currently showing solo shows by Suzanne McClelland, Beth Campbell, William Powhida, and Kay Rosen.
Continue northwest to Magazzino, a newly opened private art center dedicated to Postwar and contemporary Italian art in New York’s Hudson Valley. Then take the short, scenic drive up the Hudson to Dia: Beacon, dedicated to minimalist and conceptual art. End the day with a walk on the manicured grounds of the Storm King Art Center, which is currently showing a wonderful exhibition of David Smith’s “White Sculptures,” through November 12.
2. Boston to Williamstown
Starting point: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
End point: Clark Art Institute
Duration: 3 hours 17 minutes (route)
Hit the road in Massachusetts and travel through time with a journey from the Old Masters to contemporary greats. Start your trip at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, showing works by German expressionist Max Beckmann, before traveling west towards the Worcester Art Museum, which is currently showing a reinstallation of its 16th–18th century Old Masters holdings, including pieces by Dutch masters Rembrandt and Jacob Jordaens.
Hurry back to the car and continue heading west to MASS MoCA in North Adams. Don’t miss the newly opened Building 6, an expansion of the museum, which includes monumental works by Louise Bourgeois, James Turrell, Jenny Holzer, Laurie Anderson, and more. Finally, make a stop at the Clark Art Institute and check out the superb show of the American abstract painter Helen Frankenthaler, “As in Nature,” on view through October 9.
3. Los Angeles to Moapa Valley
Starting point: Hammer Museum
End point: Michael Heizer’s Double Negative
Duration: 7 hours 48 minutes (route)
Take the path less traveled with an exciting road trip through the California desert. Start your journey at the Hammer Museum, which is currently hosting a show of works by Marisa Merz, the only woman to be accepted in the Italian Art Povera movement. “Marisa Merz: The Sky Is a Great Space” is on view through August 20.
Later, hop into your car and head east to Pasadena’s Huntington Library,where you can catch the institution’s stunning collection of 18th- and 19th-century British painting and American Art. And don’t leave without visiting the sensational gardens.
Continue east toward Joshua Tree to see the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum, a stunning and eclectic collection of large-scale assemblage sculptures created by Purifoy in the Mojave Desert between 1989 and 2004.
Then head north towards Nevada to check out Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains, a large-scale, site-specific public art installation consisting of seven towers of colorful stacked boulders that stand over 30 feet high. Finally, head through Las Vegas to the Moapa Valley see Michael Heizer’s Double Negative, the land artist’s first prominent earthwork, consisting of two trenches cut into the Easter edge of the Mormon Mesa in 1969–70.
4. San Francisco to San Jose
Starting point: SFMoMA
End point: The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)
Duration: 2 hours 17 minutes (route)
Tour the best art in the Bay Area. We begin with Edvard Munch‘s painting exhibition at SFMOMA, which brings together 44 of the artist’s most important works. “Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed” is on view through October 9.
Next head south to PACE Palo Alto to discover some of the most exciting young artists in China at the gallery’s group show “Form Through Narrative: New Chinese Art.” See works by newcomers such as Hong Hao, Liu Jianhua, Song Dong, Wang Guangle, Xie Molin, and Yin Xiuzhen. “Form Through Narrative” is on view through August 27.
Next up, continue south to the San Jose Museum of Art where you can admire the intricately detailed works of Syrian-American sculptor and installation artist Diana Al Hadid in her solo exhibition “Liquid City,” on view through September 24.
Drive north to the Oakland Museum of California, which is showing 130 iconic photos of 20th-century America by the acclaimed photographer Dorothea Lange, who bequeathed her entire archive to the institution. “Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing” is on view through August 27.
For the final stop, drive north to UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive and check out the solo exhibition by Ugo Rondinone. Don’t miss his subversive and amusing installation Vocabulary of Solitude (2014–16), which features a room full of life-like sulking clown sculptures. “Ugo Rondinone: the world just makes me laugh” is on view through August 27.
5. Chicago to Madison and Milwaukee
Starting point: Art Institute of Chicago
End point: Frederick C. Robie House
Duration: 5 hours 42 minutes (route)
Although Chicago offers the highest density of art and culture in the Midwest, the surrounding region has some hidden gems that are worth traveling to see. Start your trip at the Art Institute of Chicago‘s stunning Gauguin exhibition, which takes an in-depth look at the creative process behind the post-Impressionist’s greatest masterpieces. “Gauguin: Artist as Alchemist” is on view through September 10.
Drive east to the next stop at the Elmhurst Art Museum where you can see a selection of works from the RBC Wealth Management Collection, including works by Kerry James Marshall, Nan Goldin, Dawoud Bey, Chuck Close, Carrie Mae Weems, and Kehinde Wiley. “The Human Touch: Selections from the RBC Wealth Management Art Collection” is on view through August 27.
Continue north to Wisconsin’s Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, which is showcasing works from Rashaad Newsome’s video-based practice. “Rashaad Newsome: Icon” is on view through December 3.
Then head east towards Milwaukee to the Milwaukee Art Museum. Make sure you catch Chicago native Rashid Johnson’s “Hail We Now Sing Joy,” impressive show of new paintings and monumental sculptures. The exhibition is on view through September 17.
Finally, head back to Chicago and stop at Frank Lloyd Wright‘s Frederick C. Robie House, because no cultural tour of Chicago would be complete without a stop at one of the city’s iconic historical landmarks.
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