10 Best Contemporary and Modern Art Museums to Visit in the U.S.

Contemporary and Modern Art Museums Offer a Unique Experience

Each period of art from baroque to post-modernism is set apart by distinct characteristics that symbolize the time period and the artists’ unique perspectives. All art movements are well-revered—and for good reason, as art in any form is a raw, truthful look at the world through someone else’s eyes.

Contemporary art, in particular, offers a unique perspective of our present time as seen by artists living today. It often takes its own path, diverging from traditional ideas of what constitutes art and instead drawing on different mediums and styles to offer a reflection and commentary on modern-day society. It challenges the viewer’s own ideas about art, prompting them to ask not whether it is nice looking, but whether it is interesting or thought-provoking.

Modern art is similarly influential, having helped lead into the contemporary period as artists began breaking away from strictly religious art or art for wealthy patrons and focusing instead on the people, places and ideas with which they had subjective experiences.

There are many notable contemporary and modern art museums around the country, and this list contains 10 locations we believe to be most worth visiting.

MCA Chicago

This downtown Chicago museum is one of the nation’s largest facilities dedicated to the art of our time. The MCA Chicago offers exhibitions of the most thought-provoking art created since 1945, and documents contemporary visual culture through painting, sculpture, photography, video and film, and performance.

Mass MOCA

Located in North Adams, MA, MASS MoCA has become one of the world's premier centers for making and showing the best art of our time. With annual attendance of 120,000, it ranks among the most visited institutions in the United States dedicated to new art. More than 80 major new works of art and more than 50 performances have been created through fabrication and rehearsal residencies in North Adams, making MASS MoCA perhaps the most fertile site in the country for new art. The museum thrives on making and presenting work that is fresh, surprising, and challenging.

Walker Art Center

Located in Minneapolis, MN, the Walker Art Center is internationally recognized as a leading arts venue, presenting contemporary visual arts and design exhibitions; dance, theatre, and music performances; and film screenings. The Walker takes a global, multidisciplinary, and diverse approach to the creation, presentation, interpretation, collection, and preservation of art.

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

Located in Ridgefield, CT and founded by Larry Aldrich in 1964, The Aldrich is dedicated to fostering innovative artists whose ideas and interpretations of the world around us serve as a platform to encourage creative thinking. The Aldrich, which served an audience of more than 37,700 in 2011, is one of the few independent, non-collecting contemporary art museums in the United States, and the only museum in Connecticut devoted to contemporary art

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Guggenheim Museum

Located in New York City, the Guggenheim Museum is an internationally renowned art museum and one of the most significant architectural icons of the 20th century. Founded on a collection of early modern masterpieces, the Guggenheim Museum today is an ever-growing institution devoted to the art of the 20th century and beyond.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Dedicated to making the art of our time a vital and meaningful part of public life, SFMOMA assembles unparalleled collections, creates exhilarating exhibitions, and develops engaging public programs. In all of these endeavors, the museum is guided by an enduring commitment to fostering creativity and embracing new ways of seeing the world.

Marin Museum of Contemporary Art

Located in Novato, CA, Marin Museum of Contemporary Art connects art, community, and artistic expression. It is a unique non-collecting museum that is for artists, about artists, and by artists. MarinMOCA seeks to present art in an environment that provides a supportive venue for artists and exhibitions that inspire the community.

Hirshhorn Museum

Located in Washington, DC, the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is a leading voice for contemporary art and culture and provides a national platform for the art and artists of our time. The museum seeks to share the transformative power of modern and contemporary art with audiences at all levels of awareness and understanding by creating meaningful, personal experiences in which art, artists, audiences and ideas converge.

Museum of Modern Art

Located in New York City, the MoMA is dedicated to being the foremost museum of modern art in the world. Central to The Museum of Modern Art's mission is the encouragement of an ever-deeper understanding and enjoyment of modern and contemporary art by the diverse local, national, and international audiences that it serves. Its library, archives, and conservation laboratory are recognized as international centers of research; and by supporting scholarship and publications of preeminent intellectual merit.

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Located in Kansas City, MO, the Kemper Museum offers works in all media by renowned modern and contemporary artists, as well as works by emerging artists, from around the world. Since the Kemper Museum's opening in 1994, its permanent collection has more than tripled. Works in the collection range from those created after the 1913 Armory Show, an important benchmark in modern art, to the present. The Museum rotates its collection on a regular basis, allowing visitors to study and discover new works throughout the year.

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