Written by JOHN GARRY
A compelling place to search for the United States’ beating heart is in museums. These 9 museums provide lessons on what it means to be American now, and may even point to where the country’s headed.
Smithsonian American Art Museum – Washington
There’s no better home for the world’s first and most comprehensive American art collection than the nation’s capital.
Art world heavyweights like John Singer Sargent and Roy Lichtenstein mix with an exceptional assemblage of folk, Latino and African American art to paint a unique visual history of the US.
Within the Smithsonian‘s dynamic collection, Nam June Paik’s Electronic Superhighway is particularly resonant.
His installation, an enormous map of the US with state lines defined in neon lights, features a wall of monitors playing videos that hum together in a quiet cacophony.
The array of visual and auditory stimuli seem to have no business being together, but over time, the disparate parts create a strangely hypnotic harmony.
Whitney Museum of American Art – New York
The Whitney Museum houses works by more than 3,500 of the country’s greatest homegrown modern artists.
The permanent collection explores America’s cultural identity through iconic pieces by the likes of Edward Hopper, Archibald John Motley, Jr. and John Jasper.
Unlike many modern art museums, the Whitney also focuses on the work of living artists, offering insight into the latest innovative talents to challenge the art world.
Heard Museum – Phoenix
The Heard Museum, founded in 1929, is dedicated to preserving and promoting the culture and history of Arizona’s original residents – Native Americans.
From traditional artifacts to contemporary works, this Phoenix-based non-profit collaborates with the Southwest’s indigenous people to ensure this group is appropriately represented.
Morris Museum of Art – Augusta, Georgia
The American South has a complicated history that has given rise to strong regional identities.
By displaying a diverse range of work explicitly devoted to the art and artists of the South, the Morris Museum of Art offers a way to explore these identities from varied viewpoints.
It has more than 5,000 items spanning two centuries – including portraits of wealthy 19th-century plantation owners, depictions of slavery and sacred religious gatherings.
A trip to this museum feels like jumping head-first into the artistic heart of Dixie.