Dallas, Texas, USA. Dallas Museum of Art.

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Dallas Museum of Art

Top choice in Dallas

The city's major art museum offers a high-caliber world tour of ancient and contemporary art. Founded in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art is an impressively cosmopolitan endeavour, with a collection that spans the history of creativity in Europe as well as the Americas. It put Dallas firmly on the national culture map when it opened, and it still attracts a healthy crowd of visitors today.

Dallas Museum of Art
The eye-catching frontage of the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) ©Shutterstock / Gilberto Mesquita

Exploring the Dallas Museum of Art

You've probably seen art museums that are snootily reverent towards modern fine artists, and dismissive of historic and tribal art from the rest of the world. That's not the attitude at the Dallas Museum of Art. The collection of world art and archaeological treasures is a delight, with plenty to keep families traveling with kids amused. Ancient wonders range from Greek, Roman and Etruscan masterpieces to wonderful bowls from the Mimbres pueblos of New Mexico and a pre-Columbian Peruvian gold mask. Look out for the Mayan flint knife in the form of a crocodile-shaped canoe with human passengers.

The modern (well, more recent) collection of paintings and sculptures is equally impressive. American works include Edward Hopper's enigmatic Lighthouse Hill and Frederic Church's sublime The Icebergs. A re-created villa modeled on Coco Chanel's Mediterranean mansion holds canvases by British statesman Winston Churchill. European greats are well represented, with works including Magritte's The Light of Coincidences, Mondrian's Place de la Concorde, Van Gogh's Sheaves of Wheat and multiple pieces by Picasso and Monet.  

It's also worth dropping into the adjacent Nasher Sculpture Center, housed in an impressive glass-and-steel building across from the Dallas Museum of Art. Partnered by a divine sculpture garden, the Renzo Piano-designed building is a work of art in its own right. Inside (accessed on a separate ticket to the Dallas Museum of Art), you can view one of the greatest private sculpture collections in the world, including works by Calder, de Kooning, Rodin, Serra and Miró, assembled by art collectors Raymond and Patsy Nasher.

Dallas Museum of Art sculpture garden
Sculpture and reflecting pool at the Dallas Museum of Art ©Shutterstock / Nate Hovee

The history of the Museum of Art

Despite it's modern demeanor, the Dallas Museum of Art has a long, venerable history. The museum grew out of public art exhibitions held in the Dallas Public Library by the enthusiast-run Dallas Art Association. Library founder May Dickson Exall led the drive for a permanent museum space, and in the 1930s, the museum moved into its first fixed location at Fair Park.

After surviving a McCarthyite purge in the 1950s, when campaigners pushed for the museum to remove works by 'communist' artists such as Picasso, the museum merged with the rival Dallas Museum of Contemporary Art, creating a single space for modern and historical art in the city. As the museum's collection, and reputation, grew, so did its need for space. The present, concrete-faced premises were inaugurated in 1984.

Tickets & Practicalities

As one of Dallas' top things to do, the museum can get busy; school groups fill the galleries on weekdays (except Mondays, when the museum is closed), and tourists do the same at weekends. Admission is free but you may need to book a ticket for entry (easy to do online). There are charges for some temporary exhibitions – see the website for details of paid-for events.

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