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The city's premier cultural attraction is one of the country's leading museums. One of the greatest treasures of the museum is the building itself. Constructed in 1928 of Minnesota dolomite, it's modeled after ancient Greek temples but on a grander scale. The museum was designed by Julian Francis Abele, the first African-American to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania School of Architecture. You can enter the museum from the front or the rear; choose the front and you can run up the 99 steps made famous in the movie Rocky.
Once inside, you'll see the grand staircase and Saint-Gaudens's statue Diana; she formerly graced New York's old Madison Square Garden. The museum has several outstanding permanent collections: the John G. Johnson Collection covers Western art from the Renaissance to the 19th century; the Arensberg and A. E. Gallatin collections contain modern and contemporary works by artists such as Brancusi, Braque, Matisse, and Picasso. Famous paintings
in these collections include Van Eyck's St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata, Rubens's Prometheus Bound, Benjamin West's Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky, van Gogh's Sunflowers, Cézanne's The Large Bathers, and Picasso's Three Musicians. The museum has the world's most extensive collection of works by Marcel Duchamp, including the world-famous Nude Descending a Staircase and The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. Among the American art worth seeking out is a fine selection of works by 19th-century Philadelphia artist Thomas Eakins, including The Gross Clinic, which the museum co-owns with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
Perhaps the most spectacular objects in the museum are entire structures and great rooms moved lock, stock, and barrel from around the world: a 12th-century French cloister, a 16th-century Indian temple hall, a 16th-century Japanese Buddhist temple, a 17th-century Chinese palace hall, and a Japanese ceremonial teahouse. Among the other collections are costumes, Early American furniture, and Amish and Shaker crafts. An unusual touch—and one that children especially like—is the Kienbusch Collection of Arms and Armor.
The Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building, across the street in the former Reliance Standard Life Insurance Building, is home to the museum's permanent collection of photography, costume, and contemporary design.
Friday evenings feature live jazz and world music performances in the Great Hall. The museum has a fine restaurant and a surprisingly good cafeteria now under the management of well-known restaurateur Stephen Starr. A short stroll away is the Fairmount Waterworks and Boathouse Row, as well as a path well-used by bikers and joggers that connects the museum to Center City's Fitler Square neighborhood.
Apr 13, 2010
This is a must-see when you visit Philadelphia: the iconic view from the top of the "Rocky steps," the many, many galleries in this world class museum, and the gorgeous building itself. You need to allow lots of time to explore the main building and the newer (adjacent)PMA addition, the Perelman Building. The special exhibitions are wonderful, of course, but the permanent collection is truly awesome (forgive the word, but it's true)!
Oct 20, 2008
This is the big general art museum in Philly, and it's very good indeed. Only gripe -- its painting collection is not the most comprehensive in scope, mostly limited to the Impressionists and later masters. Excellent decorative art collection, and plenty of entire historic rooms transplanted from elsewhere. A must.