The Artist Museums You Have to Visit Before You Die

Millesgården at dusk
Millesgården at dusk | © Yanan Li and Millesgården. Photo: Yanan Li
Photo of Freire Barnes
Art & Design Editor1 May 2018

Of the thousands of art museums around the world, there are a handful of amazing spaces that are solely dedicated to just one artist, giving visitors the rare chance to fully experience the life’s work of some of the most exciting international artists. Whether in renovated studios or purpose-built galleries, we’ve rounded up the 10 must-visit artist museums that need to be on your travel itinerary this year.

Dalí Theatre and Museum, Figueres, Spain

The extraordinary Dalí Theatre and Museum is more than just a home to a collection of works by the surrealist artist—it’s probably his greatest work of art in its own right. Designed and conceived of by Dalí himself in his hometown of Figueres, it’s the art world’s equivalent of Disney Land. Here, the absurd and the bizarre become an experiential reality that is fun for the whole family. Step inside mad-cap surreal installations such as the room that pays homage to Mae West as a livable apartment, and be awed by the trompe-l’œil murals and paintings. And let’s not forget the giant eggs that adorn the exterior and the iconic geodesic dome. This is a place of artistic dreams and adventures.

Dalí Theatre and Museum, Plaça Gala i Salvador Dalí, 5, 17600 Figueres, Girona, Spain. Ticketed entry.

Exterior of Dalí's Theatre-Museum in Figueres | © Patrick Chabert / Flickr
Night view of the Dali Theatre Museum courtyard | Courtesy Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí

Yayoi Kusama Museum, Tokyo, Japan

Known the world over for her vibrantly-coloured, intensely-patterned, and often interactive art, it was only a matter of time before the celebrated Japanese artist got her very own museum. Wanting to share Kusama’s message of love and engage a wider audience with contemporary art, the Yayoi Kusama Museum presents works spanning the artist’s career in two annual exhibitions. From some of Kusama’s earliest works, which interpret the hallucinations the artist has experienced all her life, to the 89-year old’s most recent work, the museum, which is located in the residential area of Shinjuku and close to the artist’s studio, is a must-visit destination for anyone visiting Tokyo.

Yayoi Kusama Museum, 107 Bentencho, Shinjuku, Tokyo 162-0851, Japan. Tickets MUST be booked online.

Yayoi Kusama Museum in Tokyo | Photo: Shintaro Ono (Nippon Design Center, Inc.)
Installation view of gallery interior | © Yayoi Kusama

Millesgarden, Lidingö, Sweden

A short distance from the centre of Stockholm in Lidingö is an unexpected art haven created by the artist couple Carl and Olga Milles. Between 1908 and 1950 the Milles constructed a house, an open-air studio, a loggia, and a multi-terraced sculpture garden that overlooks Lake Värtan. As Sweden’s most celebrated sculptor known for his major public art commissions, Carl populated the Mediterranean-themed garden with his figurative bronze and stone sculptures as well as commissioned frescoes. He even integrated aspects of Olga’s Austrian homeland by planting alpine flora and steep stony landscaping. Throughout the Carl M. Bengtsson-designed house there are Olga’s decorative paintings, their collection of antiques, and interior design aspects devised by the couple, including alabaster ceiling lamps and a mosaic floor. Don’t miss the Josef Frank furniture in Annes House.

Millesgarden, 181 50 Lidingö, Sweden. Ticketed entry.

Millesgården | © Yanan Li and Millesgården. Photo: Yanan Li
Some of the sculptures in Millesgården | © Yanan Li and Millesgården. Photo: Yanan Li

Museé Picasso, Paris, France

Sometimes there is an upside to not paying your taxes. Take the Musée Picasso Paris’ collection for example. It came about due to Picasso’s heirs donating his work in lieu of estate taxes after the famous Spanish artist’s death in the late 1970s. The grand location of the Hôtel Salé is now home to over 5,000 works including almost 300 paintings from various points in Picasso’s career, such as La Celestina (1904) from his Blue period, and Matadors from his final years. Sculptures and ceramics feature highly as do an abundance of prints and engravings. And when you’re Picasso’d out you can take in the collection of Giacometti-designed furniture.

Musée Picasso Paris, 5 Rue de Thorigny, 75003 Paris, France. Ticketed entry.

Musée Picasso in Paris | Photo: © Fabien Campoverde
Salon Jupiter in Musée Picasso | Photo: © Fabien Campoverde

Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, St Ives, UK

A visit to St Ives is not complete until you’ve experienced the tranquil charm of Barbara Hepworth’s former Cornish home and studio. Behind an unassuming stone wall there is an oasis of verdant foliage interspersed with an array of magnificent bronze sculptures by the British sculptress. From 1949, Hepworth lived and worked at Trewyn studios until her death in 1975, when it was established as a museum per the artist’s request. Here, you get an exceptionally intimate insight into the working practice of the modernist artist. The plaster and stone-carving studios feel as if Hepworth has just stepped out for a break and the outdoor sculptures are as she positioned them.

Barbara Hepworth Museum, Barnoon Hill, Saint Ives TR26 1AD, UK. Ticketed entry.

Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden | © Tate. Photo: Ian Kingsnorth
Hepworth's studio in St Ives | © Freire Barnes

Judd Foundation, Marfa and New York, USA

There are few places that manage to retain a sense of history while being emblematic of contemporary thinking. The Judd Foundation does both of these exceptionally well. Located in Judd’s former home and studio on Spring Street and in the tumble-weed town of Marfa, you can experience the creative genius that was the American sculptor. The stunning, five-story former factory with a castiron façade is a unique symbol of a rapidly disappearing SoHo. Here, furniture designed by Judd is shown next to works by Dan Flavin and John Chamberlain. And in Marfa, you get a mirrored experience, but the cityscape has been swapped for sublime desert isolation.

101 Spring St, New York, NY 10012, USA and 104 Highland St, Marfa, TX 79843, USA. Booking required.

Exterior, 101 Spring Street, New York | Photo: Joshua White © Judd Foundation Licensed by ARS
Winter Bedroom, La Mansana de Chinati/The Block, Marfa, TX | Photo: Elizabeth Felicella/Esto © Judd Foundation Licensed by ARS

Mondriaanhuis, Amersfoort, The Netherlands

Located in the picturesque town of Amersfoort is the newly renovated Mondriaanhuis, a museum dedicated to the life of local artist Piet Mondrian. Through an immersive installation of Mondrian’s studio and displays of his work in his former family home, you can learn how he developed his now instantly-recognisable abstract style.

Mondriaanhuis, 11, Kortegracht, 3811 KG Amersfoort, Netherlands. Ticketed entry.

Mondrian's Parisian studio reconstructed in the museum | Courtesy Mondriaanhuis. Photo: Mike Bink

Frida Kahlo Museum, Mexico City, Mexico

An artist’s home can reveal so much about them. In one of the oldest parts of Mexico City, the Casa Azul (Blue House), as the Frida Kahlo Museum is fondly known, is a remarkable time capsule about one of the greatest 20th century artists. Filled with folk art paraphernalia and personal items including her crutches, clothes, and some of Kahlo’s most important works, the painter’s former home is a shrine to both the woman who overcame debilitating physical pain, and the creative innovation she possessed.

Frida Kahlo Museum, Londres 247, Del Carmen, Coyoacán, 04100 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico. Ticketed entry.

Frida Kahlo Museum | © Travis / Flickr
Display of Frida's clothes inside Casa Azul / Museo Frida Kahlo | © LWYang / Flickr

Giacometti Institute, Paris, France

This June, the Giacometti Institute will open in Paris. Both a research centre and an exhibition space that will present a dedicated-Giacometti display programme, the highlight of the institute will be the fabrication of Alberto Giacometti‘s Montparnasse studio. Through attentive conservation and extensive reconstruction work, the studio will be brought back to life 50 years after the artists’s death. Via a tiered seating area, visitors will have unparalleled viewing access to the busy studio, which will feature drawings and fragile works in plaster and clay.

Institut Giacometti, 5 Rue Victor Schoelcher, 75014, Paris, France. Ticketed entry. Opens June 21, 2018.

Facade of The Giacometti Institute | Courtesy Giacometti Foundation
Reconstruction of Giacometti's studio

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, USA

In keeping with the adobe architecture of the area and to evoke the landscape that was an eternal source of inspiration, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is an impressive celebration of one painter’s phenomenal output. Here, you’ll discover the expeditions O’Keeffe made into the baron wilderness of New Mexico, and how this beautiful part of the world was a constant influence on her painting practice. Through nine galleries filled with over 100 paintings and 700 drawings, O’Keeffe’s legacy lives on.

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, 217 Johnson St, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA

Georgia O'Keeffe Museum | © Kent Kanouse / Flickr
Interior of Georgia O’Keeffe Museum | © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Photo: InSight Foto Inc.

Want to see more art around the world. Here are the art museums you need to visit in 2018.

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