The Best Art Museums and Galleries in Sarasota, Florida

The Ringling Museum in Sarasota houses one of America’s most important art collections
The Ringling Museum in Sarasota houses one of America’s most important art collections | © imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Jennifer Agress
15 September 2021

Whether you’re an art buff or occasional admirer, this creative Florida city puts culture in the frame.

Dubbed Florida’s Cultural Coast, Sarasota is packed with enough art galleries, museums and cultural events to fill your calendar every day of the week. Home to the Ringling College of Art & Design, one of the state’s top art schools, the city’s collection of must-see spots runs from the Ringling Museum of Art to glitzy fine-art galleries. Here’s how to go high-brow in the Sunshine State.

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

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Museum, Sarasota Bay, Ringling Mansion, John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida, USA, United States, America, m
© Prisma by Dukas Presseagentur GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
The most well-known art museum in Sarasota is the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, recognized as the State Art Museum of Florida. It holds one of America’s most important art collections and visitors shouldn’t miss the Rubens’ Galleries, Turrell Skyspace or the classical sculpture garden in the grand courtyard. Once the estate of John and Mable Ringling, this 66-acre (27ha) icon is part of an arty umbrella of museums and venues that also includes the Circus Museum, Ca’ d’Zan, the Historic Asolo Theater and the Bayfront Gardens.

Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy

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Founded by Marietta Lee, a local artist and a graduate of the Ringling College of Art & Design, the Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy is exactly what its name implies. It’s only open from November through May, and houses light-hearted paintings, sculptures and stained-glass art. There’s also an outdoor garden with canopied oaks, giant pink flamingos, a dancing ballerina and even a stainless steel rocket ship – almost all of which are made by women.

Lipstick Lex

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Alexis Fraser, a local known as Lipstick Lex, isn’t your typical artist. Her medium of choice is lipstick, and her colorful contemporary art is made with layers of her own kisses. In every piece she creates, there are messages of self-love, beauty and empowerment. Just outside downtown Sarasota, the Lipstick Lex Gallery regularly hosts live music, poetry slams, comedians, lipstick-art workshops and fashion events.

Sarasota Art Museum

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Exterior of The Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College in the old Sarasota High School in Sarasota Florida
© James Schwabel / Alamy Stock Photo

Taking over the 1927-built Sarasota High School building, Sarasota Art Museum is Sarasota’s first contemporary-only art museum. Unveiled in 2019, it has a tree-lined courtyard at the entrance with two sculptural installations: Celadon Landscape by Jean Shin and Zen Jail by J Patrick Walsh III. Don’t miss the Tower Gallery with larger-than-life paintings and sculptures under cathedral-like ceilings, or local photographer Barbara Banks’ The Worker Project, which documents the construction of the museum with portraits of every worker and artisan who helped bring it to life.

Chasen Galleries

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Opened in 1983, Chasen Galleries is a fine art gallery with works by more than 140 contemporary artists, sculptors and glass artisans, with a mix of big names on the art circuit and newcomers, too. Carol Milne’s knitted-glass sculptures are always a favorite here. Chasen Galleries now has three locations in Sarasota and has art for all budgets and interests.

AlexArt International Art Gallery

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This unique art gallery is a must-see for its unconventional collection. It’s the only gallery in America that displays Italian artist and pianist Massimo Meda’s 3D-fluorescent paintings, concrete Medablocks and stainless-steel furniture. It has its own in-residence Italian artist, Fabio Dal Boni, who paints award-winning fine art photography on aluminium and canvas. AlexArt International also occupies a 1948-built building that was once home to Morrison’s Cafeteria, a favorite of Elvis Presley.

These recommendations were updated on September 15, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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