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
30 October 2020

Whether you’re an art buff, a collector, new to the art world or just looking for a cool piece to hang in your living room, Culture Trip has rounded up the top six art museums and galleries in Sarasota, Florida.

Dubbed Florida’s Cultural Coast, Sarasota is packed with enough art galleries, museums, performing arts venues 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 art spots runs the full gamut. Think of Sarasota as a sensory destination and explore everything from glitzy fine-art galleries to the unparalleled Ringling Museum of Art.

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

Library, Museum, Park
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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, which has been 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 a slew of museums and venues, including the Circus Museum, Ca’ d’Zan, the Historic Asolo Theater and 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, stained-glass art and 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, slam poetry, comedians, dueling pianists, 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-ever fully contemporary art museum. Unveiled in December 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’s The Worker Project – it 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, comprised of a mix of big names on the art circuit and newcomers. 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 aluminum and canvas. Making the gallery even more rock’n’roll, AlexArt International occupies a 1948-built building that was once home to Morrison’s Cafeteria, an alleged favorite of Elvis Presley.

These recommendations were updated on October 30, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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