Art Safari

By: Ryan Nance

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From the ancients to the moderns, from Tallahassee to Miami, here are some must-do Florida art excursions.

For those inclined to the quietly intense appreciation of art, the galleries and chambers of Florida's art museums provide sanctum. Indeed, great art flourishes in the Sunshine State. From the inestimable works of the masters, to the thrilling work of new artists, the art in Florida's museums is as variedly beautiful as the state's natural riches. When you decide to go on a Florida art safari, outfit yourself with your gallery gear (comfortable shoes, an attentive spirit and a sense of wonder) and head to one of the great Florida art museums.


Feel Free to Dalí

The largest collection of the famed surrealist painter outside of Spain has found a permanent home at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, which was relocated to a brand new building in January 2011. The building features a distinctive geodesic glass bubble in an architectural homage to the Dali museum in Spain. Ninety-six of the artist's oils, spanning all four of his aesthetic periods, enable the collection at the museum to give visitors a whole picture of this much-admired artist. More than 100 watercolors and 1,400 graphics, photographs, sculptures and objects d'art augment the oil collection. From Dalí's early period through his transition to the surrealism he introduced to the world, this dedicated museum is truly extraordinary. Thousands of visitors go to St. Petersburg specifically to pay homage to this eccentric artist and to explore in depth his amazing vision of the world. And with so many of his great works to appreciate, take your time and dally a little. The eye-catching museum also includes a waterside garden, theater, café, classroom and library.


The Exquisite Moderns

From the first seeds planted in late 19th century Europe by Impressionists such as Monet, Gauguin, Degas, Renoir, Pissarro and Cézanne to Modernism's fullest flowering in Jackson Pollock, Edward Hopper and Georgia O'Keeffe, the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach cultivates a collection of more than 7,000 pieces covering American, European, Photography, Chinese and Contemporary art. 

Along with exquisite examples of African, pre-Colombian American, Asian and contemporary art, the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art on the campus of University of Florida in Gainesville boasts a collection of modern artists including the French impressionist Claude Monet and Americans William Morris Hunt and Herman Herzog.

The Wolfsonian - Florida International University in Miami Beach is an art and design museum that presents a view of modern art with a great emphasis on design, architecture, graphic posters and other less traditionally championed forms of art. The collections have included the British Arts and Crafts movement, Dutch Art Nouveau, American Industrial Design, a vast array of travel-related graphics and posters and samples of 20th century political propaganda. The museum also hosts themed traveling exhibits, pulling together many disparate threads of the world's art and design.

With modern works by Campigli, Degas, Glackens, Picasso, Klee, Matisse, Prendergast, Redon, Rouault and Severini, the Boca Raton Museum of Art offers a broad view of modernism. Substantial contemporary and 19th-century European works help frame the modern pieces.


The Old Masters: How Well They Understood

Circus magnate John Ringling of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus created the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in 1929 to hold his ever-growing collection of European masters. He bequeathed it to the people of the State of Florida when he died in 1936, leaving a grand array of some of Europe's most-celebrated artists, including Rubens, Hals, Veronese, Poussin, Velázquez, El Greco and Ribera. The museum also houses the large mythological painting of the Judgment of Paris by Ludovico David and Cephalus Grieving Over the Dying Procris by Abraham Janssens. The museum continues to add more of the great masters to its collection and to host great contemporary and modern traveling exhibits.

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville boasts more than 1,100 European paintings, sculptures, works on paper and decorative arts from the 12th to 20th centuries. Paintings from the Old Master include works by Gaddi, Aertsen, Vasari, Assereto, Rubens, Snyders, Steen and Lorrain.

Worlds of Art

The Orlando Museum of Art has a focus on 18th, 19th and 20 th -century American art - paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculptures and other works by artists such as Ansel Adams, Thomas Moran, Dale Chihuly, Dennis Oppenheim, Georgia O'Keeffe, John Singer Sargent, Bryan Hunt, Robert Rauschenberg, Childe Hassam, Morris Louis, John Chamberlain and George Inness. Beyond this, the museum's collection includes pre-Colombian and African work. Such diverse cultures as the Colima, Aztec and Zapotec of Mexico; the Zulu, Xhosa, Thembu and Ndebele of southern Africa; the Anasazi and Mogollon of the Southwestern United States; the Yoruba, Baule and Dogon of western Africa; and the Inca, Monche and Nazca of Peru are represented.

The Appleton Museum of Art in Ocala has a collection that well represents art from many times and places. From ancient Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, Roman and Persian objects, to Pre-Columbian, African and Asian arts, a perusal of this collection is sure to broaden your horizons. Greek Orthodox icons and medieval manuscripts round out the museum's diverse holdings.

The collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg – the only comprehensive art collection, extending from antiquity to the present day on the west coast of Florida – features important works by Monet, Cezanne, Gauguin, Ronin, O’Keeffe, and Andrew Wyeth. It is one of the few Florida museums with so many paintings by Monet and O’Keeffe, and the photography collection of approximately 12,000 images is one of the largest and most significant in the Southeast. Opening the Hazel Hough Wing in 2008, more than doubled the size of the original building and provided more space for the collection and special exhibitions.

The Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland has several areas of focus: photography, modern and contemporary art, Asian art, European and American decorative arts and Pre-Columbian art. Highlights include ceramics, textiles, stone and precious metals dating from c.1,000 BC to c.AD 1500 originating in Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru. The rest of the museum is dedicated to rotating exhibitions of a variety of genres and artistic media.


Art Continues

With a special focus on contemporary paintings, sculpture and photography from contemporary artists, the Tampa Museum of Art is a resource for visitors interested in the continuing role art plays in our culture, and the museum's collection of classical antiquities documents where we started.

The Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale boasts an ever-growing rotation of modern and contemporary American, European and Cuban work, including Picasso ceramics, such pop artists as Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, Larry Rivers, William Glackens, CoBrA art and Robert Rauschenberg and Cuban artists Carlos Garaicoa, Raul Corrales and the late Pedro Alvarez. Also notable is “Foto Fort Lauderdale” – a permanent gallery dedicated to photographic art that gives photography a year-round home at the museum.


Galleries

The LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts, in Tallahassee, presents eight to 12 scheduled exhibitions and three major events (a Holiday Show, Chain of Parks spring festival, and Art and Soul fall art auction) every year with something for everyone. Its mission is to promote and advance education, interest and participation in the contemporary visual arts.


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