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10 Inspiring American Art Museums (& What To See When You Get There)

American fans of the Louvre don't have to fly to Paris to see great art. The United States has some of the world's best art museums, with exhibitions spanning centuries and continents. From the country's classic museums like MoMA to university galleries, you can find some iconic pieces in the U.S.

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From New England to California, there are dozens of American art museums that have stunning collections. This list compiles ten of the best American art museums that should start you on your artistic journey across the country.

10 Museum of Modern Art, New York City

Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art houses a world-renowned collection of modernist art in all mediums. In the 90 years since its founding, MoMA has established itself as one of the leading institutions in the field of modern and contemporary art.

MoMA's collection includes works from some of the 20th century's best artists, including Van Gogh, Picasso, and Rousseau. Van Gogh's "Starry Night" is to MoMA what da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" is to the Louvre, and visitors should definitely seek out this piece of them all.

9 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston contains over 450,000 works of art and artefacts, making it one of the largest collections in the U.S. It has exhibits from all over the world, most notably its permanent Egyptian and Japanese collections, and beyond art, it has a large collection of old musical instruments, and even Paul Revere's silver tea sets.

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Make sure to check out Gallery 252, which displays 37 Monet paintings--one of the largest outside France, or its Asian galleries. The MFA Boston has the largest collection of Japanese art anywhere outside of Japan.

8 Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago

Dating back to the 1870s, the Art Institute of Chicago is one of America's oldest art museums, and the second largest after the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While you'll never be bored in Chicago, a trip to the Art Institute should be on every visitor's list.

The museum's Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collections are unmatched, with an exceptional collection of Monet. Georges Seurat's "A Sunday Afternoon on the Isand of La Grande Jatte" is one of the museum's most famous pieces, as is Grant Wood's "American Gothic."

7 National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

It's no surprise that one of America's greatest art museums is located in the capital, Washington, D.C. While you're wandering along the National Mall, marvelling at its landmarks, take a trip into the National Gallery of Art.

Look out for Jan van Eyck's "Annunciation" and Raphael's "Alba Madonna," two of the museum's original pieces. There are also a number of notable works by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Manet, Monet, among countless others.

6 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is the oldest and most distinguished institution representing modern art on the West Coast. Its collection represents the best of the 20th century movements, including Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop Art.

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At 33,000 works, it may seem much smaller than other museums, but don't underestimate this California gem. SFMOMA is one of the largest modern art museums in the world. Inside, seek out the works of Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, and Robert Rauschenberg.

5 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

If there's one art museum in the U.S. that art fans should plan a trip solely to see, it's New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's America's largest art museum and has the most diverse collection of art, ranging from Ancient Egypt to couture fashion.

At two million works of art, you'd never see everything the Met has to offer in one trip, but if you've got a limited amount of time, head for the Egyptian Collection, which houses some original art and artefacts from Ancient Egypt, or its Islamic Wing, which, after a 10-year renovation period, was reopened in 2011.

4 Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum falls under the umbrella of the prestigious Smithsonian Institution museums. SAAM, along with its smaller branch, the Renwick Gallery, is in possession of one of the world's largest collections of American art, from the colonial period to modern and contemporary art.

Aside from the usual paintings and sculptures you'd usually look for in an art museum, check out SAAM's folk art exhibition for something more unique. SAAM also has the largest collection of New Deal art and American Impressionist paintings in the world.

3 De Young Museum, San Francisco

San Francisco's de Young Museum is a permanent remnant of the California Midwinter Exposition of 1894. The museum's humble beginnings as the fair's Fine Arts building gave way to one of the Bay Area's most respected museums. Its building is a work of art in itself, with panoramic views of Golden Gate Park from its 144-foot tower.

The de Young is dedicated to the fine arts, with a vast collection from the Americas, Africa, and Oceania. Its Mesoamerican exhibit, with mural pieces from the city of Teotihuacan, is one of the best, as is its textile and costume collection.

2 Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee

The building that houses the Milwaukee Art Museum might just be the museum's best piece. The main building, the Quadracci Pavilion, was designed by the distinguished architect Santiago Calatrava, and features a set of wings that fold open and closed. Visitors enter through this building into the main hall of the museum.

Inside, there are over 25,000 works. Among its best collections are German Expressionism, Haitian art, and contemporary American art. It holds one of the largest collections of Georgia O'Keeffe pieces, but it also features works by such legendary artists as Fragonard, Rodin, Monet, Picasso, and more.

1 Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia

There's more to the Philadelphia Museum of Art than its Rocky statue. Made famous by Rocky's run up the stairs at the front of the building, movie fans should also check out what's inside. One of the largest museums in the U.S., it possesses works from all around the world.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has a huge collection of Rodin sculptures, and though there is a fee for entering the Rodin gallery, it's well worth the few extra dollars. It's home to the world's largest collection of works by French artist Marcel DuChamp, another stunning exhibit.

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