Ed Lederman/Whitney Museum of Ameriacan Art
Alex Van Buren

It’s been true for a little while now, but it’s worth repeating (lest we still harbor an inferiority complex toward the Old World): You don’t have to leave these 50 states in order to see world-class modern art. From coast to coast, and even the Great Lakes in between, America has fabulous art. Best of all, several of these modern art museums just received full makeovers. Get your art fix at one of these top museums of modern art.  

The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City

Timothy Schenck

The old Whitney was ensconced in a dimly lit, elevator-dominated structure. The new Whitney is winning raves for both its architecture (which boasts stunning vistas of the Hudson River) as well as its art collection. There’s Urs Fischer’s huge wax sculpture of Julian Schnabel, which is literally on fire, and melts by the day. There are giant paintings, incredible photography, and the building itself, which is breathtaking.

MASS MoCa in North Adams, Massachusetts


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Those with a yen for industrial design can lose themselves here, in a former textile mill transformed into an airy, provocative space to showcase modern art. Before visiting, check for upcoming performances, as the museum hosts a regular bluegrass festival, six-hour-long marathon music concert, and many more events that take advantage of the sprawling architecture.

LACMA in Los Angeles

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The Los Angeles County Museum of Art opened its doors in 1965, and among its nearly 130,000-pieces of eclectic modern and historic art is James Turrell’s “Light Reignfall,” an interactive piece that involves lying down inside a spherical cell full of light. Actors and directors often come to the weekly film screenings for post-viewing interviews. 

Walker Art Center in Minneapolis

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All Minnesotans can take pride in their state’s renowned modern art museum. Walker is particularly impressive in its array of offerings, which include the sculpture garden (with, yes, that famous cherry on a spoon) theatrical shows, film screenings, dance performances, free events, and exhibitions.

MOMA in New York City

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You have to respect a modern art museum that has a huge membership discount for working artists ($35 versus the standard $85). It reflects MOMA’s commitment to modern art, and to helping sustain the city’s creative community. Their gargantuan collection includes nearly 200,000 works by more than 18,000 artists. It’s pricey for one stop-in, but on Friday nights between 4pm and 8pm, it’s free.

Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago

Courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

We’ve raved about the MCA before. It snapped up the David Bowie show, right out of London. It’s got a beautiful sculpture museum out back. And its current exhibitions—including a Phil Collins (not that Phil Collins) video piece and a show including Lorna Simpson and Bruce Nauman—push the boundaries of what modern and contemporary art can look like, stateside, right now.

Alex Van Buren is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @alexvanburen.

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