The Oakland Museum of California: A Review

Located near the shores of Lake Merritt, the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) showcases art, history, and natural science unique to the Golden State. OMCA is a large, low concrete structure with multiple staircases, outdoor spaces, and something for everyone.

Don’t be dissuaded from visiting due to the city’s less-than-stellar reputation; in fact,I recommend giving the museum and neighborhoods a chance to change your mind. Because, despite it’s notorious reputation as a rough city, Oakland has a lot to offer both locals and visitors in the way of high-end coffee, trendy art districts, shopping, and restaurants, as well as parks and cocktail bars. Check out visitoakland.com for more information about all of the great things the city has to offer.

Time Required? With three large main galleries, a garden, cafe, store, and additional smaller, temporary exhibition spaces, 3+ hours could easily be passed solo or with friends and family. The ideal situation would be to come in the morning when the museum opens, see half of the museum, break for lunch, and then visit the remaining half in the afternoon, ending with a trip to the store.

Game Plan? For museums on the larger side, I always recommend heading first to the gallery that interests you the most. That way you’ll be able to focus the maximum level of energy on that particular exhibition, and then move on to those of lesser interest as your stamina wanes and museum fatigue creeps up. Due to time constraints during my visit and keeping this strategy in mind, I began with the Gallery of California Art and briefly popped into an exhibition on ancient animal skeletons at the end. The photos of art in this post are all from that one main gallery. Unfortunately, time ran out before I could visit the Gallery of California History or California Natural Science.

Admission? General admission is $15.95, students and seniors 65+ are $10.95, kids 9-17 are $6.95, and children 8 and under are free. I felt that the admission price was rather steep considering it’s a state museum and the fact that there is an additional cost associated with visiting the special, temporary exhibitions as well as the Great Hall.

Monday & Tuesday CLOSED
Wednesday–Thursday 11 am–5 pm
Friday 11 am–9 pm
Saturday–Sunday 10 am–6 pm

Kid Friendly? Definitely.  The museum is spacious and the galleries are spread out in a way that kids can walk freely without coming into too much danger of touching fragile pieces. There are also historical and scientific exhibitions that would most likely interest them more than paintings and sculptures. Check out the events section on the website for the full list of family-friendly offerings.

Bring a date? Certainly! Especially if your date is more inclined towards art over history and science, or vice versa; there are galleries and interesting exhibitions for everyone. An extra special date would be a visit to the museum on a Friday night (see the Special Events section) and having a dinner/drinks at the food trucks and outdoor bar.

Cafe? Yes. Alas, I did not get a chance to try the food or beverages at the Blue Oak Cafe, but the website states that it features local and seasonal California-inspired dishes and grab-and-go snacks and drinks.

Store? Yes. There’s a decent sized store offering art and jewelry by local California artists, themed items for purchase from the temporary galleries, kids toys, and a great selection of books. There are more “trinket” and touristy things for sale than in most art-only museums, so it makes for good shopping for out-of-towners and families with children. In my opinion, the postcard selection could have been better.

Special Events? Yes! Averaging ten a month, the museum hosts a range of family-friendly events every Friday evening 5-9pm, events on the first Sunday of the month, special holiday events, and guided docent tours. I had the luck of visiting on a Friday and got to enjoy live music, dancing, and food trucks. It certainly had a very casual, party-like feel to it, and there were beer and wine for purchase, special programming, and activities for the kids. Definitely a fun thing to bring your family to or attend with a group of friends.

Stars? I don’t feel that I can properly rate this museum due to the fact that time constraints allowed me to visit only one out of the three main galleries. However, I will say that I enjoyed seeing works by artists local to the state, and the art gallery certainly contained a wide variety of time periods and mediums. I was impressed with the size and spaciousness of the galleries, and the layout was appealing and interesting. Additionally, it didn’t feel over-crowded or loud, which made the visit all the more pleasing.

Anything else I need to know? The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Website? http://museumca.org/

Address? 1000 Oak Street, at 10th Street, in Oakland, California. There is free bike parking, and parking in the car garage is $3/hour or $7 flat-rate for Friday evenings after 5pm. The entrance to the parking garage is on Oak Street between 10th and 12th streets. It can also be easily accessed using the rail or bus system, with the museum located one block away from the Lake Merritt BART station.

Disclaimer: My views are my own and do not reflect the opinion or position of the Oakland Museum of California. I am not getting compensated in any way for this review.

Dalí Museum, Paris: A Review

Located in the heart of Montmarte, Paris, the Dalí Museum, or Espace Dalí, is home to the largest collection of art by Salvador Dalí in the entirety of France. Boasting over 300 original pieces, this pint-size museum contains sculptures, paintings, and drawings of all shapes and size. Everywhere you turn, your eyes are met with a smorgasbord of artwork, seemingly bending, melting, and transforming right under your gaze. I promise that you will be confounded in true Dalí-fashion, and you will leave satisfied, but slightly more perplexed than when you entered.

Time Required? Less than an hour. The museum itself is small square-foot wise, however, it is chockful of art everywhere you turn. It winds around, maze-like, on the bottom floor of the museum with stairs leading you down to begin your journey into Dalí’s universe, and stairs bringing you back up to end your adventure on the streets of Montmarte.

Game Plan? You’ve got no other choice than to plunge down the stairs into the creative, mind-bending, often-twisted world of the best known surrealist artist, Salvador Dalí.

img_3289

Admission? Open every day from 10am-6pm, open until 8:30pm during July and August. Free for kids under 8, otherwise tickets range from 9 euros for students to 12 euros for adults. Audio guides can be rented for 3 euros.

Kid Friendly? My inclination is to say no. If you haven’t already picked up on the fact that this museum is small, it is. There is literally little room, and the other patrons and museum staff will have little tolerance, for loud noises or flurried activity. In addition, sculptures are at various heights, and may look very “touchable” through the eyes of a child. With that being said, if your kids are well-behaved, will keep their voices down and hands to themselves, and can handle art with some shock-value, then by all means bring them along.  But, in general, I would not consider this a particularly kid-friendly establishment.

Bring a date? I wouldn’t recommend it for a first date, mostly since it’s a tiny museum: the other patrons will be within earshot at all times, and the quarters are rather close. However, if your date loves to discuss art, then this would be the place for you. Dalí is a master of symbolism and hidden messages, and his pieces are just itching to be analyzed.

Cafe? Not on site, however, there are plenty of cafes and shops nearby that are quite lovely.

Store? No.

Special Events? They host private events, but do not have many scheduled events that are open to the public.

Stars? 4/5. Initially, I was taken aback by how small the museum was in relation to the price (for comparison: the Louvre is gigantic and costs 15 euros). However, I did feel that I got my money’s worth considering the sheer range of art pieces on display. As someone who has frequented the much larger Dalí museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, I was impressed with how many new sculptures and paintings I saw in this Parisian location. As aforementioned, this museum feels a little claustrophobic and cramped at times, a fact sure to be exacerbated during tourist season. I also didn’t feel that the museum staff were especially warm or friendly, however, it is Paris after all; and I shouldn’t have been expecting anything less.

img_3283
Esclave de Michelin

Anything else I need to know? If so inclined, you can skip the line by purchasing tickets online and securing a timed entry slot. I visited in April, so I wasn’t there during the height of the tourist season, but if you’re visiting during the summer, this might not be a bad idea. Group and bulk ticketing options are also available online.

The only restroom on-site is towards the entrance of the museum, and there’s really only one way in and out of the museum, so if you need to use the loo, you’ll have to wind your way backwards until you find it. I had to ask the museum staff two times for directions in order to successfully locate it.

Be sure to catch the wall of whimsical quotes at the end of your visit.

Unlike most museums where the art is, and will never be for sale, if you’ve got the cash, you can actually purchase a piece by the artist (after filling out an inquiry form online beforehand). In addition, the staff provide special services for those lucky members of the public that believe themselves to be the owner of an original piece, and will answer questions and provide authentication services.

Website? https://www.daliparis.com/en

Address? 11 rue Poulbot, 75018 Paris. Located in the heart of the Montmarte District of Paris, the museum is a short walk from two Subway stations: Anvers (line 2), Abbesses or Lamarck-Caulaincourt (line 12). To locate the museum, follow directions toward “Place du Tertre”. Dalí Paris is approximately 100 feet from Place du Tertre.

A blog post with the history of the museum and additional photos can be found here:  The Good Life France

Disclaimer: My views are my own and do not reflect the opinion or position of the Dali Paris. I am not getting compensated in any way for this review.

The Phillips Collection: A Review

Touted as America’s “First Museum of Modern Art,” the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. is a worthy competitor to its larger counterparts on the National Mall, and can be enjoyed by both tourists, locals, and art aficionados alike.

Most famous piece in the museum? Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Photo above. Purchased by Duncan Phillips in 1923, for the sum of $125,000 (equivalent to $1.8 million today), this particular piece is just gorgeous. Even if you only have a few minutes, and can’t visit the other galleries in the museum, stop by this painting on the second floor, spend a few moments relaxing on the bench provided and appreciate the mastery of Renoir. While you’re there, see if you can spot Renoir’s crush and future wife.

Time Required? 1-2 hours. If you’re one of those people who like to read all of the placards, then give yourself a bit more time to peruse the galleries. However, if you prefer to move at a rapid clip, then you can easily get through the Phillips Collection in an hour or less.

Game Plan? After getting your ticket and checking your bag/coat, head up the stairs to your right and visit the galleries on the first and second floors. Depending on the calendar, the third floor may be hosting a visiting or temporary exhibition, or closed for the transition between exhibitions. After you’re done upstairs, walk back down to the lobby and visit the two galleries to the right of the cafe. From there, I’d recommend taking a short coffee, snack, or bathroom break if you need it, before visiting the permanent galleries in the older part of the museum to the left of the bookstore. Before you leave, be sure to pop into the bookstore for a quick browse, and don’t miss the art on the walls of the lobby.  If you have some extra time, there are interesting art books on the coffee tables that I’d recommend spending a few minutes perusing while relaxing on one of the couches.

Admission? Tuesday-Friday, it’s free! On weekends, admission for adults is $10; seniors/students are $8, members and kids under 18 are free. Visiting and temporary ticketed exhibitions, such as Nordic Impressions, claim a slightly higher price of $12 and $10, respectively.

Kid Friendly? Surprisingly, yes. There is a family reading room on the lower level of the museum, child-friendly art pieces at kids’ eye-level along with accompanying conversation prompts, and events throughout the year, all geared towards youngsters. More info here. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, other visitors are understanding and compassionate towards families with kids. At the Phillips, one finds magnificent art with minimal snobbery and very little side-eye.

Bring a date? By all means. The Phillips Collection is small and quiet enough to lend a relaxing nature to a first, second, or tenth date. You won’t feel overwhelmed by the size of the museum or break the bank if you visit during the week. It’s also not one of the most well-known museums in the city, so you may end up inadvertently impressing your date by demonstrating superior cultural knowledge of D.C.

Cafe? Tryst at the Phillips Collection is cozy, warm, and a great spot to re-energize between galleries. I love their cappuccinos and the quiche is scrumptious and filing. When the weather is nice, pop outside to the sculpture garden and enjoy a cool drink in the fresh Dupont air. For those of you looking to do some work there, free wi-fi is provided.

Store? With a wide range of post cards, posters, notebooks, jewelry, scarves, art supplies, and books, as well as a rotating offering of objects for purchase relating to the temporary exhibitions, the Phillips Collection store is a delight. For example, on my last visit, I found an excellent pencil sharpener at a very affordable price. In addition, the clerks are very upbeat and helpful, and it’s large enough to not feel cramped or claustrophobic.

Special Events? So many! From concerts on Sunday afternoons, to Phillips after 5 parties, to artist talks and family events, the team at the Phillips Collection is constantly churning out high quality, affordable cultural experiences. It is so much more than a museum, it is a team of individuals that aims to make art approachable and fun. Follow the museum on social media, or join the mailing list to stay updated with all of the wonderful offerings.

Stars? 4/5. I’m a huge fan of small museums that pack a punch, and this one has nailed the formula for providing a high quality experience that brings visitors back again and again. Between its fresh temporary exhibitions, to the rotating pieces in its permanent collection, to the Rothkho room, and then topping it all of with its cozy cafe and well-stocked bookstore, this is a museum that can’t be missed.

img-3186
Reykjavik (1991) Richard Serra

Anything else I need to know? There is a free coat check to the right of the check-in desk and a place to store umbrellas. Also, free wi-fi is available throughout the museum.

Website? https://www.phillipscollection.org/ 

Address? 1600 21st Street NW Washington, D.C.  Via public transportation, the museum is about a five minute walk from the Dupont Circle metro station. There is also on-street parking available (if you can find it), but I’d recommend taking the metro.

Disclaimer: My views are my own and do not reflect the opinion or position of the Phillips Collection. I am not getting compensated in any way for this review.

Nordic Impressions: A Review

The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. is currently featuring an exhibition titled Nordic Impressions on the third floor through  January 13, 2019 (that’s only three days away, gasp!).  Appropriately timed to coincide with the beginning of the winter months, as well as with Christmas (the coziest time of the year); this Scandinavian- themed five room exhibition was surprising in some ways, and did not disappoint.

The surprises: I was taken aback by the age of many of the paintings. Yes, there were modern pieces from the past ten years, but there were also quite a few that dated back to the 1800s! That, I was not expecting. I was also surprised to see that the majority of the works were portraits, as opposed to landscapes. What was not a surprise considering the Nordic nature of the exhibition, was the sheer number of female artists featured within the galleries. As any museum lover will surely notice, most walls and halls of established museums are domineered by the classic male artists of the nineteenth century; but not this one!

A new fact: I visited Olafur Eliasson’s Reality Machines solo exhibition at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden back in 2015, and had no idea that he was previously involved in photographic projects with environmental messages such as the one on display in Nordic Impressions:

img-3068
The Island Series (1997)

An oldie but goodie: One of my favorite pieces from the exhibition was completed in 1887 by Oda Krohg, a Norwegian artist. Despite the fact that one would be unlikely to pinpoint the ethnicity of this little girl (although her blonde hair might be a dead giveaway), or know that this particular Evening Post was actually the conservatively-slanted Aftenposten of Norway, this painting’s social critique is still relevant in most places around the globe. In this particular case, according to the painting’s corresponding placard: the “newspaper disapproved of the the free-spirited lifestyle of the upper-class intellectuals, writers, and artists…[who] were critical of the Norwegian bourgeois society.”

In response, what does this little girl do? I imagine that after she overhears her artsy parents disapprovingly discussing the newspaper with their friends over beer in the living room, she prances into the kitchen, pulls out the largest pair of sheers she can find and proceeds to snip, snip, snip until the paper is in shreds on the floor. Enchanting, really.

Although, it begs the question: when is it appropriate to use children as political tools?

Regardless, someone please take those scissors away from her! Shes’s apt to lose a finger at the rate she’s chopping.

img-3075
“A Subscriber to the Evening Post” (1887)

A warrior: Another way that Nordic Impressions defied my expectations was in the lack of Viking-themed pieces. I’m sure this was done on purpose in an attempt to show another side of Scandinavia- one that isn’t filled by men with shields and maidens with braids. But the only one that even makes a slight nod to the ancient myths or the fighting days of old, is the painting in the featured image above. This painting titled “Warrior Maiden” (1964) by Johannes S. Kjarval displays a fluid female creature clutching a sword in one hand and a shield in the other. I was struck by her watery nature and the fact that she is simultaneously resisting and being nonresistant all in one fell swoop. Fighting to protect her people, perhaps?

Not your grandmother’s wall hanging: The exhibition also featured three films and three installations, my favorite of which is pictured below. With its floor-to-ceiling drippings of thread and wooden dowels arranged in multiple levels of “Vs”, this large wall hanging easily dwarfed all of the other works in the gallery and commanded my immediate attention upon entering the room. The highlight for me though was catching glimpses of the movements of people as they crept around its perimeter, peering up and inwards trying to grasp its colorful secrets.

img-3061
“Crossing Paths” (2014) Outi Pieski

Other notable pieces:

Nordic Impressions, the basics:

Time required? 30-45 minutes (depends on if you’re a “reader” or not, and will sit/stand still long enough to watch the entire length of a video)

Kid friendly? Yes. They even have a kids drawing activity! Very Scandinavian of them.

Admission? $12 for adults, $10 for students/seniors; members and youth under 18 are free.

Address? 1600 21st Street NW Washington, D.C. ( less than a five minute walk from the Dupont Circle metro station)

Stars? 3.5/5 stars. It was fairly small and didn’t blow me away. While I very much enjoyed some of the pieces, I’ve been much more impressed with some of the collections in these countries’ capitals than I was with the pieces selected to participate in this exhibition. All that is to say, I feel like the curator could have done better and it fell short of my expectations.

Note: Even if you can’t make it to the PC before the Nordic Impressions exhibition closes its doors, I still highly recommend a visit to the museum if you’re in the area. Go during the week (Tue-Fri) for free admission and catch some of the wonderful pieces on viewing from the permanent collection.