One of the things I love about Pittsburgh is that many of the city's famous innovators have given back in incredible ways. As perhaps the most famous of all Pittsburghers, Andrew Carnegie spent the later years of his life giving back to the city in many philanthropic ways, converting his fortune into such city staples as the Carnegie Library system, the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh- to name a few.
As with all items carrying the Carnegie name and legacy, you can expect great things from these places as Carnegie had a track record of doing things bigger and better than anyone else.
When it comes to his legacy at the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, notably the Museum of Art, you notice this as soon as you arrive. This art museum is one of the country's best.
The Carnegie Museum of Art Holds Up to The Country's Best
The main feeling I had when walking through the Carnegie Museum of Art was not so much an attraction to any given piece (although we did have several), but more a lingering feeling in the back of my mind that this museum is different.
The reason for this is if you put us in any local contemporary or modern art museum in any city in the USA and we'll probably go through it in 30 minutes, make a few comments about some of our favorite items in the collection, and let that be that. The museum can be good, sure, but most just do not invoke the same feeling I get when walking through the MoMA in New York or the Smithsonian in Washington DC.
But at the Carnegie Museum of Art we did not feel like we were in just any art museum, but instead felt like we were in one of the country's best art museums- one that could hold up to any of its more famous counterparts.
One of the main reasons for this is because the Carnegie Museum is much larger than anything you'd expect, and is a testament to Carnegie's lasting vision of greatness. There are many wings, consisting of several floors and galleries in each, such that you will likely miss a few things, but you will also have no shortage of unique art to see as well. From the sculpture hall, to the dozens of painting galleries, African art, temporary exhibits, unusual modern pieces, and many others, it would truly take all day (and then some) for any visitor to stop and appreciate all this museum has to offer.
Throw in the fact that the Carnegie Museum of Art is housed in the same building as the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and you have one very busy, and sometimes disorienting, day ahead of you.
Our Favorite Exhibit – The Hall of Architecture
Although there are many halls in the Carnegie Museum of Art that reinforce its status as one of the country's leading contemporary art museums, we think that the Hall of Architecture helps this museum stand out as being unique.
As part of his effort to “bring the world to Pittsburgh,” Carnegie himself ordered the construction of this exhibit which features casts of some of the world's most beautiful and iconic statues, sculptures, and even building facades.
Yes, none of the items in this room are the originals, but having so many iconic pieces in one small space gives an incredible ambiance you wont experience anywhere else. And for those who have traveled around the world as much as we have, you'll be certain to recognize many of the pieces in this exhibit including the famed Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, the iconic Florence Baptistery doors (one of the most beautiful bronze castings ever made, anywhere), and even the facade of the Abbey Church of Saint-Gilles in France- one of the largest castings ever made.
Although the museum has expanded substantially since Carnegie founded it over one hundred years ago, I have to think that if he were around today he would be very proud of what has been accomplished.
The Carnegie Museum of Art is located at 4400 Forbes Avenue in Oakland and is closed Tuesday. Admission gives you access to the sister museum, The Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which is located in the same building. For our review of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, please click the previous link.
We'd like to thank the Carnegie Museums for inviting us to visit these great museums. As always, all opinions are our own.
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