Often people ask how they can see the best art while traveling. There are many different ways to accomplish this depending upon you how much time you have and the resources you are willing to devote to seeing artwork.
While most tourists in a new city hit the big name museums featured in their travel guides Though it is impossible and highly inadvisable to try to see all of a city’s art in a day I always recommend that a visitor hit a big museum or two and also allow themselves an hour or two at a smaller, more specialized or local museum. For example, New York’s Museum Mile has many, many world class, big name museums such as the Guggenheim, the Met, and the Cooper Hewitt, but there are often some good things to be found (in a much less crowded environment) at the National Academy Museum or at the New York Historical Society, for example. While traveling in Paris I once added the Picasso Museum to my visits to the Louvre, the Pompidou Center and the Musee d’Orsay to get a more intimate look at some local culture. In Florence I love to go to the Uffizi and the Galleria dell’Accademia but I also love to find the frescoes in some of the old churches and baptisteries along the way. The architectural structures themselves are often exquisite as well and worth the visit. If you have the time, I also love to find out where the gallery district is in any given city and stroll past the galleries to get a feel for the area and what is happening there.
For those seeking a more guided experience almost every city has guided tours many of which focus on art, architecture or cultural attractions and will take you through the “greatest hits” at their respective museums. Information about these tours can always be found at tourist information booths in airports, in the back pages of your travel guide book or through your hotel’s concierge. There are also specific art travel guide available at most major booksellers, just as there are guides for wine travel, cycling vacations or other hobby-specific travel needs.
For those in search of the most refined and personal art viewing experience it makes sense to hire a personal tour guide. Simply tell the guide what types of art and architecture you are interested in seeing and the guide should be able to customize a tour to meet your needs. You may check with your travel agent, concierge service or simply look on-line for local art guides.
Some art collectors travel with their art consultant or advisor (who is presumably familiar with the art offerings of the specific destination) in order to be assured a well-targeted visit to see art that will appeal to the individual collector. Another great way to see local art is to contact local art consultants in your destination city in advance of the trip and arrange for a personal tour in order to gain access to little known or private collections, the best gallery shows on view, as well as the best parts of the larger arts institutions. You should expect to pay either an hourly rate or a flat fee for the day for this type of service.