Paris, France, Florence, Italy – these are cities one typically thinks of when talking about art capitals of the world. Imagine my surprise when I discovered much of the world’s art can be seen in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The North Carolina Museum of Art is one of the great cultural secrets of this southern capital city.
The museum started in 1947 with the initial acquisition of 139 pieces of American and European art.
Since that time the collection has grown and now includes Jewish ceremonial objects, ancient American works, Egyptian funerary art, paintings from the Italian Renaissance and baroque periods as well as the largest collection of Rodin sculpture in the southeastern United States.
My personal favorite is the Giotto Peruzzi Altarpiece which is the only complete altar piece by the master outside of Italy.
From time to time I stop by the museum just to stare and admire the work created so long ago.
In addition to two buildings housing art from around the world, the grounds surrounding the museum are composed of over 160 acres of trails, fields, creeks and woodland where dramatic pieces of art meld with the environment highlighting the intersection of art and nature.
This amazing museum has hosted a number of prestigious exhibits including American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell, Temples and Tombs: Treasures of Egyptian Art from The British Museum and the hugely successful Rembrandt in America.
Currently the NCMA is hosting the works of another master, Edvard Munch. The display entitled “Symbolism in Print” features the emotionally powerful images of the great Norwegian artist best known for his painting “The Scream.”
Never having seen his works before I was enthralled by the haunting nature of his efforts and couldn’t help wondering what demons tortured the artist who created these dramatic scenes. It’s no wonder Munch (pronounced Munk) frequently feared for his sanity.
After taking in the works of Munch I headed to the museum restaurant, Iris.
Iris is named after Iris Cantor a museum benefactor and is as the website states, “yet another expression of art and nature, a hallmark of the NCMA experience.”
The atmosphere is bright and open. Only local ingredients are used so the menu changes frequently but the flavor is phenomenal. A meal at the full service restaurant is a gastronomic delight and the perfect complement to a day of art appreciation.
We each look upon art differently. There are art scholars who can tell in great detail the facts and nature of each piece.
There are those who may know very little about art but enjoy beautiful works.
Personally, I can’t name all the great masters, but I love to admire their works. I’m amazed by the talent and skill involved in the creative process. I think that’s why I like to stand and admire art and imagine how the artist created the work in front of me.
I especially like to think of art in context of the time in which the artist lived. It’s all quite fascinating and the NC Museum of Art affords visitors the chance to get close and experience art in an attractive, welcoming setting.
Maybe Raleigh isn’t the first city that comes to mind when naming great art destinations of the world, but if you’re in the area the North Carolina Museum of Art is definitely a world-class museum off-the-beaten-path.
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