THE GREATEST INTERNATIONAL ART MUSEUM YOU HAVE NEVER HEARD OF

by
Christian Stan, at 31 Mar. 24, in Arts & Culture, News

Where can you find one of North America’s largest museum art parks, a collection of 30 Rodin sculptures and one of only two permanent Judaic art displays in the country? Raleigh, the state capital of North Carolina, offers all of this and more.

The North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) may not have the fame of the Louvre or the name recognition of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but it is undeniably a hidden gem in the art world, welcoming more than one million visitors to its campus in 2023. Nestled in Raleigh, N.C., this international art museum is home to a collection of 4,353 artworks from around the globe. With its diverse exhibitions and exquisite displays, it is a destination that deserves recognition and exploration. The idea for the Museum traces back to the establishment of the North Carolina State Art Society in 1924, with a mission to generate support for a state-funded art museum. An ambitious mission at the time, the Museum received funding from the North Carolina General Assembly in 1947, becoming the first state-funded art museum in the nation.

Today the NCMA showcases an impressive collection that spans over 5,000 years of artistic history. The permanent collection, The People’s Collection, was fully re-installed in 2022 to share a more inclusive art historical narrative and to re-imagine a more dynamic experience of the arts through newly conceived geographic and thematic galleries. Notable changes include joining Egyptian art with African art, interactive and accessible digital labels and community voices, which invited citizens throughout North Carolina to respond to objects in the collection in conversation with labels written by museum curators. The People’s Collection includes works by renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe, El Anatsui and Yayoi Kusama, among many others. Remarkably, public admission to The People’s Collection is always free.

The Museum’s Rodin collection of 30 sculptures is the most extensive Rodin collection between Philadelphia and the West Coast and is always on view inside the West Building and outdoors in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Court and Garden. The Museum is also celebrating its 40th year of Judaic art and has a gallery devoted to historic ceremonial Jewish objects.  This collection is one of only two permanent Judaic art displays in an American art museum.

One of the distinctive features of NCMA is its stunning outdoor park, filled with sculptures and installations that surprise and delight. As one of North America’s largest museum art parks, the 164-acre campus provides a serene and immersive experience where art and nature intertwine. Visitors can bike or stroll along 4.7 miles of trails, marvel at outdoor artworks, native plants and wildlife and enjoy live music in the Museum’s amphitheater. The Museum Park has been transformed over the last 40 years with the goals of stewardship and sustainability in mind. An ever-evolving space, current projects focus on stream restoration, stormwater management and connectivity.

Consciousness is supported and spearheaded by NCMA’s Director, Valerie Hillings, who took on the role in 2018. Hillings previously worked in various senior positions at the Guggenheim and its partner institutions, curating more than 15 exhibitions on four continents. She is the ninth director of the Museum and the first woman in this role. With a strong leadership and curatorial background, Hillings initiated the reimagining of The People’s Collection in 2022, lifting diverse curatorial voices and enhancing the Museum’s accessibility features. 

Whether you are an art or history enthusiast or simply looking for a unique cultural experience, the North Carolina Museum of Art is a destination worth adding to your bucket list. From its expansive collection to its beautiful outdoor park, this hidden gem offers a rich and immersive journey through the world of art.

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