One time, a long time ago, I was a huge museum nerd. Well, actually I still am, though I no longer dream of making my living in the dusty bowels of some grand institution. Nowadays I’m happy just to visit the bright and sunny galleries when I have the chance. I am incredibly lucky to live an hour away from some huge museums like the Met and the Philadelphia Museum of Art and even have some great art galleries and museums in my own backyard, courtesy of Princeton University. Nick was nice enough to indulge me with a trip to Philly for the pay-what-you-wish Sunday art day that encompassed the Philadelphia Art Museum, the adjacent Perelman Building, and the Rodin Museum.
Even though it was pay-what-you-wish, the art museum runs a fantastic deal where you get admission to the main building, the Perelman building, and the Rodin Museum for just $20 for two consecutive days. We paid our $20 to support the museum and its programs and proceeded to wander through the three different buildings.
We started our day at the Rodin Museum which I had surprisingly never visited, though I’d wandered by it many times. Rodin is an amazing Impressionist sculptor and what really captured me was the fluidity in his works. Of course, everyone thinks of Rodin’s Thinker sculpture and it sits prominently at the front of the museum grounds. But inside are some of his other studies and sculptures, cast in plaster and carved in marble or bronze. It was amazing to see the breadth and scope of his ability. For me the best part was his iconic Gates of Hell which tower over you at the entrance of the museum, above the gorgeous and simple grounds. I learned he spent four decades perfecting it, carving and re-carving the clay mold until it was perfect and up to his standards. That is a determination and fortitude for your craft that I admire.
Next it was a quick, hop, jump and skip down the Ben Franklin Parkway to visit the Perelman Building which is a kind of annex for the Philadelphia Museum of Art. What was really exciting was that it was the last weekend for the Surrealist show. While I adore the Impressionists (art nerd alert here) there’s something fascinating about the whackadoodle, dream-like art of the Surrealists.
The real bonus for me of the Perelman Building is that it holds most of their textile exhibits, meaning clothes! I always get excited when the Philadelphia Art Museum puts together a big textile exhibit but they have a pretty nice rotation of smaller exhibits too. Upstairs was a small gallery that held Silver and Gold which showcased works from their collection that were, what else, silver and gold. I loved the color-coded exhibit and there were so many designs that I would have worn straight off the mannequin.
A cool thing for lazy people like Nick and I: a sweet trolley bus that carts you from one museum building to another. Though the Perelman Building can’t be more than a block away from the main building of the art museum, I did not want to venture out into the rain so thank goodness for this door-to-door service. Once inside, I didn’t have a lot that I was dying to see. Sorry to sound blase but my mom had a membership to the museum for many years and I used to go at least every two months. I have some favorite places in the museum but only felt like seeing a few new exhibits. Plus we were two museums down already so my enthusiasm and energy were running out. We saw this weird modern “live” installation that had a Surrealist aquarium landscape with a hermit crab living in a modern sculpture and then these spider-like arrow crabs. We pushed past a few crowds to see some of our favorite works before heading out.
There’s something about art and museums that feels like home to me. All those hours in college spent pouring over art books come rushing back to me when I see my old friends Rothko, Degas, and Rauschenberg. If you come to Philadelphia, there’s nothing better than spending a day at the museums, trust me!