Among the tops in the Midwest for visual arts museums is the Milwaukee Art Museum (700 N. Art Museum Dr., 414/224-3200, www.mam.org , 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sun., till 8 p.m. Thurs., $12). The museum holds one of the United States’ most important and extensive collections of German Expressionist art—not unimportant, given the city’s Teutonic link (the museum is ranked third in the world in German art).
The Milwaukee Art Museum now houses well over 20,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, and decorative art. Other noteworthy exhibits include a panorama of Haitian art and the repository of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School of Architecture. Pieces date back as far as the 15th century, and the permanent displays are impressively diverse—Old Masters to Warhol through the Ash Can School. The Bradley Wing houses a world- renowned collection of Modern Masters.
Milwaukee Art Museum is actually one piece of the vast Milwaukee County War Memorial Center, a complex comprising several parts of the immediate lakefront and assorted buildings throughout the city. The complex was originally already a landmark, designed by Eero Saarinen. But it’s right here at the Milwaukee Art Museum that the city really put itself on the map.
A massive, $50 million architectural enhancement to the museum by international designer Santiago Calatrava is, with zero exaggeration, breathtaking. Or stunning. Or any other superlative you choose. Whatever the description, do not miss it. The addition—gull-like wings, which can be raised or lowered to let sunlight in, soaring above the complex—features a suspended pedestrian bridge linking it to downtown. So important is this addition that no less than Time magazine named it “building of the year.” Hollywood has even used it in Transformers 3.