Like many regional art museums, the Phoenix Art Museum (1625 N. Central Ave., 602/257-1222, www.phxart.org , 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Thurs.–Sat., noon–5 p.m. Sun., $10 adults, $4 children ages 6–17) limped by for years with a small but respectable collection of art, featuring secondary works by well-known masters and a few excellent pieces by lesser-known artists.
That all changed in 1996 when the Phoenix Art Museum launched an ambitious makeover that has transformed the institution, nearly tripling its size and bringing new focus to its acquisitions and exhibitions. A later $50 million expansion added a grassy sculpture garden and a dramatic, glass-enclosed lobby and entry plaza.
Throughout the Phoenix Art Museum, you’ll find a broad cross-section of art, with American, European, and Latin American artists like Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe, Mark Rothko, and Frida Kahlo, as well as a nicely curated Asian art gallery. A new four-level wing has added space for large-scale contemporary pieces, photography, and the museum’s 4,500-piece fashion design collection, with garments by Balenciaga, Chanel, Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent.
Be sure to make some time to see the exhibition The Art of Philip Curtis, which highlights the work of the former WPA artist who moved to Arizona in 1937 to spearhead the Phoenix Art Center, the precursor to today’s museum. His whimsical and provocative paintings are reminiscent of Norman Rockwell, and they reveal his love of Arizona’s mining towns.
The Phoenix Art Museum regularly hosts film screenings and live concerts, as well as blockbuster traveling exhibitions, which have featured Impressionism, Rembrandt, Richard Avedon, and the glassworks of Dale Chihuly. The café, Arcadia Farms (602/257-2191, 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Tues., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Wed.–Sun., $9–13) is a great place to grab lunch.