Look List: The Best New Museums
Culture vultures know how to holiday. They aim for creative clusters—innovative centers abuzz with imaginative activity—and let loose. While some clusters occur organically, art-smart urban planners have turned the creation of cultural spaces into an art form all its own. Here are a few newly opened and about-to-open art hubs that are putting imagination, art, and heritage on the world stage.
> National Gallery Singapore (Singapore)
The Red Dot—a nickname for small-but-powerful Singapore—celebrates 50 years as an independent country in 2015 with a constellation of cultural offerings. This fall, all eyes will be on the spectacular (and spectacularly large) National Gallery, which is slated to open in November.
The former Supreme Court and City Hall will be transformed—providing a stunning exhibit space for creative works from 19th-century to present-day Singapore (as well as regional and international art) and positioning the Southeast Asian nation-state as a polestar for the visual arts.
> The Museum of Tomorrow (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
The future is now at the Museum of Tomorrow, a new forward-thinking science and tech hot spot in the heart of Rio de Janeiro. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, the cantilevered architectural masterwork builds on Brazil’s global momentum.
Fresh from the World Cup and poised to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, Rio has fast-tracked efforts to merge sustainability and creativity with growth. The Cidade das Artes, a fascinatingly faceted modernist arts hall dedicated to music and dance, launches in 2015, adding energy to the cultural offerings that can be found in Rio’s burgeoning harbor front.
> Marrakech Museum for Photography and Visual Arts (Marrakech, Morocco)
Camera-toting travelers should start training their sights on Marrakech, where one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to photography is poised to move into a click-worthy new home.
Photography is celebrated as an important form of artistic and documentary expression around the world, but stirs controversy in predominantly Muslim nations, where taking pictures of people (especially women) is often frowned upon. This fact will only make the museum—and its mission of focusing on international photography, including some of Morocco’s best lens-captured artistry—all the more provocative when it launches in 2016.
> The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (Washington, D.C., USA)
The National Mall’s next star attraction (and the Smithsonian’s 19th museum) is set to open in 2016. The ambitious complex will feature cultural artifacts, genre-defining art, folk treasures, and personal profiles that give power and voice to African American heritage in the United States.
The museum also explores how the struggles of black Americans in pursuit of equal rights have influenced—and continually galvanize—efforts to recognize and empower minority cultures around the world.
> Biomuseo (Panama City, Panama)
The Panama Canal, which revolutionized shipping routes and turned a sleepy Central American nation into a global hub, passed the hundred-year mark in 2014. Panama City trippers can take a figurative cruise through the isthmus’s ecosystem at the new candy-colored Biomuseo, a Frank Gehry design.
Experts from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute helped design the biodiversity museum’s exhibition offerings, which emphasize the wealth of the region’s native flora and fauna.
> Louvre Abu Dhabi (Saadiyat Island, United Arab Emirates)
Focused efforts to turn the small Persian Gulf emirate into a global cultural hub are bearing fruit on Saadiyat Island, a multifaceted planned development within sight of mainland Abu Dhabi. When it opens in December 2015, the “new” Louvre will feature masterworks by Monet, Manet, and Matisse among hundreds of pieces on loan from French museums.
The bracingly modernist museum, designed by Jean Nouvel (the architectural mind behind the National Museum of Qatar, also set to open in 2015), isn’t the only development on Saadiyat. The roughly 17-square-mile island will soon be home to Frank Gehry’s long-awaited Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, which will focus on modern and contemporary art with an emphasis on Middle Eastern works.
> The Broad (Los Angeles, California, USA)
Downtown L.A. will get an artful upgrade when this futuristic cultural oasis debuts in September 2015.
Featuring nearly 2,000 pieces from the collection of philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, including works by Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Basquiat, the institution aims to push beyond the boundaries of showcasing postwar and contemporary global art to become a theater of ideas where cultural leaders and artists can explore controversial themes like politics, society, race, and identity.
> Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, New York, USA)
With the spring 2015 debut of its Renzo Piano-designed headquarters, the pioneering Manhattan museum of modern and contemporary American art is trading in its bunker-like Brutalist shell on the Upper East Side for a lighter, airier ambiance in a hipper ‘hood.
The new space, situated between the High Line and the Hudson River in the Meatpacking District, presents a fresh face for a maverick institution, solidifying the Whitney Museum’s reputation as a modernist mainstay while allowing it to push deeper into the 21st century with vim and vision.
George W. Stone is an editor at large at National Geographic Traveler magazine.