The Montclair Art Museum (MAM) is a small museum focused on American art. It has a lovely atmosphere, and I visit at least once a year.
The Montclair Art Museum is best known for its Rand collection of Native American art. This includes more than four thousand works of pottery, jewelry, beadwork, clothing, carvings, basketry, and more. There’s a large gallery permanently dedicated to this collection, and the display changes every once in awhile. The museum also does a lot of programming related to Native American art.
The MAM also has a sizable collection of works by the Tonalist landscape painter George Inness, who lived and worked in Montclair. A small gallery permanently dedicated to his work shows about a dozen paintings at a time, and the selection changes every once in a while.
Most of the rest of the museum contains special exhibitions – two to three at any given time. They’re usually pretty great, and they tend to focus on New Jersey artists of significance. The marquee exhibit during my most recent visit was “Kay Walkingstick: An American Artist” (Feb 3 – June 17, 2018), a retrospective of a notable Cherokee-American painter with New Jersey roots. I really enjoyed this exhibition, as I have past shows at MAM. The other special exhibition was “Inspired By Matisse: Selected Works From the Collection” (Feb 2017 – July 29, 2018), which shows works by American artists who drew inspiration from Henri Matisse. It originally accompanied the major “Matisse and American Art” exhibition the museum hosted last year. The permanent collection includes many major American artists, not just those with an NJ connection.
MAM puts a lot of emphasis on the local arts community. It runs the Yard School of Art on the museum’s lower level, where it also has two hallways specifically designated for schoolchildren’s artwork. On my last visit, I enjoyed prizewinning works by NJ middle and high school students. I was amazed by these kids and their talent – in their concepts and messages as well as skill and execution. This was the first time I’ve paid attention to the lower level, and I won’t skip it again.
The Montclair Art Museum is located at 3 South Mountain Avenue in Montclair, New Jersey. It’s open Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 pm. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for students/seniors/veterans, and free for children under 12.
Things To Keep In Mind If You Go
- The museum is small. You can see it comfortably in an hour-and-a-half to two.
- There’s a free parking lot! Yay!
- Photography isn’t typically allowed inside visiting exhibitions like Kay Walkingstick and Matisse. (That’s why I didn’t include any pictures of Walkingstick’s work in this post.) It’s allowed in exhibitions that come from the permanent collection.
- The museum likes to display artwork in halls, stairways, entrance foyers, and other non-gallery spaces. So be adventurous and explore the whole place. If you only stick to the named galleries on the map, you’ll miss things. Any place off limits to visitors is clearly indicated, so assume that everything else is fair game.
- Depending on where you park, you might enter on either the 1st (lower) or 2nd (main) floor. If you enter on the main floor, make sure you go downstairs to see the children’s art. It’s in two parallel hallways connected by an auditorium and possibly another hallway; make sure you see both sides.
- There’s a small but nice gift shop on the main floor. There’s a coin-operated coffee machine and possibly some vending machines on the lower level.
If you’re interested in Native American art, definitely visit this museum. Otherwise, check online to see if you’re interested in the exhibitions, since that is most of what you’ll see. The focus on special exhibitions makes this a great place to return to year after year, since almost everything will have changed from your past visit. If you’re a local resident interested in the arts, this is a great place to attend events and take classes.