The Newark Museum in Newark, New Jersey is possibly the most under-rated museum ever. It has a fabulous collection and is just a short train ride from Manhattan, but people almost never talk about it. I think this is really unfortunate.
- American paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts from the early-seventeenth century through the present. Includes works by both well-known artists and minority artists who aren’t as well known.
- Native American arts in all media from tribes all over North America. Right now, there’s a focus on some spectacular stuff made by contemporary Native Artists of North America.
- There’s an entire floor dedicated to Asian art from China, Japan, Korea, Tibet, Oceania, and South/Southeast Asia. The Tibetan collection is particularly strong, since it contains a bona fide Buddhist altar consecrated by the Dalai Lama himself during a 1990 visit to America. The altar was created by an artist who had a residency at the museum, and the objects on the altar are from the museum’s collection. Even if this isn’t your area of interest, at least stop by the Tibetan altar. It’s a cool and rare thing to experience. If you don’t know anything about Buddhism, don’t worry. There are plenty of wall texts and other information to help you understand the altar’s significance.
- Arts of Global Africa includes historical and contemporary works from Africa. It’s pretty awesome and quite varied in media, geography, time, etc
- The Newark Museum is one of the few museums that continues to display art and science in the same building. Back in the early days of American museums, this was common, but few museums continue the practice today. It has a planetarium and several science exhibits. I didn’t get much of a chance to explore them, but I did take a quite look at a third-floor exhibition called “Dynamic Earth”, and it looked pretty cool.
- The Ballantine House, which was the Victorian home of the Ballantine beer family. The house is attached to the museum. The ground floor is mostly set up as gorgeous period rooms, while the second floor has been converted into galleries displaying decorative arts. The woodwork and stained glass are my favorite aspects of the house. There’s also a clever contemporary sculptural installation in the dining room.
The Newark Museum is located in Newark, New Jersey. It’s open from Wednesday through Sunday from noon to five p.m. Admission is $15 for adults and $8 for children, seniors, students, and veterans. Planetarium admission costs separately. There are lots of discounts available for AAA members, Newark residents, certain employers, etc. Check this page for a full list. There’s a parking lot adjacent to the museum; it costs about $10 to park.
I would recommend the Newark Museum to anyone interested in American paintings and sculpture, Native American art, or Asian art. You will definitely get to see something different than the usual focus on European paintings, as well as minority artists who might not get tons of wall space elsewhere. It is definitely somewhere that you get your money’s worth in terms of how much there is to see, and the museum can easily be done in an afternoon. The science exhibits will probably appear to families with young children, too.