/ Travel & Leisure

Picture perfect – how do you like your art holidays?

Berlin wall art

Our expert panel rated the New York art experience as the best in the world for a combination of great galleries, public art and architecture. But what do you look for when you holiday in the world’s art capitals?

Viewing art is an essential part of the city break experience, right up there with sampling the local cuisine and shopping for souvenirs. Whether or not we’re art lovers back home, on holiday we’re culture vultures.

Visitor numbers to the world’s great galleries have seen a huge rise in recent years. No longer the dark, fusty preserve of academics, art venues have emerged in the 21st century as bright, airy purveyors of blockbuster exhibitions.

But our art experience is not just confined to the museums. In many of the world’s art capitals it’s difficult to move without tripping over a masterpiece – from the Renaissance artworks spilling from Italy’s churches, to the street art and graffiti of Berlin, and the public statues and monuments of Vienna.

New York giants

New York’s major galleries are certainly big. In the Met alone there are more than two million artworks on display, enough for several days’ viewing. And as with most US attractions, the visitor experience is excellent. But for me, it was too much for a single visit.

I can remember emerging exhausted from the Met after five hours of sensory overload, having barely visited half of the collection. The $25 entry fee would have offered good value, if only I had more stamina. Far more enjoyable for me was the smaller collection of J.P. Morgan Jnr, full of character with its eclectic objets d’art.

And while New York’s galleries do an excellent job of absorbing crowds, the same cannot be said for the larger art museums of Paris. The French capital missed out on a place in the top three art destinations due to unavoidable queues and congestion at the Louvre.

The art of the city

For me, there’s just something a little contrived about the modern gallery experience. I love the excitement and feeling of discovery when stumbling across a dusty candle-lit Caravaggio in a church in Rome, or seeing first-hand the political graffiti adorning the remaining sections of the Berlin Wall.

Do you enjoy the big gallery experience while on holiday? Or have you been put off by overpriced exhibitions or excessive queues?

Sophie Gilbert says:
4 July 2012

“Do you enjoy the big gallery experience while on holiday? Or have you been put off by overpriced exhibitions or excessive queues?” The answer is, it depends on yourself and on the circumstances each time, doesn’t it?

I unexpectedly spent a long weekend in London some time ago and I had always wanted to go to the Natural History Museum. When I got there the queue extended as far as into the tube station because the schools were out and there was an exhibition on that seemed to be of particular interest to kids and their mums. So I went to the Victoria and Albert instead. When I was in Paris the last time I was determined I would go to the Louvre to at least see the permanent medieval art exhibition, so I braved the queues this time, which weren’t that bad actually because it was mid-September. Whenever I go on holiday somewhere, I try to time it so that I don’t have to take a crowd bath every time I go out the door, although I appreciate it isn’t always practical and that some people may not be able to choose when they go on holiday.

The price is another matter, but again I would say it depends on how much you really want, or more especially have always wanted to see something, whether you see it as a lifetime opportunity. Some things I do, some things I don’t. I’ve paid the price to see Monet’s The Seine and the Sea here in Edinburgh and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen, and the fairly recent Elizabeth Blackadder exhibition was superb. I have been disappointed many times by the Royal Collection exhibitions at Holyrood Palace many times, however, so I wonder if I’ll go back. But then again, I saw that Caravaggio drawing once, the only thing I liked that day, but to say that I was bowled over by it is such an understatement…