This top 10 article was written based on the research and findings of the Art Newsletter in 2011.
1. Louvre Museum (Paris, France)
Total Attendance: 8,800,000 (2011)
The Louvre Museum is one of the largest and also one of the most important museums in the world. It is housed in the expansive Louvre Palace, situated in the 1st arrondissement and is situated at the heart of Paris.
The collection of the Louvre Museum began in the 16th century as a private collection of King Francis I. One of the works of art he purchased was the now famous Mona Lisa painting – still housed at Louvre. The collection slowly grew thanks to donations and purchases made by the kings. In 1793, during the French Revolution, the Louvre turned into a national art museum and the private royal collection was opened to the public.
The museum has a collection of over 1 million works of art, of which about 35 000 are now on display, spread out over three wings of the former palace. The museum has a diverse collection ranging from the Antiquity up to the mid 19th century. Most late 19th century and early 20th century art is housed in Musée d’Orsay.
Some of the most famous works of art in the museum are the Venus of Milo, the Nike of Samothrake, the Dying Slave by Michelangelo and who can forget Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
The Sully Wing:
The Sully wing is the oldest section in the Louvre. The second floor holds a collection of the most antique French paintings, drawings, and prints. One of the highlights is the erotic Turkish Bath, painted by the late 18th century painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.
2. Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Total Attendance: 6,004,254 (2011)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the largest and finest art museums in the world. Its collections include more than two million works of art spanning 5,000 years, from prehistory to the present.
Founded in 1870, the Metropolitan Museum is located in New York City’s Central Park on Fifth Avenue (between 80th to 84th streets).
Unless you are planning to spend your entire New York vacation in the museum (some people do), you cannot see the entire collection in just one visit. My recommendation is to give it a good day—or better yet, 2 half-days so you do not feel burned out. One good way to get an overview is to take advantage of the little-known Museum Highlights Tour, offered every day at various times throughout the day in multiple languages including French, German, Spanish and of course English. Even New Yorkers who’ve spent countless hours in the museum could profit from this once again.
3. British Museum (London, UK)
Total Attendance: 5,848,534 (2011)
The British Museum is a museum in London dedicated entirely to human history and culture. Its permanent collection, over eight million works, is among the largest and most comprehensive and originates from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its pre-historic times to the present.
It was first established in 1753 and is largely based on the collections of the physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane. The museum first opened to the public on 15 January 1759 in Montagu House in Bloomsbury, on the site of the current museum building. Its expansion over the following two and a half centuries was largely a result of an expanding British colonial footprint and has resulted in the creation of several branches, the first being the British Museum (Natural History) in South Kensington in 1887.
The British Museum houses a number of objects in its collection, most notably the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon, are the objects of intense controversy and of calls for restitution to their countries of origin.
4. National Gallery (London, UK)
Total Attendance: 5,253,216 (2011)
The National Gallery is an art museum located on Trafalgar Square. Founded in 1824, it now houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900.
Unlike other museums in Europe, the National Gallery was not formed by nationalizing an existing royal or princely art collection. It came into existence when the British government bought 38 paintings from the heirs of John Julius Angerstein -an insurance broker and lover of the arts in 1824.
The current building, the third to house the National Gallery, was designed by William Wilkins between 1832–8. Only the façade facing Trafalgar Square remains unchanged from this time, as the building has undergone expanded piecemeal throughout its history.
5. Tate Modern (London, UK)
Total Attendance: 4,802,287 (2011)
Tate Modern is a family of 4 art galleries in London which houses UK’s largest collection of modern and contemporary art from 1900 to the present day and hosting special exhibitions and events. It also holds the national collection of British art from 1500 to the present day.
6. National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C., USA)
Total Attendance: 4,392,252 (2011)
The National Gallery of Art was created in 1937 for the people of the United States of America by a joint resolution passed by Congress to accept the gift of financier and art collector Andrew W. Mellon. During the 1920s, Mr. Mellon started collecting with the intention of forming a gallery of art for the nation in the nation’s capital. n 1937, the year he died, he promised to give his collection to the United States. Funds for the construction of the West Building were provided by The A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust. On March 17, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt accepted the completion of the National Gallery of Art and the collections on behalf of the people of the United States of America.
The paintings and works of art donated by Mr Mellon have formed the nucleus of high quality around which the collections have grown. Mr. Mellon’s hope that the newly created National Gallery would attract gifts from other collectors was soon realized in the form of major donations of art from Samuel H. Kress, Rush H. Kress, Joseph Widener, Chester Dale, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, Lessing J. Rosenwald to name a few.
7. National Palace Museum (Taipei, China)
Total Attendance: 3,849,577 (2011)
The Taipei National Palace Museum and the famous Forbidden City in Beijing originate from the same institution, which was split into two as a result of the Chinese Civil War. Covering a total area of 1200 mu (about 198 acres), it is located on the outskirts of Taipei City, Taiwan. Construction began in 1962 and it was inaugurated on November 12, 1965, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925), the great Chinese revolutionary and also the founder of the Republic of China. That is why it is also named as Yat-sen Museum. The splendid architecture of the structure is modeled on the Forbidden City in Beijing and incorporates elements of traditional Chinese royal design from the feudal era.
The museum today houses the largest collection of priceless Chinese artifacts and artwork in the world, including ancient bronze castings, calligraphy, scroll paintings, porcelain, jade, and rare books, many of which were formerly possessed by of the imperial family. The full collection, which consists of some 650,000 pieces, spans multiple centuries and a myriad of dynasties. Each exhibit, however, puts on display only about 1,700 pieces at a given time.
8. Centre Pompidou (Paris, France)
Total Attendance: 3,613,076 (2011)
Since opening in 1969, it’s clear that the Centre Pompidou has succeeded in its aim to become both art gallery and cultural hub. Its modern and contemporary art collection, with over 50,000 works and multiple temporary exhibitions, is one of Europe’s best colllection, and its public library and performance spaces throng with life. The landmark building, designed by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, wears its skeleton on the outside, with tubes and structures color-coded to denote their function. It is one of three museums and galleries in France that you must see.
9. National Museum of Korea (Seoul, Korea)
Total Attendance: 3,239,549 (2011)
The National Museum of Korea is a museum dedicated to Korean history and art in South Korea and is the cultural organization that represents Korea. Since its inception in 1945, the museum has been committed to various studies and research activities in the fields of archaeology, history, and art, continuously developing a variety of exhibitions and education programs for tourists to visit.
In 2012, it was reported that since its relocation to Yongsan District in 2005, the Museum has attracted an attendance of 20 million visitors. A poll of nearly 2,000 foreign visitors, conducted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in November 2011, stated that visiting the Museum is one of the most favored activities in Seoul.
10. Musée d’Orsay (Paris, France)
Total Attendance: 3,150,000 (2011)
The Musée d’Orsay is a museum in Paris, France, located on the left bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, an impressive Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It is most well-known for its extensive collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces (the largest in the world) by such painters such as Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley to name a few. Many of these works were held at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume prior to the museum’s opening in 1986.