America's Art Cities ; Chris Leadbeater Guides You around the Country's Best Galleries and Museums
Leadbeater, Chris, The Evening Standard (London, England)
Pay a visit to Washington DC's Smithsonian American Art Museum, and you can gaze at the bright splendour of Cape Cod Morning, a watercolour of light and hope crafted in 1950 by the iconic New York painter Edward Hopper.
In some ways, this happy vision - where a woman peers through her window at the arrival of a New England day - is a neat encapsulation of the USA as a whole: prone to optimism, ever looking for the next dawn.
But it is also a reminder that, though it is rarely the first of its facets to be celebrated, America has long produced great artists and glorious art. True, these titans of the canvas are often lost behind a crowd scene of other US legends - gleam-toothed actors; hoop-holing sportsmen and podium-posing politicians. But they are there all the same: Georgia O'Keeffe with her floral close-ups, Big Apple vistas and New Mexico landscapes; Jackson Pollock with his intense swirls; Andy Warhol and his celebrity-inflected pop art.
And with them comes a whispered secret: should you choose, you can indulge a passion for painting and sculpture - for the staunchly traditional or the belligerently modern; for home-spun works or international masterpieces - in just about every city in the country.
You can do this in the cultural temples of Washington DC, New York and Chicago - or in less-known galleries from Seattle to Birmingham via Boise and Wichita. You will find high concepts and bluntly provocative daubings, sharp slices of insight and bleak, impenetrable nightmares. But if visual culture is your thing, America has much to offer. The only question, perhaps, is where to start... For more information, visit DiscoverAmerica.com Hidden gems The idea of America as a country infused with art is brought home by the numerous kernels of culture located in cities that do not sit immediately in the holidaymaker's path.
Providence, for example, has the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design (001 401 454 6500; risdmuseum.org; $12/ Pounds 7.50, concs available). Here the latest exhibition, America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now (above, until 13 Jan) throws out myriad raw vistas and tree- swathed snapshots.
A few states south along the East Coast, the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington (001 302 571 9590; delart.org; $12/Pounds 7.50) pins itself to another fine cache of American art, including Edward Hopper's soft Summertime (1943).
Hopper is present in darker form - via his 1921 etching Night Shadows - at the excellent Des Moines Art Center in Iowa (001 515 277 4405; desmoinesartcenter.org; free), as is Georgia O'Keeffe, whose superb From The Lake No 1 (1924) has waves rising in layers of paint.
The Boise Art Museum (001 208 345 8330; boiseartmuseum.org; $5/ Pounds 3), in Idaho's capital, gazes out at the American north-- west that surrounds it. Next up is Left Unsaid (24 Nov-- 3 Mar), examining stark creations by local artist Troy Passey.
And America's geographical heartland has its artistic exclamation marks. The Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha (001 402 342 3300; joslyn.org; $8/Pounds 5) surveys the fields of Nebraska from a pristine 1931 Art Deco structure, combining Renoir and Monet with Native American painting and sculpture.
The Wichita Art Museum (001 316 268 4921; wichitaartmuseum.org; $7/Pounds 4), the largest gallery in Kansas, has 7,000 works, including pieces by "cowboy artist" Charles Russell - all dusty plains and open horizons.
Eastern grandeur America's north-east is home to a cluster of what might be deemed some of the planet's finest galleries. New York alone is an art aficionado's dream. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (001 212 535 7710; metmuseum. org; $25/Pounds 15) ranks as the largest art museum in the country, home to two million works. It runs the gamut of European masters, but also has space for American moments such as Pollock's Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) (1950). …