The sheer numbers are impressive: 30,000 pieces of art in 40 galleries spread over four floors in the 341,000-square-foot Milwaukee Art Museum. Not surprisingly, deciding what to see during a two-hour visit can be something of a challenge.
The first thing to notice is the stunning architecture. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, the Quadracci Pavilion is a vast, streamlined winged structure that evokes the spaciousness of a vaulted cathedral and the postmodern grace of a futuristic spaceship. (If you want to be truly wowed, show up for the opening of the wings at 10 a.m.) Intriguing collections and exhibitions are worthy of the iconic structure; the first-floor gallery highlighting photojournalism and neorealism blew us away. Check out Chuck Close’s massive Nancy painting for a stunning example of painting so realistic that it seems to breathe. We also love Sam and the Perfect World by David Lenz, a depiction of a small boy standing alone against an all-encompassing green landscape.
The colorful Georgia O’Keefe gallery on the second floor is another must-see, and make sure to take in the gleaming glass Dale Chihuly sculpture on the first floor; its blast of color and shape are like caffeine for the eyes. Adult admission is $15.