Even if you’re not a big fan of art museums, it’s worth visiting Philbrook just to enjoy the lovely setting. And if you are an art museum aficionado, you’ll find plenty to explore here. The Italian Renaissance-style Villa Philbrook (designed by Kansas City, Missouri, architect Edward Buehler Delk) was completed in 1927. Owners Waite and Genevieve Phillips lived in it just 11 years before donating the 72-room mansion and 23-acre grounds to the community of Tulsa with the specific intention of creating an art center. Villa Philbrook opened as a museum in 1939.
Now, the villa and an addition house an eclectic collection of African, American, European, Modern and Native American art. One room in the main house deals exclusively with the history of the villa and the Phillips family; temporary exhibits focus on topics like up-and-coming female sculptors and Pop Art design. Be sure to stroll the gardens, which underwent a $7 million renovation in 2004. Particularly scenic is the east side, where a formal walled section slopes down to a waterfall, rock garden and pool.
Philbrook’s 75th anniversary is coming up next year; in conjunction, the museum will host “Monet’s Mornings on the Seine: Impressions of a River” from June 29 to Sept. 21, 2014.