Dallas Museum of Art: America’s Most Underrated Art Museum?
Growing up in Oklahoma and Dallas being the closest “big city,” I’ve spent a lot of time in Dallas shopping and hitting certain chain/franchise restaurants that we didn’t have where I lived, but enter my travel blogger days and I started to look at Dallas a little differently.
In the past, you’d find Dallas at the bottom of the list of Texas cities when it comes to culture and personality (it has on occasion been accused as being a suburban sprawl of concrete), but I’m here to tell you that there’s a lot to like about Dallas…starting with its art museum.
I’ve been to a lot of art museums around the world (really some of the best), but I’ve been sooooo impressed with the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA). I’ve been twice now and will 100% be back again.
Why You Should Visit the DMA
If you love art and art museums
If you love “decorative objects” (i.e. furniture, room replications, architectural details)
If you love cultural artifacts
If you love European and American paintings and art
If you love a good museum gift shop
If you’re looking for a budget friendly place to spend the day uptown
What I Thought
I really can’t stress enough how impressed I was with this museum. The first time I went, I went just to see the Van Gogh and the Olive Groves exhibit (amazing!!), but didn’t really have time to look around at anything else.
But I knew it was one of the largest art museums in the US, so recently when I was staying at the Ritz Carlton Dallas (just a couple of blocks away), I set aside a couple of hours to look the whole thing over. Wowzers. Here’s the deal: the first floor of the museum is not (in my opinion) the best part of the museum. And actually, if you just walk through the lower level you might not get what the big deal is.
This museum is a maze and I had to track my map pretty carefully to make sure that I was seeing all of the galleries on every floor. I am not exaggerating when I say that the gems of this museum are hidden away in a labyrinth on the upper floors.
I spent about 2 hours walking through the museum and I didn’t even feel like I really spent much time in any one place really reading about much. And I think there was an upper gallery that I didn’t quite make it all the way through. I was deep in the bowels of the museum when an alarm started going off a la the Thomas Crown Affair so I skedaddled back out to where I could at least see an exit haha.
Anyways, this is a great museum on par with other large art museums and is definitely the kind of place you could go wander around often.
Highlights of the DMA
Special Exhibits: If you live in the area or visit Dallas often, I recommend following the DMA on social media to keep up to date on their special exhibits. The Van Gogh and the Olive Grove exhibit is what initially drew me in and it was phenomenal. There’s currently an exhibit Spirit Lodge: Mississippian Art from Spiro that I found particularly interesting since the Spiro Mounds are just about an hour from where I live in Oklahoma. Besides just seeing the art and artifacts, the context provided of the looters and archaeologists unearthing the mounds and finding the objects was super interesting. And the Keir Collection of Islamic Art is one that you don’t want to miss.
Wendy & Emery Reves Collection and Decorative Arts Galleries: Usually when I think “art museum” I think “paintings” so when I turned a corner and there was an entire villa recreated with all of the original artwork, furniture, and objects I was pretty blown away. This was the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection. They bought Coco Chanel’s famous villa in the south of France and filled it with collections. Upon Emery’s death, his wife Wendy donated everything to the DMA and they constructed a series of galleries to recreate a handful of different rooms. There was also a gallery with objects and architecture from the California Craftsman style movement.
European Art Galleries: I think most people come to see the European art galleries. Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, Modigliani, Degas…gang’s all here.
Conservation Studio: There wasn’t anything going on when I peeked in here, but I imagine if you catch them working on a painting or piece of art, it would really be something to see!
Other Highlights: Ancient Mediterranean Art (don’t miss the jewelry cases!)
Arts of African, Asia, and the Pacific Islands
American Art (traditional, modern, and contemporary)
Indigenous American Art & Latin American Art (where I was headed when the alarm went off haha).
Tips for Visiting the DMA
Some art museums get a little twisty layout wise, but the DMA is exceptionally confusing, I would say. You’ll 100% want to get a map to make sure that you’ve made it to all of the galleries that you want to see. It’s tricky to figure out how to get to some of the second-fourth floor galleries so you may need to ask for directions. I stumbled upon a lot of things by accident. Generally though, the two larger staircases at each end of the museum to be dead ends I would say. You go up, look around and then come back down. But to access the “meat” of the upper floor galleries, you’re going to meander up sets of small staircases that you’ll find tucked back up in the “Barrel Vault & Quadrant Galleries” across from the Flora Street entrance.
Honestly, your best bet is to just ask somebody for directions. There are docents and employees stationed everywhere.
The DMA closed on Mondays. It’s open from 11AM-5PM (9PM on Fridays) all other days.
Admission to the museum is FREE (major special exhibits sometimes require paid admission), but if you park in the museum parking garage it’s $15 (and there’s somewhat limited parking in the area).
Find more info about visiting the DMA here.
Would I Go Back?
Yes, absolutely. This is one of the largest art museums in the US so it’s almost impossible to see everything (at least if you want time to appreciate it) on one visit. Add in visiting and temporary exhibitions and I’ll definitely be back.
Other Things to Do in the Area (& Where to Eat Nearby)
The DMA is located in the Arts District, so of course there’s quite a bit to do around:
Nasher Sculpture Center: Right across the street from the DMA, the Nasher is a great extension if you appreciate sculpture. I’ll be totally honest…I really don’t. Not that I don’t appreciate/value it, I just know so little about it that I’m never sure exactly what I’m looking at. But I checked it out and it’s a lovely space. There are a few rooms inside, but the outdoor plaza was my favorite. If I lived in the area, I could see having a membership to come sit and enjoy it. Admission is $10 (12 and under are free). It’s the only museum in the area that requires admission.
Crow Museum of Asian Art: Entry is free and you could look around for maybe 20 minutes or so. Large parts of the museum are installations by current artists, but there is quite a bit of traditional art and objects on display as well. They rotate items from the collection in themes. When I visited there was a small exhibit on Vishnu, the art of lacquer, and jade. The courtyard outside the museum is beautiful. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11AM to 5PM.
Klyde Warren Park: This local gathering place is such a cool spot in the middle of the city with food trucks, grassy lawns, and play areas. Read about events here.
Where to Eat Nearby: There’s an outdoor Mi Cocina and plenty of food trucks at Klyde Warren Park. And honestly there are a lot of restaurants in the area, but I always default to Shake Shack because I don’t have one at home : )
Photos from Special Exhibits
Van Gogh and the Olive Groves
More posts about the area:
Giddy up! 13 Things to Do at the Fort Worth Stockyards
Hotel Drover in Fort Worth, TX: Make Your Wild West Dreams Come True
Ritz Carlton Dallas: Nightly Guacamole & Margaritas? Sign Me Up!
The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas: JFK’s Assassination Site
The Adolphus: Dallas’ First Luxury Hotel…Is It “Queen Worthy?”