Art Travel Guide

Art Travel Guide: Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art

Pittsburgh may not exactly seem like an art mecca, but visitors to this Western Pennsylvania city will find international flare stateside at the Carnegie Museum of Art. Although it’s known as the “Steel City”, the museum that was founded by the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie is far from industrial. The first gallery opened its door in 1895. One year later the museum the first “Carnegie International” exhibit brought the art world to Pittsburgh. In the years since, the museum has become home to artworks that range from ancient antiquities to contemporary classics.

Fine Arts Collection

The Carnegie’s fine arts permanent collection includes works from America, Asia and Europe, prior to 1945. Located in the museum’s Scaife wing, this collection spills out over 12 individual galleries. Organized by time period, some of the most well-known world artists are featured in the fine arts collection.

While the works on view do rotate occasionally, visitors will find paintings, sculptures and other types of works from notable artists such as Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Paul Cezanne.

Carnegie Museum of Art

Contemporary Art

Visitors to the museum won’t just find famous works from centuries ago. The Carnegie’s extensive contemporary collection includes permanent pieces as well as new works from the Carnegie International. The International is currently the oldest exhibition of its kind in North America. Held every three years, if you’re lucky enough to tour the Carnegie during an International year you’ll find some of the top names in the art world from around the globe.

Contemporary artists featured in the museum’s permanent collection include notable names such as Paul Thek, Sol Lewitt and Richard Serra. While walking through the galleries you can also check out a film on view in the contemporary section. The Carnegie also brings experimental filmmakers to the museum for special productions and presentations.

Art for Photo Lovers

Photography is featured throughout the museum’s galleries. Integrated into the collection, the Carnegie’s photo archives include permanent works as well as special exhibitions.

The Teenie Harris Archive houses permanent works at the museum. Special exhibits are periodically on view that feature this Pittsburgh photographer. Documenting the Africa American community of Pittsburgh from the 1930s through the 1970s, Charles “Teenie” Harris captured a slice of life little seen.

Architecture on View

The Heinz Architectural Center is a permanent gallery that houses changing exhibits of world architecture. Depending on when you visit, you may seem modern models, architectural drawings or even a class of art campers at work.

The museum’s Hall of Architecture (it is separate from the Heinz Architectural Center) is a staple of the institution. Located in-between the museums of art and natural history, the hall features plaster casts from ancient Greece and Rome as well as European pieces that range in time up to the early 20th century. Standing in the center of the marble floor, you’ll have a view of plaster casts of Athena, Apollo, Nike and more!

Features and Programs

The museum is located in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, nearby to the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Parking is available on the premises. The Carnegie offers two different dining options for guests – the Museum of Art Café as well as cafeteria-style dining in the Museum of Natural History’s basement (the two museums are connected). Admission also includes the natural history side of the museum.

Programs include docent-led tours, audio tours and educational programs for guests from toddlers through adults. The museum also offers a family-friendly audio guide, activity cards for kids with conversation prompts about the art and weekend drop-in art-making activities in the galleries. This is in addition to the registration-required studio-gallery classes.

About the Author

Erica Loop has a BA in the history of art and architecture as well as film studies. She has worked for the Andy Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Museum of Art. Ms. Loop has taught studio-based art classes for children from toddlers to teens for the past decade along with writing freelance content across the web.