In its multifarious forms, art is an integral part of the history of mankind and has progressed hand in hand with it since the very first advent of civilization. The cave paintings, the contents of pyramids, the architectural finds of ancient civilizations like Taxila, Harappa, and Gandhara are great sources of reviewing the past through artwork. A gallery usually refers to an art museum, an exhibition room in a museum, or sometimes even to a retail art shop. National galleries have masterworks on display, but they are not intended for sale. Some private galleries or auction houses, like Christy’s, do offer some rare pieces of art at exorbitant prices. What a zoo is for animals and a botanical garden is for plants, a museum or an art gallery is for artwork. For most of the people, the first collective exposure to animals is through a zoo, though depending upon the level of interest, people continue to explore more about animals through their visits to national parks like that of Kruger or Nairobi. The first exposure to the world of art is similarly through visits to museums and, depending upon their interest, people travel the world over to see the magnificent masterworks like the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and many other world-renowned artists.
1. British Museum
Located at Great Russel Street, London, U.K., the British Museum was established in 1753. It contains about 8 million collections of various objects of arts and artifacts relating to human history and culture. It is one of the most famous museums in the world. In 2011, 5.848 million people visited it. It is open to the public, and there is no entry fee. Works from ancient civilizations including Egyptian, Roman, African, and American and from almost all the continents are on display here. It contains more than 50,000 drawings and 2 million prints. The British Museum houses drawings and paintings of great masters including: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens, and many others.
2. Louvre Museum
The MusÃƒ©e du Louvre, better known as the Louvre Museum, in most of the world is located on the right bank of the river Seine in Palais Royal, Paris, France, and was established in the year 1793. It is one of the largest museums in the world displaying about 35,000 objects over an area of 60,600 square meters. About 8.8 million people visited the museum in 2011. It is home to the most famous painting in the world, ‘Mona Lisa.’ Napoleon changed its name to Musee Napoleon during his time. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly ruled that the Louvre shall be used as a national museum. There are several curatorial departments in the museum including: Paintings, Prints, and Drawings, Sculptures, Near Eastern Antiques, Egyptian Antiques, Greek- Etruscan and Roman Antiques, Islamic Art, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts.
3. National Palace Museum
Located in Taipei City, Taiwan, the National Palace Museum is the national museum of the Republic of China. It was established first in Beijing on October 10, 1925 after the removal of Puvi, the last Chinese emperor by Feng-Yu-hsiang. Later on it was shifted to the current location of Taipei on November 12, 1965. Having more than 693,500 works of Chinese art and artifacts, it ranks among the biggest museums in the world. In 2011, it was visited by 3.85 million people. The museum covers about 8,000 years of Chinese history. The collection comprises a variety of objects including: Bronzes, Ceramics, Jades, Carvings, Coins, Textiles, Paintings, Calligraphic works, and many valuables from royalty and other miscellaneous objects.
4. Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art located in Manhattan, New York was established in 1870. Containing more than 2 million works of art, it is the largest museum in the U.S. The museum contains articles relating to ancient Egypt, European master paintings and sculptures, African and Asian art, Islamic Art, ancient weapons and armor, musical instruments, and miscellaneous objects from all over the world. More than 6 million people visited this museum in 2011. In addition to the ancient artwork, the museum also contains about 13,000 works of modern art mainly by the European and American Artists. They include Picasso’s ‘Portrait of Gertrude’ and Jackson Pollock’s ‘Autumn Rhythm.’
5. The Egyptian Museum
It was after the 1878 Nile River flood that the museum was shifted from Boulag to another location in Giza and ultimately to the current location in Tahrir Square, Cairo in the year 1902. The museum of Egyptian Antiquities, better known as the Egyptian Museum, has 120,000 ancient Egyptian objects including 27 royal mummies of which only 9 are currently displayed. During the 2011 revolution, several mummies and other objects had been destroyed. The museum is comprised of a ground and first floor. The ground floor contains ancient papyrus and coins. On the first floor there are objects recovered from the ancient Egyptian royalties. They include the famous golden face mask of King Tutankhamun which is made from eleven kgs. of solid gold.
6. National Museum of Korea
National Museum of Korea was established in 1945 after the independence of Korea. It has been moved from its various locations in 1972, 1986, and finally in 2005. It was shifted to the current location. It was opened on October 28, 2005, in Seoul, Korea in a location which was formerly a golf course used by the American Army. It is a popular tourist attraction. The museum contains 220,000 objects and displays 1,500 of them at a time. The museum has six galleries including: Archaeological Gallery, Historical Gallery, Donation Gallery, Fine Arts Gallery I, Fine Arts Gallery II, and the Asian Art Gallery.
7. The National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art is located in Washington, D.C., U.S. It was established in 1937, and it is the only museum, containing a painting of Leonardo da Vinci in America. The museum comprises the west and east buildings. The west building has a valuable collection of paintings including the paintings by Rembrandt, Vincent Van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, Jan Vermeer and Claude Monet. The east building contains modern and contemporary art by: Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calser, Andy Warhol, Robert Motherwell, and many others. The famous paintings on display in this museum include: ‘Ginevra de’ Benci’ by Leonardo de Vinci, ‘Saint Martin and the Beggar’ by El Greco, ‘Cowper Madonna’ by Raphael, a self-portrait by Rembrandt and a self-portrait and ‘Woman in White’ by Vincent Van Gogh.
8. Tretyakov Gallery
Tretyakov Gallery is named after TretyÃƒ¢kovskaya Galereya, a Russia merchant who, in 1856, collected works of the Russian artists for the would-be national museum of art. He donated 2,000 works of art including 1,362 paintings, over 525 paintings, and 9 sculptures to the museum in 1892. The gallery was designed by the painter Viktor Vasnetsov and built in 1902. It contains more than 130,000 Russian fine artwork. The gallery hosted the well-known FIDE World Chess Championship betweenVishwanathan Anand and Boris Gelfand to promote both chess and art.
9. Egyptian Museum of Berlin
Egyptian Museum of Berlin, known in German as Agyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung was founded from the collection of items from Prussian Royalties. Alexander von Humboldt, who was an influential geographer and botanist, prompted the addition of the Egyptian section in the museum. During the Second World War, the museum was damaged and divided between East and West Berlin and reunited after the Reunification of Germany. Its oldest collections belong to 4000 B.C. Most valuable object in this museum is the well-preserved, colored bust of Queen Nefertiti
10. The Palace Museum; the Forbidden City
The Forbidden City is a Chinese Royal palace used from the Ming Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty till the abdication of Puyi, the last emperor of China. The palace served as the home for Chinese Emperors for more than 500 years. It was built in 1406-1420, and the complex comprises 980 buildings on 720,000 square meters of land. More than one million workers worked for many years to construct the palace. Logs of the precious wood; Phoebe Zhennan, cut from the Southeastern forests of China, and marble collected from the Bejing Quarries, were used in its construction. The Forbidden City has been declared as a World Heritage Site, and it has been enlisted by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved, ancient wooden structures in the world.
Appreciation of a virtue is the first step towards cultivating that virtue within oneself. Neither denying nor attempting to undermine the importance of formal learning, an undeniable truth is that many great artists were deprived of formal education, yet many of the self-taught artists have created unrivaled works of art. Museums and art galleries have played a pivotal role in their learning. Art galleries are the family albums of mankind.