Top 10 Private Contemporary Art Museums in the US

The Broad joins the growing ranks of noteworthy private art museums.

The Broad. Photo by Iwan Baan.

The financial titans of the 19th and 20th centuries left an indelible mark on art in the United States, founding such museums as the Frick Collection in New York (Henry Clay Frick) and the Getty Museum (J. Paul Getty) in Los Angeles. Today, private museums continue to influence the art world in a big way.

Some private museums, like the Pulitzer Arts Foundation (Emily Rauh Pulitzer), seek to present a wide range of exhibitions, from Old Masters to Buddhist art, while others, like the Crystal Bridges Museum (Alice Walton), have a more narrow focus, namely American art. Still others, like Louis-Dreyfus Family Collection (William Louis-Dreyfus, father of the actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus) are dedicated to charity.

With the launch of the BroadEli and Edythe Broad‘s mammoth Los Angeles museum, the time is ripe to take another look at the country’s stand-out private contemporary art institutions.

The Brant Foundation with Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (2000). Photo: the Brant Foundation.

The Brant Foundation with Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (2000).
Photo: the Brant Foundation.

1. The Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Greenwich, Connecticut
Founded in 2009 by publishing magnate Peter Brant, the Brant Foundation is open Monday through Friday by appointment only. However, there are exceptions: biannual parties to celebrate exhibition openings (most recently, a Rob Pruitt flea market, and next up, a Dash Snow retrospective), and frequent outings for New York-based teenagers organized by Free Arts NY, an organization dedicated to providing an arts education for disadvantaged youth.

The Broad. Photo: Iwan Baan.

The Broad.
Photo: Iwan Baan.

2. The Broad, Los Angeles
Counted on artnet News’s list of Los Angeles power couples, the Broads have assembled an over 2,000-work collection of truly Instagram-worthy art (including one terrifying robot) for their new museum. The institution, housed in a $140-million structure designed by Diller Scofidio and Renfro in collaboration with Gensler, offers free admission, and seeks to shift the center of the American art world to the West Coast. By all accounts, it is an undeniably important addition to the art discourse.

The interior of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation. Photo: via Img Arcade.

The interior of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation.
Photo: via Img Arcade.

3. Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, Los Angeles 
Frederick Weisman purchased his Los Angeles estate in 1982 with the aim of showcasing his over 400-work collection, with contemporary paintings by Ed Ruscha, Helen Frankenthaler, Roy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning, and Robert Rauschenberg, to name just a few of the artists represented. Due to a lack of public parking in the area, however, the museum is only open to the public by appointment and guided tours.

Facade, Rubell Family Collection, Miami. Photo: courtesy the Rubell Family Collection.

Facade, Rubell Family Collection, Miami.
Photo: courtesy the Rubell Family Collection.

4. Rubell Family Collection, Miami
Originally founded in New York in 1964, the Rubell Family Collection headed south to Florida in 1993, where it has become a model for similar institutions in the city. As Miami has become an international art hub thanks to the explosive growth of Art Basel in Miami Beach, Donald and Mera Rubell have remained a central part of the local scene, with a collection that includes Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol, Keith HaringKara Walker, and Jeff Koons.

Dinner at Mana Contemporary's Glass Gallery for "Making Art Dance" celebrating 30 years of the Armitage foundation. Photo: Joe Schildhorn, courtesy BFA.

Dinner at Mana Contemporary’s Glass Gallery for “Making Art Dance” celebrating 30 years of the Armitage foundation.
Photo: Joe Schildhorn, courtesy BFA.

5. Mana Contemporary, Jersey City
Co-founded by director Eugene Lemay, Yigal Ozeri, and Micha Lang in 2011, Mana Contemporary doesn’t think of itself as a museum in the traditional sense, but as an “arts destination dedicated to celebrating the creative process.” (We say tomato.) The exhibition branch of the Mana Fine Arts art storage, shipping, and packing empire, Mana Contemporary has a branch in Chicago and has announced plans to open a street art museum. At its New Jersey flagship, home to exhibition spaces and artist studios, Mana offers weekday tours of its million square-foot facility, which is also home to the archives of the International Center of Photography and Karole Armitage’s dance company.

Dan Flavin at the Judd Foundation. Photo: Judd Foundation.

Dan Flavin at the Judd Foundation.
Photo: Judd Foundation.

6. Judd Foundation, Marfa, Texas and New York
The artist Donald Judd, who died in 1994, had two primary residences: an 1870 cast-iron building in Soho, and 15 properties in Marfa, Texas, including two former army buildings. Now, both are private museums operated by the Judd Foundation which are open to the public through $25 guided tours. The former garment factory space in New York, which opened in June 2013 after a three-year, $23-million renovation, recently began hosting free exhibitions on the ground floor during the weekends. Currently, a selection of Judd’s little-known prints is on view through December.

Installation view of "Size DOES Matter" (2010) curated by Shaquille O'Neal at Flag Art Foundation, New York. Photo: Accessible Art.

Installation view of “Size DOES Matter” (2010) curated by Shaquille O’Neal at Flag Art Foundation, New York.
Photo: Accessible Art.

7. FLAG Art Foundation, New York
Former Goldman Sachs executive Glenn Fuhrman, co-founder MSD Capital, opened FLAG in 2008. Although Fuhrman and his wife Amanda have an impressive collection of their own, FLAG’s programming largely consists of exhibitions organized by outside curators (who have included former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal) that borrow works by established and emerging artists from third party sources. The two-floor space in the Chelsea Arts Tower is open to the public, free of charge, Wednesdays through Saturdays. The Fuhrmans also loan out their personal holdings, which include works by Charles Ray and Maurizio Cattelan, among others.


The interior of Pier 24.
Photo: Benjamin Sutton.

8. Pier 24, San Francisco
Make an appointment Monday through Friday for a free visit to this massive 28,000-square-foot warehouse with picturesque views of the Bay Bridge. The facility, which opened in 2010 after being abandoned for decades, is said to be the largest exhibition space dedicated to photography in the country. Home to the Pilara Foundation Collection, Pier 24 houses prints by giants of contemporary photography like Richard AvedonLee FriedlanderCatherine Opie, and Jeff Wall, as well as photos by emerging artists.

CIFO Art Space. Photo: Oriol Tarridas, courtesy CIFO.

CIFO Art Space.
Photo: Oriol Tarridas, courtesy CIFO.

9. Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO), Miami
Prominent Miami arts patron Ella Fontanals-Cisneros opened CIFO in 2002 to help raise the profile of Latin American artists. In addition to displaying Fontanals-Cisneros’s collection, which features Ana Mendieta, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Francesca Woodman, and Marina Abramović, among others, CIFO also offers grants and commissions to emerging and mid-career artists from the region. Open free to the public Thursday through Sunday, CIFO is currently showing work from its most recent batch of 10 grant recipients, who include Pablo Vargas Lugo and Leandro Katz.


The Fisher Landau Center for Art.
Photo: Courtesy the Fisher Landau Center for Art.

10. Fisher Landau Center for Art, Queens
A former parachute-harness factory, the Fisher Landau Center for Art opened in 1991 as a private storage facility for Emily Fisher Landau’s 1,500-work collection. It has been open to the public since 2002, showcasing some of the most significant contemporary art created since 1960, including works by Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, Matthew Barney, and Jasper Johns, among many others.

The museum’s current exhibition, featuring sculptures by Annette Lemieux, is listed among the world’s 10 best private museum shows this summer.

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