Vast collections of art from across the globe and through the ages — including Renaissance, American, East and South Asian, Impressionist and contemporary masterpieces — make the Philadelphia Museum of Art one of the most significant art museums in the country, while exhibitions, lively programs and an outdoor Sculpture Garden make it a cultural must-see.
Among the museum’s impressive holdings, standouts include a Rogier van der Weyden altarpiece, The Large Bathers by Cezanne, works from Philadelphia’s own Thomas Eakins, and Marcel Duchamp’s notorious mixed-media Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors (The Large Glass) displayed exactly as the dada master installed it.
Throughout, visitors breathe in other cultures and times through dozens of period rooms, including a medieval cloister and an Indian temple.
With the assistance of famed architect Frank Gehry, the museum underwent an ambitious renovation, revitalization and expansion in recent years to make the interior space more open and navigable for visitors.
The attraction’s north entrance — complete with a sky-lit vaulted walkway, store, espresso bar and more — opened to the public in September 2019.
In May 2021, the iconic attraction debuted the next round of renovations, completing the “Core Project” portion of the multi-year, multimillion-dollar project.
Dramatic changes include the opening up of spaces not seen by the public for decades and brand-new galleries to showcase the museum’s spectacular collection — all part of the attraction’s renewed commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.
Among the highlights of the Core Project:
- a soaring forum, with its inaugural installation of Teresita Fernández’s Fire (United States of the Americas)
- 20,000 square feet of new gallery space filled with art that rethinks the story of Philadelphia and the nation
- a renovated Lenfest Hall, accessible via a show-stopping new staircase
- views that show off the city skyline from inside the building
- an outdoor portico overlooking the Schuylkill River
The new Robert L. McNeil Jr. Galleries dedicated to American art between 1650 and 1850 comprise 10,000 square feet arranged around a spacious corridor and mirror a space for contemporary art — together, the largest expansion of gallery space in the museum’s main building since it opened in 1928.
The galleries explore immigration, colonialism, trade and underrepresented narratives and allow the museum to “completely rethink” how it tells the story of early American art by making room for a “bigger, more complicated” narrative.
Visitors also encounter more subtle changes that enhance their experience and underscore the museum’s renewed commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.
Thoughtfully designed public spaces, wayfinding signs, updated lighting features and exposure to natural light reinforce the museum’s connection to the city and create a welcoming, approachable environment for first-time and infrequent visitors who might otherwise find the massive attraction intimidating.
Additionally, new ADA-compliant ramps make it easy for people who can’t use stairs to enter and move throughout the museum.
The museum’s east entrance was, of course, immortalized in the classic Rocky film franchise. To this day, visitors jog up the steps to reenact Stallone’s famous scene and admire the view of the Parkway and the Philadelphia skyline from the top. Head to our page on the Rocky statue and Rocky steps to learn more.