12 hidden gem art galleries across the US

Before the coronavirus shut down or limited the hours at many public venues, millions of people frequented art museums. In 2018, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s three New York museums alone saw nearly 7.4 million visitors. Now that museums have largely reopened, people are once again returning to their beloved art institutions. But exploring the art world and broadening the type of art you see can be daunting, and it can be tempting to go back to familiar haunts rather than trying somewhere new.

In order to offer some new options to those wishing to expand their artistic palates, or for those who have visited the Met a few too many times, Giggster surveyed the American art scene and highlighted 12 lesser-known yet celebrated art galleries and museums. While this is just a fraction of the thousands of art institutions around the country that aren’t household names like the Guggenheim or Smithsonian, you may be inspired to check out these galleries and museums in your state.

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Dia Beacon

Dia Beacon is located on the scenic Hudson River in the Upstate New York city of Beacon. Known for its collection of contemporary art dating back to the 1960s, the museum opened in 2003 in a former Nabisco box printing factory, lending the large space an industrial edge. In its permanent collection, the museum houses a number of noted works by sculptor Louise Bourgeois as well as some of Charles Gaines’ oeuvre. One of the early 2022 exhibitions includes German artist Franz Erhard Walther’s interactive fabric sculptures. Dia Beacon is free for Hudson Valley residents on the last Sunday of each month.


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Nasher Museum of Art

The Nasher Museum of Art is part of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. The museum highlights historically underrepresented artists, with a particular focus on showcasing works of Black artists of African descent. Housed in its permanent collection, which boasts more than 13,000 works, are paintings by iconic Black artists Kehinde Wiley and Kerry James Marshall. Among the exhibitions unveiled in 2022 include “Reckoning and Resilience: North Carolina Art Now,” which brings together the work of 30 North Carolina artists in order to interrogate themes of history, identity, collective grief, and healing, and “Beyond the Surface: Collage, Mixed Media and Textile Works from the Collection,” an exhibition that assembles roughly 40 textural works from Nasher’s permanent collection.

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Located in Manhattan’s East Village, Half Gallery has been showing works by both up-and-coming and established artists alike since 2008. The gallery is owned by Bill Powers, a former journalist turned art collector, and his wife, fashion designer Cynthia Rowley. The gallery shows the works of dozens of artists, including Che Lovelace, Eden Seifu, Ethan Cook, Hiejin Yoo, Kevin Reinhardt, and Umar Rashid. The artists’ styles and media of choice vary greatly, offering something for everyone.

Courtesy of Kiechel Fine Art

Kiechel Fine Art

Based in Lincoln, Nebraska, Kiechel Fine Art has been showing 19th- and 20th-century American art since 1986. Among the 2022 exhibitions is “Hollywood Drawings” by Thomas Hart Benton, the famous American regionalist painter who created the drawings during a 1937 trip to 20th Century Fox Studios, where he drew an array of subjects. Among them include T.S. Eliot, William Faulkner, and Will Rogers. Another featured exhibition is “Assurity,” a series of paintings by Marcia Goldenstein that meditate on contrails and human interaction with the environment. Works by Banksy, Romare Bearden, George Bellows, Marc Chagall, and Jenny Kruger will also be on display.

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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, located in Bentonville, Arkansas, was opened in 2011 by Alice Walton, heir to the Walmart fortune. Despite its relative newness, the museum has amassed an impressive permanent collection of American masterworks including those by Georgia O’Keeffe, Alfred Stieglitz, Andy Warhol, and many more. In 2013, Crystal Bridges acquired Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bachman-Wilson House and relocated it from New Jersey to its Arkansas campus, where it is open for tours. Among its 2022 exhibitions include “The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse,” organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which explores “the relationship between music and visual art in Black southern expression from 1920–2020.” The works of Black musicians like James Brown and Sun Ra will be featured alongside visual media by Sanford Biggers, Kerry James Marshall, and many more. Admission to the museum is free.

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The Hammer Museum

The Hammer Museum near the University of California, Los Angeles, opened in 1990 and was originally founded as a separate institution by art connoisseur Armand Hammer, the former chairman of Occidental Petroleum Corporation. In an effort to engage the community with the arts, the museum offers a wide array of free programmings such as lectures, symposia, film series, readings, and musical performances. There is also a 5-acre sculpture garden featuring more than 70 works by artists such as Auguste Rodin, Deborah Butterfield, and Barbara Hepworth. On exhibit through mid-May 2022 is the first major retrospective of performance and video artist Ulysses Jenkins, whose work combines archival footage, photography, and sound to create an interrogation of mainstream history, as well as to probe constructed notions of race and gender. An upcoming “Andrea Bowers” retrospective will provide a look at more than two decades of the activist’s documentary work, drawings, sculptures, and videography.


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South Dakota Art Museum

Part of South Dakota State University since 1970, the South Dakota Art Museum prides itself on offering a diverse view of the state’s arts and artists. The museum holds a large collection of 20th-century Plains Indian art, primarily from the Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota tribes. Recently on view was “Compelling Visions: Selections From the Willem and Diane Volkersz Contemporary Folk Art Collection at the Missoula Art Museum,” which highlights “outsider artists” without formal training who used materials accessible to them to create often-political art. Previously on view was a Willem Volkersz retrospective, featuring the artist’s famous neon sculptures that employ the “language of commercial and pop cultural aesthetics.” The pieces draw on Volkersz’s experience as a child under Nazi occupation in the Netherlands, as well as his move to the United States and appreciation for nature.

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The Mistake Room

Based in Los Angeles, The Mistake Room is a gallery and programming space housed in a renovated industrial warehouse. Predicated on the idea that mistakes in art and creation are actually generative and allow for radical, new possibilities, the gallery champions art thought to be unconventional or misunderstood. Through April 2022, the gallery is featuring an exhibition called “Aqux,” which brings together the work of 23 Latinx artists from across the United States to envision and reimagine the notion of “home” through five different lenses: home as city, home as land, home as self, home as labor, and home as intimacy. Also on view is a public exhibition called “Things With Feathers,” which features the multimedia works of artist Gisela McDaniel. The exhibition combines oral interviews with various community members with richly painted portraits and artifacts and uses storytelling as a means for community healing.

Courtesy of LVL3


LVL3 is a Chicago-based, volunteer-run exhibition space dedicated to amplifying underrepresented artists and works from around the world. Showcasing both emerging and established artists, as well as hosting exhibitions and public programming, LVL3 seeks to engage Chicagoans with the arts. A recent exhibition, called “Sixth Planet from the Sun,” is a photography-based multimedia collaboration between Chicago-based artist Kioto Aoki and Los Angeles artist Pamela Ramos. A group show to be on display in 2022, titled “Linen, Silk, and Pearls…,” troubles the disconnect between luxury materials and their natural and craft origins.


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Courtesy of Stella Jones Gallery

This French Quarter-adjacent gallery in New Orleans was founded in 1996 by Dr. Stella Jones, whose mission was to make art of the African diaspora accessible to everyone. Through lectures, panel discussions, and exhibitions with artists in attendance, the gallery seeks to educate and engage community members and visitors alike about the rich cultural and artistic history of Black Americans and New Orleanians. A group exhibition held in March 2022 included works by the painter Richard W. Dempsey, who is known for his portraits of Black public figures and artists such as Ethel Waters, Duke Ellington, Thurgood Marshall, and Adam Clayton Powell. The exhibit features Dempsey’s abstract expressionist works, as well as pieces by Ron Bechet, Morris Taft Thomas, and Ella Marie Ray.

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21c Museum Hotels

Combining “Night at the Museum” energy with contemporary art and a luxurious hotel experience, 21c Museum Hotels lets visitors sleep at a modern art museum. With locations in Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky; Cincinnati; Bentonville, Arkansas; Durham, North Carolina; Oklahoma City; Nashville, Tennessee; Kansas City, Missouri; and Chicago, the museum hotel combines a boutique hotel experience with art of the 21st century, as well as high-end restaurants. In 2017, its locations were ranked among Condé Nast Traveler’s Top Hotels in the World. 21c was founded by Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, contemporary art collectors and preservationists who wanted to create an immersive art experience in Louisville, the location of the original hotel.

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With locations in the Wynwood district of Miami and Caracas, Venezuela, Ascaso Gallery primarily showcases the works of both new and established Venezuelan and Latin American artists. Over its 30 years in operation, the gallery has shown the works of Jesús Rafael Soto, Carlos Cruz-Diez, and Julio Larraz, as well as Salvador Dalí, Jeff Koons, and Henry Moore, among others. On view at the gallery through April 2022 is a group show titled “Cute Tunes for Serious Sapiens,” featuring Javier Martin, Masako Miki, Noritoshi Mitsuuchi, and Takeru Amano. The exhibition playfully evokes the inner child using pop- and manga-inspired visuals and includes a variety of paintings, sculptures, and multimedia pieces.


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