Art All Around

Local artists and experts choose 37 artworks in Baltimore that you have to see, and their selections just might stir up debate about our perceptions of art and the city around us.
Edited by John Lewis - October 2011

Art All Around

Local artists and experts choose 37 artworks in Baltimore that you have to see, and their selections just might stir up debate about our perceptions of art and the city around us.
Edited by John Lewis - October 2011

When we asked a group of art aficionados to identify must-see works of art, we expected to hear about pieces in The BMA, The Walters, and other museums and galleries around town. We got that, and a lot more. Our respondents cited deserving masterpieces from Baltimore's bastions of high art, and they also made less obvious choices. You might expect the Cone Collection would get mentioned—which it did—but a stretch of Loch Raven Boulevard, or a SoWeBo barbershop? They made the cut, too, and such inclusions suggest that the definition of art is increasingly elastic. And why shouldn't it be? A great city exhibits creative touches and flourishes in unlikely and out-of-the-way spots, beyond its established venues. Its creativity gets integrated into everyday life all around us. You should see it.

Must-see art according to: Leslie King-Hammond

Director, Center for Race and Culture, Maryland Institute College of Art

Loring Cornish
Praise Houses
2700 Parkwood Avenue
This is a must see for believers and non-believers. Loring Cornish is the Master of Awe in his use of all things humble, ordinary, and mundane. His artistry, technical facility, and awesome imagination help Baltimore to understand the power of the extraordinary.

New Beginnings Barber Shop
Hollins and S. Arlington Streets
This is a most wonderful family experience in SoWeBo. The traditional salon/barber shop concept has been transformed into an upscale experience for having your body, mind, and spirit renewed. Troy Staton, master barber and art collector, fills his space with exceptional works of art, workshops for children, lectures, and exhibitions for local and international artists.

Painted Screens of East Baltimore
Various locations in Canton, Fells Point, Little Italy, and Highlandtown
This is an opportunity to wander through East Baltimore and discover the magicalpainted screens on Baltimore's row houses. This is a phenomenon unlike any other city in the United States and not to be missed.

Must-see art according to: Maurice Berger

Research professor and chief curator at the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Qing Dynasty Monochrome Ceramics
Hackerman House, The Walters Art Museum
Dozens of Qing Dynasty monochrome ceramics are situated on rows of towering shelves in the ornate and painstakingly restored rooms of the Hackerman House. Potted in China from the 17th through 19th centuries, these vases, bowls, dishes, and scholar's objects pay homage to the austere, unadorned ceramics of the Song Dynasty, created more than 300 years earlier. In their simple, abstract form and brightly colored glazes, they challenge you to rethink the origins and geography of modernism.

Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture
830 E. Pratt Street
One of the city's most compelling cultural experiences is contained not within a work of art, per se, but an institution: the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History & Culture. What makes the museum so engaging is its broad mandate, one that rigorously expands the meaning of important visual culture to include artifacts as diverse as paintings, sculptures, photos, posters, toys, magazines, books, and films. The richness of the museum's holdings and broad array of temporary exhibitions—recent shows have explored the work of contemporary black women artists, the life of baseball player Roberto Clemente, and the significance of Baltimore's Druid Hill Park for generations of African Americans—make it a wonderful place for families and young people.

Joseph Beuys Sculpture Park
UMBC campus
This is one of Baltimore's most contemplative and tranquil art experiences. Organized by the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture in 2000 and inspired by Beuys, a renowned German conceptual artist who died in 1986, the public park features a bucolic arrangement of 30 trees and boulders. The installation, one of this city's rare examples of large-scale "land art," is at once beautiful and thought provoking, a celebration of the power of nature—and art—to inspire and heal, no less in the midst of a bustling urban campus.

Must-see art according to: Jay Fisher

Deputy director for curatorial affairs and senior curator of prints, drawings, and photographs, The Baltimore Museum of Art

Hugo van der Goes
"Portrait of a Man at Prayer with Saint John the Baptist"
The Walters Art Museum
Hugo van der Goes is one of the first 15th-century Netherlandish artists I ever learned about. When I saw his work, I was amazed by the eloquent realism applied to his sensitive reading of the faces of people in his religious scenes. It is rare to see his work in the United States, and when I came to Baltimore to work at The BMA, I couldn't believe we had a wonderful example of his painting right here in the city. There are so many little treasures in The Walters, but this is my favorite.

Charles Willson Peale
"The Exhumation of the Mastodon"
Maryland Historical Society
"The Exhumation of the Mastodon" is such an important part of Baltimore history. Peale was a great artist and the Peales established some of the first art and archaeology museums in the U.S.—here in Baltimore and in Philadelphia. I believe Peale exhibited the exhumed Mastodon skeleton in his first museum in Philadelphia, but the Baltimore museum got something that proved more lasting than the skeleton—Peale's artistic vision of the discovery and exhumation of this amazing creature. It continues to enthrall museum visitors today. [This piece was also cited by Doreen Bolger.]

Sir Anthony van Dyck
"Rinaldo and Armida"
The Baltimore Museum of Art
"Rinaldo and Armida" probably has more international renown than any other painting at The BMA, maybe in Baltimore. It is one of the greatest artworks ever made by this splendid painter. It is just a joy to look at, full of movement, ravishing color . . . it looks like it belongs in a palace, and, in fact, it used to belong to England's King Charles—until an enterprising Baltimore merchant felt strongly that the city would benefit from having it here. It is the history and continuance of this kind of cultural generosity that makes Baltimore a remarkable place to live. [This piece was also cited by Joseph Sheppard.]

Must-see art according to: Gary Vikan

Director, The Walters Art Museum

Paul Gauguin
Woman of the Mango
The Baltimore Museum of Art
I hear music when I look at Paul Gauguin's Woman of the Mango, painted in 1892 while Gauguin was in Tahiti. (That's his wife.) Paul Cézanne's Mont Sante-Victoire Seen from the Bibémus Quarry (also at The BMA and also part of the famous Cone Collection) is magnificent as well, but Gauguin's work has a rare combination of startlingly powerful color and profound mystery that adds up to very rare aesthetic poetry.

MICA's Brown Center
1301 W. Mt. Royal Avenue
Named for Baltimore philanthropists C. Sylvia and Eddie C. Brown, this spectacularly translucent polyhedron was designed by Charles Brickbauer with Ziger/Snead Architects. View it, if you can, from an elevated point to the west, because this perspective offers a wonderful contrast between the Brown Center and the elegant Renaissance revival Main Building of MICA, from 1908, just across the street. Together, these two buildings prove that great architecture is part of Baltimore's present, as well as its past.

"Rubens Vase"
The Walters Art Museum
There is not another work to match it in any museum in the world. An astounding technical achievement in carved agate, the "Rubens Vase," from 4th-century Constantinople, has a fantastic history of "close calls." It was stolen from the Imperial Palace of Constantinople by marauding Crusaders in 1204, then passed from one French royal collection to another, until 1592 when it was stolen again, from the royal château at Fontainebleau by rioting Huguenots. This extraordinary (and very fragile) vase next turned up in 1619 at a flea market in Paris, where the great Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens bought it for 20,000 gold florins. Rubens tried to sell his vase to the Grand Mogul of India a few years later, but it was lost in transit in a shipwreck off the coast of Australia. To hear the end of this incredible story, stop by The Walters and check out our audio tour.

Must-see art according to: Rebecca Hoffberger

Founder/director, American Visionary Art Museum

Tom Miller
"Children and Elders" mural
North Avenue and Harford Road
That piece just pops out at that intersection and really captures the spirit and vitality of city life. I love the fact that you see the full figures of the children, but you only see the adults from the knees down.

Bob Hieronimus
"E Pluribus Unum" mural
Lexington Market
It's his masterwork and includes all the symbolism that's inspired him for so long—from the founding fathers to Baltimore iconography.

Macht Building
11-13 E. Fayette Street
It's one zaftig, voluptuous building. That façade is one of the most amazing pieces of architecture in Baltimore, and the female figures, done in marble, are fantastic. The building is glorioso to women in the highest.

Must-see art according to: Joyce Scott


Druid Park Lake Drive
Starting at Madison Avenue and traveling toward 83
The park, the reservoir, the grand apartment buildings, and the distant urban forest are just like a mid-19th-century painting.

The Scene Outside My Front Door
Penn North neighborhood
I lived in a challenged neighborhood, between Bolton and Reservoir Hills. The braggadocio, this outside defense against life's boredom and oppression, is a passion play; the inhabitants are mobile dancers from Lautrec; the drug dealers refer to Greco-Roman sculpture; and the brightly colored babies and bling are über Pop art. This is super surreality.

Elizabeth Caldwell Talford Scott
''Joyce's Quilt''
Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture
My mother died this year, and her image and quilt at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum reminds me how the truth of art is from the soul.

Must-see art according to: Gary Kachadourian

Artist, winner of 2011 Baker Artist Award, former visual arts coordinator for Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts

Loch Raven Boulevard Linear Park
Loch Raven Boulevard between The Alameda and Hillen Road
Loch Raven Boulevard is part of what I understand to be an early 20th-century Olmsted Brothers plan for linear greenways connecting Baltimore's major parks. These also include Mt. Royal Avenue, 33rd Street, Broadway, and a number of other streets. What makes this site most compelling is how this idyllic construct interfaces with contemporary life. The street has become purely a commuter road and the greenway ends up seeming like any generic roadway divider (median strip) while its rolling hills obstruct drivers' views of buses making the right-hand lane almost useless for cars. I especially love that it's always dotted with groupings of filled plastic lawn bags (community efforts to groom the space?). This boulevard, along with the others from this series of greenways, is part of one of the most conceptually beautiful and ambitious hidden-in-plain-sight ideas enacted in Baltimore.

"JOCE" graffiti mural
Seen from westbound I-95 as it passes over Monroe Street
I've always been a fan of the particular genre of graffiti that is produced using house paint and rollers, and this is my favorite work that is currently visible. It's solitarily placed on the lower lefthand corner of a large wall of an industrial building and is done in pink block letters with brown outlines on a cream-colored wall, a formally beautiful work with a Neapolitan ice-cream subtext.

"Wack-A-Moles" on former Current Gallery
30 S. Calvert Street
Current Gallery had to vacate its first space in 2009 when it was going to be torn down for redevelopment of the block. For the final exhibition at the space, Andrew Liang, one of the gallery's co-directors, painted the front and side of the building with Wack-A-Moles, targets for the operator of the imminent wrecking ball. Two years later the Wack-A-Moles are still waiting, an indicator that time in the world of real-estate redevelopment follows a very different metronomic path than the time most of us are used to. It should be noted that the city gave this building—and now has given another building on Howard Street—to Current rent-free, so this is a case of where urban redevelopment's slow movement has done great things for the arts.

Must-see art according to: Gerald Ross

Director of exhibitions, Maryland Institute College of Art

Wayne Kusy
American Visionary Art Museum
One of America's national treasures is the American Visionary Art Museum. In it, is a "must-see" for anyone: the 16-foot-long replica of the steamliner Lusitania built entirely out of toothpicks by artist Wayne Kusy. Completed in 1994 and displayed in two halves (to get it out of his apartment), Kusy took about two-and-a-half years to finish it, working between two and three hours a night. The ship is complete with portholes, smokestacks, stairs, and an elaborate inner structure—built "anatomically" correct. It is an incredible monument to artistic as well as historic perseverance, memory, and achievement.

Chamber of Wonders
The Walters Art Museum
The Walters Art Museum (known to some, locally, as the "Mini Met"), is a great treasure unto itself but within it, The Chamber of Wonders—a recreation of what a southern Netherland nobleman might have assembled in the 17th century—is another "essential" experience. Passing through a hall of ancient armor, one enters an amazing space filled floor to ceiling with extraordinary works of art, decorative objects, and furniture and natural curiosities: collected butterflies, skulls, sea creatures, and taxidermied animals (including an alligator!). This is truly a wonderful and playful area to contemplate our world and the opportunities we have to creatively interact with it.

Jonathan Borofsky
Penn Station
Jonathan Borofsky is one of my favorite artists of the last 40-odd years. His deliberate path is to create works and objects that attempt to examine and portray the human condition and point to inner enlightenment and positive change. His piece, "Male/Female," installed in front of Penn Station in 2004 has been called about every nasty thing in the book, including "just plain ugly." Sentimentality for its message aside, I happen to see it as a true piece of "outsider art." For me, it works on many artistic levels but, ultimately, the piece's distinctly alien presence amid the history and depth surrounding it adds another layer to the Baltimore that I love the best: the Baltimore that doesn't quite "fit in."

Must-see art according to: Joseph Sheppard


Sir Anthony van Dyck
"Rinaldo and Armida"
The Baltimore Museum of Art
It made front-page headlines in The New York Times when it was purchased. It is one of the world's great paintings, certainly Van Dyck's most important work. It was painted to show off his skills in landscape, still life, portrait, and figure painting to secure the position of court painter in England. Few people are aware of it being in the collection at The Baltimore Museum of Art.

Antoine-Louis Barye Collection
The Walters Art Museum
The collection of Antoine Barye, the teacher of Rodin, is probably the most extensive and best collection in the world of the foremost sculpture of animalier in the 19th century.

Cone Collection
The Baltimore Museum of Art
The Claribel and Etta Cone collection of early 20th-century avant-garde artists is the most famous collection in Baltimore and includes Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Cézanne.

Must-see art according to: Doreen Bolger

Director, The Baltimore Museum of Art

Gaia, "Raven"
Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum
Gaia's "Raven" can be seen at the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum—or at other locations around town where this fabled street artist has wheat-pasted it to crumbling brick walls or fading billboards. This jaunty image was inspired by Poe's tragic poem about love lost. The story of its creation is about the power of art to transform the urban environment: The artist has donated 100 of his prints to be sold for the benefit of the Poe House, which has lost its city funding. Get one while they last (I did)!

Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin
"The Game of Knucklebones"
The Baltimore Museum of Art
Chardin's "The Game of Knucklebones," on view in The BMA's Jacobs Wing, is an artwork I visit when I need to smile. A beautiful young woman is playing knucklebones, sort of like jacks but with sheep bones, and she's just tossed a ball that's suspended in the air. Dressed informally, she looks as if she could be a scullery maid, but she's probably an upper-class woman. It's obvious that she should be sewing (her needle is stuck in her apron) and instead she's fooling around. We all need an artwork that reminds us to put aside work for a moment of fun or pleasure!

Charles Willson Peale
''The Exhumation of the Mastodon''
Maryland Historical Society
The Exhumation of the Mastodon was my favorite Baltimore work of art long before I moved here. I first met this fascinating painting in a Peale show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it was featured in a 1983 exhibition that I worked on as a young curator. Peale, like his contemporary Benjamin Franklin, epitomized the Age of Enlightenment. He was a learned scientist, an inventor, a brilliant artist, and a showman. Here, we see him holding a careful, accurate drawing of a bone from a prehistoric creature later exhibited in his museum. Looking back from 2011, the breadth of Peale's achievements set the tone for this city as a center for art, science, and innovation.

Must-see art according to: Noah Charney

Bestselling author and art historian

Albrecht Dürer
"Melencolia I"
The Baltimore Museum of Art
Albrecht Dürer's mysterious print, one of the greatest prints ever made, is an unsolved mystery. No one knows its meaning, or what it represents beyond an allegory of melancholy, featuring a brooding angel surrounded by occult implements. Over the angel's shoulder we can see a "magic square," a mathematical curiosity wherein the sum of any group of four adjacent numbers is the same, in this case 34. Dürer chose this version of the four-by-four magic square because at the bottom center are the numbers 15 and 14: 1514 is the year he created the print.

16th-century copy of "Mona Lisa"
The Walters Art Museum
Leonardo's "Mona Lisa" needs no introduction, but few know that there are many excellent contemporary copies of Leonardo's painting, some of which may actually have been painted by Leonardo. It was not unusual for Renaissance artists to make multiple copies of particularly renowned works. The Walters has a fine copy of the "Mona Lisa." A similar copy, which hangs at the Louvre Museum outside the director's office, was boxed up during the Second World War, labeled as the original, and shipped all over France, leading the Nazis on a wild goose chase. The Nazis thought they had stolen the original "Mona Lisa" when, in fact, they had been chasing after this copy, while the original never left Paris.

Jusepe de Ribera
"Saint Paul the Hermit"
The Walters Art Museum
Ribera is a candidate for the greatest artist whom no one has heard of. Aside from art historians specializing in 17th-century Baroque painting, the great Spanish painter Ribera has slipped beneath the radar. He was the best among the Caravaggisti, artists emulating the revolutionary drama, chiaroscuro, and realism of Caravaggio. But while others imitated Caravaggio, Ribera took his style and made of it something new and wonderful. Noboby, not even Caravaggio, paints the aged male form better than Ribera.

Must-see art according to: Raoul Middleman


"Portrait of Titus"
The Baltimore Museum of Art
In this painting, Titus has two thumbs on the hand propping up his chin, denoting his restless shifts during the pose. The painting is all about father-son relationships.

Paolo Veronese
"Portrait of Countess Livia da Porto Thiene and her Daughter Porzia"
The Walters Art Museum
In the Walters, there is a spectacular painting of a mother-daughter combo by Veronese that complements the Rembrandt with a Venitian versus a Dutch perspective.

El Greco
''Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata''
The Walters Art Museum
Also in the Walters is a singular El Greco; a Saint rendered with almost total monochromatic grays, but it has the sensation of full color.

Must-see art according to: John Waters

Artist, Writer, Filmmaker

Andy Warhol
''The Last Supper''
The Baltimore Museum of Art
Whenever I am feeling really good about living in Baltimore I go by The BMA and hope to see that amazing puke-green "Last Supper" by Warhol. Then, feeling even better, I head toward the Visionary Art Museum and pay a visit to Andrew Logan's giant Divine statue and hope one day this will be done in bronze and placed right next to Frank Zappa's in Highlandtown. Or better yet, out front of the train station—even though "Male/Female" by Jonathan Borofsky is perfectly fine there.

You May Also Like

The Chatter

How to Celebrate MLK Day in Baltimore

Honor Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy with kids' programs, yoga, arts, and more.

Arts & Culture

Alpha Dog

A woman-owned printing business leads the way in Woodberry.

Arts District

The Top Baltimore Music Moments of 2019

This year, the city’s music scene came of age.

Arts & Culture

Music For The Future

A new Peabody major teaches students how to compose for an ever-changing media landscape.

Arts District

Everyman's 'Orient Express' Experience Reaches Far Beyond the Script

On stage surprises and specialty drinks enhance the theater's holiday performance.

Arts District

My Favorite Baltimore Books of 2019

Through literature this year, we’ve taken journeys to learn more about our world and city.

Connect With Us

Most Read

Will Judge Make an Example Out of Catherine Pugh?: With the former mayor’s sentencing scheduled for February, both sides get to work on their case.

Orioles Execs Not Mentioned in ‘AstroGate’ Sign-Stealing Scandal: GM Mike Elias and the O’s other ex-Astros employees have steered clear of the fallout.

Maryland Politicians React to Trump Impeachment: Local leaders reflect and look ahead at Senate trial.

Caleeb Pinkett Screens 'Charm City Kings' at Sundance Film Festival: Producer talks source material, filming in Baltimore, and his famous family.

What to Know About the Maryland Cycling Classic Coming September 2020: For starters, Baltimore's pro cycling event will be more than 100 miles long.