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Arts + Culture

13 Mind-blowing Art Escapes

Mountaintop museums in Switzerland. Breathtaking art islands in Japan. Secret garden galleries in Brazil. Chelsea Bengier reveals 13 out-of-this-world art destinations, and yes, we promise they're real.

See recent posts by April Ellis

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Messner Mountain Museum, Italy

These six mountain museums scattered throughout northern Italy's craggy ranges will leave you breathless: one is set in a historic stone castle, another is housed in a glass-walled gallery overlooking the snowy peaks. The newest and final installment, MMM Corones, was designed by starchitect Zaha Hadid and has cavernous underground rooms that lead to a scenic terrace hovering above the Alps and Dolomites.

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Echigo-Tsumari Art Field, Japan

Sometimes bigger does mean better. Take the Echigo-Tsumari Art Field, a site so vast it spans 10 zones around Tokamachi city and is roughly a third the size of Tokyo. Keep an eye out for 400 sculptures and land artworks by national artists, strategically placed to show off northern Japan's natural beauty. Some exhibits stand guard over historic shrines and temples, while others dot the green meadows and pop up inside abandoned schools.

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The Broad, LA

The latest multi-million dollar art institution to grace downtown LA is the Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed Broad Museum. More than 2,000 contemporary works of art from Andy Warhol to Barbara Kruger hang in the 120,000-square-foot gallery space. The highlight is the Yayoi Kusama's twinkling Infinity Mirrored Room — you only get 45 seconds here, just enough time for an epic Instagram pic.

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Grace Farms, Connecticut

New Canaan first grabbed the architectural spotlight when Philip Johnson’s Glass House opened there eight years ago. Now, the town has got another striking landmark to brag about called Grace Farms. The new winding glass-walled art venue designed by Pritzker-Prize winning firm Sanaa was built to resemble a running river and is set on 80 acres of rolling pastures and hardwood forest. Catch a concert at the 11,000-square-foot amphitheater or check out the site-specific art around the grounds.

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Inhotim, Brazil

The brainchild of mining mogul Bernando Paz, this 5,000-acre outdoor exhibition, botanical garden and nature reserve is an art lover's eden — and one of Brazil's best kept secrets. More than 500 contemporary pieces by 100 international artists are housed in two dozen pavilions scattered across the grounds. Our favorites? Olafur Eliasson's Viewing Machine, a massive mirrored kaleidoscope that offers views of the lush mountainside; Jorge Macchi's Piscina, a swimming pool visitors can dip into; and site-specific installations by Anish Kapoor, the creative mastermind behind Chicago's iconic Cloud Gate. Up next: an 80-room luxury hotel and spa, gourmet restaurants, a 15,000-seat amphitheater, and a school for conservation classes.

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Naoshima Island, Japan

This serene slice of paradise in the Seto Inland Sea is known as Japan’s “art island" — and for good reason. The tiny three-square-mile enclave is made up of five modern museums, mostly designed by creative genius Tadao Ando. Spend an afternoon exploring the Benesse House Museum (which also houses a 10-room luxury hotel) on the island's rugged southern coast. The nearby Chichu Art Museum is an angular underground space made of concrete with open-roofed skylights, where you can see masterpieces like James Turrell's neon light installations and Monet's large-scale water lily canvases.

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Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow

Just opened in June, the Rem Koolhaas-designed Garage Museum is transforming the once drab Gorky Park into an edgy arts destination. Here, it's all about Russian doyenne Dasha Zhukova's private collection of contemporary art, international documentary screenings and creative workshops.

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Fondazione Prada, Milan

In the wake of Expo Milano 2015, this stylish city has become the epicenter of the European contemporary art scene. There's the show-stopping 205,000-square-foot Fondazione Prada, with a cinema, a Wes Anderson-designed cafe and galleries showcasing works by Roy Lichtenstein and Jeff Koons. Then there's the David Chipperfield-designed Museo delle Culture and Armani/Silos, a four-floor, $50 million monument to fashion, where you can see 600 outfits and 200 accessories as well as a digital image archive with 2,000+ ensembles.

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The Lofoten Islands, Norway

Located 95 miles north of the Arctic Circle, this six-island archipelago has long attracted artists with its crystal blue waters, jagged mountain ranges and sleepy fishing villages. Now a slew of art venues is adding to its allure. Among the highlights are the KaviarFactory, Galleri Espolin and Galleri Bodøgaard, along with a groundbreaking urban art scene. Check out the murals by the likes of duo Pøbel and Dolk as well as Banksy-esque tagger Mr. Hmm??.

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West Bund, Shanghai

New York’s Museum Mile has nothing on what’s brewing in Shanghai. State-of-the-art institutions like the Long Museum, West Bund Arts Center and Yuz Museum are popping up in the once industrial West Bund area. To cap it off, DreamWorks' epic $2.5 billion Shanghai DreamCenter is set to open in 2017 with a 13-story entertainment tower, an IMAX cinema, a Legoland Discovery Center, as well as restaurants, shops and bars.

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LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura, Switzerland

On the shores of a glacial lake surrounded by the snowcapped Alps, the new LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura center is as much a tribute to Swiss scenery as it is to Swiss art. This $300 million mega-museum houses a 1,000-seat theater and intimate studios filled with works by Swiss and Italian artists, with floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over Lake Lugano.

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Moesgaard Museum, Denmark

Denmark’s Moesgaard Museum is the perfect mix of the Baroque and modern. Next to the 18th-century exhibition hall, the sleek new wing, which holds a selection of prehistoric artifacts, slants seamlessly into the green countryside. You can stroll directly from the grounds onto the building's sloping rooftop lawn for views of the hills and harbor beyond.



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