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The San Antonio McNay Art Museum is one of my favorite art museums in the US for its quality of collection, tidy and beautiful setting.
Here, you’ll find the smallest Jackson Pollock painting you’ve ever seen. It’s barely larger than a 4×6-inch notecard.
You’ll see a magnificent example of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies series, often on view directly across from a powerhouse Joan Mitchell painting. When I last visited the San Antonio McNay Art Museum in 2023, these two paintings faced each other across a tiny gallery, not 20-feet-squre.
The space also included a desolate Edward Hopper painting of a house as good as you’ll find anywhere, a quarter-complete Paul Cézanne landscape allowing you to trace the genius’ compositional thought process, a Camille Pissarro landscape hovering between Impressionism and Pointillism, and a joyous, vibrant Raul Dufy image of the French Riviera. This may be my favorite single room in any art museum, certainly any room of this size.
Diego Rivera, early Picasso, Modigliani – that’s rare – Gauguin, Alice Neel, Chaim Soutine… the McNay is even one of the few American art museums to have a van Gogh painting. O’Keeffe, Renoir, Giacometti and on and on and on.
If you love Modern art, that period between the Impressionists in 1860s and Pop art in the 1960s, the San Antonio McNay Art Museum should be on your to-do list.
In addition to its powerhouse Modern art masterpieces, the San Antonio McNay Museum has a nice collection of Contemporary art and a FANTASTIC special exhibitions program. A 2022 pairing of Deborah Roberts and Benny Andrews stood out. I saw my first Edvard Munch paintings in person during a special exhibition here in 2018.
History of San Antonio McNay Museum
Built in the 1920s by artist, educator and heiress Marion Koogler McNay (1883-1950), the magnificent Spanish Colonial Revival residence became Texas’s first modern art museum when it opened in 1954. Take time to enjoy the splendid courtyard, its botanicals and the magnificent, tiled staircase.
Koogler was born in Ohio and studied at the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago before first visiting San Antonio in 1918. She moved to the city in 1926.
Today, 200,000 visitors a year come through the San Antonio McNay Museum. More come strictly for the park-like grounds which are a favorite for wedding and graduation photos. Six miles from downtown San Antonio, the McNay has a distinct feeling of remove from this bustling urban area which I have come to love.
Those 25-acre landscaped grounds include sculptures by Robert Indiana (LOVE), Luis A. Jiménez Jr., Alejandro Martín, Joel Shapiro, Kiki Smith, Hank Willis Thomas, Tom Wesselmann and others.
McNay Museum San Antonio Texas Theatre Arts Collection
An additional highlight at the San Antonio McNay Museum is the fantastical Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts. The collection emphasizes European and American stage design from the 1500s to the present including examples from Baroque festivals, Shakespeare plays, the Ballets Russes, Broadway musicals, and contemporary operas.
McNay Art Museum San Antonio Texas Hours & Admission
The McNay Museum (6000 New Braunfels Avenue; San Antonio, TX 78209) is open Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday from Noon to 5 p.m. Take advantage of those Thursday late-night hours and you’ll have the place to yourself!
Adult admission to the McNay Art Museum San Antonio Texas is $20. Seniors and teens are $10. Kids are free, as are military, veterans and members of their families. General admission is free on Thursdays from 4-9 PM and the first Sunday of every month.
The San Antonio McNay Art Museum also hosts a continual variety of in-person programs from lectures to yoga to art sales and concerts.