Atlanta, Georgia’s High Museum of Art is one of the best art museums in the south as well as one of the city’s top attractions. The museum was founded in 1905 but didn’t have a museum space until 1926. Mrs. Joseph M. High donated her home and it was subsequently named after her.
In 1955, the museum moved into a brick structure nearby to house its expanded collection. The museum moved again in 1968 to the Atlanta Memorial Arts Center, now known as the Woodruff Center for the Arts.
The High added on an award-winning wing in 1983 through a grant from Coca-Cola magnate Robert W. Woodruff and again in 2002 in the Renzo Piano-designed wing, which doubled the space. Today it has over 18,000 pieces.
The History of the High Museum
The High is one of the only museums to specialize in a curatorial department to folk art and works by self-taught artists and has a permanent exhibit of European art, folk art, and modern art. Much of the collection is donated by notable Americans.
In 1949, patron J. J. Haverty bequeathed his nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American paintings, adding to the museum’s growing collection. In 1958, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation added the Renaissance and Baroque works.
Sadly, in 1962, a group of 120 people from the Atlanta Art Association died in a plane crash outside of Paris . They were visiting the capitals of Europe to add to the museum’s collection. The French government gifted sculptor Auguste Rodin’s The Shade to the High in their honor.
Starting in 1979, the Virginia Carroll Crawford Collection added the decorative arts to the museum’s offering with furnishings, silver, and Tiffany lamps. Lucinda Weil Bunnen also contributed a bulk of the museum’s photography works. In 2014, it acquired a number of Romare Bearden works, adding to the collection from artists of color.
What to See at the High Museum
The best way to see the museum is to start in the permanent collection wing, which features the early European works, and working your way into the modern and special exhibits. It’s easiest to start at the top and continue down the ramps to the bottom rather than taking the elevator between them.
Works not to be missed at the High Museum of Art include Rodin’s The Shade and Roy Lichtenstein’s House, both on the grounds of the museum, Georgia O’Keefe’s Red Canna, Claude Monet’s Houses of Parliament in the Fog, and works from Howard Finster’s home at Paradise Garden.
Exhibitions and Special Events at the High
Past exhibitions have brought the most famous work from the Louvre in Paris, the Terracotta Army, the works of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, the quilts of Gee’s Bend, and Yayoi Kusama’s wildly popular “Infinity Mirrors.”
The High also offers programming like after-hours drinks for the working crowd, kids’ activities, and lectures. On the second Sunday of each month, the museum also offers free admission. For the best experience at the High Museum of Art, get to the museum early to beat the school groups.
High Museum Tips and Tricks
The High Museum of Art is located at 1280 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30309. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and on Sundays from 12 pm to 5 pm. The High is closed on Mondays. Tickets are $16.50 for adults. Children under 5 and members are free. Some special exhibits and events may cost extra.
If you’re driving, get off at the Williams Street exit and turn left onto Peachtree Street. Continue until you see the museum on your left. There is a parking deck for visitors. It’s also close to the Arts Center MARTA station, which has both buses and trains.
Where to Eat Near the High Museum of Art
The High Museum has a number of onsite restaurants but their hours vary, so check before you go. CJ’s Cafe in the Taylor Lobby has coffee, pastries, and sandwiches. High Cafe in the Stent Family Wing has sandwiches and soups.
Ovation Coffee and Libations serves coffee by day and cocktails by night, along with sandwiches and snacks. Twelve Eighty is the museum’s fine dining restaurant, set in a glass-enclosed building with seasonal and farm-to-table dishes.
But Midtown also has plenty of restaurants within a short walk. Go around the corner to Highland Bakery, where you can get French toast bigger than your head. MetroFresh has sandwiches and healthy options while Colony Square has both chains and local restaurants.
Where to Stay Near the High Museum of Art
The High Museum of Art is a short walk from some of Atlanta’s most incredible hotels. The Mediterranean-inspired circa 1924 Artmore Hotel is right behind the MARTA station and has amenities like a patio cocktail bar and breakfast options.
The Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta is one of the most luxurious hotels in the city. Don’t miss the in-house dining options like Bar Margot, a popular French-inspired restaurant. The Moxy Atlanta Midtown is great for younger guests with funky decor and a rooftop bar and pool.