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May 30, 2012

Top New Museums

Tom Crane / Courtesy The Barnes Foundation

Offering everything from fine art to natural history finds, these ten innovative museums are not to be missed.

Orhan Pamuk, the 2008 Nobel Laureate author of the book The Museum of Innocence, is out to reinvent the museum. After noting in his essay Modest Manifesto for Museums how large museums tend to present a nation’s history as more important than that of its people, he set out to do something about it—“…everyday stories of individuals are richer, more humane and much more joyful,” he wrote.

The result? The real-life Museum of Innocence that Pamuk opened last month in a four-story house in his native Istanbul. Unorthodox? Yes. The collection is inspired by his novel and filled with installations and objects (newspaper clippings, lottery tickets, photographs) that might have been gathered by the novel’s protagonist, Kemal. (Pamuk amassed most of them himself.)

But the result is a quirky celebration of daily life in 1970s Istanbul, and also hints at how museums aren’t just venues for world-class art or centers of education; they connect visitors to a community, country or culture—and the past year has yielded an impressive lineup of them.

The Steven Holl–designed Cité de l’Océan et du Surf in Biarritz, France (long believed to be the birthplace of surfing), celebrates the natural and civic importance of the ocean. Then there’s the Soumaya Museum in Mexico City, which, along with an impressive array of works by European masters like Monet and Van Gogh, features an important collection of Spanish Colonial art.

Along with new constructions, there are also several notable reopenings. The new center for the Barnes Foundation, which moved its priceless but underexposed collection to Philadelphia’s famed museum mile, will have fine-art aficionados flocking. And the $36 million home of the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, is a treasure both inside and out.

Whether it’s the striking new home of a revered institution or a totally fresh concept and collection, these ten new museums are well worth a look.