Bedroom full of visionary art.
Bedroom full of visionary art.

American Visionary Art Museum

Field review by the editors.

Baltimore, Maryland

How can a museum that exhibits works by millionaires such as Uri Geller and Nancy Josephson -- ex-wife of rock guitarist David Bromberg -- call itself "outsider?" It doesn't. It calls itself "visionary."

Old School robots by DeVon Smith.
Old School robots by DeVon Smith.

When we asked our guide, "Do you allow people who aren't outsiders to exhibit their art here?" we were told "Definitely not." Only moments later he hedged, "But what's an 'outsider'? Who knows?"

We'll climb down from our junk metal high horses now... because really, if outsider art could only be viewed in situ, most people would never bother to see it.

A well-funded institution such as the American Visionary Art Museum puts varied visionary pieces all in one place in a big city, with proper fire exits and little need for a tetanus booster. It may walk a line between mainstream museum aspirations and a desire to make sock monkeys, but that's more fun than a traditional art museum.

Pink Poodle Car and Divine.
Pink Poodle Car and Divine.

We saw colorful Old School robots by DeVon Smith, wacky vehicles from Baltimore's annual Kinetic Sculpture Race, a giant rotating statue of Divine, a doomed ocean liner -- torn in half -- made of 93,000 toothpicks, and more (The exhibits cycle in and out frequently, so your experience will vary). There was a gallery of Baltimore screen door art (displayed on fake Baltimore row houses), a giant brass man with erupting faces, fish people, and an entire bedroom made of glittery sequins.

The museum spills through a series of buildings as well as an outdoor sculpture garden. Among the outside permanent pieces there's a huge Vollis Simpson Whirligig.

American Visionary Art Museum

American Visionary Art Museum

Address:
800 Key Hwy, Baltimore, MD
Directions:
I-95 south through the Ft. McHenry Tunnel (stay in the right hand lane through the tunnel). Immediately outside of the tunnel take exit 55 (Key Hwy). At the bottom of the ramp turn right at the light onto Key Hwy. The museum is 1.5 miles ahead, on the left, at a sharp left turn, at the corner of Key Hwy and Covington St.
Hours:
Tu-Su 10-6 (Call to verify)
Phone:
410-244-1900
Admission:
Adults $16.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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In the region:
National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC - 35 mi.

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January 18, 2018

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