13. August 2015

Having to queue for three hours is quite common outside the entrances of renowned international museums. By contrast, Max Hollein presents museums that are likewise home to breath-taking art, but which will not require you to stand around for so long.

Museum visits are the obligatory items on the list for modern city tours. If you go to Paris, you want to visit the Louvre, in Rome the Vatican Museums and in London, the Tate Gallery. The only snag: Millions of others want to do exactly the same thing, meaning that en route to the Mona Lisa or when gazing at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel you are certainly not as alone as you might be.

That said, in these capitals of culture you will nevertheless find amazingly enjoyable art beyond the beaten tourist track: So why not simply go to one of the museums that not everybody knows but which offer an extraordinary experience -- and the sheer fact that you have bene to them will prove you a member of the cognoscenti.

In Paris, forever, I can most definitely recommend the Musée Gustave Moreau, which is as good as unknown in Germany: The building in the IX arrondissement that once housed the studio of the major French Symbolist is a fascinating place and when you climb the wrought-iron spiral staircase to the upper floor, you will find a quite unprecedented world of images, colors and impressions unfolding before your eyes. Moreau is also considered the great precursor of Surrealism.

In London you should possibly for once not rush to the British Museum, and instead visit a quite different encyclopedic cabinet of wonders, the favorite museum of many an artist and museum director, the Sir John Soane's Museum. In the early 19th century, the British architect and the man who designed the Bank of England transformed his residence into a unique treasure trove. It presents the works of this major Neoclassicist embedded in a formidable benchmark collection of drawings, paintings and sculptures.

And if you have started to enthuse about such opulent London town houses, then it's well worth dropping by the Wallace Collection, where the rich interiors are home to one of the world's premier collections of French Rococo art -- including Fragonard's famous lascivious "Swing".

One person from Pittsburgh, USA, was so taken by what he saw when viewing Richard Wallace's collection that it was to have an even greater impact for the American continent. Infused with a similar taste for art and equally deep pockets, American industrialist Henry Clay Frick took his cue from London when establishing the Frick Collection on New York's Upper East Side back in the early 20th century -- today it is without doubt the most charming, most loved and most intimate of the mainline New York museums -- and houses an outstanding collection from the Renaissance to the 19th century.

Nowhere on Fifth Avenue can you spend a more enjoyable afternoon than in this particular oasis of culture, surrounded by important Old Masters and modern classics.

Perhaps no longer really an inside tip, but definitely still the best alternative to the queues flocking outside the Vatican Museum: the spacious park and the museum of the Villa Borghese in Rome, where the collection dates back to the activities of Cardinal Scipione Caffarelli-Borghese. And truly it is not just the spectacular Caravaggios that are so very worth seeing in this Palazzo.

In conclusion, one tip for lovers of art, everyday culture and literature: In Barcelona you really must visit Museu Frederic Marès. It's located inside Medieval walls, where once the Spanish Inquisition sentenced its victims. Not only does it include an important sculpture exhibition, but also a collection of collections -- and thus reflects the eternal human longing really to collect everything and put in all in order.

Room after room here offer fascinating compilations, of combs, of walking sticks, of cigar bands, fans and much more besides. Sculptor and manic collector Frederic Marès evidently always returned home from his travels to his native Barcelona with a lot of luggage -- and thankfully he bequeathed all his objects, and they run to the tens of thousands, to the public back in the mid-20th century. The result is one of the most impressive and charismatic museums on collecting per se.

It inspired Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk to write his famous novel Museum of Innocence -- which Pamuk then himself turned into a museum which you can now visit in Istanbul -- which will then again influence the next generation of collection and museum founders.