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TULSA: Philbrook Museum of Art

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BERLIN GREEN
  • Berlin Green

Nothing about the Philbrook Museum of Art makes sense, and that’s why it’s one of the best places in the state of Oklahoma.

Nestled inside a south Tulsa neighborhood, the Philbrook looms before you as you enter the grounds. The story goes that wealthy oilman Waite Phillips abandoned the original 72-room Italian villa just years after its completion, donating the entirety of the estate as an art museum. In the eight decades since its opening to the public in 1939, the villa has evolved with the city. An expansion in 1990 added 70,000 square feet to the museum and its 25 acres of gardens are an incomparable matrix of living art.

The collection is as diverse as any group of patrons you might see on the property any given day, and an enormous piece by Kehinde Wiley (“Equestrian Portrait of Philip IV”) doesn’t look out of place mounted just feet from centuries-old Italian paintings. A junk sculpture here, beautifully engraved basalt stoneware there. Oh, and don’t forget that room full of Salvador Dali art revolving around Alice in Wonderland (closes Oct. 17) after you admire the Native American pottery collection.

If you can, get there before two current and important exhibitions close on Sept. 5. The first is Views of Greenwood, a series of about four dozen photographs compiled by three local photographers over the course of the past half-century. From the Limitations of Now is an expansive collection of multiple disciplines of artists’ work both local and national coalescing around the theme of the collision between the past and present and how the darkest parts of American history affect its future. Both are serious exhibitions that require time and contemplation, so it’s suggested that you visit both before heading out to the gardens.

Speaking of which, the farthest trek at Philbrook will be through the gardens and towards a nondescript log cabin near the back corner of the property. It’s a walk you need to make, and there’s plenty of scenery along the way (see cover photo for reference). This is SLUMGULLION (The Venerate Outpost). Inside the installation is the This Is An Adventure exhibition by Accidentally Wes Anderson. During the daylight hours, the cabin itself from the inside looking out is an unparalleled jewel that must be experienced in person (so no spoilers here). The cabin is air-conditioned and there’s a wooden table inside, so you’ll be rewarded for powering through on the scorching days. The gallery inside continues through the rest of the year, but SLUMGULLION is a permanent installation. We hear it’ll be worth a return visit to see on a Friday after dusk when the days get shorter and cooler too (which is only five bucks after 5 p.m., by the way). 

Finally, there’s a room dedicated to Post-It note Q&As about the history of the museum itself which is all the more fascinating once you’ve completed a corner-to-corner exploration of the property, so skip that until the end for best effect.

General admission to the museum is $12 for adults and free for those 17 and under. Admission discounted to $1 is available for SNAP, WIC, TANF and SoonerCare cardholders.

For more information about the Philbrook museum, visit philbrook.org.

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