The San Antonio Museum of Art may not be as big as New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, but I believe that SAMA gives the Met a run for its money with the breadth of its collection: Asian, Pre-Columbian, Ancient Mediterranean, European, Islamic, Oceanic, American, Contemporary and Latin American Art, not to mention numerous visiting exhibitions.
The museum is housed on the banks of the San Antonio River in the old Lone Star Brewery, after a $7 million renovation. It was opened in March of 1981, which means 2011 was the 30th anniversary of its opening. You may reach the museum by foot, boat, bike, VIA bus or car. The museum is a hub of the City of San Antonio’s new bike-sharing program, and it is also along the newish section of the San Antonio River Walk that stretches from downtown to the Pearl Brewery.
SAMA is one of the places in San Antonio that I never tire of visiting. Having a membership is best, because you may dash in for an hour or so rather than feeling that you’ve got to take in the whole museum, which can be a bit overwhelming. For those out-of-towners who don’t have a membership, don’t fret. You may hit the high points without becoming all museumed-out.
My don’t-miss-these items include the Dale Chihuly ceiling at the entrance of the William Cowden Gallery, gold diadems in the Ancient Mediterranean area, an Egyptian sarcophagus, Chinese ceramics and textiles, and paintings by Julian Onderdonk, John Singer Sargent, Diego Rivera and Mel Casas.
I also recommend that you check out the museum’s Spanish Colonial Art, especially the out-of-this-world writing desk that features a bust of Cervantes. You’ll also find Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art and Pre-Columbian Art in this wing, which also houses one of the best–if not THE best–Latin American Folk Art collections in the country.
On this visit, I was especially impressed by two works of art. One is by El Anatsui, a Ghanian artist. The work, titled “Dzesi,” is made out of aluminum cans and copper wire. The other work is by Kirsten Bahrs Janssen, an American, and is titled “Measuring Around the Earth with a Golden Thread” that invites audience participation.
While you’re in the museum, do not miss the glass walkway that connects the west wing to the east wing. Looking south, you’ll get a great view of downtown San Antonio, and looking north, you’ll have a great view of the Pearl Brewery and Trinity University. At night, look for the colorful neon lights that enliven the walkway.
Cafe des Artistes, which overlooks the San Antonio River Walk, is open from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesdays through Saturdays and from noon to 3 p.m. on Sundays. The cafe is also open until 9 p.m. on Tuesdays. SAMA also has a wonderful gift shop, where you will be sure to find your heart’s desire.
SAMA is located at 200 W. Jones Avenue, off of Broadway. The museum’s phone number is (210) 978-8100. Their hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays through Saturdays; noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays; and closed on Mondays. Admission is free for members; $8 for adults; $7 for those 6 and above; $5 for students and active military with an ID; and $3 for children ages 4-11. Admission is free for children under 3 and for everyone on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.