In the 1930’s, The Chrysler Museum opened as the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences, but was long ago renamed the Chrysler Museum of Art when Walter P. Chrysler Jr., the son of the founder of The Chrysler Corp., and a great art collector in our nation’s history, arrived with his extensive collection in Norfolk in 1971 once he married Norfolk native Jean Outland.

The Chrysler Museum of Art currently houses a collection of just about 30,000 objects covering 5,000 years of history. Collection highlights feature an impressive and comprehensive survey of American and European sculpture and painting, a world-class glass collection, an outstanding photography program, plus art from Pre-Columbian and Islamic cultures, and Africa, Asia, and Egyptian collections. One of the most alluring aspects of the museum is that admission to the Chrysler’s general collection is always free.

Because admission is free, guests are encouraged to come back often to see the multitude of exhibits. For example, if visitors wanted to spend only an hour to see what’s on exhibit, the website provides advise for doing just that:

Free admission every day gives you the luxury of returning again and again to the museum: there is no pressing need to see everything in one visit.



The museum boasts one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of glass anywhere in the world.


See over 10,000 glass objects spanning 3,000 years of history. The museum’s most revered collection are pieces made by Louis Comfort Tiffany. French glass is also a strong area, as is the English cameo glass collection, though smaller. Pioneers of the American studio glass movement are included as well as 21st century artists.

European Painting and Sculpture

European painting and sculpture at the museum covers pieces from the Renaissance to early modernist canvases. Its collection is one of its greatest assets, ranking among the nation’s finest and most distinctive collections. Donated largely by Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., the European collection covers Jan Gossart and Marx Reichlich to bold early modernist canvases by Henri Matisse and Georges Braque.

American Painting and Sculpture

The Chrysler’s collection of American painting and sculpture is seen as one of its greatest treasures. Visitors can gaze upon the stunning portraits of John Singleton Copley to work by Elizabeth Murray and Nam June Paik. The collection began to take shape in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s with a small but choice group of purchases made by the Chrysler’s predecessor. But most of the collection’s strength, as far as American art goes, comes from substantial gifts made in the 1970s and 1980s.

The most crucial of these, from Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., commenced when he arrived in Norfolk in 1971 to bring hundreds of American images into the fold. Chrysler's sister Bernice and her husband Colonel Edgar William Garbisch expanded the holdings by donating over 164 paintings of 19th-century American folk art. Then, in 1983, the museum secured 70 sculptures from the collection of James H. Ricau.

Modern Art

Modern American and European art in the museum’s collection is widely seen as remarkable. Pieces range from the early 20th century School of Paris to the American Scene movement of the 1930s and ‘40s.

The collection boasts signature works by European early modernists such as Henri Matisse and Georges Rouault to Giorgio de Chirico and Georges Braque. The collection was enhanced by members of The Eight and their circle, including William Glackens, Robert Henri, and George Bellows. Other masters included in the collection are Stuart Davis and Edward Hopper. Walt Kuhn, Reginald Marsh, Phillip Evergood and Thomas Hart Benton attest to Depression-era art.

Ancient Worlds

See non-western and ancient art in the museum’s collection of Greco-Roman, Egyptian, Islamic, East Asian, Pre-Columbian and African pieces.


Better than 4,000 photographic objects are in the collection, from the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement. Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. possessed most objects of art, with the exception of photography. The Chrysler Museum of Art’s photography collection is primarily the result of collecting activity since 1978.

Contemporary Art

This collection includes works by Warhol, Pollock, Lichtenstein, and Rothko. At the heart of the collection are pieces acquired by Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. Works by Jackson Pollack, Hans Hofmann, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, Franz Kline, and Helen Frankenthaler, plus pieces by James Rosenquist, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol can be admired. Significant works by Sam Gilliam, Nam June Paik, and Elizabeth Murray can also be seen.

Decorative Arts

Since its founding in 1933, the museum has been collecting decorative arts. The collection saw dramatic growth via donations of the couple in the 1970s and 80s. A much younger Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. collected 18th-century English furniture and silver. The couple also acquired Art Nouveau furniture.

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2.Past & Present Exhibitions

Past & Present Exhibitions  

Norwood Viviano: Cities: Departure and Deviation

In Cities: Departure and Deviation, the artist uses 25 minimalist blown glass forms to engage guests in urban American history, and how industrial changes affected the landscapes of cities.

Shades of gray, black, and white characterize Viviano's glass diagrams, which can be seen as three-dimensional timelines, depicting the 400-year story of the rise and decline of industries in urban areas and how changes in manufacturing led to significant population change.

The artist uses the length of the form to convey time; he uses the width to depict population density and applies color to convey a moment of dramatic change. This particular arrangement of blown forms lets viewers see the magnitude of diversity in cities as varied as Flint, Michigan and New York.

These depictions can be seen individually or one might compare one to another, but each graph distills complex data into forms that are subdued.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has loaned this exhibition through July 31, 2016.

Tony Oursler: TC: The Most Interesting Man Alive

Tony Oursler called his collaborative work about Tony Conrad TC: The Most Interesting Man Alive. Unfortunately, Conrad died on April 9 in Buffalo, N.Y., prior to the show’s premier on April 21. In Buffalo, he had taught art and media, and had been struggling against pneumonia and prostate cancer.

Oursler is a U.S. artist, recognized for installations and multimedia art. He created a brief movie on Conrad.

Oursler’s 1996 multimedia work Alien Eye is on view in the museum’s Contemporary Galleries.

At the Willoughby-Baylor House: Harry C. Mann

This singular exhibit includes the creations of this man who lived from 1866 to 1926, and is considered Norfolk's most prolific photographer during an era when downtown construction and maritime traffic were booming. Throughout the exhibit, the visitor will come upon the creations of a cameraman – seen as pioneering – who captured the busy commercial happenings on Granby Street and Norfolk’s downtown atmosphere with photos of clouds, waves, and shadows on the Virginia Beach sand dunes – which were experimental.

A native of Petersburg, this amateur photographer leapt into professionalism during the great Jamestown Exposition of 1907. He began only as a member of the photographer’s corps documenting the Expo’s spectacle of technology, art, and trade to launching a downtown studio.

Besides taking portraits, he sold views of regional wetlands and beaches and architecture. His work took on another dimension when it was published in National Geographic three times.

He had created thousands of photographs at the time his downtown studio closed in 1924. Seen today, the images he published give the guest a glimpse of Norfolk during a period of quick change. His landscapes are widely held in awe for their celebration of Norfolk’s beauty.

This exhibition presents 50 of his finest photographs from the Chrysler Collection.

Adeline's Portal

Now on display at the Moses Myers House, this is a conceptual art installation by Beth Lipman, an artist-in-residence at the Chrysler Museum Glass Studio. The installation was inspired by Norfolk history and it was indeed created live in front of a studio audience.

Lipman’s work has been called a still life in glass. For this piece, she envisioned Adeline Myers, who lived in this home in the early 1800s. Lipman took into account objects used by Myers in her life every day.

For her part, Myers was a member of a well-to-do family. She was well educated and known to have keen social graces. In 1819, she was to be married, but her fiancé died just days before the wedding date, and she never dated again. She died, it is said, of a broken heart in 1832.

Lipman, aided by studio assistants, created this work in March 2013. The entire team gave new life to Adeline’s life, transforming many things in it, from a birdcage to a needlepoint sampler, into glass.

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3.The Norfolk Rooms: At The Willoughby-Baylor House

The Norfolk Rooms: At The Willoughby-Baylor House  

Engage in a combination of history and art at the Willoughby-Baylor House. This exhibit reveals life in the early 1800s through artworks and antiques.

These are suggestions from Gallery Hosts about how to spend your time:

They suggest that if you brought young children, you might begin on the first-floor of Ancient Worlds. Young children may be familiar with the Egyptian mummies and ancient Greece and Rome from school, and the smaller children will be fascinated by the faces in the Meso-American galleries. What’s more is that there’s a create-your-own art station for kids near these galleries.

And if you didn’t bring children to the museum, you will still be fascinated by Ancient Worlds – according to half of the gallery hosts. They advise that you pay particular attention to two statues from the collection of Vincenzo Giustiniani.

A distinctly popular favorite among gallery hosts is the glass art collection, but not just those pieces in the newly refurbished first-floor wing.

Chrysler Chandelier, by Luke Jerram, links the modern and the children galleries. The Baccarat candelabrum in Gallery 216 is also popular among the hosts.

Women and the Civil Rights Movement

In this exhibition, which runs from June 14 to Oct. 30, the museum invites visitors to take a journey into history through the eyes of those who witnessed a struggling nation.

In it, the exhibit explores women’s roles in the United States’ march for social justice.

The Truth Booth Premieres for Two Days Only: June 24-26

Usually known as In Search of the Truth, this exhibit has hit many parts of the earth since debuting in Ireland.

This giant inflatable booth is a project of the Cause Collective. Inside the booth is a touch screen and a special prompt that urges visitors to speak. After that it's up to the visitor, who taps a permission button, then press record. Speakers have a maximum of two minutes.

Herb Ritts: The Rock Portraits

Photographer Herb Ritts gets you face-to-face with Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Elton John, Janet Jackson, Prince, Madonna, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Justin Timberlake, and others.

He has shot photos for Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and other leading magazines, presenting the artists in a new light. See B.B. King, Bono, Bruce Springsteen and Britney Spears.

This exhibition can be seen on June 24 until September 18.

Branding the American West: Paintings and Films, 1900-1950

This exhibition includes artists like N.C. Wyeth and Frederic Remington.

Focusing on the first 50 years of the 20th century, these 90 pieces unveil the changing feel and look of the West in American over time. To give visitors perspective, the sculptures and paintings are set against film clips of how the West was conveyed by Hollywood. Its view of the West as a land of violence and action contrasts with rich Native American images and the beauty of many gorgeous stretches of land. This is the exhibit to help visitors find the “what’s right” between the mythology of the American West and its history. It runs from October 29 through February 5, 2017.

The Wisteria Café

Spend time between exhibits at the Wisteria Café, enjoying a meal or Sunday Brunch.

The café offers a complete menu, including beers and fine wines. It is managed by Cuisine & Company, a highly respected organization.

The Wisteria’s reputation has been earned. Fresh ingredients, which are sourced locally, account for amazing specials of the season and outrageous desserts. The herbs are grown just outside the kitchen door.

The menu is affordable, which makes it all the more attractive to museum visitors. This remarkable setting is inspired by the casual elegance – a hallmark of the Chrysler. The Wisteria keeps museum hours.

Back to: Best Things to Do in Norfolk, Virginia

Chrysler Museum of Art,One Memorial Place, Norfolk, VA 23510, Phone: 757-664-6200

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Things to Do in Norfolk, Virginia: Chrysler Museum of Art