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7 Best Art Pit Stops for Your Bucket List Travels

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Our wonderful planet offers no shortage of grade A line items from which to draft a bucket list, that is: An agenda of places to visit or things to do before one “kicks the bucket.” The idea isn’t to dwell on the fleeting nature of our existence on this mote of dust we call home. The idea of a bucket list encourages people to get out there and participate in this great adventure.

And, with so much art (and art related fare) also available on those journeys, we set out to find the best art-centric pit stops to kick your bucket list travels into high gear. Hey, if you’re traveling like there might not be a tomorrow, then make the most of it.

BUCKET LIST: The South Pacific

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Paul Gauguin’s Grave in Atuona, French Polynesia

The South Pacific has some of the most numbingly beautiful terrain, probably anywhere in the universe. Now, with that in mind, the island of Hiva Oa can do you one better. Not only will you get azure lagoons and ruby reefs, but you can even go see the funerary monument to one of the most troubled artists from recent history. Hiva Oa is host to the grave of none other than Paul Gauguin, impressionist impresario and polygamist. Gauguin was a deeply flawed man with a superb eye for color and form. His bent moral compass left much to be desired in a friend and husband, but a lot to be appreciated by art historians and anyone interested in a good story. And, if you hopped on a plane today, you could be looking at his grave while sipping a pina colada tomorrow. It’s the kind of life event that’s truly bucket list worthy. A multipurpose anecdote ready to titillate every crowd at any occasion. What more could you hope for?

BUCKET LIST: The Grand Canyon

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Double Negative at Carp Elgin Road Clark County, Nevada

Fact: The Grand Canyon is something every blue-blooded American needs to see before they croak. Double Fact: You may as well bookend your donkey show up and down the north rim by flirting with lady luck in Las Vegas. Sin City is the Grand Canyon’s hard partying neighbor, so crash there and add some vice to your desert romp. If you do make Vegas your Grand Canyon homebase, it’ll give you a chance to double down on your crevicular escapes by giving you the opportunity to see Michael Heizer’s Double Negative. Heizer’s sculpture is a miles long man-made canyon located conveniently off one of the routes between Vegas and the Grand Canyon. If you’re driving, stop by and walk the open air, 24/7 exhibit a bit and contemplate stuff. Mortality, I guess. If you’re doing a helicopter tour, slip the pilot a Harriet Tubman or two so they’ll fly you through the middle of Double Negative like it’s a canal on the Death Star. Either way, just have a good time mmmkay?

BUCKET LIST: Underwater Museum + Mayan Ruins + Holding Turtles

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Underwater Art Museum in Cancun, Mexico

Cancun probably brings to mind barely clothed ugly Americans working through an alcohol fueled public rutting odyssey from endless white sand beaches to every variety of soiled hotel room. That’s certainly someone’s reality, but what you need to start thinking is underwater museum. Cancun’s Underwater Art Museum offers a clever series of deceptively simple statuary that are in process of merging with the underwater environment. The statues are varyingly ethereal, straddling the border of the poetic and prosaic, with a healthy dose of satire. The important part is, however, that they’re all robed by the clear Gulf’s warm waters. And, true enough, Cancun’s underwater museum isn’t the only one in the world. Marks against it for not being entirely “unique.” However, its collection is less than 10 meters from the surface, thus totally snorkel-able. It’s also uniquely viewable in conjunction with other bucket list-worthy activities like visiting Mayan ruins, meeting a jaguar, and holding a baby turtle at the turtle hatchery (cue: Awwwwwwww).

BUCKET LIST: Fall in New England

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Andres Institute of Art and Sculpture Garden in Brookline, NH

Fall in New England is one of America’s great offerings to the world in terms of natural splendor on a grand scale. And no doubt, because you’ll have chowder needs to meet, any road trip for this bucket list worthy, show stopping adventure will start in Boston. Which will be a good choice because just a couple miles down the road from Beantown, you’ll find Brookline, New Hampshire. Home to the Andres Institute of Art’s Sculpture Garden, a miles long trek through the woods where you’ll encounter plenty of top-quality abstract pieces to complement the more formal beauty of the surrounding foliage. Not to mention all the weird stuff that looks like the creature designers for Predator did a Hellraiser movie. This is definitely NOT a place to EVEN CONSIDER doing drugs, kids. DO NOT do drugs here. You WILL NOT have an other-worldly, unforgettable time.

BUCKET LIST: Patagonia

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Floralis Generica at the National Museum of Fine Art in Buenos Aires, Argentina

If camping’s your deal, then Patagonia’s the one place you need to see before you die. The unspoilt vistas, clean air, and starry skies are guaranteed to reduce even the most rugged backpacker to blubbering sobs. But, before you get out there, you got to come in through Buenos Aires. And, while in Buenos Aires, your top agenda item (after eating all the meat and drinking malbec ‘til your tongue’s purple) is to go see Floralis Generica, a 105 foot mechanical flower at the National Museum of Fine Art. The statue unfolds with sunrise and, like an actual flower, follows the sun throughout the day until folding up for a good night’s sleep. It’s a marvel of engineering that brings a Terminator 2: Judgement Day aesthetic to gardening that will offer a lot to reflect on about technology and modern life while you’re gawking at all the earth porn in Patagonia.

BUCKET LIST: The Great Pyramids of Giza

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Desert Breath in Qesm Hurghada, Egypt

If the Great Pyramids of Giza, outside Cairo, are good enough to be on the shared bucket list of messrs Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, it’s damn well good enough for you. For real, seeing those imposing tombs is formidable. Impressive and gobstopping you’ll remember it forever. And, since you’re already in Egypt, why not take a couple hour detour to the coast and see something else truly spectacular? The monumental sculpture Desert Breath at Qesm Hurghada is like an overzealous pitch for a Pink Floyd album cover wrought out across the desert’s surface. It’s a series of mounds spiraling out in a cosmic dance around a pool of water. This trippy experience won’t be around forever, as the whole thing was designed to erode back into the desert’s surface sooner rather than later. The reversion has already begun, and you’re not too late to add this modern marvel as an item on the agenda to your life-changing Egyptian journey.

BUCKET LIST: The Great Wall of China

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798 Art District in Beijing, China

Sure, you can see the Great Wall of China from space, but that’s for another bucket list when Virgin Galactic can take us above the exosphere. You know, where humanity belongs. Fooling around in the cosmos, joining the Lightyear High Club (trademark pending). For now, you can hop a plane to Beijing and get one of several very different up-close-and-personal Great Wall experiences. But, before you trample over a thousand years of history, check out the 798 Art District in Beijing. It’s like a Disneyland of contemporary art galleries set amongst a disused manufacturing center built by East Germans a couple decades ago. Scratch that, it’s less Disneyland than something you’d expect to hear regurgitated by Stefon (RIP) on Weekend Update. Except this place exists, and is ready for you to visit both before and after you hit up the Great Wall.

Happy travels!

By Clayton

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Clayton Schuster

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