If the kids are sick of staring at Old Masters, give traditional galleries a miss for these offbeat picks around the globe.
Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons - London
A ghoulish tribute to the pioneers of surgery and anatomy, the Hunterian fascinates even as it induces bouts of fainting. This vast collection of human and animal specimens, surgical instruments and related paraphernalia will make every visitor grateful they were born after the advent of anaesthetics and asepsis. Its centrepiece is the Crystal Gallery; eight soaring glass cases containing some 3500 preparations collected by the 18th-century surgeon extraordinaire John Hunter. Bizarre highlight: A drilled, or trepanned, Roman skull from 400AD.
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Museum of Bad Art – Boston
Located in the basement of a theatre in Davis Square, MoBA’s mission is “to bring the worst of art to the widest of audiences” and, to this end, its curators are extremely accomplished. From Dog (“a remarkable fusion of ski resort and wolf puppy”) to No Visible Means of Support (“free from the constraints of their vase … pink carnations defy gravity in this unlikely still life”), it’s a painfully visual reminder that self-delusion is rarely a substitute for talent. Bizarre highlight: MoBA’s first acquisition, Lucy in the Sky with Flowers. Oh, the humanity.
Velveteria: The Museum of Velvet Paintings – Los Angeles
Velveteria celebrates the folk art of painting on black velvet, a practice dating back as far as the 13th century. Owners Caren Anderson and Carl Baldwin have amassed some 4000 works and display up to 420 at any one time. Expect to see pop culture idols old (Elvis, Marilyn) and new (Justin, Taylor), creepy clowns and pink unicorns, even a koala chewing on gum leaves. Want more kitsch? Kids will love the glow-in-the-dark paintings in the black-light lair. Bizarre highlight: A screaming Dame Edna, wearing a dress printed with Munch’s Scream.
Museum of Bags and Purses – Amsterdam
A mecca for handbag fetishists and budding designers, this museum occupies a canal house on Amsterdam’s grand Herengracht. Spanning half a millennium, the 5000-strong collection includes plenty of eye-popping designs kids will appreciate, from Judith Leiber’s cat-shaped evening bag to a Lulu Guinness red plastic-lips clutch. There’s a restaurant, high tea is available by reservation and the shop sells a well-edited selection of bags from Dutch and international designers.
Bizarre highlight: An armadillo shoulder bag from Argentina.
Globe Museum of the Austrian National Library – Vienna
Modern-day Marco Polos should set their GPSes for this unique museum, situated in a baroque palace. It displays 250 globes – terrestrial (earth), celestial (heavens) and planetary (moon and planets) – spanning a 500-year period. See how the Australian continent takes shape over the centuries. Bizarre highlight: The museum’s oldest terrestrial globe (circa 1536), made by Gemma Frisius.
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