two people stand in Crosstown Concourse art gallery looking at pieces
Alex Shansky

Memphis' Visual Art Scene

Memphis' art scene is a reflection of the creative people who have and still do call it home. Whether you’re looking for a date night idea, an outing with the family or just a dose of inspiration, Memphis’ visual art scene provides a creative way to experience the city. Beyond museums, you'll find permanent collections, temporary exhibits and pop-up showcases in Memphis gardens, hidden-gem galleries, art nights and festivals, as well as interactive spaces where you can make and take your own creations. 

people listen to tour guide speak at Withers Collection Museum
Julian Harper
Horse display at Belz Museum of Asian & Judaic Art
Steve Roberts
Metal gazebo overlooking Mississippi River and bell at Metal Museum
Alex Shansky
Kid enjoying art at The Dixon
Erin Austen Abbott

Art museums clockwise from top left: The Withers Collection Museum & Gallery, Belz Museum of Asian & Judaic Art, Metal Museum, and Dixon Gallery & Gardens.

Art Museums

Brooks Museum of Art: The Brooks is the oldest and largest art museum in Memphis and Tennessee. It may be over a century old, but its collection ranges from African masks, Renaissance paintings, 18th-century furniture and textile arts to contemporary sculpture and pop art. Don't miss the well curated gift shop and cafe, and note that the museum building and its setting are part of the allure: this Beaux Arts-style building is a National Landmark, surrounded by lush Overton Park.

Belz Museum of Asian & Judaic Art: This hidden gem off of Downtown Memphis' Main Street reveals a trove of more than 600 jade sculptures, intricate ivory carvings and other treasures created for Chinese nobility during the Quink (Ch’ing) Dynasty. The collection of Judaica features works from contemporary Israeli artists, including 32 bronze sculptures that illustrate the entire Bible. The Holocaust Memorial Gallery tells the somber stories of survivors who settled in Memphis.

Metal Museum: At the country's only institution focused on fine metalwork, browse the collection and temporary exhibits, and plan ahead: Artists-in-residence regularly offer blacksmithing demos and metalworking classes, and you can bet the gift shop is full of handmade gifts. Don't miss the outdoor sculptures with a stunning view of the mighty Mississippi River.  

Art Museum of the University of Memphis: Discover dedicated galleries for Egyptian antiquities and traditional African art, temporary exhibits and shows, plus a print and drawing collection that features lithographs by local Memphis painter Carroll Cloar and polaroids by Andy Warhol. 


Galleries & Gardens

Dixon Gallery & Gardens: Memphis philanthropists Hugo and Margaret Dixon bequeathed their home, gardens and art collection to the city of Memphis. Inside the home, European and American Impressionist paintings make a statement and contrast with changing contemporary exhibits. Outside, stroll the nearly 20-acre oasis featuring formal gardens and a certified arboretum. The Dixon is free to visit through 2024.

Memphis Botanic Garden: With themed vignettes – showcasing anything from medicinal plants to the Japanese natural aesthetic to an interactive children's garden/playground – you could think of Memphis Botanic Garden as an outdoor museum. But spend some time inside to see what's on exhibit. Local photography and paintings are often on display.  

tulips at Dixon garden
Alex Shansky
BB King Mural
Craig Thompson
inside gallery at withers collection museum
Julian Harper
Memphis Botanic Garden bridge over water with red siding
Allen Gillespie

Clockwise from top left: Dixon Gallery & Gardens, BB King Mural, The Withers Collection Museum & Gallery, and Memphis Botanic Garden.

Exhibition Spaces

Crosstown Concourse: Wander this mixed-use building and you'll find photography, murals and two gallery spaces curated by Crosstown Arts. What's on display – video art, textiles, mixed media and so on – could be created by Crosstown's artists in residence. With a variety of restaurants and even a brewery on-site, Crosstown is a ready-made night out. There's even a shared artmaking space here.

Photo Galleries

In Downtown Memphis, two iconic photographers of the 20th century are celebrated at their namesake galleries: 

The Withers Collection: Ernest Withers was the most prolific photographer of the U.S. civil rights movement. He was also the house photographer for Memphis' Stax Records. His black-and-white documentation of the era is alternately arresting and entertaining. 

Jack Robinson Gallery: Jack Robinson's celebrity portraits are iconic. Lock eyes with Warren Beatty, Tina Turner and other stars he captured, and ask about other works by this enigmatic talent. 

Want More? Memphis has
60+ Unique Attractions

Art Festivals & Events

Memphis' arts scene is celebrated year-round with a series of signature events and festivals in many visual arts spaces:

South Main Trolley Night: The perfect opportunity to explore the historic South Main Arts District. Happens the last Friday of the month (March-November) when the shops and galleries host open houses, usually with some live music, free drinks and snacks, and special openings or events. 

First Fridays on Broad Ave: Shop and venture your way through Broad Avenue the first Friday of every month. Many of the 70+ unique shops in this arts district host open houses and drinks to enjoy.

Cooper-Young Festival: (September 14, 2024) One of Memphis' most anticipated outdoor celebrations held in Memphis' largest historic Cooper-Young district. Enjoy a mix of art, music and crafts presented by over 435 artisans from around the country.

Pink Palace Arts & Crafts Fair(September 22-24, 2024) Experience live demonstrations from master craftsmen and shop for eclectic art from more than 150 artists across the country.

RiverArtsFest: (October 19-20, 2024) RiverArtsFest is the region’s largest and longest-running fine arts festival showcasing works from 200+ participating artists from around the Mid-South and across the nation.

Broad Avenue Art Walk: (November, 2024) A free fall festival on Broad Avenue featuring 50+ local artists and makers, a kids craft area, and fun activities such as live screen printing and aerial arts.

About the Author

Hello! I'm Jalyn Souchek, the Director of Content for I Love Memphis Blog! I love calling the 901 home. When I'm not running the blog you can find me cheering on the Grizzlies, at a concert, exploring a new restaurant or kicking back at one of our breweries. I hope you'll love experiencing Memphis with me.

Build your perfect Memphis meal:

I love to eat so if I were to have only one meal left.. I’m going all out. I’d start with an app of Gumbo Fries from Blue City Cafe or Bayou Fries from Chef Tam, wings from Good Fortune or Central’s (honey gold and Jamaican Jerk), potato salad from Fat Larry’s, side of bbq spaghetti from Bar-B-Q Shop, and fried okra from Soul Fish. All paired with a Beale Street Brewing Space Age Sippin’.

Your most memorable Memphis moment:

College GameDay on Beale Street. That was an electric and perfect morning. I was still working in news then and was able to take it in up close and on the stage at some points. The fun and joy of everyone down there that morning is unbeatable.