In these recessionary times, a museum is still a good bargain (especially if it's free). So when spring weather brings showers, take shelter in one of the nation's many temples to art and culture. USA TODAY's Maria Puente takes a look at some notable exhibits:
Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Through Aug. 16
La Serenissima and her three greatest painters — and their 16th century rivalry. This exhibit of 60 paintings explores how these painters created the Venetian style of rich colors and sensual images. Information: 617-267-9300 or mfa.org.
Luis Meléndez: Master of the Spanish Still Life National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. May 17-Aug. 23
The premier still-life painter in 18th-century Spain, Meléndez's career has long been overshadowed by his contemporary, Francisco Goya. This show of 30 paintings, including the gallery's Still Life with Figs and Bread (plus period objects such as a cork wine cooler, Alcorcón pottery and a copper chocolate pot), showcase his talent for rendering everyday objects as mesmerizing works of art. Information: 202-737-4215 or nga.gov.
Becoming Edvard Munch: Influence, Anxiety, and Myth Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Ill. Through April 26
Think you know all about the man who painted The Scream? This exhibit challenging the myths about his life and career might change your mind. Some 150 paintings and works on paper will be on display. Information: 312-443-3600 or artic.edu.
On the Money: Cartoons for The New Yorker From the Melvin R. Seiden Collection Morgan Library & Museum, New York Through May 24
Some 80 original drawings by some of the magazine's most beloved artists who have tackled the theme of money and the ways in which it defines us. Information: 212-685-0008 or themorgan.org.
No Zoning: Artists Engage Houston Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston May 9-Oct. 4
Houston is the largest American city with no zoning ordinances; instead, the city follows a mixed-use approach that allows disparate architecture and functions to blend. This exhibit explores how a chaotic urban topography affects local artists. Information: 713-284-8250 or camh.org.
America I AM: The African American Imprint National Constitution Center, Philadelphia Through May 3
This exhibit celebrates and provides context for nearly 500 years of African-American contributions to American culture, through artifacts, documents, multimedia, photos and music. Information: 215-409-6700 or constitutioncenter.org.
Art & design
Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury Blanton Museum of Art, Austin Through May 17
An ambitious show that looks at the painting, architecture, furniture design, decorative and graphic arts, film and music of a seminal period that launched mid-century modernism in America and established Los Angeles as a major American cultural center. Information: 512-471-7324 or blantonmuseum.org.
Art & science
Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science and the Visual Arts
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Conn.
Through May 3
One of the many exhibits around the world celebrating Darwin's bicentenary, this show of 200 objects and artworks explores the impact of Darwin's most important theories on visual artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Information: 203-432-2800 or yale.edu/ycba.
Sculpture & architecture
Cast in Bronze: French Sculpture From Renaissance to Revolution Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Through May 24
French bronzes were among the glories of French royal châteaux but have received relatively little scrutiny from scholars. This exhibition, the first to address the subject in many decades, displays approximately 120 of the finest statuettes, portrait busts and monuments by masters such as Pigalle and Houdon. Information: 212-535-7710 or metmuseum.org.
Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Through July 12
The young woman who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1981 has evolved into an artist/architect/environmental advocate who produces art, monuments, buildings and earthworks but doesn't often exhibit. This show of major new sculptural installations explores how people perceive and experience the landscape in these tech-obsessed times. Information: 202-639-1700 or corcoran.org.
Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward Guggenheim Museum, New York May 15-Aug. 23
The Guggenheim celebrates the 50th anniversary of its landmark building with this look at 64 projects, through drawings, models and digital animations, by one of the most influential architects of the 20th century. Information: 212-423-3500 or guggenheim.org.
Manuscripts The Saint John's Bible: A Modern Vision Through Medieval Methods Walters Art Museum, Baltimore Through May 24
This unusual exhibit examines the traditions of illuminated manuscripts, comparing examples from the Walters' renowned collection of medieval masterpieces with pages from a contemporary Bible commissioned by a Benedictine abbey in Minnesota and now being created by master calligraphers in Wales. Information: 410-547-9000 or thewalters.org.
Portraiture Inventing Marcel Duchamp: The Dynamics of Portraiture Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. March 27-Aug. 2
Duchamp, who was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, used self-portraiture to secure his reputation as an iconoclast and to establish himself as a major figure in the art world, in the process reinventing portraiture. The exhibit examines how he did it, through 100 never-before-assembled portraits and self-portraits of Duchamp. Information: 202-633-8300 or npg.si.edu.
Fashion Medievalism: Fashion's Romance With the Middle Ages Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix Through July 5, 2009
The Gothic style — romantic ideas of chivalry and courtly magnificence from the Middle Ages — has inspired fashion design, literature, architecture and art for ages. This show of 40 ensembles, accessories and rare books examines the sumptuous textures and elegant, flowing lines that capture the medieval spirit in fashion from the early 19th century up to contemporary collections. Information: 602-257-1222 or phxart.org.