Juanita Darling, Bogota
In the Bogota Gold Museum, the finest figurines and jewelry from Colombia's pre-Hispanic past shimmer against the black walls of a carpeted walk-in vault. Among these treasures, one piece stands out: A 6-inch golden barge with eight intricately carved figures floating on a glass lake. The statue, which dates from the 17th century, represents the initiation ceremony of a Muisca chief. These Indians, who lived in the Andes, covered village chiefs and their attendants with gold powder and rowed them to the middle of Lake Guatavita, where the chiefs jumped in, giving the lake their gold.
Each figure is depicted in detail, down to the head chief's nose rings and earrings and the minuscule masks his companions wear.
Mary Williams Walsh, Oslo
Since 1924, the city of Oslo has given over 74 acres of prime urban parkland to the work of Gustav Vigeland, a turn-of-the-century sculptor who spent a lifetime capturing human emotions, instincts and relationships in granite, bronze and wrought iron. The sprawling wooded Vigeland Park in western Oslo is loaded with 194 sculptures depicting humans interacting from every conceivable angle.
Because the sculptures are nudes, they are stripped of any historical or social context, and you can see yourself as you stroll deeper into the park. There, on the bridge, is the fight you had with your husband last week, here's your toddler throwing a tantrum, and over there, atop a plinth, is your aged father, holding your sick old mother in his arms.
Best of all is the Children's Circle, a plaza rimmed by eight bronzes showing infants in the first year of life. In the center is a fully developed fetus in bronze, head down, legs curled, eyes closed, waiting to be born.
Mike Clary, Miami Beach
Miami Beach has some first-class museums, but the city is better known for its open-air icons, art that can be seen while driving by. By far the best is the 100-foot-high trompe l'oeil mural on the southern side of the Fontainebleau Hilton Resort. Heading north in the center lane of Collins Avenue (A1A), the "trick the eye" artistry kicks in a block away, at 43rd Street, when through the frame of a classic arch you approach a realistic representation of what you would actually see if the wall were not there--the distinctive curved shape of the rococo hotel and spectacular waterfall that cascades into the hotel's pool. Then the street bends to the west, and the illusion disappears.
The mural has been an instant landmark since New York artist Richard Haas painted it in 1985.