New York City
New York City Museums
American Museum of Natural History
This stellar family destination features fun and informative exhibits like a conservatory with 500 live butterflies, the museum’s iconic 94-foot-long blue whale model, and a massive 34-ton iron meteorite fragment. There are also captivating temporary exhibits, and the adjacent Rose Center for Earth and Space offers a variety of fascinating space shows (get your tickets in advance).
The borough’s pride and glory, Brooklyn Museum is one of the country’s oldest and largest art institutions. Home to 1.5 million objects, the colossal Beaux-Arts building showcases a striking permanent collection of ancient Egyptian art. The frequently changing contemporary exhibits range from photography to sculpture. Hit up the popular First Saturdays (5pm to 11pm every first Saturday of the month), which draws in a sundry crowd for a free evening of fun, with live music, film screenings, and lectures.
Museum of Modern Art
One of America’s most visited museums, founded in 1929, MoMa’s 150,000-work collection includes paintings, prints, sculptures, drawings, photographs, design objects, and architectural models. The extensive cinema archive includes 22,000 films and 4 million film stills – the largest and most varied collection in the U.S. The museum’s varied program includes film screenings, gallery talks, artist lectures, and poetry readings. Admission is free on Friday evenings (4 to 8pm); MoMa is closed on Tuesdays.
New Museum of Contemporary Art
The iconic New Museum of Contemporary Art opened in December 2007 at its current location on the recently gentrified Bowery in a brand-new, seven-floor building by Japanese firm Sanaa. The museum's mission is to serve as an incubator for new creative ideas as well as to showcase the latest in contemporary art, with work by artists like Elizabeth Peyton, John Bock, Sarah Lucas, and Tomma Abts. Closed Monday and Tuesday; free admission on Thursday evenings between 7 and 9pm.
P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center
This MoMa-affiliated outpost in largely industrial Long Island City is reason enough to venture out to this desolate stretch of Queens. Devoted to showing experimental contemporary art, this non-profit art institution housed in a converted public school is the place to see works by emerging artists as well as new genres. It presents about 50 exhibitions yearly, including artists’ retrospectives, site-specific installations, performances, and the hugely popular Warm Up music series each Saturday afternoon during the summer. Closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays; suggested admission is $5.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Housed in a white curvy structure designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Guggenheim is a definitive New York landmark. Special temporary exhibits are on display inside the great rotunda; smaller galleries hold the permanent collection ranging from Impressionist to contemporary works. The rich repertory includes lectures by artists and critics, performances, film screenings, classes, and free daily tours of the galleries. Note the museum’s closed on Thursdays; pay-as-you-wish on Friday evenings (from 5:45 to 7:45pm). Its stylish new restaurant, the Wright, opened December 2009 for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, with walls dressed in illuminated fiber optics and a modern American menu featuring the likes of slow-roasted suckling pig with quince, violet mustard, and apple bacon jus.
A satellite of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters holds a permanent collection of art and architecture from medieval Europe, comprising approximately 5,000 works of art dating from about the 9th to the early 16th century. Made from elements of five French cloisters from monastic sites in southern France and situated on 4 acres overlooking the Hudson River, it’s a perfect spot to take in art and then enjoy a picnic. Closed on Mondays.
The Frick Collection
Wandering around the galleries inside this French-style mansion, you may feel as if you’re peeking at someone’s private art collection (actually, you are – the property and all its possessions formerly belonged to steel magnate Henry Clay Frick). The Frick is undoubtedly New York’s most intimate museum. It showcases paintings by great European masters, sculptures (including a great assortment of small bronzes), French furniture and porcelains, Oriental rugs, and a collection of antique clocks and watches. There are classical music concerts multiple times a month and free lectures on Wednesdays. The museum is closed on Mondays, and admission is pay-as-you-wish on Sundays between 11am and 1pm.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Lovingly called “The Met,” this star New York museum, housed in a neo-classical structure in Central Park, features a 2-million-plus collection that spans from the 8th millenium BC through the 20th century. Founded in 1870, it frequently rotates the works on permanent display and regularly hosts special exhibitions, as well as a series of concerts, film screenings and lectures. There’s also a variety of free guided tours daily. Admission is pay-what-you-wish (though $20 is the recommended amount) and includes access to sister museum, The Cloisters. Closed on Mondays.
West Chelsea Gallery District
West Chelsea is to the contemporary art world what Broadway is to the theater world. Since the mid-1990s, New York’s most prominent contemporary art galleries have migrated from Soho to West Chelsea. Currently, there are more than 200 galleries in the area, including heavy hitters like Gagosian, Matthew Marks Gallery, Mary Boone Gallery, and Andrea Rosen Gallery. We recommend taking one of the Chelsea Art Galleries tours.
Whitney Museum of American Art
This compact museum holds one of the world's foremost collections of 20th- and 21st-century American art, starting at 1900 through today. About 18,000 works on permanent display include paintings, sculptures, multimedia installations, drawings, prints, and photographs. The museum is closed on Monday and Tuesday; free guided tours are available.
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