Art Galleries & Museums of New York City
New York City has such a rich diversity of museums, from the world-renowned Met and MOMA, to the small but impressive Neue Galerie and Frick Collection, that it would take years to explore them all fully.
While they usually cost a pretty penny, New York’s museums are accessible at reduced rates if you do a bit of planning. The main attraction, the Metropolitan Museum, continues to have a “suggested admission” policy so pay what you can afford. Every other major museum, including the Whitney, MOMA and Guggenheim, will also have free or “pay what you wish” nights.
In addition to these well-known museums, New York has a few areas where art galleries are clustered and these you can generally walk into at any time free of charge. Hit West Chelsea if you want to be part of the new gallery scene as the majority of the galleries that made Soho hot in the 80s have moved uptown and many others have followed.
Metropolitan Museum (the Met)
The breadth of the Met’s collection is rivaled perhaps only by the Louvre in Paris. Comprehensive in its worldview, the collections are best dissected over the course of a few days. The main entrance hall offers you an intriguing beginning – to the right are the Egyptian galleries and the Temple of Dendur, to the left are the gorgeously renovated Greek galleries, and up the stairs, you will find the European painting galleries. The museum covers all its bases though, with galleries devoted to armor, musical instruments, costumes, Asian art, Native American art, photography, American art, fashion and more. The building is really a series of buildings, some with can’t miss courtyards such as the American wing, with its Tiffany glass and views of Central Park. The roof sculpture garden is open during warm weather, accessible by elevator near the Modern Art Wing. The museum is so large that galleries may be completely deserted even at peak times. Also check for special exhibits, which are always included in the price of admission.
1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street)
subway: 4,5,6 to 86th Street/Lexington Avenue
Hours: Tues – Thurs and Sunday, 9:30am to 5:30pm, Friday and Saturday 9:30 to 9pm. Galleries actually close 15 minutes before posted close time. Free classical music in the balcony bar on Friday and Saturday evenings. Closed Mondays, except holidays. Closed Jan 1st, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Tickets: Admission is by suggested donation, currently $25 for adults, $17 for seniors and $12 for students. Children under 12 are free with an adult. The policy is more accurately “pay what you wish” or “pay what you can afford” so the amount is effectively up to you, but you do have to pay something. Different cashiers react differently paying less than suggested, but it is your right as stated in the museum’s charter so pay what you wish.
Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
Open just a few years, the newly expanded MOMA building is a tremendous improvement on the former property. Open and airy, with an enlarged sculpture garden, the building is a fitting showcase for the phenomenal collection it holds. The collection spans the years from Impressionism through Modern Art to Contemporary Art. Sprawling over multiple floors, MOMA has an incredible catalog of works from artists such as Monet, Picasso, Warhol, Van Gogh, Dali, Hopper and Pollock. Another strong suit is architecture and design, which often gets short shrift from museums. The museum also has an excellent film series featuring foreign, independent and classic films. Several cafes are on site as is the Modern Restaurant and the more casual The Bar Room, all operated at peak efficiency by renowned restaurateur Danny Meyer (Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern).
11 W. 53rd Street, New York, 212-708-9400
subway: E/F to 53rd Street & Fifth Avenue
Hours: Sunday and Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday 10:30am – 5:30pm, Friday 10:30am – 8pm, Closed Tuesdays.
Tickets: $25 for adults, $18 seniors, $14 students, under 16 free. Admission is free Fridays after 4pm – expect a long line to get in so get there early. Film admission is free with regular ticket (pick up a ticket at the Film desk after paying) or $10 for adults without museum admission. A joint admission ticket for MOMA and Top of the Rock observation deck (Rockefeller Center) can be purchased for $30.
Given to eclectic large-scale shows, the Guggenheim often offers a more comprehensive view of an artist or movement. Housed in its famous Frank Lloyd Wright designed building, the space is often conducive to a logical set-up for exhibits. The best way to visit is to ride the elevator to the top, where you can then walk down the gently sloping ramps, though this does not hold for every show. The museum also has an impressive but small collection of Impressionist, post-Impressionist and Modern Art works it displays in side galleries depending on space and its ongoing renovations (several galleries are closed until summer 2008).
- 1071 Fifth Avenue (at 89th Street)
- subway: 4,5,6 to 86th Street/Lexington Avenue
Hours: Sat-Wed 10am –5:45pm, Friday 10am – 7:45pm. Closed Thursdays
Tickets: Adults $22, Students & Seniors $18, Children under 12 are free. Pay what you wish Fridays after 5:45pm with the last ticket sold at 7:15pm
The Whitney Museum of American Art
The Whitney features American Art from the 20th and 21st centuries. It is also well known for the Whitney Biennial, which features works from top contemporary artists. (The next biennial is scheduled for 2010.) Note that this museum does not allow any type of photography.
- 945 Madison Ave (at 75th Street)
- (212) 570-3600
- subway: 6 to 72nd Street
Hours: Wednesday–Thursday 11 am–6 pm, Friday 1–9 pm, Saturday and Sunday 11 am–6 pm. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Years Day.
Tickets: Adults $20, Seniors and Students $16, Children under 12 and NYC Public High School Students are free. Pay what you wish on Fridays from 6pm to 9pm.
The New Museum
Neue Galerie is an art museum on the Museum Mile in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City. It was founded by two close friends, art dealer Serge Sabarsky and philanthropist Ronald Lauder. Neue Galerie was set up to showcase Expressionist art by German and Austrian artists from the early 20th century.
Neue Galerie is housed in a Louis XIII-style Beaux-Arts building which was completed in 1914. The building was commissioned by industrialist William Starr Miller. It was designed by Carrère & Hastings, the same designers of the New York Public Library. It was subsequently occupied by Grace Vanderbilt, wife of Cornelius Vanderbilt III. The building is a designated landmark and regarded as the most distinguished structure along Fifth Avenue.
The new home for the New Museum on a still underdeveloped stretch of the Bowery is mod-cool and crowds have been flocking there since the museum’s reopening in 2007. The collection of cutting-edge contemporary art follows the museum’s mission: “New Art, New Ideas.” The museum is fairly small and rotates exhibits frequently so double-check the website before going. Don’t forget to take advantage of free Thursday nights.
- 235 Bowery at Prince Street
- subway: F to Bowery, 6 to Bleecker or Spring Streets
Hours: Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 12-6 PM, Thurs and Friday 12 – 10pm, Closed Monday and Tuesday
Adult admission is $14, Seniors $12 and Students $10. Kids 18 and under are free at all times. Thursday nights from 7pm to 10pm are free to all.
The Neue Galerie is devoted to German and Austrian art. Housed in a gorgeous townhouse near the Met, the landmark building itself is as much of a draw as the collection, which relies heavily on special exhibitions. The building also has a pair of cafes that evoke classic Vienna, Café Sabarsky and Café Fledermaus, run by Austrian chef Kurt Gutenbruner. Both serve a menu of light bites, sandwiches, pastries, cakes and, of course, coffee. Café Sabarsky also has a popular cabaret series featuring music from the 1880s to 1930s on select Thursdays. Tickets are $103 and included a prix fixe dinner.
- 1048 Fifth Avenue (at 86th Street)
- subway: 4,5,6 to 86th Street/Lexington Avenue
Hours: Saturday – Monday 11am – 6pm, Thursday 11am – 6pm, Friday 11am – 9pm. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Café Sabarsky is open Monday and Wednesday 9am – 6pm, Thursday – Sunday 9am – 9pm. Closed Tuesdays. Café Fledermaus is open 12pm – 6pm Friday – Sunday, serving the same menu as Café Sabarsky.
Tickets: Adults $20, Students and Seniors $10. Note the museum does not admit children under 12 and has no facilities for strollers, except in the cafes.
The Frick Collection
The Frick Collection is housed in the former mansion of industrialist Henry Clay Frick across from Central Park. The museum is small but maintains an impressive collection of classic European art, including work from Corot, Fragonard, El Greco, Goya, Whistler and Rembrandt. The museum is perhaps best known for having three paintings by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, who only has about 36 existing paintings attributed to him.
- 1 East 70th Street
- subway: 6 to 72nd Street
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10am – 6pm, Sunday 11am – 5pm. Closed Monday and Holidays
Tickets: Adults $18, Seniors $15, Students (with ID) $10. Pay what you wish Sundays 11am – 1pm
Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum
The Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum covers a wide range of design, from drawings to furniture to jewelry to graphic design to textiles. It is the only museum devoted solely to design in the country and is part of the Smithsonian Institution. The museum is housed in the former mansion of Andrew Carnegie, built in 1901 with many design innovations for a private residence, including a steel frame and passenger elevator.
- 2 East 91st Street
- subway: 4,5,6 to 86th Street/Lexington Avenue
Hours: Monday – Thursday 10am – 5pm, Friday 10am – 9pm, Saturday 10am – 6pm, Sunday 12pm – 6pm
Tickets: Adults $15, Seniors and Students with ID $10, Under 12 free
A number of Museums highlight the contributions of New York’s diverse population. The Studio Museum (144 W. 125th Street, website) in Harlem holds retrospectives of African and African American artists. The Jewish Museum (1109 Fifth Avenue, website) has an impressive collection of paintings, photos, antiquities, and historical artifacts. The Museo del Barrio, devoted to Latin American art, is currently closed for renovations until Fall 2009.
Soho is where the New York art scene really took off in the 80s and 90s, but the area quickly became a victim of its own success. Prince Street, Broadway, and Spring Street still house a number of galleries, but the main scene has moved to West Chelsea. Galleries to check out include Deitch (2 locations, 76 Grand St & 18 Wooster St, website) and Martin Lawrence (457 W. Broadway, website)
The main area of concentration is on West 22nd, West 24th, and West 25th Streets between 10th and 11th Avenues. The big names here are Gagosian (website), Mary Boone (website), Perry Rubenstein (website), and Matthew Marks (website), though there are a few hundred galleries, most open to the public.
Chelsea has a handy website, which gives you a rundown of what is showing, which gallery is where and when there are receptions where you can score some free wine.
Galleries are generally open Tues – Saturday from 10am – 6pm, though that can vary and it’s best to call ahead, especially if you’re visiting on Sunday.
The Upper East Side has a number of galleries and the art deco Fuller Building (41 E. 57th Street, corner of Madison Avenue) has long housed many prestigious galleries. The building has seen some major galleries leave over the years, but still has several good ones. Its galleries tend to be open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am – 6pm.
Aficionados of design and architecture should visit Rizzoli at 31 West 57th Street to peruse their fine book collection featuring hundreds of books cover these fields.
Always wear comfortable shoes as you will be standing and walking for hours.
Avoid museums on weekends, when they can be packed to the point of discomfort. Museums are relatively quiet at 10am on a weekday, though there will be school groups to contend with.
Photography is severely restricted in New York museums with the Whitney prohibiting it altogether. Flash photography is never permitted.
New York museums are very strict when it comes to bag size. Try not to bring bags to a museum as you will be forced to check larger ones or even refused admittance.
Gift shops close at the same time as the museum so leave adequate time to peruse the shop. MOMA has a cool design store across from the main museum as well as an outlet on Prince Street in Soho. The Met has a small store in Macy’s but the museum store is much more comprehensive and is quite possibly the best museum store in the country.