From ancient artifacts to works so new, the paint is still wet, the museums and galleries (and brick walls) of New York City have everything an art lover could hope for.
Luckily for visitors, many of the museums are clustered in one area, and the galleries in another, which means you can divide your days in NYC by old and new. First, head to Museum Mile in Manhattan’s Upper East Side for a look back at art through the ages, and then head downtown to see some works that defy artistic conventions.
The cornerstone of Museum Mile is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a sprawling museum that contains more than two million works of art that span 5,000 years of human history. “The Met,” as it’s known, takes up five city blocks, which leaves another 3/4 mile of museums to visit. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is a work of art unto itself. The Guggenheim’s permanent collection includes modern and contemporary art, and unique site-specific exhibitions that make the most of the unusual space. Other museums on the mile include the Museum of the City of New York, which features an arresting collection of photographs that depict life in early NYC, and El Museo del Barrio, which showcases 800 years of Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino art.
Art and design go hand in hand — especially in New York, where even the preschoolers are preoccupied with style. The Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum on the Upper East Side and the Museum of Arts & Design at Columbus Circle.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) marries art and design with one of the largest collections of contemporary art in the world. Ever-changing special exhibitions make this museum a local favorite.
MoMA’s exhibition space, PS 1 (located in Long Island City, Queens), presents contemporary experimental art by some of the world’s leading artists. Take the 7 train from Grand Central Station. It’s really not far, and so totally worth the trip.
Feeling inspired and got money to burn? With dozens of galleries concentrated between 19th to 27th Streets on the West Side of Manhattan, Chelsea is the hub of art commerce in New York. Grab brunch at Cafeteria on Seventh Ave. and then spend the afternoon seeking out the unexpected. If it’s a Saturday, stop by the Chelsea Flea Market (112 West 25th Street) for antiques, vintage clothing, records, and other collectibles. Or take a break from art appreciation with a stroll on the High Line, a new park built on old elevated train tracks.
The Lower East Side is lately challenging Chelsea with its proliferation of galleries in recent years. Centered around the New Museum of Contemporary Art (235 Bowery), the galleries of the Lower East side feature some of the edgier work you will see in the city.
You could also hit the streets, where you may find one-of-kind street art — before it gets painted over. Over the years the mysterious Banksy has made his mark on New York, though it’s usually not long before his satirical pieces get painted over. Work by Shepard Fairey, made famous by his Obama “Hope” print, can often be seen around the city too. Scour the Lower East Side, SoHo, and Williamsburg in Brooklyn for memorable works of graffitti art.