Summer Guide to NYC Art Museums: Part 1

Rubin Museum

As I wrap up my last few weeks in high school, I have been reflecting on my years as a high schooler. I’ve realized that I did not take advantage of New York’s incredible art museums because I felt intimidated and overwhelmed by the vastness of the art scene. I decided to spend three weeks visiting 18 art museums, a way of delving into art and also a way of saying goodbye to my city. I put together a guide for all of you, both native New Yorkers and visitors. I hope you’ll use it to explore our art museums. They are overwhelming, but they are also spectacular. Here’s a sneak peek of three museums, and the complete guide will be coming to jGirls Magazine very soon.

I rated the museums based on my enjoyment of the actual art and the entire museum ambiance. The ratings are good, then very good, then great, then excellent, and finally outstanding. I want to emphasize, though, that I recommend going to ALL of the museums in this guide. Now go explore!

1. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Location: 2 E 91st St, New York, NY 10128

Cooper Hewitt 1The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum seeks to educate, inspire, and empower people through design. Since I am much more interested in art than design, I was wary that the museum’s pieces would not capture my attention. I could not have been more mistaken. While many of the exhibits were compelling, The Senses: Design Beyond Vision exhibit was the best interactive exhibit that I have ever experienced. The exhibit probed “how multi-sensory design amplifies everyone’s ability to receive information, explore the world, satisfy essential needs, and experience joy and wonder.” From a work that pairs complex emotional states with corresponding scents, thereby using our sense of smell to expand our perception of our own emotions, to a large furry wall that booms different music depending on how a visitor touches the wall and how many visitors are touching the wall at a given time, The Senses: Design Beyond Vision exhibit transformed how I view the world. Walking down a NYC street that same day, I felt more aware of the olfactory, auditory, and tactile stimuli around me, making me more engaged with my surroundings. The Senses: Design Beyond Vision closes on October 28th. Visit while you still can!!

Personal favorites:

  1. Dialect for a New Era (2017-18) by Polymorf and International Flavors and Fragrances, Inc. in collaboration with linguist Asifa Majid and perfumer Laurent Le Guernec, on view in The Senses: Design Beyond Vision
  2. Tactile Orchestra (2017-18) by Studio Roos Meerman and KunstLAB Arnhem, on view in The Senses: Design Beyond Vision
  3. Seated Catalogue of Feelings (2012-18) by Eric Gunther, on view in The Senses: Design Beyond Vision
  4. Ultrahaptics (2017-18), on view in The Senses: Design Beyond Vision
  5. Smellmap: Amsterdam (2013-14) by Kate McLean and scents created by Gregoire Haussan, IFF, on view in The Senses: Design Beyond Vision
  6. Cyrano Scent Player (2017) by oNotes, on view in The Senses: Design Beyond Vision
  7. Shimmer Table (2014) designed by Patricia Urquiola and manufactured by Glas Italia, on view in Saturated: The Allure and Science of Color

Cooper Hewitt in three words: exploratory, innovative, inclusive
Be sure to check out: the beautiful, spacious garden

Cooper Hewitt 2

Cooper Hewitt 3
2. Rubin Museum of Art
Location: 150 W 17th St, New York, NY 10011

Rubin Museum

The Rubin Museum of Art’s mission statement describes the Rubin as a “dynamic environment that stimulates learning, promotes understanding, and inspires personal connections to the ideas, cultures, and art of Himalayan Asia.” I could not imagine better words to describe the museum. The art itself is beautiful, but what made the Rubin outstanding, in my opinion, is the museum’s clear commitment to making you, the viewer, engaged. The first floor, titled Gateway to Himalayan Art, provides you with the basics of Himalayan art, including descriptions of the meaning behind different symbols in Himalayan art, the different religious figures, how Himalayan art is actually made, and more. Having already visited museums with Himalayan art, I was stunned by how enhanced my experience was once I had a better understanding of the art’s meaning. The Rubin Museum’s yearly theme is another example of the museum’s dedication to connecting you to the art. 2018’s theme is “the future,” and the museum has various programs and exhibitions throughout the year that explore our different understandings of the future, ranging from that of an eighth-century Buddhist master to Einstein, and invite us to imagine a future that isn’t fixed but is rather fluid. Indeed, immediately after I purchased my ticket, I was given a letter from a past visitor, and, midway through the museum, I was invited to write a letter to a future visitor. This letter-writing initiative probes us to imagine what we would tell someone who walks in our footsteps once we are no longer there, pushing us to impact a future that we appear to no longer be a part of and allowing us to expand our understandings of how our actions today change the world of tomorrow.

Personal favorites:

  1. Bodhisattva Maitreya created in Tibet in the 19th century, on view in Gateway to Himalayan Art
  2. Siddha Lakshmi created in Nepal in 1694, on view in Gateway to Himalayan Art
  3. Siddha Lakshmi created in Nepal in the 17th century, on view in Gateway to Himalayan Art
  4. The Stages of Nepalese Hollow Metal Casting, on view in Gateway to Himalayan Art
  5. Illuminating the Future: Tibetan Divination and the White Beryl, including the Illuminated Manuscript of the White Beryl created by Somam Peljor of Tsedong in Central Tibet in the late 18th century, on view in Masterworks of Himalayan Art
  6. Padmasambhava created in Central Tibet, possibly Bhutan, in the 18th century, on view in The Second Buddha: Master of Time
  7. Dakini Eclipse created by Chitra Ganesh in 2018, on view in Chitra Ganesh: Face of the Future

The Rubin Museum in three words: engaging, visionary, wisdom

Rubin Museum 2
3. MoMA PS1
Location: 22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101
Very good


Housed in an old public school, MoMA PS1 is the leading contemporary art center in New York. Originally founded in 1971 as the Institute for Art and Urban Resources Inc., MoMA PS1 became an affiliate of the MoMA in 2000. MoMA PS1 prides itself on displaying “the most experimental art in the world.” Much of the art is hidden throughout the museum, ranging from a small painting of a mouse peeking out at the bottom of a staircase to a teeny hole in the floor that showed a video of a nude woman swimming in lava. I was on my toes throughout my visit, constantly looking out for new pieces. The subject of one long-term installation, James Turrell: Meeting by James Turrell, is light itself, with light streaming in through a wide opening in the ceiling. Another long-term installation, Untitled (Death by Gun) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, consists of a stack of posters featuring imagery of 460 individuals killed by gunshot in the United States during the week of May 1-7, 1989. Visitors are encouraged to each take home a poster from the stack, showing us that art should continue to change the way we view the world long after we leave a museum. I know that the art of the MoMA PS1 itself—the colors, the textures, the brushstrokes—didn’t emotionally move me the same way that the art of other museums had. Instead, I left MoMA PS1 with questions: What is the meaning of art? What do we truly desire to gain from art? Who has the right to answer these questions? And there’s great value to that too.

Personal favorites:

  1. Untitled (Death by Gun) (1990) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, long-term installation
  2. Techpactia tlein quipano ipan Milpa Atla (2004) by Fernando Palma Rodríguez, on view in Fernando Palma Rodríguez: In Ixtli in Yollotl, We the People
  3. Selbstlos im Lavabad (Selfless in the Bath of Lava) (1994) by Pipilotti Rist, long-term installation
  4. James Turrell: Meeting (1980-86/2016) by James Turell, long-term installation
  5. Into the Woods (2004) by Ernesto Caivano, long-term installation

MoMA PS1 in three words: offbeat, experimental, adventurous

MoMA PS1 2 MoMA PS1 3