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 NYC’s incredible art museums. These past few years, 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 discovering art and also a way of saying goodbye to my city. I put together this 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.
I rated the museums based on my enjoyment of the actual art and the entire museum experience. The ratings are good, very good, great, excellent, and finally outstanding. I want to emphasize, though, that I recommend going to ALL of the museums in this guide.
By clicking on a museum, you will be taken to the museum’s section of the guide, which will appear below the table of contents.
And here’s a link to the PDF of the guide.
- The Met Breuer
- Asia Society Museum
- Museum of Arts and Design (MAD)
- The Frick Collection
- Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
- The Jewish Museum
- American Folk Art Museum
- Neue Galerie New York
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
- Rubin Museum of Art
- The New Museum of Contemporary Art
- Institute of Arab and Islamic Art (IAIA)
- Whitney Museum of American Art
- The Brooklyn Museum
- MoMA PS1
- The Met Cloisters
- The Bronx Museum of the Arts
- The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Now go explore!
1. The Met Breuer
Location: 945 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10021
The Breuer in three words: thought-provoking, compelling, engrossing.
The influential designer Marcel Breuer’s landmark building—a bold, innovative modernist statement in a neighborhood of traditional buildings—provides the ideal setting for The Met Breuer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s outpost for showcasing modern and contemporary art. Airy, interestingly-shaped rooms with wide windows complement the art. The Met Breuer opened in 2016 and has no permanent collection, simply alternating exhibits. The current exhibit Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body (through July 22nd) juxtaposes masterpieces with little-seen art, whose origins range from the 14th century to the present. Like Life examines sculptures that were meant to realistically capture the presence of the human body rather than following the classical model of idealized, white marble statues. In doing so, Like Life raises questions blurring the boundary line between life and art. The exhibit is a little eerie, but very engrossing.
- Self Portrait with Sculpture (1980) by John De Andrea, on view in Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body
- California (1850-55, carved in 1858) by Hiram Powers, on view in Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body
- Les Guérillères X (2016) by Mai-Thu Perret, on view in Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body
- Rubber Soul, Monument of Aspiration (2011) by Mary Sibande, on view in Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body
- To the Son of Man Who Ate the Scroll (2016) by Goshka Macuga, on view in Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body
Non-art-related perk: the beautiful architecture of the cafe and outdoor seating.
2. Asia Society Museum
Location: 725 Park Ave, New York, NY 10021
Asia Society in three words: majestic, dignified, serious.
The Asia Society was founded by John D. Rockefeller III in 1956. Now, Asia Society is the leading educational organization committed to promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and the United States in a global context. Several pieces of the New York museum’s permanent collection are displayed in the lobby. When I visited, the exhibit was Unknown Tibet: The Tucci Expeditions and Buddhist Painting (ended May 20th). Unknown Tibet featured paintings that Italian scholar Giuseppe Tucci collected during his 1926-1948 expeditions to Tibet, alongside stunning photographs taken during his travels. The current exhibits are Inspired by Asian Art: Works by New York City Students (through August 12th) and Masterpieces from the Asia Society Museum Collection (through August 12th).
- Jiha Moon’s piece from Asian Contemporary Art in Print (published in 2006)
Hidden treasure: Instead of merely going upstairs towards the exhibits, head downstairs for a few pieces of contemporary Asian art and photographs.
Non-art-related perk: Check out the Asian-themed gift shop, which sells everything from handmade jewelry by Asian artists to the Japanese Egglings, plants that grow inside structures that look like eggs.
3. Museum of Arts and Design (MAD)
Location: 2 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019
MAD in three words: unconventional, unique, authentic.
Since its founding in 1956, the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) has celebrated the process of making, specifically how materials are transformed. Indeed, the mission of MAD is “to collect, display, and interpret objects that document contemporary and historic innovation in craft, art, and design.” Surface/Depth (through September 9th) is an absorbing look at feminist artist and founding member of the Pattern and Decoration movement Miriam Schapiro’s signature femmages, which come from the words feminine and collage. She pushed for recognition of craft, decoration, and abstract patterning associated with femininity and women’s work as valid art. MAD brilliantly coupled Schapiro’s femmages with the work of contemporary artists who continue to be inspired by Schapiro as they create decorative art. Also captivating is Tanya Aguiñiga: Craft & Care (through October 2nd), which features the work of Tanya Aguiñiga, an artist and activist who combines design thinking and community building in her organization AMBOS (Art Made Between Opposite Sides), a long-term initiative that activates sites along the US-Mexico border through collaborative art-making and storytelling projects.
- Gates of Paradise (1980) by Miriam Schapiro, on view in Surface/Depth
- Beacon 4 (2018) by Derrick Adams, on view in Derrick Adams: Sanctuary (through August 12th)
- Arete-Libro: La Frontera (2013) by Kate Connell and Oscar Melara, on view in La Frontera: Encounters Along the Border (through September 23rd)
- CRAFTA Weave (2015) by Tanya Aguiñiga, on view in Tanya Aguiñiga: Craft & Care
- Palapa (2017) by Tanya Aguiñiga, on view in Tanya Aguiñiga: Craft & Care
- Border Quipu/Quipu Fronterizo (2016-2018), created as part of an AMBOS initiative, on view in Tanya Aguiñiga: Craft & Care
Be sure to check out:
- The Artist Studios, which hosts artists and designers daily as they produce their work in a live studio.
- Interlace, Samantha Bittman’s large-scale vinyl mural in the reception area.
4. The Frick Collection
Location: 1 E 70th St, New York, NY 10021
The Frick in three words: elegant, beautiful, intimate.
Industrialist Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919) collected the art in the Frick Collection, which is now displayed in his former mansion on Fifth Avenue. The collection opened in 1935 and boasts work by masters such as Bellini, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Turner. I absolutely loved The Frick. Mr. Frick’s mansion, a piece of art in its own right, provides an exceptional setting for the works; the art felt more intimate and more personal—the underlying spirit of the collection felt stronger— in the curator’s own home. As a result, I felt more deeply moved, more inspired, more energized, and more thoughtful about the art in The Frick Collection than I had in any previous if you haven’t gone to many museums saying any previous museum doesnt really work museum.
- Mrs. Peter William Baker (1781) and The Hon. Frances Duncombe (1777) by Thomas Gainsborough, on view in the Dining Room
- Henrietta, Countess of Warwick, and Her Children (1787-89) by George Romney, on view in the Dining Room
- Pietà (ca. 1440) by Circle of Konrad Witz, on view in the Boucher Ante-Room
- Purification of the Temple (ca. 1600) by El Greco, on view in the Boucher Ante-Room
- St. Francis in the Desert (ca. 1476-78) by Giovanni Bellini, on view in the Living Hall
- Officer and Laughing Girl (ca. 1657) by Johannes Vermeer, on view in the South Hall
- Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Garden (1826) by John Constable, on view in the Library
- The Lake (1861) by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, on view in the West Gallery
- Mistress and Maid (1666-67) by Johannes Vermeer, on view in the West Gallery
- Cologne, the Arrival of a Packet-Boat: Evening (1826), Harbor of Dieppe: Changement de Domicile (exhibited 1825, but subsequently dated 1826), and Antwerp: Van Goyen Looking Out for a Subject (1833) by Joseph Mallord William Turner, all on view in the West Gallery
- The White Horse (1819) by John Constable, on view in the West Gallery
- The Deposition (ca. 1495-1500) by Gerard David, on view in the West Gallery
5. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Location: 2 E 91st St, New York, NY 10128
Cooper Hewitt in three words: exploratory, innovative, inclusive.
The 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, as Cooper Hewitt put it, “how multisensory 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!!
- 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
- Tactile Orchestra (2017-18) by Studio Roos Meerman and KunstLAB Arnhem, on view in The Senses: Design Beyond Vision
- Seated Catalogue of Feelings (2012-18) by Eric Gunther, on view in The Senses: Design Beyond Vision
- Ultrahaptics (2017-18), on view in The Senses: Design Beyond Vision
- Smellmap: Amsterdam (2013-14) by Kate McLean and scents created by Gregoire Haussan, on view in The Senses: Design Beyond Vision
- Cyrano Scent Player (2017) by oNotes, on view in The Senses: Design Beyond Vision
- Shimmer Table (2014) designed by Patricia Urquiola and manufactured by Glas Italia, on view in Saturated: The Allure and Science of Color (through January 13th)
Non-art-related perk: the sunny, spacious garden.
6. The Jewish Museum
Location: 1109 5th Avenue at 92nd St, New York, NY 10128
The Jewish Museum in three words: open-minded, forward-thinking, absorbing.
Founded in 1904, the Jewish Museum is “dedicated to the enjoyment, understanding, and preservation of the artistic and cultural heritage of the Jewish people through its unparalleled collections, distinguished exhibitions, and related education programs.” Prior to visiting, I thought the Jewish Museum would feel very familiar. However, the opposite was true: the museum expanded my understanding of my own Jewish identity. By juxtaposing art from different time periods, and continually changing the presentation style, the Jewish Museum’s ongoing Scenes From the Collection is very engaging, exuding open-mindedness and a commitment to a rich, nuanced, and evolving discussion of what it means to be Jewish. I also strongly recommend Chaim Soutine’s emotionally-charged paintings of dead animals, on view in Chaim Soutine: Flesh (through September 16th).
- Theresienstadt Bracelet (1941-43) by Greta Perlman, on view in Scenes from the Collection
- Entrance to the Camp (1943) by Otto Ungar, on view in Scenes from the Collection
- Marriage Contract (2017) by ruby onyinyechi amanze, on view in Scenes from the Collection
- Alios Itzhak (The World Stage: Israel) (2011) by Kehinde Wiley, on view in Scenes from the Collection
- Untitled (jew) (1987) by William Anastasi, on view in Scenes from the Collection
- Hard Sweetness (1971) by Joan Snyder, on view in Scenes from the Collection
- The Fish (1933) by Chaim Soutine, on view in Chaim Soutine: Flesh
- Carcass of Beef (1925) by Chaim Soutine, on view in Chaim Soutine: Flesh
Non-art-related perk: Over a century old, the iconic shop Russ & Daughters, famous for their bagels and lox, opened a restaurant at the Jewish Museum. The Babka French Toast is recommended.
7. American Folk Art Museum
Location: 2 Lincoln Square, New York, NY 10023
American Folk Art Museum in three words: resourceful, imaginative, creative.
Founded in 1961, with a collection of over seven thousand pieces, the American Folk Art Museum is dedicated to the works of self-taught artists, both past and present. I enjoyed the American Folk Art Museum very much. The artwork felt especially creative and free, unconstrained by the rules of artistic tradition and stemming directly from the minds of the artists themselves. When I was there, the exhibit was Vestiges and Verse: Notes from the Newfangled Epic (ended May 27th). The current exhibit is Holding Space: The Museum Collects (through July 5th), while the upcoming exhibit is Charting the Divine Plan: The Art of Orra White Hitchcock (June 12th-October 14th). One of my favorite pieces was created by Josep Baqué, a policeman who simply enjoyed drawing in his free time. When he died, he bequeathed a 454-sheet bestiary, titled 1500 Animals, Wild Beasts, Monsters, and Primitive Men, Year XV, to his niece. The bestiary is composed of 1,500 fictitious creatures, spanning animals, primitive men, insects, fish, and more. That kind of raw, untaught creativity is what makes the work of self-taught artists so inspiring; being able to see what someone can accomplish simply in their free time probes us to reconsider our self-imposed limits on our own potential.
8. Neue Galerie New York
Location: 1048 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028
The Neue Galerie in three words: exquisite, historical, unafraid.
The Neue Galerie New York is focused exclusively on Austrian and German twentieth century art and design. While the first two floors showcase the permanent collection, which feature famous work like Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, the subject of the 2015 movie Woman in Gold, the third floor features special temporary exhibits. When I visited, the third floor featured Before the Fall: German and Austrian Art of the 1930s (ended May 28th), the third and final in a series of temporary exhibits on German history by Dr. Olaf Peters. Before the Fall showed the art of the decade leading up to World War II, and gave space to the work of artists from all sectors of German life, including Jews in concentration camps and Nazis. As disturbing as it was, Before the Fall was just as important.
- The Dancer (unfinished) (1916-17) by Gustav Klimt
- Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912) by Gustav Klimt
- Portrait of Ria Munk III (unfinished) (1917) by Gustav Klimt
- Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) by Gustav Klimt
- Vaudeville Act (Quappi) (1934 and 1937) by Max Beckmann
- Autumnal Still-Life (1934) by Karl Völker
- Aquarium (1937) by Rudolf Wacker
- Storm (1932) by Franz Sedlacek
9. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Location: 1071 5th Ave, New York, NY 10128
The Guggenheim in three words: boundary-defying, brave, unexpected.
Originally established as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting in 1939, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is the heart of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s international network of museums. Commissioned in 1943 and eventually built in 1959, Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous building, shaped as an inverted ziggurat, sets the tone for the museum at-large: the Guggenheim is a place of innovation, dedicated to reflecting on today’s society and pushing boundaries ever farther. I found that the art lived up to the expectations that the building itself continually demands, and I left feeling invigorated and reflective. I particularly enjoyed Lin Yilin’s Monad, which, using virtual reality, allowed me to experience what it would feel like to be a basketball that is bounced by Jeremy Lin in One Hand Clapping (through October 21). Yilin attempts to probe how we can use virtual reality to change our own identities and empathize with others. I also loved A Year With Children (through June 13), an exhibit that shows selected work of NYC public elementary students.
- Muse (1912) by Constantin Brancusi, on view in the Guggenheim Collection: Brancusi
- Three Bathers (1920) by Pablo Picasso, on view in the Thannhauser Collection
- Nude Model in the Studio (1912-13) by Fernand Léger, on view in the Thannhauser Collection
- Portrait of a Young Man (1913-14) by André Derain, on view in the Thannhauser Collection
- Women Ironing (1904) by Pablo Picasso, on view in the Thannhauser Collection
- Winter Landscape with Church (1910-11), Landscape with Rolling Hills (1910), and Study for Landscape with Tower (1908) by Vasily Kandinsky, on view in the Thannhauser Collection
- In the Vanilla Grove, Man and Horse (1891) by Paul Gauguin, on view in the Thannhauser Collection
- Constructing Ourselves (2017-18) by 3rd-graders at PS 144, on view in A Year with Children 2018
- Activating Avatars (2017-18) by 4th-graders at PS 8, on view in A Year with Children 2018
- Possible Music #1 (2018) by Samson Young, on view in One Hand Clapping
- Spring River in the Flower Moon Night 1 (2017) and Spring River in the Flower Moon Night 4 (2017) by Duan Jianyu, on view in One Hand Clapping
- Monad (2018) by Lin Yilin, on view in One Hand Clapping
Summer special: Summer of Know, a conversation series featuring artists and activists in conversation with Guggenheim curators. Free for students.
10. Rubin Museum of Art
Location: 150 W 17th St, New York, NY 10011
The Rubin Museum in three words: engaging, visionary, wisdom.
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 (through July 16th), 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 after I gained a better understanding of the art’s meaning. Another example of the Rubin Museum’s dedication to pulling you in, connecting you to the art, is the museum’s yearly theme. 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 pushes us to impact a future that we, on the surface, are no longer a part of, allowing us to expand our understandings of how our actions today change the world of tomorrow.
- Bodhisattva Maitreya created in Tibet in the 19th century, on view in Gateway to Himalayan Art
- Siddha Lakshmi created in Nepal in 1694, on view in Gateway to Himalayan Art
- Siddha Lakshmi created in Nepal in the 17th century, on view in Gateway to Himalayan Art
- The Stages of Nepalese Hollow Metal Casting, on view in Gateway to Himalayan Art
- 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 (through March 25th, 2019)
- Padmasambhava created in Central Tibet, possibly Bhutan, in the 18th century, on view in The Second Buddha: Master of Time (through January 7th, 2019)
- Dakini Eclipse created by Chitra Ganesh in 2018, on view in Chitra Ganesh: Face of the Future (through November 4th)
Be sure to check out: The Rubin Museum’s events, like mindful meditation classes, on-stage conversations with sci-fi writers, comedians, and neuroscientists, dance performances, and more.
11. The New Museum of Contemporary Art
Location: 235 Bowery, New York, NY 10002
The New Museum in three words: current, international, society.
The New Museum of Contemporary Art was founded in 1977, and it is the only museum in Manhattan devoted entirely to the work of contemporary artists. The largest exhibit displayed when I visited was the 2018 Triennial: Songs for Sabotage (ended on May 27th). The pieces in the triennial “question how individuals and collectives around the world might effectively address the connection of images and culture to the forces that structure our society,” and I appreciated both the wide variety of artists featured and the background information that the New Museum provided. I also enjoyed The Black School X Kameelah Janan Rasheed (through September 16th), this year’s summer art and social justice residency and exhibition, where both The Black School and Kameelah Janan Rasheed created their own learning environment.
- The Black School’s Installation on the Fifth Floor, on view in The Black School X Kameelah Janan Rasheed
12. Institute of Arab and Islamic Art (IAIA)
Location: 3 Howard St, New York, NY 10013
IAIA in three words: Arab, minimalist, interesting.
The Institute of Arab and Islamic Art opened up in May 2017. Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Al-Thani, a member of the ruling family in Qatar, noticed the absence of an institute for Arab art among NYC’s plethora of other cultural institutions and founded the Institute of Arab and Islamic Art in 2014, aiming for the institution to counter misconceptions and open up cross-cultural dialogues. The institute is now on its third exhibit, which features the work of Alex Ayed (through June 3rd). I was surprised by how small the exhibit was: just one room, with several pieces sparsely scattered throughout. Although the exhibit was rather quick, IAIA is located in SoHo, a fun area to hang out in, right near the New Museum.
- Untitled (Sand II) (2018) by Alex Ayed, on view in Exhibition 3: Alex Ayed
- Untitled (Window) (2018) by Alex Ayed, on view in Exhibition 3: Alex Ayed
13. Whitney Museum of American Art
Location: 99 Gansevoort Street, New York, NY 10014
The Whitney in three words: modern, American, contemplative.
In the early twentieth century, sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney began buying American artists’ work, recognizing that new American artists found it extremely difficult to sell their work. She established the Whitney Studio in Greenwich Village in 1914, presenting work of living American artists that had been rejected by traditional academics. In 1929, she offered her collection of over 500 pieces with an endowment to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, yet they refused it. She therefore decided to open up her own museum—the Whitney—that focused exclusively on the art of the United States. There’s something undeniably exciting about visiting a museum dedicated to the art of another culture and country. The entire experience is novel, filled with the joy of new exposure and understanding. At the Whitney, though, I discovered that there’s something uniquely special about visiting a museum dedicated entirely to the work of the artists of my own country. The Whitney does an excellent job of establishing the pieces in the context of American history. When I read these historical contexts, I wasn’t learning about these time periods for the first time; I had learned about them countless times before. Yet the art—the vivid way in which artists chose to respond to their surroundings—breathed new life and meaning into my understanding of my own country’s history.
- Music, Pink and Blue No. 2 (1918) by Georgia O’Keefe, on view in Where We Are: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1900-1960
- Washington Crossing the Delaware (1960) by Larry Rivers, on view in Where We Are: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1900-1960
- Stone City (1930) by Grant Wood, on view in Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables (through June 10th)
Non-art-related perk: the stunning views from the terraces.
14. The Brooklyn Museum
Location: 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, New York 11238-6052
The Brooklyn Museum in three words: eclectic, updated, social-minded.
With roots dating back to 1823, the Brooklyn Museum is one of the nation’s oldest and largest museums. I was impressed, though, by its conscious effort to reinvent itself, to remain relevant despite changing times. The building has been continually updated, uniquely combining both the styles of the past and the innovative styles of the present. The collection shares this embrace of both the past and the present: ranging from Ancient Egyptian art to the work of living artists, the collection spans almost every culture of the world. Rather than having an audio guide, visitors are invited to text all of their questions about the art to experts, who are ready to respond immediately. And in the David Bowie is exhibit (through July 15), visitors are given a headset with a GPS that automatically plays audio, including musical performances, based on where the visitor is standing. A 21st century museum indeed.
- The Dinner Party (1974-79) by Judy Chicago, on view in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art
- Antes-Después (1981) by Sylvia Salazar Simpson, on view in Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985 (through July 22nd)
- Sunset at Sea (1906) by Thomas Moran, on view in Infinite Blue
15. MoMA PS1
Location: 22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101
MoMA PS1 in three words: offbeat, experimental, adventurous.
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, reminding 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.
- Untitled (Death by Gun) (1990) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, long-term installation
- Techpactia tlein quipano ipan Milpa Alta (2004) by Fernando Palma Rodríguez, on view in Fernando Palma Rodríguez: In Ixtli in Yollotl, We the People
- Selbstlos im Lavabad (Selfless in the Bath of Lava) (1994) by Pipilotti Rist, long-term installation
- James Turrell: Meeting (1980-86/2016) by James Turrell, long-term installation
- Into the Woods (2004) by Ernesto Caivano, long-term installation
16. The Met Cloisters
Location: 99 Margaret Corbin Dr, New York, NY 10040
The Cloisters in three words: medieval, beautiful, immersive.
A cloister is a covered walkway surrounding a large open courtyard providing access to other monastic buildings. The Met Cloisters, a beautiful branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, opened in 1938 and remains America’s only museum dedicated solely to the art, architecture, and gardens of Middle Ages. Its name stems from the museum’s five medieval cloisters. Georges Gray Barnard, an American sculptor and collector, collected medieval sculptures and architectural fragments, forming his own museum in NYC. In the 1920s, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. donated funds that allowed The Met to buy Barnard’s museum and collection. Rockefeller also donated pieces from his own collection of medieval art as well as further funds for the creation of a 66.5-acre public park, Fort Tryon’s Park, with The Cloisters at its center. The Cloisters is deliberately not a copy of any specific medieval building. The architect Charles Collen did, though, brilliantly incorporate architectural remnants from medieval Europe into The Cloisters, providing an immersive experience for the viewer. Located on four acres of land overlooking the Hudson, the physical setting of the Cloisters is reason enough to visit. Upon stepping foot in The Cloisters, you feel centuries away from the hustle of Manhattan, transported back to medieval Europe. This experience was both enhanced and interrupted, though, by the current exhibit Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination (through October 8). Heavenly Bodies, featured at both The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters, examines “fashion’s ongoing engagement with the devotional practices and traditions of Catholicism.” Appearing throughout The Cloisters, mannequins wear high fashion that relates to the theme of their room. For instance, a room dedicated to the Garden of Eden showed the work of Valentino and other fashion houses that is based on that same Biblical story. These mannequins repeatedly pulled me back into the 21st century, suspending my immersion, yet also strengthened my perception of the art by reminding me of its enduring relevance.
- Cuxa Cloister (1938) by Charles Collens, reconstructed with medieval elements from the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa (1130-40)
- Evening Dress (2014) by Valentino S.p.A., Maria Grazia Chiuri, and Pierpaolo Piccioli, on view in the Glass Gallery
- “Bonnefont” Cloister and Garden (1938) by Charles Collens, with medieval elements from the Cistercian abbey at Bonnefont-en-Comminges and other nearby monasteries (late 13th or early 14th century)
- The Unicorn in Captivity (ca. 1495-1505), South Netherlandish, on view in the Unicorn Tapestries Room
- Annunciation Triptych (Merode Altarpiece) (1427-32) by workshop of Robert Campin, on view in the Merode Room
Non-art-related perk: the views of the Hudson river.
17. The Bronx Museum of the Arts
Location: 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10456
The Bronx Museum in three words: access, culture, representation.
More than any other museum I visited, The Bronx Museum of the Arts felt community-centered, eager to be a cultural hub for diverse communities in the Bronx and beyond. Indeed, in 2012, in celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Museum made admission completely free, helping to realize its mission of making art available to all audiences. The entire museum thrums with a unique energy, the energy of giving back, the energy of being an institution dedicated to important goals. I found the exhibits engaging, and I felt welcomed and inspired throughout my visit. I particularly enjoyed The Mind’s Abstraction (ended on May 28th), which featured the work of NYC teen artists. I was walking through the exhibit, examining the art, when I met a girl about my age. Beaming next to a complex, interesting photo, she was taking a picture with her brother. When I began speaking with her, she happily explained that she was the photographer behind the photo, the artist behind the creation. In that moment, I grasped the true value of the Bronx Museum: it doesn’t just display art to the masses. Rather, the Bronx Museum continuously enables individuals to transform into artists.
- Lesh Lah (Why Not) (2015) by Oded Halahmy, on view in Oded Halahmy — Exile is Home (through July 1st)
- Pomegranate is Love (2015) by Oded Halahmy, on view in Oded Halahmy — Exile is Home
- Invisible Man (after Ralph Ellison) (2012) by Tim Rollins & K.O.S, on view in Dialogues: Tim Rollins & K.O.S and Glenn Ligon (through July 15th)
- Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1998) by Tim Rollins & K.O.S, on view in Dialogues: Tim Rollins & K.O.S and Glenn Ligon
- Untitled (Runaways) (1993) by Glenn Ligon, on view in Dialogues: Tim Rollins & K.O.S and Glenn Ligon
Be sure to check out: Moses Ros: Landing / Aterrizaje, an easily-missed exhibit on the roof.
18. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Location: 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019
MoMA in three words: stunning, original, genius.
You know that feeling when you finally do something and then wonder why you haven’t been doing it your whole life? That’s exactly how I felt when I first walked into the MoMA this past week. The pages of my AP history textbooks—images of famous paintings—suddenly came to life as I wandered through the MoMA’s collection. I quickly realized that the flat pages of my textbook could never have captured the depth and emotion of Van Gogh’s Starry Night or the magical calmness of Monet’s Water Lilies. I would have recognized these paintings in the blink of an eye, yet I had never actually experienced them. Established in 1929, the MoMA is one of the largest museums in the world devoted to contemporary and modern art. Although the permanent collection is extraordinary, the MoMA emphasizes innovation and evolution; the temporary exhibitions were equally thought-provoking and ingenious. Aiming to be a “place that fuels creativity, ignites minds, and provides inspiration,” the MoMA meets its goal.
- Morris de favela (Hill of the Favela) (1924) by Tarsila do Amaral, on view in Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil (through June 3rd)
- Strength in Honor (2016) by Aïda Muluneh, on view in Being: New Photography 2018 (through August 19th)
- Untitled (2014) by Shilpa Gupta, on view in Being: New Photography 2018
- Yellow Chalk (2017) by Sofia Borges, on view in Being: New Photography 2018
- Photographs from the series Unanimous Desires (2013-16) by Matthew Connors, on view in Being: New Photography 2018
- Phantasy II (1946) by Norman Lewis, on view in Collection Galleries 1880s-1950s
- My Grandparents, My Parents, and I (Family Tree) (1936), on view in Collection Galleries 1880s-1950s
- Full Fathom Five (1947) by Jackson Pollock, on view in Collection Galleries 1880s-1950s
- White Light (1954) by Jackson Pollock, on view in Collection Galleries 1880s-1950s
- Water Lilies (1914-26) by Claude Monet, on view in Collection Galleries 1880s-1950s
- Agapanthus (1914-26) by Claude Monet, on view in Collection Galleries 1880s-1950s
- The Dream (1910) by Henri Rousseau, on view in Collection Galleries 1880s-1950s
- The Starry Night (1889) by Vincent Van Gogh, on view in Collection Galleries 1880s-1950s
- The Olive Tree (1888) by Vincent Van Gogh, on view in Collection Galleries 1880s-1950s
- Charing Cross Bridge (1905-06) by André Derain, on view in Collection Galleries 1880s-1950s
- Interior with a Young Girl (1905-06) by Henri Matisse, on view in Collection Galleries 1880s-1950s
- I and the Village (1911) by Marc Chagall, on view in Collection Galleries 1880s-1950s
Be sure to check out: the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden.
Visiting these museums has been wonderful. I have learned a great deal about art, about different artists and movements. But what I have learned most of all is that art is personal. As I made this guide, I was nervous about being “wrong,” having the wrong favorite pieces and preferring the wrong museums. Yet, through this project, I have developed a newfound conviction in my own voice as a viewer of art. I am no longer concerned about the rightness of my voice, but rather about my right to a voice. We each respond to art in unique ways. Perhaps that is what makes art magical. Indeed, this guide is a snapshot of my story as a museum visitor, a story that will continue to evolve.
Now, it’s up to you to discover your own story. I hope you find this guide useful along the way.