The Best Art Museums in New York City

categories: USA Travel

New York has long been a center for art and culture and hosts a great number of well-known and lesser-known art museums. Some of them, I would argue are worth your patronage, and some… maybe less so.

The Met

The Metopolitan Museum of Art - New York City

I fell in love with the Met. It was easily my favorite of the art museums in New York City and I think it ranks among the best art museums in the world. It is impossibly large with an incredibly diverse collection of art from Europe, Asia, Egypt, the US, the Pacific Islands, and elsewhere. It also is a gorgeous architectural treat with numerous spacious galleries like the one pictured above.

Where else can you find paintings by well-known artists, stained glass windows by Tiffany, and also an authentic temple?

Tiffany Window - The Metopolitan Museum of Art - New York City Archer - The Metopolitan Museum of Art - New York City Egyptian Temple - The Metopolitan Museum of Art - New York City

The Metopolitan Museum of Art - New York City The Metopolitan Museum of Art - New York City Dali - The Metopolitan Museum of Art - New York City

I did not leave enough time for the museum which could easily take an entire day. I marveled at the marbles, I tarried at the Tiffany and dallied at the Dali. There are armies of armor, a complete Egyptian temple, and rooms recreated to display art as it would have been displayed originally.

Director Art Restoration - The Metopolitan Museum of Art - New York City

I was already in love with the museum even before I had the unique opportunity of a backstage, after-hours tour of the Met by Beth Edelstein, assistant conservator in the Department of Objects Conservation. Context Travel arranged for this special once in a lifetime tour for attendees of the TBEX conference. It was a bit like getting to visit the wizard and getting a peek behind the curtain. In the photo above Beth is explaining the process of restoring some stained glass windows that were recovered from a church in the Bronx.

MOMA

Warhol - Museum of Modern Art

I enjoyed my visit to MOMA.  I am not a big fan of modern art so there were moments where I was looking at “art” thinking that the emperor had no clothes. There was one room that was empty but every aspect of the room was labeled with its dimensions as in an architectural drawing. “Art” you say?

Museum of Modern Art Museum of Modern Art Museum of Modern Art

But I loved the pop art collection, the modern design collection and also recognized and enjoyed a number of familiar paintings.

My favorite exhibit was a temporary show (no photography allowed) of the work of photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson. I had not been familiar with Cartier-Bresson’s work but his photographs were stirring. Most were taken just after World War II and were in black and white. In one photo he captured a woman coming face-to-face with the neighbor who had betrayed her to the Gestapo in a tableau of anger and shame. In another photo, Cartier-Bresson went to a speech that de Gaulle was making but instead of shooting pictures of de Gaulle he shot the crowd and caught some great expressions on incredulity on the listener’s faces.

Guggenheim

Guggenheim Museum

Loved the building. Hated the “art”. The Guggenheim was hosting an exhibit of modern photography. It was drivel. I did not see any work that could compare to the Cartier-Bresson exhibit at the MOMA. I paid nothing to get in and still felt ripped off. Take a picture of the outside and then go to the Met.

The Cloisters

The Cloisters

At the far northern tip of Manhattan island, there is a second site for the Met which is the Cloisters. The Cloisters houses the medieval collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I have wanted to get to the Cloisters for many years but it is not a very convenient museum to mid-town Manhattan. Finally, on a steamy summer day, I made it all the way up to the Cloisters which is in a beautiful park overlooking the Hudson River north of 190th st. It was closed on Mondays.

New Museum

New Museum

Kelly Duhigg of Girl with the Passport recommends the New Museum as an alternative to some of the better-known art museums. 

Located on New York’s lower east side and founded in 1977 by Marcia Tucker, the New Museum is an iconic destination for anyone who loves contemporary art.  Just step inside these uber-modern halls and you’ll find new art and new ideas from creative geniuses like Keith Haring, Jeff Koons, Joan Jonas, Mary Kelly, and Andres Serrano. 

This museum also has the added benefit of being one of the more unusual things to do in New York City. Accordingly, you definitely won’t have to deal with the insane crowds that you’ll find at other famous NYC museums like the MET and Museum of Natural History. 

More than that though, the New Museum is a modern, exquisitely decorated building where you can find the newest and most exciting ideas, which are embodied by a series of rotating art exhibits that continually move in and out of the museum. 

Also, don’t forget to head to the top floor where you’ll discover stunning panoramic views of the surrounding area. And if you want to save a little money, stop by on the first Saturday of the month, when the New Museum plays host to special events and offers free admission to two adults per family. 

New York Pass

For a great way to save money on a trip to New York City, check out the New York Pass which can get you into 100+ different attractions including all 4 of these museums.

Podcast

To get more ideas about what to see in New York City listen to Travel to New York City with Pauline Frommer – Amateur Traveler Episode 443.

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by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast, and a co-host for This Week in Travel podcast.

6 Responses to “The Best Art Museums in New York City”

Jordan

Says:

How might one go about acquiring one of these VIP passes?

chris2x

Says:

The conference I was attending was a travel bloggers conference so the New York City Tourism Board was trying to encourage us to explore the city and write about it. They uses passes like this for travel writers and bloggers at least.

Caroline

Says:

Really, can anything compare to Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work?

Bruce Murray

Says:

Caroline, You may also like:
http://davidseymour.com/
and Robert Capa http://bit.ly/bk0jZ1

El Cid Vacation Clubs

Says:

I saw “Perseus and Medusa” in your photos. I am a fan of Greek art and literature which makes me want to go there to see more.

Agagooga

Says:

Re: Cloisters

Oh well, research is always good

The worst thing that happened to me without research: I wanted to visit the site of the Battle of Marathon in 2006. I read that it had been turned into a lake for the Olympics.

I followed a sign and walked 7km to Lake Marathon from the village/town. Didn’t look very impressive. And then I walked 7km back.

And then found out it was the wrong lake.

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