I’m not a great art connoisseur, nor am I able to find the beauty or specialness in some pieces of modern art. I am, however, a friend of beautiful things, art that impresses me, stuff that makes me think – sometimes even outside of my comfort zone. That’s one of many reasons I love New York: it’s vast offering of museums, galleries, temporary art exhibitions and the creativity this city bursts of. Going to a museum is a great way of diverting your thoughts towards something completely different than what most of us experience in our daily lives. We can imagine, feel ourselves into different situations, and just watch and think. You might not understand most art pieces, or think something into others that were supposed to mean nothing and remain not understood. Whatever. Art is in the eye of the beholder right? So think or don’t think whatever the f*ck you want!
With some creativity while planning your stay in New York you will even manage to visit most museums for free. Every museum has usually one day where admission is free, which is great, allowing people who live on a tighter budget to experience some art, too. Also, every third Thursday of the month is gallery night, where galleries around Soho and the Lower East Side stay open longer than usual. It’s a great experience, check out the map of participating galleries here. Now, off you go!
1. The Jewish Museum
This museum is a mix between modern and tradition. While the top floors are designated to an exhibition on Jewish history, the bottom floor features modern art. When I visited, there was an exhibition called “Take me, I’m yours”, displaying art that made you touch things, try things, think about the art and if you want, take it home with you. In the basement there is a Russ & Daughters Café, where you can have some of their delicious cream cheese bagels with smoked salmon, or other Jewish delicacies.
See more info on the website. Saturdays free.
2. Museum of Modern Arts – MoMA
Just above Midtown is one of New York’s most famous museums: The Moma. You might know about it, because it hosts Andy Warhol’s famous Campbell’s soup cans. You’ll also find pieces by Gaugin, Cezanne or Jeff Koons. In 2010 it was here that Marina Abramovic’s ‘The Artist Is Present’ performance impressed MoMA’s visitor’s. With a mix of modern and contemporary art, this museum is definitely a must when coming to NYC.
See more info on the website. Fridays free.
3. The MET
Apparently it would take over a year if you wanted to properly look at every piece of art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It has five floors and over 2 million artworks. From sculptures to statues, from huge old indigenous canoes to the most beautiful painting by Monet you will find EVERYTHING in the MET. It’s therefore advisable to plan your trip here in advance and find out what it is that you want to see. I remember an impressive Alex Katz exhibition from 2016, so make sure to check out the temporary collections, too!
See more info on the website. Free for students.
4. Whitney Museum of American Art
Even if you’re not a fan of art (which would be a pity, because the Whitney has some amazing exhibitions), you should visit the Museum of American Art, next to the Hudson river, with a great view on the Lower East Side, Chelsea, the Meatpacking District and West Village. Entry to the museum is voluntary on Friday’s, so you can avoid the usual fee. Make sure to climb up the complete way, because obviously that’s where the view is best.
See more info on the website. Fridays 7-10pm Pay-What-You-Wish.
5. New Museum
This ‘fairly’ new museum on the Lower East Side is unmissable; a tall, cubic, white building consisting of – forgive my non-architectural vocabulary – a couple of big boxes stapled on top of each other. The museum usually features smaller, not very famous artists, but those who are shaping the future of art. When I was there last I remember many beds set up in a spacious room, where you laid down, listened to soothing music while watching a colourful video installation displayed onto the ceiling.
See more info on the website. Fridays 7-9pm Pay-What-You-Wish, recommended 2$.
6. The Guggenheim
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum isn’t only impressive for its modern, winding architecture, but also one of the most important exhibition places for modern and contemporary art. It is covered in art from the 20th and 21st century, including Picasso, Van Gogh and other well-known names. In 2008 it was declared a National Historic Landmark.
See more info on the website. Free during some Saturdays 4-6pm.