New Yorkers have an avid interest in the arts. It’s said, Museum Mile contains the densest display of culture in the world. Around 30% of New York’s galleries are in Chelsea alone and SOHO, the Lower East Side and 57th Street house 250 more. Cross to Brooklyn and you have another hundred. We’re visiting a few today and we encourage you to do the same on your next New York art tour.
Housed along 5th Avenue from 82nd to 105th Streets on the Upper East Side, we begin Museum Mile at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Affectionately referred to as The Met, it can be reached via a pleasant stroll through Central Park along East Avenue. Exit at 84th and a short walk south will have you at the grand entrance and those famous steps.
With 17 departments, the Met houses collections of Islamic, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Asian, African and American art. Medieval and contemporary collections reside and fashion has a strong presence with The Costume Insitute. Each year a themed exhibition is launched with the Met Gala (Met Ball). The participants arrive suitably adorned in remarkable designs for the evening. The philanthropic event raises funds for annual exhibitions and future events for the Costume Institute. Anna Wintour, Vogue Editor-in-Cheif, chairs the event and determines the guest list. Tickets for off-the-guest-list attendees are $25,000 a head ensuring an exclusive 650-700 guest event. The exhibitions, although fashion inspired, are joint efforts between the Costume Institute and other Met departments. 2015 saw “China: Through the Looking Glass”, a collaboration with the Asian Art department combining textiles, crockery, martial arts and influences through the ages. Watch below as curator, Andrew Bolton takes us on a tour.
Between 88th & 89th Streets, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum‘s cylindrical facade is immediately recognisable. Established as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, it was renamed for its founder after his death in 1952. Frank Lloyd Wright intended for the viewer to ascend his design via the elevator to the skylight, descend the internal spiral ramp viewing the continuous gallery from different angles and observe the atrium as an individual piece of art. It took 700 sketches over 15 years for the architect to finally have a completed design. The controversial structure had over 20 artists objecting to the gallery space, citing the building design overshadowed their work. Sadly Frank Lloyd Wright died just 6 months before the doors opened.
Continuing north on Museum Mile, the National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts precedes the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. At 92nd Street is the Jewish Museum. The Museum of the City of New York is on 103rd and El Museo del Barrio, specialising in Latin and Carribean Art at 105th Street completes the original Museum Mile. At 110th Street, sits the yet to be completed Africa Centre. The opening has been postponed 6 times prior to ex-US Ambassador to Botswana, Michelle D. Gavin being appointed as Managing Director. Be sure to check if the Africa Centre has opened before continuing the additional 5 blocks.
Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds brought us the screen version of Woman in Gold earlier this year placing the spotlight on Gustav Klimt‘s portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. Using oil, silver and gold leaf, Klimt created the portrait that was to be at the centre of a woman’s brave struggle to take on the Austrian Government and win. The Neue Gallerie at 5th & 86th is the painting’s home, negotiated to be permanently on display by the subject’s niece on selling to Estée Lauder’s heir, Ronald Lauder.
On 86th, use the subway at Lexington and travel to 42nd Street and Grand Central Station. The Metro-North takes you directly to New York’s Botanical Gardens, a wonderful exhibition space, with the Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life Exhibition case-in-point. The Library housed 2 small galleries of Kahlo’s paintings while, the gardens themselves, transported the audience to Mexico. In the Conservatory, plants representing the garden at Casa Azul were the backdrop for her pyramid replica. The theme ran through the Botanical Garden’s F&B venues with a Cantina at the main entrance and a Taco Truck at the train station gate complete with Sangria, Margaritas and Mexican Beer. The Gardens Shop was filled with all things Frida Kahlo and as it was Halloween, The Day of the Dead items too. This grand-scale exhibition in a stunning location lasted 24 weeks and was a credit to the curators.
Located between 5th and 6th Avenues on 53rd, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is currently showing Picasso Sculpture. Around 100 sculptures in various materials spread through 3 galleries in chapters pertaining to his sculpture “periods”. Unlike his formal training in painting, Picasso is a self-taught sculptor allowing him the freedom to break rules. Many of these pieces became “part of the family” and he was unwilling to part with them. The exhibition is inspiring and likely to bring out a little madness in all of us.
Aside from the exceptional exhibitions at MoMA the views are natural works of art. Windows surrounding the courtyard create a frame for quintessential New York architecture. The tree filled courtyard enables views into the galleries for another perspective. If MoMA is not on your list, you really should add it. From 4 – 8 pm on Fridays, MoMA is free for all exhibitions, just be prepared for the crowd.
With over 200 galleries through SOHO and the Lower East Side, we’re going to save these areas for next time but New Museum on Bowery deserves a mention. Visited on a previous occasion, New Museum is the brainchild of Marcia Tucker, former curator of The Whitney Museum of American Art, the last venue on our list.
The Whitney Museum of American Art opened their new building at Gansevoort and Washington Streets at the southern entrance to the Highline on May 1st, 2015. The cavernous, light-filled space overlooks the Hudson River and has outdoor exhibition spaces with Manhattan Skyline views.
Make your way directly to the 8th floor via the lift, an exterior stairway to descend doubles as a perfect viewing platform for the area. Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist is the current 8th-floor exhibition. The vivid work interpreting urban culture in Chicago, Paris and Mexico.
Pieces from The Whitney’s Collection on the 7th-floor feature artists Jackson Pollock, Edward Hopper & Giorgia O’Keeffe tracing the development of American Modernism. Contemporary artists from Europe and the USA are celebrated on the 6th-floor and on the 5th, a bold comprehensive Frank Stella: A Retrospective. Paintings, reliefs, prints and sculptures from his, almost 60-year career highlight his scope and diversity.
Don’t be alarmed if you miss the 4th floor, and in case you think your mind is playing tricks, there’s no 2nd floor either. This little puzzle has us stumped. Much research has gone into the missing floors, where could they be? If anyone knows the reason, please let us in on the secret.
Finding out where The Whitney’s 2 floors have gone: it will be a thing we love….