New York City Museums and Galleries
101 Spring St., Soho
Donald Judd moved into 101 Spring Street in the then derelict Soho in 1968, and over the course of twenty-five years, renovated each of the five floors in the building according to his singular aesthetic. The result is a space that is as much a home as it is a piece of art. The Judd Foundation opened up the space to docent-led tours, where visitors get to see his custom-made furniture, and the art and objects he acquired over the years. It’s a wonderful window into Judd’s entire sensibility.
1071 5th Ave., Upper East Side
Aside from being one of the most significant buildings of the 20th-century, and the apex of Frank Lloyd Wright’s career, the Guggenheim is a world-class art museum and cultural center, too. No matter the show—usually solid retrospectives—it’s worth the entrance fee just to wind your way through the snail-like building and look down from the top at the mesmerizing view below.
555 W. 24th St., Chelsea
The jewel of Larry Gagosian's gallery empire is a gargantuan, museum-standard center in Chelsea: The space alone is worth a visit for its sheer monumentality. And fittingly, the stable of artists displayed there consists of the art world's heavyweights from Ed Ruscha, to Taryn Simon and Jeff Koons. There are multiple outposts in the city (including a second location on 21st street) along with galleries around the world.
The Frick Collection
1 E. 70th St., Upper East Side
Housed in a classic early 20th-century mansion commissioned by the industrialist Henry Clay Frick, the collection boasts iconic works from the Renaissance to the early 19th-century, including pieces by El Greco, Goya, and Rembrandt. We especially love the absolutely over-the-top rococo room with wall-to-wall frescoes by Honoré Fragonard.
2 E. 91st St., Upper East Side
Housed in Andrew Carnegie’s former Georgian mansion, the Cooper Hewitt still maintains the original dark wood-lined interiors and imposing staircase. After closing for three years for a major upgrade on the design galleries at the hands of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the Cooper Hewitt had a grand re-opening at the end of 2014 with an expanded exhibition space. There's also an interactive Process Lab where visitors learn about the design process, and an Immersion Room highlighting the museum's expansive wall-covering collection. The museum was already one of the best in the world for design—both contemporary and ancient—so it's no surprise that it's better than ever. Don’t miss their shop, which is incredibly well done.
Children’s Museum of the Arts
103 Charlton St., West Village
CMA is one of those spots that doesn’t hold any punches: Here, kids are introduced to heady tropes in contemporary art from portraiture, to process, to language, through kid-accessible exhibits featuring works by Ed Ruscha, Jenny Holzer, and more. In addition, their classes and after school programs are some of the best in the city. Check the website for the day's activity, as many are free and offsite.
22-25 Jackson Ave., Long Island City
Housed in a renovated public school, PS1 has been a beacon for contemporary art lovers since the 60s, though it officially only became part of MoMA in 2000. With the unerringly avant-garde Klaus Biesenbach as its director, PS1 has presented many groundbreaking shows including Francis Alÿs, Ari Marcopoulos, and Confetti System, a timely Mike Kelley retrospective shortly after his death, and the “Greater New York” series. In the summer, the Warm Up series—where great DJs play in the museum’s courtyard—draws a fun crowd. There's also an on-site cafeteria, M. Wells Dinette.
159 Pioneer St., Red Hook
Artist Dustin Yellin opened this non-profit contemporary arts center, located in a large, brick and timber 19th-century warehouse in Red Hook, a few years back. It feels a bit like a young PS1, with one of the largest uninterrupted exhibition spaces in New York City, both indoor and outdoor exhibition areas, public programs, artists residencies, and a magazine, Intercourse. You can also rent the space for private events.
The Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Pkwy., Prospect Heights
One of the largest and oldest art museums in the country, the Brooklyn Museum is housed in a gorgeous Beaux-Arts building at the top of Prospect Park. Besides being one of our favorite Brooklyn landmarks, the exhibitions are great (and sometimes quite splashy). The colorful African exhibitions rooms and American design galleries are pretty spectacular. Don't miss Judy Chicago's classic 70's feminist installation, "The Dinner Party."
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