Art Museums in NYC that aren't the Met or MoMa

Isiah Magsino


New York City, being noticed as a cultural epicentre, is not one to shy away from art. It is everywhere - from the series of galleries found within the chic neighbourhood of Chelsea, to Harlem's studio museum for artists of colour, to the midst of Central Park where young artists gain recognition from the surplus of visitors. Perhaps there are two museums in the city that visitors are initially drawn to (for good reason): the Upper East side's Metropolitan Museum of Art and midtown's Museum of Modern Art. For first-timers, the Met and the MoMa are must-sees, but for those who come often? Been there, done that. The following museums are good alternatives for frequent visitors that are still looking for a place to find good art.

The Frick Collection: A Billionaire's Love Letter to Their Art

Picture this: an industrialist accumulates an insane amount of wealth in his lifetime and builds a Gilded-age mansion in the middle of the Upper East Side with the intention of using it to hold his art for others to admire. Though Mr Frick stocked his home with a plethora of sculptures, romantic portraits of nobleman and landscapes, and a courtyard accompanied with marble pillars, the well-established man only lived in it for five short years.

Though Mr Frick wasn't able to reap the benefits of this house for long, New York City and all her visitors get to! Nestled seven streets down from the Met, The Frick Collection is an ideal alternative; a more intimate, old-money feel museum. The no-pictures-please interior is finely decorated with historical art pieces by Bellini, Gainsborough, El Greco, and more. Aside from the courtyard, there are two rooms dedicated to French artists. Baby angels, with their rosy cheeks and beady eyes, float around the walls creating a tranquil aura. 

The Frick Museum, New York

Noguchi Museum: A Meditative Rock Sculpture Oasis

Visitors describe the Noguchi museum as "an oasis away from the city.' Located in Long Island City, a short 10-minute ride over the Queensboro Bridge from Manhattan, that's exactly what this hidden museum is— both physically and thematically. Unlike the museums on this list and probably many museums in the world, the Noguchi Museum is unique because of its complete dedication to one artist: Isamu Noguchi. The half-Japanese, half-Irish artist is best known for his contemporary abstract rock sculptures and furniture.

Like Noguchi's vision for his work, the museum is practically sound; navigation throughout the museum is effortless as each exhibit easily leads to another and the spaces themselves easily induces a relaxation mode in visitors as the pieces within the museum are spread out fairly. Noguchi's works themselves are driven by natural elements.

The museum opens up to an exhibition of his rock sculptures. A variation of his sculptures— many abstract depictions and cut-outs which may be interpreted as a relationship between nature and mechanics— are spread out in a modern pavilion and prompt visitors to follow the path to the garden (where more of his rock sculptures can be found).

The upper levels of the museum consist of his furniture sculptures. Everything from makeshift seats and chairs to paper lamps are found here. One of the descriptions of the exhibit captures Noguchi's style most accurately: "For me, the function was only an initial consideration; my main purpose has always been art as it relates to life." 

Isamu Noguchi Sculpture, New York

Met Cloisters: A Portal to A European Summer

Though the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a world-class museum, its northern Manhattan dream-like counterpart is often forgotten. With outdoor pavilions, elegant gardens and numerous balconies overlooking the Hudson River, The Met Cloisters serves as an agent to a European summer. The Monastery, shipped over from Europe piece by piece by the Rockefeller's, finds a home at the very peak of Fort Tryon Park and embodies Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Being that it emulates a religious sanctuary, the museum holds several Christian religious artefacts. Everything from medieval tapestries that depict unicorn hunts to stain-glass windows, religious sceptres detailed with sapphires and emeralds to golden crowns can be found within the corridors of the venue.

Though the collection runs thin in comparison to its Upper East Side counterpart, there are areas of the Cloisters inside and out that are perfect for feeling like you're not in a city. The park has several trails that weave through the wood leading up to the actual museum, making it the perfect place to get some quiet time. 

Met Cloisters, New York

New-York Historical Society: All About Mothership

Though it is quite small in size, the New York Historical Society Museum holds unimaginable artworks by New York artists. Cuddled right below the Upper West Side's Natural History Museum, the museum is home to Thomas Cole's 'Course of An Empire': Five massive paintings framed by finely detailed gold Victorian frames, portraying the inevitable stages of Grecian society.

This divine series is not the only notable exhibition here, as the museum's mission statement is to celebrate those that have contributed greatly to what makes New York New York. Exhibitions on the Stonewall Inn, female photographers and Paul Revere are readily available to visitors.

For those looking to learn the extensive history of New York City, this museum is a central hub to do so. With an eclectic array of New York notables, the museum is a quick and easy pit-stop to gain further knowledge of the iconic city.

New York Historical Society

The Cooper-Hewitt Museum: A Hands-On Experience

Back to the Upper-East Side, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Design is perfect for all ages. What makes it individual from those on this list, is that all the exhibits are interactive. The museum focuses on the history of decorative arts and design, and floors range from colour descriptions, digital projections and furniture.

The top floor is the most interactive floor of them all and is dedicated to urban planning. One asset that the exhibit offers is an interactive simulation of a city. There are physical blocks placed on a table, and visitors can adjust these blocks as they please. Depending on how blocks are placed, digital data regarding gas emission, electrical usage and more pop up on the side of the simulation. An easy experience that encourages visitors to be more mindful of the cities they inhabit. 

Cooper Hewitt Museum of Design, New York

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