Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Little Gems

New York is a city of museums—one in each flavour to suit your mood. But if you look beyond the “General Motors” behemoths of the museum world (The Met, MoMA, Guggenheim), there are smaller, less-visited spots that are as much a repository of the city’s historical and cultural memory as their better-known big brothers. Here are a few of my favourites:

Lower-East Side Tenement Museum
I remember my first visit to the Tenement Museum—I was dragged here quite unwillingly by one of my history professors at RISD on a very hot and sultry July morning. For a know-it-all art student obsessed with Le Corbusier’s sanitised vision of the “new city,” it was a revelation seeing how the first New Yorkers really lived, far removed from the gilded drawing rooms I’d read about in Edith Wharton novels. The walking tour is terrific, especially if you coordinate it with a lunch break at Katz’s Deli.

Isamu Noguchi Museum and Sculpture Garden
The Noguchi Museum was a mainstay of my summer weekends when I lived in Astoria. I’ve spent many Saturday afternoons quietly sewing or reading in the cool sanctuary of the sculpture garden.

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum
The Cooper-Hewitt is a designer’s mecca every three years when the National Design Triennial sets up shop here. It also houses the most comprehensive library and visual archive of the graphic and decorative arts in the country including an unrivalled textile collection.

The Frick Collection

I’m not particularly fond of the artwork at the Frick, and I wouldn’t recommend a visit here to see the over-ripe Fragonards and gaudy Rubens. What I love about it is the building itself—truly one of the grandest and loveliest of Beaux Arts mansions in New York!

Neue Galerie

The Neue is a museum devoted to 20th century art from Austria and Germany—it’s an edited and tightly curated collection. If the line to see Klimt’s infamous gold portrait of Mrs. Adele Bloch-Bauer is too long, I just pop-into the in-house Café Sabarsky for some torte and Viennese coffee.

1 comment:

  1. I've been wanting to go to the Tenement Museum for such a long time but never went. I should really get my butt over there. And I haven't been to Cooper in forever.

    I'm such a bad New Yorker... Time to get cultured!



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