To museum or not to museum, that is always the question when visiting large, cultural epicenters like New York, London or Paris. If you’re short on time, we say skip ‘em. (Oh, the blasphemy!) It’s not that we don’t appreciate art and design, quite the contrary actually. We just don’t feel that you’ll be giving any museum or gallery its adequate attention if you sweep in for a couple hours en route to a taping of Last Call with Carson Daly!
Now, if you’ve got more time on your hands, say at least three days or more, a trip to one (or a few) of New York’s top museums is an absolute must. There are many to choose from, and after repeated visits to most, your Set of Drifters still appreciate every one of them, albeit for different reasons. And thus, we’ll now present you with our very quick run down on the best-of-the-best:
Best Museum for the Design Buff in You – Museum of Modern Art: Fans of contemporary art from the 20th century and beyond will find it hard to stay cool and collected even a few minutes into any visit at Manhattan’s celebrated MoMA. This is the place in NYC to hobnob with like-minded individuals, and in a $650 million renovated setting that is as sleek as they come. (Don’t forget to look up, down and over as you make your way through the 125,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space. The interior architecture is superb!)
We especially like the contemporary galleries (featuring art from the 1980s and on), as well as any of the spaces devoted to architecture, Mid-century design and performance art. (Three cheers to Laurie Anderson, Cindy Sherman and Vito Acconci.) Of course, if you just want to lay your eyes on Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” or VanGogh’s “Starry Night,” then you’ve come to the right place!
The MoMA is open Wednesday through Monday from 10:30 AM until 5:30 PM (closed Tuesdays). Extended hours until 8:00 PM are available most Fridays through UNIQLO’s successful hosting of free admission after 4:00 PM. The afternoon we visited in the summer of 2013, we saw a line clear around the block! Why were so many willing to wait it out in the hot August sun? Admission is normally hefty at $25 USD for adults(!), though children under 16 are FREE.
MoMA – 11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019, (212) 708-9400, http://www.moma.org/
Best Museum/ Architectural Experience – Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: Famous the world over, the Guggenheim is instantly recognizable by its undulating outside shell courtesy of architect Frank Lloyd Wright – his only design in New York City. Perhaps because of this cache, the Guggenheim has been packing in art lovers ever since it debuted in 1959. While the museum does have some impressive permanent side galleries, expect the real show to unspool along the curved (and slanted) walkway that hugs the interior of the building. We’ve seen wonderful exhibits here showcasing the colorful work of James Rosenquist, filmmaker Federico Fellini and “Cremaster” art punk Matthew Barney, just to name a few. Set of Drifters tip: To make your Guggenheim experience less challenging on your calves, take the elevator to the top first and then work your way down in reverse.
The Guggenheim is open Friday through Wednesday from 10:00 AM until 5:45 PM (closed Thursdays). Entrance tickets go for $22 USD for adults while children under 12 are FREE. On Saturday nights, you can pay what you wish after 5:45 PM when the museum extends its hours until 7:45 PM.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – 1071 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10128, (212) 423-3589, http://www.guggenheim.org/
Best Museum (Not) to Take the Family – The Museum of Sex: Wow. What can we say about this place, other than that its curators are certainly well-versed in the art and history of the sensual arts? Now, don’t blush! That’s just an anti-onanism device! (Okay, you can blush. It’ll be pretty hard not to when you see other vintage Victorian-era sexual aides saddled up next to modern items of S&M torture.)
We visited “MoSex” most recently in the fall of 2008 when an exhibit detailing the “live” lovemaking of wild animals caught on tape was all the rage! Don’t worry, a counterpart showing the decade’s best celebrity-driven selfie vids proved that humans often have even less shame when it comes to showing off! (Tsk-tsk-tsk Colin Farrell and Tonya Harding!)
Can’t handle all of that explicitness? Why not just head to the R-rated ground floor gift shop instead? It’s certainly stocked with unique items you never thought you’d find in a “museum.” MoSex is open Sunday through Thursday from 10:00 AM until 8:00 PM and on the weekends until 9:00 PM. (Keep in mind that the last tickets are sold 45 minutes prior to closing.) Admission is $17.50 USD for adults. (Those under 18 are, understandably, not admitted.)
MoSex – 233 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10016, (212) 689-6337, http://www.museumofsex.com/
Best Place to Work off a Heavy Brooklyn Brunch – Brooklyn Museum: Another wonderful spot to catch vibrant art is the Brooklyn Museum located just off Prospect Park. While we visited in the summer of 2006 solely to catch the incredible touring exhibit of Jean-Michael Basquiat’s graffiti goodies, we left entirely impressed by the museum’s more permanent collections, which include, among other things, arts of the Pacific Islands and the Islamic World, as well as a tantalizing display of 19th and 20th century decorative arts.
The Jean Paul Gaultier “From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” show coming in October 2013 is bound to be a huge hit. It’ll run through February 2014. Don’t miss it. The Brooklyn Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11:00 AM until 6:00 PM (closed Mondays and Tuesdays). Extended hours are available until 10:00 PM on Thursdays. Cost of admission is $12 USD for adults while children under 12 are FREE. (Suggested donation for students is $8 USD.)
Brooklyn Museum – 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11238, (718) 638-5000, http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/
Best Place to Visit During a Torrential Downpour – The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Folks, quite simply, this is the motherlode of them all. On par with the Louvre as one of the best museums in the world, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is so cavernous that could spend your entire vacation inside its three-story walls. Every culture on the planet, from the Papua New Guineans to the Celts, is given due attention here. Obsessed with Ancient Egyptian artifacts? Then you’ll love the wrapped up mummies, countless pieces of lapis-lazuli jewelry, and oh yeah, that 2,000 year-old Temple of Dendur structure accessible to spectators only via bridge over a small moat. How about fashion? 18th century or modern? The Met’s got both. (Sorry. The fab “PUNK: Chaos to Couture” exhibit just closed in August!)
Our favorite galleries have always been the ones devoted to Asian empires like Japan, India and Ancient Siam. But have no fear Anglophiles, more than 50% of the grounds are devoted to more familiar Western masterpieces from the likes of Gainsborough, Gauguin and Giacometti. Set of Drifters tip: One of the best parts about the Met is its busy gift shop. Make sure to save at least a ½ hour for your visit, especially around the holidays when the store is filled with some of the best gift items and greeting cards you’ll ever give!
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is open Sunday through Thursday from 10:00 AM until 5:30 PM, while extended hours are available Fridays and Saturdays until 9:00 PM! Recommended admission to the Met is $25 USD for adults (though you can get in by paying whatever you can). Students should pay $12 USD while children under 12 are FREE. Your ticket/ badge should also get you in to the Cloisters on the same day (see above), though we imagine it would be pretty hard to take in both locations in any 24-hour period!
For more on what we think makes New York tick, please visit our travel blog at www.setofdrifters.com.