The New York City Art Scene: An Introduction

With so much wonderful art in New York City at our fingertips, it’s hard to know where to start. Here are a few helpful suggestions.

The facade of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of New York’s must-see art destinations. (Photo via Flickr)

The New York City visual art scene is a daunting one. With so many distinguished museums, galleries and pop-up exhibits, it’s nearly impossible to decide how to spend your weekend. Like most things in New York, it seems that there’s too much to see and too little time. Should you start at the MoMA or The Met? The Whitney or the New Museum? Are you obligated to see the classics first or is it more important to take in the art of the era?

Lucky for us, we have four years to see the breadth of what New York City and a valid NYU ID have to offer. What many students can only see in textbooks, we can see every night of the week. So make use of your university museum membership discounts and your metrocard and make your way to any of the following art spaces for an afternoon of enrichment, culture and class.

Grey Art Gallery (Free with NYU ID)
100 Washington Square East, Greenwich Village

Inside the Silver Center, there is a small-but-mighty art gallery that functions within the university as a resource for students, faculty and the people of Greenwich Village. The gallery often has shows featuring NYU alumni and is a great place to take a study break between classes. Better yet, try to go to an exhibit opening and chat up one of the curators. There’s nothing better than a cute art history nerd telling you about the effect the Iranian Revolution had on modern Middle Eastern art.

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The Frick Collection (Free with NYU ID)
1 E 70th St., Upper East Side

Located in one of the most beautiful buildings in New York City, The Henry Clay Frick House, The Frick Collection is one of New York’s preeminent museums. Although the collection rarely changes, the art on display — which right now ranges from Rococo to Revolutionary American — is so masterful that it invites a kind of repeated examination that is seldom demanded by other celebrated private collections. Be sure to catch the Masterpieces of the French Faience exhibit, a great curation of pottery from the collection of Sidney R. Knafel, before it’s gone on Sept. 22. And please, for the love of God, don’t Instagram the Garden Court Fountain.

New Museum  (Free with NYU ID)
235 Bowery, Nolita

New Museum is a museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art. Like its avant garde, metallic exterior, it often shows exhibits like its current “Sydney Shen: Onion Master,” a classic silhouette of an arcade claw machine that protects not candy, but artificial onions, that many students would label questionable. That said, New Museum is one of the only art museums in New York — outside of the Whitney — to consistently take risks and keep its collection current. At only a 10-minute walk from campus, it’s certainly worth a Thursday afternoon visit.

Gagosian (Free)
522 W 21st St., Chelsea

Gagosian isn’t just a gallery, it’s an institution. Larry Gagosian has been one of the most storied art dealers in the history of New York City since the late ’70s and his galleries demonstrate that prestige very clearly. Many New York City galleries, especially the trendy ones, can seem unapproachable and cold in order to garner attention from other unapproachable, cold critics, but the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea lacks that same urge for attention. At this point, it is more like the Frick than a trendy gallery in Chelsea. Except the art, which is from artists like Jeff Koons and Frank Gehry, is still for sale and comes with a very high price tag. If you’re looking for the Barneys of the New York City art scene, look no further. But, even still, you should probably take a look.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (by donation)
1000 Fifth Ave., Upper East Side

It’s difficult to give The Met a just description, yet despite its importance, many NYU students never take the time in their four years to visit. Whether you go to see the ancient relics, the impressive collection of Romantic paintings or the rooftop bar, the 30-minute journey from campus will certainly be worth your while. Make a day out of it; laugh at the tourists. The beauty of being in the city is that a museum many students around the world dream of going to is, for you, the price of a subway swipe

A version of this article appears in the Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019, print edition. Email Claire Fishman at [email protected]

 

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