It has been said that New York is a city of neighborhoods, and its energy has made it a world capital of culture. Known for its many museums, most visitors may make a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Brooklyn Museum part of their itinerary.
There are, however several other institutions that exhibit noteworthy works. Compiled here is a shortlist of museums that may seem to be off the beaten track, but are well worth your time to get there. Live like a local by visiting these cultural institutions and gain a perspective on New York City like no other.
10 MoMA PS1
A short subway ride away from its renowned Manhattan counterpart, the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA PS1 is located in the vibrant neighborhood of Long Island City, Queens. The former P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center was founded in 1971 and made its permanent home in an unused school.
Though not a collecting institution, P.S.1 became internationally known as a venue where experimental exhibitions and performances were on display. With gallery spaces in former classrooms, P.S.1 presents a novel series of works by a multitude of artists. In 2000, P.S.1 became an affiliate of MoMA, extending the influence of both organizations.
9 Queens Museum
Sited in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the Queens Museum is in a facility that is deeply connected to the history of New York City. First constructed in 1939, the museum served as the New York City building for the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs.
It was also considered as a permanent home for the United Nations before a Manhattan location was identified. On permanent display is the Panorama, a scale model of New York City that was first exhibited at the 1964 World’s Fair. It also hosts an array of contemporary exhibits that draw inspiration from the diverse communities in the borough.
8 Studio Museum In Harlem
Presently undergoing a landmark expansion of its galleries on West 125th Street designed by British architect David Adjaye, the Studio Museum in Harlem has been an anchoring presence in the community. Centrally located in the heart of Harlem, it provides an active hub for discourse about artworks created by artists of African descent from the United States as well as from communities around the globe.
The Studio Museum’s collection spans 200 years of history and holds works by over 400 artists. During the construction of their new home, exhibitions can be seen at Studio Museum 127, located at 429 West 127th Street.
7 Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden
Take a trip on the Staten Island Ferry to visit the Snug Harbor Cultural Center. Once you’ve crossed the waters, it is just a short distance by city bus to reach Snug Harbor. First built in the 19th Century as a rest home for sailors, the historic buildings that encompass the cultural center have been restored as a gallery and exhibit space.
With 28 buildings on its campus, there is much to explore at Snug Harbor throughout the year and, in addition to its art offerings, there are fourteen botanical gardens, a two-acre urban farm, and parkland. Its waterfront location gives views onto the New Jersey shoreline.
6 Jacques Marchais Museum Of Tibetan Art
Step into a meditation-like retreat by visiting the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art in Staten Island’s neighborhood of Lighthouse Hill. Founded in 1945 by the trailblazing American woman, Jacques Marchais, her collection of Tibetan art is held in high regard by collectors worldwide.
Marchais designed the network of buildings that comprise the museum and its surrounding landscape, which resemble a Tibetan monastery. Distinguished as the world’s first museum dedicated to the exhibition of Tibetan art and culture, you can seek an inner calm by sitting quietly in its meditation gardens or by taking the museum’s regularly offered tai chi and meditation classes.
5 The Bronx Museum Of The Arts
Centrally located on the Grand Concourse, community engagement is at the center of The Bronx Museum of the Arts’ mission. Instituting free admission for all visitors to commemorate its 40th anniversary, the museum’s goal is to make art accessible to all. Their exhibitions and programs often highlight the work of artists of African, Asian, and Latin American descent, whose work may often be considered as outside of the traditional artists’ canon.
The museum’s collection is comprised of nearly 2,000 works and the institution functions as a gathering place for locals, city visitors from other boroughs, as well as tourists from other parts of the United States and the globe.
4 El Museo Del Barrio
Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019, El Museo del Barrio is located on the Northern end of Museum Mile and is about a half-mile walk from the Guggenheim Museum. El Museo is a repository of art and artifacts representing artists from the Spanish speaking Caribbean and Latin America. With a bilingual series of programs and exhibits, the museum presents works that highlight the cultural history of Caribbean and Latin American artists.
Its collection showcases the rich legacy of Latino artists and encompasses 6,500 objects spanning over 800 years of artistic creation. Included in their archives are pre-Columbian Taino artifacts and modern works including film and video.
3 The Museum of the City of New York
Directly across the street from El Museo del Barrio, The Museum of the City of New York is an institution that has chronicled the city’s history. Charged with the mission of recording past as well as present events, the museum has an extensive collection containing decorative arts, costumes and textiles, and manuscripts in addition to paintings, sculpture, and photographs.
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Drawing upon the nearly 750,000 objects in its collection, the exhibitions at MCNY range from the legacy of Martin Luther King in New York City, labor unions and their impact on the struggle for workers’ rights, and photographs documenting the gay rights movement.
2 The Tenement Museum
Manhattan’s Lower East Side was a point of arrival for generations of immigrants, and the Tenement Museum is devoted to telling that story. Housed in two buildings that had lain vacant for over fifty years, the museum’s founders, a historian and a social activist, came across a wealth of personal effects from the buildings’ residents who had occupied the apartments from the 1860s through the 1930s.
Now restored, the buildings stand as a testament to the lives of those who made New York their new home. Walking tours through the neighborhood focus on many related issues including public policy, architecture, and urban development.
1 The Noguchi Museum
Venture into the northern stretch of Long Island City to visit The Noguchi Museum, an exhibition space founded and designed by renowned American artist Isamu Noguchi. First opened in 1985, Noguchi created the museum to display signature objects of his work and was one of the first individuals to establish an arts institution in the neighborhood.
Paving the way for many other arts organizations to follow, Noguchi created his museum out of an industrial building that contains 27,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor galleries. Natural light is a centerpiece in the institution and select artworks are set in an outdoor sculpture garden.