The Best Places to See Modern Art in N.Y.C.

By Stephen Brookes
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, June 11, 2008 2:58 PM


There's a near-endless array of museums in New York, from the gigantic Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 5th Ave at 82nd) to smaller places that specialize in everything from folk art to cartoons. But there are several don't-miss museums if you want to catch up on the latest in painting and sculpture.

The best and the biggest is the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), at 11 W. 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. There's always something interesting going on, and the permanent collection houses many of the great works of the 20th Century, but try to visit by May 12 to see the wonderful exhibit called "Design and the Elastic Mind." Open 10:30-5:30, closed Tuesdays. Adults $20, students $12, children under 16 free. Get tickets online before you go, to avoid lines that can sometimes be lengthy. Website: .

Another don't-miss is the landmark Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, at 1071 5th Avenue (at 89th Street). Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the building itself -- a sort of inverted ziggurat ¿ is one of the city's great architectural gems (though some of it is covered in scaffolding as part of a renovation expected to last into the fall). Don't miss the throught-provoking exhibit "Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want to Believe," running through May 28. Open 10:00 to 5:45, closed Thursdays. Adults $18, students and seniors $15, children under 12 free. Website: .

The other top museum for new work is the Whitney Museum of American Art, 945 Madison (at 75th Street). It's currently hosting the Whitney Biennial, which runs through June 1. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Adults $15, students $10. Website: .

And if you have the time, check out the newly-opened, elegantly-spare New Museum of Contemporary Art, located in the Lower East Side (235 Bowery, at Prince Street). It calls itself an "incubator of new ideas", and hosts shows like the current "Tlatelolco and the localized negotiation of future imaginaries" (to May 4). Website: .


If the museums don't sate your appetite, head down to the galleries of Chelsea (in the West 20's between 10th and 11th Avenues), considered the center of the contemporary art world. There are hundreds of galleries here and the exhibits change constantly, so it's a great place to explore. They're generally open Tuesday ¿ Saturday from 10 to 6, and openings often tale place on Thursdays. Top galleries include Paula Cooper (534 W. 21st St.), Barbara Gladstone Gallery (515 W. 24th St.), Gagosian Gallery (555 W. 24th St.) and Feigen Contemporary (535 W. 20th St.). A fun and unusual place to drop in is the installation called the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, at 542 W. 27th Street , 4th floor (open Tuesday-Saturday 11:00 ¿ 6:00, admission $5), which bills itself as a "sanctuary" for nurturing the creative spirit (more at

The art scene in Soho isn't as dynamic as it once was, and upscale clothing boutiques now outnumber the galleries. But it's still worth a visit. Good galleries include Bronwyn Keenan (3 Crosby St.), the Peter Blum Gallery (99 Wooster St.) and O. K. Harris (383 W. Broadway), and you'll usually find edgier stuff at Dietch Projects (18 Wooster near Grand). And while you're in the neighborhood, be sure to stop in at the New York Earth Room, a permanent installation by Walter De Maria (141 Wooster Street; Weds-Sun, noon ¿ 6, admission free). It's an entire gallery filled to a depth of almost two feet with dirt ¿ and the effect is unforgettable. Website: .

And if it's too nice to spend the day in a museum, there's plenty of public sculpture on display in New York, as well. Try Isamu Noguchi's Cube, in front of the Marine Midland Building at 140 Broadway in the financial district, or the famous LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana, on the corner of 6th Avenue and 55th Street in Manhattan.

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