Just to set things straight from the start, the realm of art is about as familiar to me as dinner silverware etiquette – the basics are understood, but everything else gets a little fuzzy after Picasso and van Gogh and the one knife and fork. If you’re looking for a detailed description of the extensive Egyptian art collection at the Met or a firm artistic opinion of the recent Cai Guo-Qiang exhibit at the Guggenheim, I highly advise you to consult our friend Google rather than the untrained eye of this Biology premed. In truth, my general response to viewing artwork at museums is either nothing or “Oh! This is famous!” It’s really quite sad.
Having visited Manhattan’s notable Museum Mile three times in the past three weeks, however, I’ve come to appreciate art in a new light and feel thoroughly accomplished utilizing my American Association of Museums membership card (one perk of the Duke in NY program which allows you to bypass the hefty admission price of almost all museums in NYC). Before I jump to my response, though, it would probably be useful to give a layman’s description of the museums to the laymen reading this post…
1) The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The largest and oldest of the museums on the Museum Mile, I’ve heard it referred to offhand as America’s response to the Louvre. Two things you should know about this museum are that (1) it is impossible to sufficiently cover it in one trip and (2) you will have many “Oh, this is familiar” moments here. I particularly enjoyed the modern art and Egyptian collections.
2) The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
The building itself is heralded as an icon of the city. Go inside, however, and you’ll find an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art. Just make sure you don’t go on a Thursday. Only the café and gift shop will be open and you will have no other choice but to walk it like Charlie Brown.
3) The National Academy Museum
I was particularly impressed by this museum. Currently they are hosting an annual invitational exhibit of contemporary artists, so if you want to know the various directions professional artists are currently taking art, this exhibit is a must see.
4) The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum
Housed in the old mansion of Andrew Carnegie, this museum contains the most gold and silver metalwork I have ever seen on display in my life. If you aren’t a huge fan of candlestick holders (no matter how elegant they are), it’s still worth a visit to stand in and observe Carnegie’s great mansion and always-green backyard garden.
5) The Jewish Museum
This museum holds a very large collection of Jewish ceremonial art. What made the visit worth it, though, was its current exhibit on Jackson Pollack and Andy Warhol.
6) The Museum of the City of New York
For those who are diehard fans of the city or are just curious about the history of everything New York, this museum is the place to be. I found the Broadway exhibit particularly interesting.
7) Conservatory Garden
An excellent stop after a day of museum visiting. This massive garden includes three sections created in French, English, and Italian styles. This is a great place to relax in and enjoy.
While I am still (and possibly always will be) a music lover at heart, frequenting to the Museum Mile these past three weeks has been an eye-opening experience. One notable observation I’ve made is that I simply enjoy being in the museum atmosphere. There’s something about walking through corridor after corridor of art pieces that keeps you observant and excited about every second of your journey. Someday I’ll recount the museum pieces I’ve seen like celebrity friends who took the time to chat with me in busy Manhattan. But for the moment, Manhattan still looms over me like an endless horizon. I can only look forward to what it shows me next.