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  • Writer's pictureAlbert C

Cultural Meccas of NYC -The Met and The Guggenheim

When I was a kid living in Pennsylvania, my mother would take the family to New York City and we’d spend the day in Manhattan shopping, seeing a show, maybe ice skating if it was the season. We’d have a meal or two at a quintessentially New York eatery and a snack from one of the sidewalk carts. And, because New York had culture that our small town did not, we’d spend a good chunk of time in one of the New York City museums.

New York has more museums than most people have books in the house. In Manhattan alone, there are over 60 museums. Many world-class art museums grace the island but two dwarf the rest: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), and the Solomon R. Guggenheim .

Both the Met and the Guggenheim are along what is called “Museum Mile,” a tree-lined stretch of 5th Avenue bordering Central Park between 82nd and 104th Streets. A half-dozen, more targeted museums can also be found there including El Museo del Barrio, the Jewish Museum, the Goethe House German Cultural Center, and the Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design. These smaller museums can often be more enlivening and accessible to the occasional museum goer than the goliaths nearby where you can spend the day and not see everything. The Met along has almost 2 million works of art that have been created over more than 5,000 years. To get a sense of its size, the Egyptian Art gallery includes a whole temple given to the US as a gift.

The Met owns another historical building, or rather group of buildings, transplanted stone by stone which is a museum in its own right: the Cloisters. The Cloisters combines five medieval cloisters into one estate along the Hudson River. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. not only donated the land for the museum and contributed works from his own personal collection of medieval art (including the famous unicorn tapestries), he also donated land across the river from the museum so that the view would remain unspoiled. The Cloisters museum primarily exhibits works of art from the 12th to the 15th Century in buildings that date back to that era, creating a feeling of stepping back in time. With the vaulted arcades and central courtyards around which monastic life was led, the Cloisters offers a real sense of how life moved at a different pace and with a different horizon than the modern world alongside the works of art that reflect the spirit of those times.

School kids and college students from the Greater New York area get in free, but everyone else is asked to pay a $20 donation for either the Met or the Cloisters. Admission to one buys same-day admission to both, if you are planning a day of museum visits.

The other great museum born from the vision of a single philanthropist is the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The building itself is a work of art. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, this Guggenheim is the youngest building to be designated a New York City landmark. The design is a large part of what makes a visit to the Guggenheim so enjoyable. The round building has a long spiral ramp that curls from the top to the bottom. Even thought the art is only from the 19th and 20th centuries, the volume of works on display can easily make a day of it you wish. Children get into the museum for free and the price for adults at $12 is nearly half that of the Met, so if you want bang for your buck, the Guggenheim is your museum.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

1000 Fifth Avenue

Fifth Ave at 82nd Street

New York, NY 10028

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

1071 Fifth Avenue

New York, NY 10128

The Cloisters

Fort Tryon Park

New York, NY 10040

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