This is Metropolis. This is Gotham City. This is New York City, this is the one all the other cities wish they were—”the only real city-city,” as Truman Capote put it. Its skyscrapers loom above canyon-like streets, where some 8.3 million New Yorkers go about their daily business. They say it’s the capital of the world … few disagree that it is the capital of the art world. For a superficial glimpse of its mind-boggling offers, make a visit to its three heavy hitters—and an insider’s favorite.
With more than two million works created in the Stone Age, the digital age and any time in between, the Metropolitan Museum of Art ranks as one of the largest repositories of art and culture on the planet. Founded in 1870, this institution has expanded to such a degree that its Gothic Revival building is now completely surrounded by additions.
Highlights include the Roman and Greek galleries; the Costume Institute; the impressive holdings of Byzantine and Chinese art; the collection of European paintings, with works by Tiepolo, Cézanne, Vermeer and Monet; the Arms and Armor collection; and the Egyptian collection, with its mummies, sphinx and the amazing 1st century B.C. Temple of Dendur, presented as a gift by the Egyptian government. The museum’s Roof Garden Café is a popular summertime haunt, while the Neapolitan Christmas Creche in the Medieval Sculpture Hall is a seasonal favourite.
Founded in 1929 to promote new approaches to artistic expression, the Museum of Modern Art was remodelled and enlarged in 2004 under the guidance of architect Yoshio Taniguchi. Nearly twice its original size, it is today home to the world’s finest collection of works from the late 19th century to the present, including Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Picasso’s 1907 Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Other holdings include the 3,000 objects in the Architecture and Design collection; the Film and Media collection, with its four million stills and 23,000 films; and 25,000 photographs, including works by Man Ray, Walker Evans and Ansel Adams, among others. There’s respite in the peaceful open-air Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden—with pieces by Giacometti, Picasso, Rodin, and others.
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and completed in 1959, the dramatic Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is shaped like a spiralling seashell. Take the elevator to the top and walk down through the uninterrupted, circling gallery to ground level (as Wright intended), and view works that span the late 19th century to the present, including Mr. Guggenheim’s original collection of non-objective art; niece Peggy Guggenheim’s trove of Surrealist and abstract works; and examples from various other schools, including Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, German Expressionist and Minimalist works.
Built in 1914 by the inordinately rich steel and railway magnate Henry Clay Frick, Frick Museum is a lovely French Neoclassical mansion, housing a collection of mostly European masterpieces from the Renaissance to the 1900s. The opulent interior is resplendent with 18th-century French furniture and porcelain, and is much loved by New Yorkers for its intimacy and the relative absence of crowds. The museum’s highlights include works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Holbein, Velázquez, Titian, El Greco, Bellini and Goya.