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The top art museums in NYC

See our picks for the best art museums in New York presenting the finest in art, from classical to cutting-edge

Photograph: David Heald, © 2018 The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
By Howard Halle |

When it comes to art museums, New York City suffers from an embarrassment of riches, with some of the greatest institutions in the world located right here in Gotham. Among them: The Metropolitan Museum Of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum—the big three of NYC art museums. Each is an iconic destination that draws millions of visitors from all over the globe, and it’s easy to see why. The Metropolitan Museum, for example, houses 5,000 years of art, with everything from Ancient Egyptian and Greco-Roman treasures to Renaissance and Impressionist masterpieces. The Met even has fabulous holdings of modern and contemporary objects, though, admittedly, MoMA is the go-to place on that score with what is arguably the most comprehensive collection of 20th- and 21st century art in the world. The Guggenheim is no slouch when showcasing modern artworks as well, especially its hoard of abstract paintings by Wassily Kandinsky. But the icing on the cake remains the Gugg’s nautilus-shaped home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. With its breathtaking interior rotunda, the Guggenheim is Wright’s only major building here, making in one of most important structures in New York, if not the entire world. Yet as amazing as they are, The Met, the Modern and the Guggenheim represent only the tip of the iceberg, as NYC boasts dozens more art museums, spread across the Five Boroughs—including must-see destinations in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. They all have amazing artworks to offer, so if you want to know more, check out our list of top art museums in NYC. And don’t miss out our guide of free museum days, as well as our recommendations for the 101 very best things to do in NYC.

What's on view at NYC museums

Photograph: Kanai Morio, courtesy Ishiyamadera Temple, Otsu, Japan

Best exhibitions, current and upcoming, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

No matter how you slice it, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the greatest art museum in the world. Among New York City museums, it's numero uno, seconded only by MoMA. Just five blocks south of the Solomon R. Guggenheim on Fifth Avenue's fable Museum Mile, The Met contains artworks spanning some 5,000 years. Meanwhile, The Met Breuer at 75th St and Madison Avenue hosts Contemporary and Modern Art. Both places feature exhibitions that are not to be missed. If you want to find what's currently on view at both places, along with the upcoming shows that are on tap this summer and fall (including this year's rooftop commission by Berlin artist Alicja Kwade, a show of rock-and-roll guitars and a Costume Institute survey of camp fashion) look no further than our guide to best exhibitions, current and upcoming, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  RECOMMENDED: Full guide to museums in NYC

Photograph: Denis Doorly, courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York

The best current and upcoming MoMA exhibits

The incubator for 20th century art, the Museum of Modern Art (founded in 1929) has sheparded cutting-edge movements such as Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and Minimalism into the mainstream. MoMA's collection of Modern painting, sculpture and architecture is arguably the most complete of its kind anywhere in the world, and it continues to grow with the addition of artworks by contemporary artists—many of whom have been fostered at MoMA's Long Island City satellite, MoMA PS1. You can find out which shows are at both locations—including exciting exhibitions of Joan Miró and midcentury modernist design—with our list of the best current and upcoming exhibits at MoMA and MoMA PS1. RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Photograph: David Heald, © 2018 The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

Best exhibitions, current and upcoming, at the Guggenheim Museum

Designed by original starchitect Frank Lloyd Wright, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is arguably the only New York museum that shows art inside a work of art. The Gugg’s famed nautilus-shaped home on Fifth Avenue sets it apart from other NYC art institutions, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum Modern Art (MoMA) and the Brooklyn Museum, but what truly makes the building a global icon is its stunning interior rotunda and oculus. There, along its ascending ramps, you’ll find a world-class collection, as well a full slate of temporary shows as noted in our complete list of the best exhibitions, current and upcoming, at the Guggenheim Museum. RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best NYC art museums

Raúl De Nieves, beginning & the end neither & the otherwise betwixt & between the end is the beginning & the end, 2016
Photograph: Matthew Carasella, collection of the artist courtesy Company Gallery, New York
Art, Arts centers

Current exhibits at the Whitney Museum of American Art

When Gilded Age heiress Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney established the museum bearing her name in 1931, America was a cultural backwater, making her stated mission of promoting American artists something of quixotic undertaking. It proved prescient, however, when America emerged as a superpower after World War II and altered the direction of art history with such made-in-the-U.S.A. movements as Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and Minimalism. Though the Whitney was hardly alone in championing that work (MoMA, the Guggenheim, and, to a lesser extent, the Met, did, too), it was uniquely positioned to contextualize it within the wider frame of 20th-century art in America. The Whitney was also the first NYC institution to mount a regularly scheduled survey dedicated to taking the temperature of contemporary art: The Whitney Biennial, a show that became crucial in setting the latest trends. Many memorable Biennials took place on Madison Avenue, in a landmark building designed by Marcel Breuer (now home to the Met Breuer), but in 2015, the Whitney decamped to a much larger quarters, designed by Renzon Piano, in the Meatpacking District,. You can find everything on view there in our complete guide to the best current and upcoming shows at the Whitney Museum. RECOMMENDED: Check out our full guide to the Whitney Museum, NYC

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