New York’s Independent Galleries vs MoMA

ABOVE Lining to see one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of modern art at MoMA
ABOVE Lining to see one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of modern art at MoMA

New York’s Museum of Modern Art is as famous as it is massive, but for more eclectic offerings, browse the city’s unique cutting-edge galleries, where progressive art is on show and often on sale


LOCATION New York City is in New York State on the east coast of the USA

POPULATION Around 8.3 million

VISITORS PER YEAR Around 40 million

DAYTIME TEMPERATURES Jan: 32°F (0°C); Apr: 54°F (12°C); Jul: 77°F (25°C); Oct: 57°F (14°C)

MoMA – the name alone has become a synonym worldwide for modern art. In 2004, after an ambitious building project, the Museum of Modern Art returned to its Manhattan home, reopening in a gleaming new space designed by Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi. The eye- catching building reveals spacious, sky-lit galleries and an elegant sculpture garden. The museum’s collection features a great number of superstar paintings, from Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon to Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night. It’s undoubtedly impressive. But if you’re looking for a more eclectic art experience, make for the city’s progressive art galleries, both in Manhattan and farther afield in the city’s boroughs.

Before – long before – an artist has a shot at showing at the Museum of Modern Art, it’s likely they’ll exhibit in one of New York’s many independent galleries or art spaces. And a tour of these will give you the chance to check out up-and-coming artists before they make a name for themselves – to discover them as they’re discovering themselves, as it were.

For budding buyers on a budget, these galleries can be a boon, with potentially high-value pieces selling for low prices. But above all, they make for a memorable visit. The art can be strange, sure. Bewildering? Probably. But boring? Rarely.

Anything’s game – particularly in Brooklyn – from taxidermy in motel settings to marshmallow sculptures. That said, this being New York, plenty of the art could also well turn out to be a sound investment. As the saying goes: “If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.” It’s not just artists who get their start here – artistic movements do, too.

The home of contemporary art in New York has long been Chelsea, on Manhattan’s West Side, though SoHo to the south features a number of big-name galleries wedged between its plush shops. But the contemporary art scene is by nature migratory, and Brooklyn, with its high ceilings and low rents, has become the new artistic frontier.

A visit to the DUMBO Arts Center, for instance, under the Manhattan Bridge, reveals a wealth of artist-friendly industrial structures and warehouses, while nearby Williamsburg is crammed with galleries. For a unique take on contemporary art in Manhattan, don’t miss the glowing New Museum on the Bowery.



MoMA offers a double draw: the world’s largest collection of modern art and sculpture, along with a unique building that is a work of contemporary art in itself. The collection showcases most of the modern greats, from Matisse and Braque to Picasso and Klimt. Surrealist fans, take note – Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory hangs here.


Sadly, art loses some of its appeal when you have to elbow others out of the way to view it properly. And the relatively steep entrance fee can be tough to justify for those on a budget.


Avoid the crowds by visiting the museum midweek or early in the day. You can get around the pricey entrance fee by going between 4 and 8pm on Fridays, when admission is free, though bear in mind that everyone else in the city will have exactly the same idea, so the place gets packed.


Getting There and Around

New York City is served by three major airports: JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark. You’ll find plenty of transportation options within the city.

Where to Eat

Food in New York is very varied, from high-end Italian and French to fiery Latino, with plenty of all- American burgers and hot dogs in between. Union Square Cafe, a favorite with New Yorkers, features Italian-influenced fare.

Where to Stay

New York City features a wide array of accommodations. For a Midtown hotel with a formidable literary and artistic history, stay at the comfortable, Edwardian-style Algonquin Hotel.

When to Go

Spring and early fall usher in the finest weather – sunny yet breezy. For fewer crowds, aim for October and November.

Budget per Day for Two

The sky’s the limit, but if you stay in a mid-range hotel, eat out once a day, and take public transportation, US$250-350 should be enough.

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