City Scapes takes a tour of but one facet of the art and culture of New York …
Join me on a walking tour of Manhattan’s Museum Mile, one of the most culturally diverse stretches of concrete and asphalt in the United States, and if my French and Italian relatives would please excuse my inflated ego, second to none anywhere on the planet.
Along a route, which is actually two blocks longer than one mile, natives and visitors can visit sites of both old and new, traditional and modern, in a display of art that feeds the hungry soul and dazzles the eye.
The Museum Mile is named for a part of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, that runs South from 104th Street to 82nd Street on Fifth Avenue’s, Upper East Side in the neighborhood called “Carnegie Hill.”
Nine museums are located along this length of Fifth Avenue, joined by a tenth museum in 2009, Museum for African Art, the first new museum constructed on this mile since the Guggenheim in 1959, and will open to the public late 2012.
*Note: Most of the narrative descriptions of each museum has been provided by Jason Wiggins on Museum Mile’s official web page. Photography is from a variety of sources and credit noted for each.
In addition to their various programs, these museums also collaborate to bring New Yorker’s the Museum Mile Festival, held each year in June.
The best way to enjoy this tour is to go north to the farthest location and walk south along Fifth Avenue.
El Museo del Barrio … Located on 104th Street
Founded thirty years ago, El Museo del Barrio is New York City’s only Latino museum dedicated to Puerto Rican, Caribbean and Latin American art.
A visit to the museum should take about two hours and would appeal to people who like contemporary Puerto Rican, Caribbean and Latin American art.
Museum of New York City … Located on 103rd Street
The Museum of the City of New York, one of the most elegant museums in the city, looks like a Colonial American mansion; it is a large red-brick building with white stone columns accenting the entranceway and marble floors and stairways.
The Museum of the City of New York is the place to go to find out more about the city. Plan on a fairly long visit, three to four hours, if you want to look through the whole museum.
The Jewish Museum … Located on 92nd Street
The Jewish Museum, located on the same avenue of culture as the Met, Guggenheim and Cooper-Hewitt, has a design style different from many other museums. There is more to the Jewish Museum than meets the eye; unlike many other museums on Museum Mile, the Jewish Museum takes up all of the floors of its building. The galleries are arranged in a circuitous style which allows for a lot of material to be put on display and makes floor plans a necessity.
The museum provides a large amount of information to explain the cultural and historical significance of the artifacts and artwork on display and makes for a wonderful learning experience. A curious visitor would most likely spend three or four hours seeing all of the galleries at this museum.
Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum … Located on 91st Street
Andrew Carnegie’s old mansion, which houses the Museum, looks like a building transplanted from a university campus; a black cast iron fence encloses a courtyard with grass and trees. While most museums have large banners or flags flying, the design museum posts a series of signs along the fence.
The exhibits, in large part, focus on work that gives every day items like furniture, computers and toothbrushes a more unique appearance, adding form to the function. Architecture and graphic design are also well covered. The museum is not as large as it looks. Plan to spend two hours or more.
National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts … Located on 89th Street
The National Academy Museum, is housed in a landmark turn of the century Beaux-Arts townhouse. Although the museum appears to be rather small, there is a lot of gallery space featuring the museum’s vast collection of 19th and 20th century American Art. The gallery spaces, like the art on display, are rather traditional.
The National Academy Museum is a place that would appeal mostly to art students or people who have a dedicated interest in painting. After visiting two or three other museums on Museum Mile, this museum would probably be too much to absorb or appreciate.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum … Located on 88th Street
The Guggenheim Museum is housed in one of the most unique buildings in New York City. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the museum is shaped roughly like a teacup or an upside down terraced hill. It is not unusual to see adults with their children here, going up and down the spiraling ramp.
Expect to spend at least half a day going through the galleries and exploring the building. Try to head here early and avoid the weekends when the museum gets extremely crowded.
Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art … Located from 82nd to 86th Streets
There are several large museums in New York but the Metropolitan Museum of Art is truly gigantic. From the sidewalk on Fifth Avenue, the Met, with its tall columns and windows, immense stairways and water fountains, looks like it could be an emperor’s palace.
If you’re planning on visiting the Met and another museum on Museum Mile in one trip, you’ll have to prioritize; going through the entire Met is a full day (or two) affair. The Met is a must see when visiting New York and is always worth another trip
Goethe House German Cultural Center … Located on 82nd Street
The Goethe Institute is probably one of the smallest museums in New York. It’s a converted townhouse right across the street from the Met, and the gallery is actually only a part of the institute’s functions.
There is also a library, book center and program center for people interested in German language and culture. It will only take about a half an hour to see this free gallery, so there’s no reason not to take a look in if you’re interested. The staff is friendly and willing to help answer any questions.
Our tour has ended. Sit for a spell at a sidewalk cafe and take a well deserved rest.
If you would like to see the complete lists of museums, cultural landmarks and the most comprehensive arrays of art, architect and mixed media, you can refer to Wikipedia
There are a jaw dropping one hundred plus of these magnificent sites in the five boroughs of Manhattan; from the Brooklyn Museum to the Cloister Museum in Fort Tryon Park in Washington Heights, Manhattan.
Thank you visiting City Scapes. Remember to hug an artist and have a great day.
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