As an Art History major, I spend most of my free time planning my next field trip to an art museum. Through NYUstudents have access to many of these museums for reduced or free costs—the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for example, offers pay for the tickets whatever you want for students in New York City. This, combined with being a popular tourist attraction, makes the Met likely to be the most visited museum by NYU students. But the city’s smaller independent museums deserve our attention just as much.
While larger museums can be important cultural institutions with extensive collections, these smaller art galleries are often more specialized and have the ability to concentrate the work of living artists from a wide range of backgrounds.
Small art institutions, because of their sizes and budgets, tend to specialize in curating and curating art from specific cultures and regions. Works may span hundreds of years, but a focus on a particular cultural tradition can ground the collection, giving it a clear focus and educational purpose. Get The Frick Collection, named after American industrialist and art patron Henry Clay Frick, whose original donation of paintings and sculptures formed the basis of the collection. It is currently located in Frick Madison while of the museum the original location is subject to renovation, The Frick features European paintings, sculptures and decorative arts from the Renaissance and beyond. of Neue Gallerya small gallery just a few blocks from The Met, is an even more focused collection of European art that specializes in German and Austrian work.
There are also many small museums that showcase artists from often underrepresented groups and can therefore expose visitors to a diverse selection of works by living artists. Neighborhood Museum, Rubin Museum of Art, Studio Museum in Harlem AND Asia Society Museum are just a few of the museums that specialize in curating and presenting art from specific cultures and their respective diasporas.
El Museo’s collection is dedicated to Latin American and Caribbean art, displaying works in a variety of eras, from indigenous works to contemporary art about women and Latino identity. The Rubin Museum is focused on Himalayan art and has a collection of nearly 3,400 pieces from 1,500 years ago to the present day. Studio Museum displays in Harlem art by artists of African descent and was created to “address the almost complete exclusion of artists of African descent from mainstream museums, commercial art galleries, academic institutions, and scholarly publications.” Asia Society, like El Museo and Rubin, contains both traditional and contemporary works, seeking to take “new approaches to well-known masterpieces and introducing unknown arts and artists”. These institutions center identities and perspectives usually excluded from the art-historical canon, providing a space for artists from marginalized communities.
These three museums are also prime examples of how small art institutions can provide opportunities for young, vibrant artists to enter the art world – especially artists of color, who are underrepresented in the current art market. Perhaps the most well-known of these institutions is that Whitney Museum of American Artwhich was founded in 1930 and was “the first museum dedicated to the work of living american artists.The Whitney’s mission is echoed in the work of El Museo, the Rubin, the Studio Museum, and the Asia Society, all of which make connections between traditional and contemporary art and aim to highlight unknown modern artists.
Local commercial art galleries are also great places to find work by up and coming artists, and New York City is full of them. Tribeca is particularly famous for its art gallery scene, but small galleries can be found almost everywhere any borough of New York City. These galleries are perfect for pursuing contemporary art by artists who have not yet received major recognition. Blue-chip galleries, those with high-value works by established artists, are also common throughout the city and are accessible to the public – most are even free of charge.
From these local galleries to established art institutions, there are seemingly endless options when it comes to seeing art in the city, many of which are greatly underestimated by NYU students. These smaller collections present the opportunity to gain a greater appreciation for particular artistic traditions that have historically been excluded from the art world.
So the next time you’re planning a trip to The Met, consider visiting one of these smaller art institutions.
Contact Katherine Welander at [email protected].