Last week, I ventured into Manhattan from my Brooklyn base to go to the 34th annual Museum Mile Festival. Fifth Avenue is shut down from about 82nd Street to 110th Street for this Festival, and the museums along this stretch of the Avenue allow free access for the evening. I had been before, and I know how crowded it can get, so I knew that I needed to strategize in order to get the most benefit out of this event. So I set out to determine which exhibits at which museums I would find most appealing.
First off, I only had to research eight museums, as even though they advertised that there were ten museums that were participating, one of them had not yet opened (the African Museum of Art) and another (the Cooper Hewitt) is currently closed for renovation. But eight museums could still offer plenty in the three hours allotted for the Festival. So on to my research….
Since I have a membership to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I decided I didn’t need to take advantage of the free access there. However, I still looked to see the current exhibits that I might need to go back to see another time. I will definitely have to get back there before August 19th to catch the Schiaparelli & Prada exhibit. Another exhibit, Dawn of Egyptian Art may be worth checking out before it closes on August 5th. Then there is Cloud City on the Roof, there until November 5th. Can’t miss that!
Now it was time for me to focus on the other museums in order to pick my targets for the evening. I focused on the current exhibitions at each museum and when they would be ending, to make sure I would catch them before they left, and assuming that I could get back to others that may still have a longer time left in their run. The three museums that I honed in on were:
- The Neue Galerie, with its Gustav Klimt exhibit due to leave on August 25th;
- The Guggenheim Museum had two exhibits of interest, one of which was going to end on June 13th the day after the Festival. It was an exhibit of the works of a woman photographer, Francesca Woodman so even though I wasn’t familiar with her, I didn’t want to miss it. While the other exhibition (the Thannhauser Collection of some of my favorites… Cézanne, Gauguin, Manet, Monet, Picasso, Pissarro, Renoir, and van Gogh) was an ongoing exhibition, I figured I would take it in while there; and
- The Museum of the City of New York, which had several exhibits of interest to me, including an exhibit about Manhattan’s Street Grid system (had been to see it before, but it was too much to absorb in one viewing) and Capital of Capital, about New York’s role in the creation of a global economy (ok, that might sound boring to some of you, but I worked in the finance industry for, well, for a long time, and so thought it might be interesting).
So, with those goals in mind, I set out for the Upper East Side to get my cultural fix. The rain did not stop me; nor did it stop the other folks who lined the sidewalks around the block at each museum to wait for their free glimpse of some of the best art and concentration of museums around. It didn’t stop my two friends, Phyllis and Nancy, who also joined me.
First stop, the Neue Gallerie. The wait in line was about 30 minutes or so, but seemed short since this was also a chance to catch up with friends. The Klimt exhibit was historic, with several of his important pieces, plus an intimate look at his long term relationship with his close companion, Emilie Floge. Next, on to the long line at the Guggenheim for another approximate 30 minute wait (who knows how long the lines would have been if it hadn’t been pouring down rain). But I’m really glad I had that one on the list. The photography by Francesca Woodman was phenomenal. I walked around in awe, wondering why I had never heard of her. It wasn’t until I was done viewing her works that I came across the board with her story. She had been an artist since she was 13. Most of the photographs shown were done between the ages of 18 and 22 years old. The work seemed to be much advanced for someone of that age. Then at 22, she committed suicide. Such a tragedy. I was glad I had chosen to come see her works.
And the Thannhauser Collection was an extra added benefit of stopping by the Guggenheim.
Then on to the Museum of the City of New York where there was no line (people were getting worn out by now). This is becoming one of my favorite museums. We spent the rest of our time at the Capital of Capital exhibit, and yes, the financial geek in me found it to be fascinating. The graph where they showed all of the banks as they merged into but a few (too big to fail) over the last 20 or so years was quite an eye opener. Now I’ll have to go back again to get another dose of the New York Grid exhibit , not to mention their “Activist New York” and “New York Paintings” (check out the one featured on their website of Grand Central Terminal) and “Reimagining the Waterfront” exhibits.
And I am anxiously awaiting the opening of the new Museum of African Art, which is still struggling to obtain the necessary funding to complete their new facility. They started construction in 2007, right on the verge of the financial meltdown, so have had some starts and stops with the development of their new building at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue. I’m rooting for them!
The Museum Mile Festival was a great event to raise awareness as to the cultural offerings in this great city of New York. Many of the museums in New York also have other times when they are open for free, so check out their websites from the links in this post.
But…the Mile is just the tip of the iceberg of what is available throughout all of the five boroughs of New York, and I can’t close this post without mentioning one of my very favorites, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, in my own backyard.