A Fun Guide to the Best Art Museums in New York City

New York City is home to one of the best art museums in the world. There is a rich history offered by every museum through its unique collection of art and exhibitions. From collections and pieces belonging to medieval times to today’s contemporary and modern art, there is something for everyone. However, when it comes to deciding which museum to go for, things become a bit tricky. Therefore, this guide shares a list of the best art museums in NYC for you to discover and explore. Let’s begin. 

The Cloisters

The Cloisters is another marvel in the world of museums. At the moment, it is home to about 5,000 collections of architecture and art that are all European and belong to the Byzantine and the early Renaissance period. The collection includes sculptures made of wood and stone, manuscripts that are illuminated, tapestries and panel paintings. The most admired artwork in the museum is Robert Campin’s ‘Merode Altarpiece’. This painting has permanently made The Cloisters its home as it has been there since 1959. 

You will also find ivory statuettes, metal and wood reliquary crosses, and shrines in addition to medieval European frescoes. Furthermore, there are three chapels within the museum as well. The Gothic Chapel was built to showcase its collections of large sculptures and stained glass. Whereas, the Fuentiduena Chapel consists of a collection that is both modern and medieval. It is also the largest room in the museum. Lastly, the Langon Chapel features transepts and aisle nave from a church that was built in Notre Dame de Pontaut around 1115, which was the Benedictine parish.

Rubin Museum of Art

The Rubin Museum of Art differentiates itself from other art museums located in New York City in terms of featuring collections of cultures and art of the Indian subcontinent, Himalayas and East Asia. Moreover, you will also find Tibetan art on display which is permanent. The museum features objects that are more than 1,000 in number including, sculpture, paintings, and textiles in addition to ritual objects. 

Furthermore, the museum holds and organizes exhibitions as well such as the ‘Ports of transmission’, ‘Methods of Transcendence’ (inaugural exhibition), ‘Holy Madness’ along with many others. The museum is also involved in a number of both on and off-site educational programs. These programs include discussing and talking about live music, film screening, poetry, dance and other demonstrations of art and performances. Ever since it was created, the museum has focused on extending its reach to people with disabilities so that they are also allowed to take part in exploring the museum. 

Neue Galerie

The Neue Galerie was originally an idea of two friends, Serge Sabarsky was an exhibition organizer of museums and an art dealer while Ronald S. Lauder was a philanthropist, entrepreneur and a collector of art. Both friends were highly interested in collecting Austrian and German twentieth-century design and art. The Neue Galerie comprises two divided sections. 

The museum’s second floor features decorative and fine art from Austria belonging to the early twentieth century which includes paintings from artists such as Oskar Kokoschka, Gustav Klimt, and Egon Schiele. On the other hand, the third-floor houses German artwork belonging to the same century and era which includes Bauhaus, Der Blaue Reiter, and Die Brucke. Artists such as Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Lyonel Feininger, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Otto Dix are featured on this floor as well. 

Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum

The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum features both design and decorative objects. The museum was built to house collections that included sculpture, architecture, metalwork, painted architecture, costume, pottery, furniture, and musical instruments. There was a time when the museum housed a gallery that included metalwork, showcasing grillwork made from iron along with a separate room that was solely dedicated to ironwork. However, today they are no longer the focus of the museum. The collection at the museum includes a wide variety and collection of porcelain, matchbooks and shopping bags belonging to the Soviet Union. In addition to that, you will find Tibor Kalman’s papers as well, who was a designer by profession. 

Abraham Lincoln’s chair was amongst the most important objects in the museum’s collection in addition to the Rolls Royce that belonged to the Beatles.

Queens Museum

Founded in 1972, the Queens Museum is both a center of education and an art museum located in New York City. One of its most famous permanent exhibitions includes the ‘Panorama of the City of New York’. In total, the museum houses around 10,000 pieces in total amongst which 6,000 belong to the World’s fair of 1939 and 1964. The museum has recently purchased or has received in donation the works of artists like Mark Dion, Salvador Dali, Robert Moses (photographs of Andrew Moore) in addition to the modern city 20th-century collection of photographs, Daily News photos of crime scenes from its archive and William Sharp’s 1,000 drawings, who was a political cartoonist and a reporter of the court. 

In addition to that, the Panorama of the City of NewYork is the center of attraction at the museum. A team of 100 people had worked on the project for its successful completion before World’s fair in 1964. 

Frick Collection

Henry Clay Frick, who was an industrialist showed keen interest in collecting artwork once he was able to afford them. Judging by the name, the Frick Collection is a museum that is situated in the Henry Clay Frick House. The museum is small-sized which is home to old master’s paintings of high-quality in addition to the furniture of the finest quality displayed in nineteen galleries with the museum which was once the former residence of Henry Clay Frick. Today, the collection displayed at the museum is following the way Henry Clay Frick wanted to show off his collection as he had intended to convert the residence into a museum. Apart from the permanent collection, the museum organizes and holds temporary exhibitions as well. Upon visiting the museum, you will come across works of some of the famous European artists along with porcelain and sculpture works. 

Whitney Museum of American Art

Chelsea, Manhattan, NYC

The Whitney Museum of American Art features collection that belongs to both the 20th and 21st centuries. The collection is American and includes more than 25,000 items. There are prints, sculptures, photographs, paintings, videos, and films by more than 3,500 artists. The museum opened in 1954 and since then the collection has grown from 600 to 1,300. Some of the most prominent artists include Keith Haring, Talia Chetrit, Susan Crocker, Joe Andoe and many more. The museum after every two years hosts an art show which is international, known as the Whitney Biennial, promoting and displaying the artwork of artists who are lesser-known.

Met Breuer

Upper East Side, Manhattan, New York

Opened in 2016, the Met Breuer is located in the building that formerly belonged to the Whitney Museum of American Art. The aim of the museum is to showcase and promote modern art for which $17 million would be allocated every year allowing the museum to extend its outreach as well. In addition to that, Thomas P. Campbell, who is the Director and CEO of the Met has shared his plan to go from analog to digital. 

It has organized and held exhibitions of some of the most popular artists such as Pablo Picasso’s ‘Woman in a Red Armchair’ which has never been seen before dating back to 1931. Not only that, but the exhibitions held by the museum also featured collections that dating back to about 500 years including artwork from the Italian Renaissance to today’s modern paintings. However, the Met Breuer at the moment is vacating the museum as it intends to shift somewhere else. 


When it comes to contemporary art, MoMA PS1 is one of the largest museums in NYC. Not only is the museum involved in artwork collection but organizes events such as the Sunday Sessions performance series, the Young Architects program and the Warm Up summer music series. Over time the museum has showcased the artwork of artists such as Keith Sonnier, Dennis Oppenheim, Alan Saret and many more. Whereas, some of the important exhibitions that the museum has had the chance to host included ‘Rooms’, ‘Franz West’, ‘September 11’, ‘Maria Lassnig’ and several others.

The Young Architects program on the other hand hosted by the Museum is an annual competition that invites and allows the young artists to display their work and submit designs for the courtyard of the museum. The winning proposal is then converted into construction. Lastly, the Warm-Up is a music series organized by the winner of the annual Young Architects Program where a combination of architecture, music, and exhibitions is offered for the fans, families, and artists.

The Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum houses items and objects that are basically cultural. The Jewish Museum is not only the first Jewish Museum in the world but the oldest existing in the world as well. The museum is home to the largest collection of artifacts related to the Jewish culture. In total, there are more than 30,000 objects featured in the museum. The collection includes sculptures, paintings, Jewish ceremonial art, and archaeological artifacts, etc. The artists that have their works displayed include George Segal, Deborah Kass, and Marc Chagall. 

Furthermore, the museum also offers a vast number of educational programs such as performances, lectures, and talks in addition to group visits and special visits for people with disabilities. It is the aim of the museum to provide maximum assistance to the disabled by providing special guides that provide verbal instructions along with a one-day visit every month to the museum. 

Museum of Modern Art 

Identified as one of the most influential and largest museums in the world, the Museum of Modern Art is home to a collection of artworks ranging from prehistoric times to contemporary. Art. It consists of drawings, paintings, design, architecture, prints, photography and much more. Moreover, it is home to 300,000 exhibition catalogs and books, over 40,000 ephemera files and 1,000 periodical titles. In total, the museum features more than 150,000 artists, who have their famous pieces displayed. These artists include the likes of Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Jasper Johns Umberto Boccioni and many others. Furthermore, there are 4 million film stills and nearly 22,000 films. 

The Museum of Modern Arts receives a lot of attention across the globe as it welcomes 1.5 million to 2.5 million visitors on average, annually. It was reported in 2009  that 2.8 million visitors had visited the museum along with 119,000 members. However, it was in 2010, when the museum had recorded a record-breaking number of visitors spiking to 3.09 million.

International Center of Photography

The International Center of Photography is a museum that not only offers a huge variety of photographs but educational programmes as well. The educational courses include darkroom classes, certificates and even Masters. These programs include symposia, seminars, lectures and workshops. In total, it accommodates around 3,500 students annually. In addition to that it has something for both the public and the community as well. For the public, it explains the relationship between photography and art along with inviting photographs to share their work and discuss any related ideas. On the other hand, at the community level, these programs include workshops, family day events and interactive tours in addition to summer photography programs held in community centers, long-term photography programs in four public schools of New York and even a leadership program at the high school level to promote leadership amongst youth.

Brooklyn Museum

The Brooklyn Museum is home to nearly 1.5 million objects and items. It includes antique items that are over 3,500 years old, belonging to the Egyptian times. In addition to that, it features African, European, Japanese and Oceanic art as well. The Egyptian artifacts located in the museum are both purchased and collected over the years. You will come across well-known figures such as the “Bird Lady” terra cotta to papyrus documents. The American Art collection in total nearly reached the 2,000 mark. The items are distributed throughout the museums so you shall find them at various locations. The collection includes the famous artwork of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart and The Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks. The African art collection at the Brooklyn Museum is one of the largest in any art museum located in New York as it features more than 5,000 items. The collection includes masks, jewelry, sculpture, and religious artifacts representing more than 100 cultures of Africa. 

Grey Art Gallery

The Grey Art Gallery is home to over 6,000 works mainly belonging to the nineteenth and twentieth century. You will come across notable artists and their famous pieces of work such as Bust of Sylvette by Pablo Picasso and Chocolat Menier by Joseph Cornell. There are several other artists that are featured such as Arshile Gorky, Jane Freilicher and Kenneth Noland. The museum is home to Turkish, Iranian and Indian art. The museum was initiated by Abby Weed Grey who after several visits to the Middle East and Asia had collected a huge variety of items and donated over 800 pieces to the museum. She was quite fond of Iranian art, which has a fair share in the overall collection. Furthermore, she has received a number of items from artists belonging to India and Turkey as well. Today, the museum is admired for its approach towards collecting and building a relationship between art and human cultures. 

Final words

We hope this guide will provide the necessary information you need to know about the best art museums in New York. We believe that museums are not only meant to bring people close to history but encourage and promote love for art and history, particularly among children.