north america · travel

How to Spend an Artsy Fartsy Day in NY

Good morning, sunshine!

Grab a bagel, gulp down that cup of joe, then head off to the Met to start off your day. The Metropolitan Museum of Art opens at 9:30 am, and offers a Highlights tour almost every hour starting at 10:45-ish, to help you find your way through this mammoth of an art refuge.

Passionate curating, don't you think?

Unless you plan on spending the whole day to comb the gazillion of tributes to divine craftsmanship, I suggest that you do your research in advance and just choose the galleries that you really want to see. The Met caters to all kinds of fanatics — from devotees of the classic and the ancient, to aficionados of the edgy and modern, from the earthy to the whimsical — there’s something for everyone. It still blows my mind to think about how they managed to get all those glorious works of art under one roof — it’s as if the Celestial Star of Everything-Almighty-in-the-World-of-Art wandered into the museum and suddenly burst, just leaving globs of awesome all over the place.

Ancient Assyrian murals

Right from the start, I knew where I was eventually going to be stuck — in their collection of Van Goghs, of course! The delightful thing about museums in New York was they actually allowed non-flash photography inside the premises (save for a few restricted exhibits), so that nuts like me can keep precious keepsakes of their close encounters.

I think this was the first Van Gogh I saw that actually looked... jolly. First Steps, after Millet, 1890.
For variety, a pretty, pretty Monet. Water Lilies, 1919.

Sketching is allowed in the Met, too; you’ll need to ask permission if you want to use anything other than pencils, though. We saw at least two artists totally absorbed in their work, their world for the moment only consisting of their paint, palette and easel, and the grand masterpiece before them.

I’m happy but I’m starving — where’s lunch?

You can treat yourself to reasonably-priced eats in the Met’s cafeteria on the ground floor. Or better yet, grab some grub at one of the food stands dotting the nearby Central Park, before delving into the park grounds for an old-fashioned picnic. Yes, sitting down in a fancy NY resto is nice, but when you have some of the best street food in the planet around, sometimes keeping it simple just works.

Yup, that's a whole lot of picnic spots.

After helping yourself to some chow and a healthy dose of people- and dog- watching, take a stroll and scan the grounds to spot the myriad of artworks that call Central Park home. You’ll find fountains, statues, an obelisk — a castle in the middle of NY, even (!) — to satisfy your artsy-day cravings.

Exhibit A: Cute poofy dog we saw along the way.

Okay, I’m full. What’s on for the afternoon?

Go south of Central Park and find your way to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). To be honest, if you’re more used to the classical definition of art (i.e. portraits, landscapes, sculptures), then you might find MoMA a bit strange and outlandish.

Chopper hanging above the MoMA stairs.

But I think out-of-the-box thinking was one of the thing that MoMA, and modern art in general, was gunning for. If that’s correct, then MoMA has done it exceptionally well, a real treat for modern art buffs. Linger as you try to find out the history and statements behind the art installations; I’m sure you’ll run into a lot of interesting anecdotes.

That being said, MoMA is not all about the up and coming avant-garde visionaries. Remember that at their time, the styles of Van Gogh, Picasso and Monet were considered offbeat, even outrageous, accomplishing leaps for encouraging unorthodox imagination everywhere. MoMA boasts of big guns such as the largest Monet I’ve ever seen (there’s a long bench in front of ‘Water Lilies’ for those who just want to gape) and of course, the love of my life, Van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’. And with that, I am speechless.

For a moment, time stopped.

Frida Kahlo in the house as well.

These are only a few; there are myriads more of art havens waiting to astound you in the Big Apple. If you’re still bouncing with energy, pick & check out one of the specialized art museums which might be right up your alley (modern, African, folk and so on), or cap off your evening with last-minute tickets to a Broadway play.

Lining up for Broadway tickets at Times Square

Want more pics? Then click below:
2011-11 MoMA + Met Picasa Album
2011-11 Random NY-ities Picasa Album
2011-11 Times Square Picasa Album

Casualty assessment:
Admission to the Met* – USD 25 (adults), USD 17 (seniors 65+), USD 12 (students)
Admission to MoMA – USD 22.50 (adults), USD 16 (seniors 65+), USD 12 (students)
Both admissions are covered by the New York CityPass: USD 79 (adult), USD 59 (youth 6-17)

* Admission to the Met has a pay-what-you-wish system — meaning that there are suggested prices, but how much you pay is ultimately up to you.

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