Art Travelling: Art in New York City

I spent a week in Manhattan (mostly) for the express purpose of looking at art. That meant spending a lot of time in the Met and MOMA, not to mention as many of the other museums and galleries I could fit in!

Whitney Museum

Art travelling can be pretty hectic, but if you plan right it’s enormously fun.

First, you have to be clear why you are there. To see art, you need to give yourself time to reflect on what you’ve seen. So you should do a little forward planning and decide the main things you want to see. For me, I wanted to see American art, especially painting. This is because I live in Europe and have access to a lot of amazing European painting but almost no American painting. I wanted to see the pictures of Albert Bierstadt, the Luminists, Frank Stella, and the Abstract Expressionists, to name a few. So I planned my museum visits around seeing those first. But I also went to the wonderful Frith, which is all about European art.

Second, you have to be clear what you are NOT travelling for. In my case, I was NOT in New York to shop. Despite the awesome shops, and bookstores which made me weep to pass them by, pass them I did. I took only hand luggage and brought back only a couple of catalogues. I did this because shopping is both tiring and weirdly addictive especially in places like New York or London. So best not to even get started.

Third, I found I had to make sure I got enough good quality sleep. And time to relax, because museums are insanely tiring. New York is not generally relaxing, but it does have some terrific places to chill! I’m sure I’m stating the obvious, but I really enjoyed chilling out in Central Park, which is lush and spacious, with plenty of places to have quality time out. This is where I gave in to cliché and had a hot dog. A real American hot dog, in Central Park! Ok, it was not the worst thing I have ever eaten. Ice cream in Bryant Park was more my kind of thing, really enjoyed that. I also loved the Highline which is close to where I stayed* and perhaps my favourite place, Battery Park. I loved being on the river and went there several times to catch some air.

Battery Park

Art travelling on a budget. As a writer, I am not as yet actually rich. I am hoping that one day I will conjure up a best seller but until that day dawns I’ll be art travelling on a budget. So I like to stay in hostels, pensions and – best case scenario – expense accounts of people who invite me to come and give talks or workshops. Manhattan was on my own coin, so I stayed at a hostel, which had several advantages. Location, facilities and chances to meet other travellers. Hotels can be lonely, though sometimes the luxury is really worth it! But in Manhattan luxury was way beyond my means.

Finally, coffee. Art travelling requires excellence in beverages, and you need to be properly caffeinated to get through that much art. I can report that this is not a problem in New York as a whole. Great coffee was everywhere, from the local diners in Chelsea to the museum cafes (expensive but what can you do?) Tea wasn’t quite so ubiquitiously good but you can always count on Starbucks for a cheap gallon of mint tea when you really need it.

  • my good friend, a professor in Canada stays regularly at the Chelsea International Hostel and recommended it to me. Since then I’ve met many other travellers who swear by it. I loved it. What it lacks in decor it makes up for in ambience, cleanliness and incredible location. 🙂