When it comes to culture like museum exhibits, New York is hard to beat. From art to history to design, the city’s institutions are packed with exhibits that provoke, intrigue, and entertain. Right now you can see the original animals that inspired Winnie the Pooh, an immersive show in Chelsea, a tribute to The Walking Dead, and much more. Here are our picks for the can’t-miss museum exhibits of the season.
Museum Exhibits NYC: Library
A lock of Edgar Allan Poe’s hair, Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence, Malcolm X’s briefcase, the real-life Winnie-the-Pooh: the New York Public Library holds a lot more than books. For the first time ever you can explore a selection of the 56 million items in the collection with the opening of the Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library’s Treasures. Ongoing.
Museum Exhibits NYC: Art and New York City
Marjorie Strider, Girl with Radish, 1963. Acrylic on laminated pine on Masonite panels, 72 x 60 in. Collection of Ruth and Theodore Baum, New York/Palm Beach, FL. | New York: 1962–1964 Catalogue.
The early 1960s were a time of tumult and also a time of great leaps in the possibilities for art. The Jewish Museum exhibit New York: 1962-1964 uses the museum’s own influential role during those years as a jumping-off point to explore how New York artists responded to epoch-changing events. Work by dozens of major artists is on display, including Diane Arbus, Merce Cunningham, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Louise Nevelson, and Andy Warhol. The exhibition aligns with the years of Alan Solomon’s tenure as the museum’s influential director, organizing exhibitions dedicated to what he called the “New Art” and transforming the Jewish Museum into one of the most important cultural hubs in the city. Through January 8th, 2023.
Museum Exhibits NYC: Fashion
Image: Meisen Kimono with Water Droplets, Shōwa period (1926–89).
The Met's newest exhibition traces the transformation of kimono fashion from the late 18th century through the early 1900s. Kimono Style: The John C. Weber Collection explores artistic exchanges between the kimono and Western fashion, with kimonos, Western couture, and Japanese paintings, prints, and decorative arts. through February 20th, 2023.
Museum Exhibits NYC: Immersive Art
Head to the historic boiler room of Chelsea Market to experience the immersive art space ARTECHOUSE. You’ve never seen art like this before, as room-sized digital projections merge with sound design to create a cinematic experience. Life of a Neuron draws on decades of neuroscience research to create a cellular-level journey through the human brain. Come explore the intersections of art and science and discover new layers of a universal human experience—the story of ourselves. The main installation is joined by additional immersive artworks. You can also grab a drink at the newly opened XR Bar.
Museum Exhibits NYC: Drawing
Wolfgang Hieronymus Von Bömmel, Lion and Hare Composed of Ornamental Leaf-Work, from "Neueersonnene Gold-Schmieds Grillen" (New Designs for Ornaments in Gold), 1698. Engraving on off-white laid paper, 5 x 7 7/8 inches (12.7 x 20 cm). Museum purchase through gift of the Estate of David Wolfe Bishop. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
The Drawing Center downtown brings together a wide-ranging survey covering 200 objects and 500 years for a new drawing show. Clamor of Ornament: Exchange, Power, and Joy from the Fifteenth Century to the Present explores architecture, art, and design. Varied mediums run from 18th-century Indian palampores to Pennsylvania Dutch Fraktur drawings to Navajo textiles to Albrecht Dürer’s Islamic-inspired woodblock-print knots.
Museum Exhibits NYC: Himalayan Art
Museum Exhibits NYC: Eastern Art, Rubin Museum of Art, Gift of Shelley and Donald Rubin.
Chelsea’s Rubin Museum of Art has a mission of presenting and preserving Himalayan art. You can get an overview in current exhibition Gateway to Himalayan Art, which introduces visitors to the main forms, concepts, meanings, and traditions of Himalayan art in the Rubin collection. The newest addition here is an interactive space, The Mandala Lab, which is oriented around five immersive experiences, drawing on film, scent, sound, and a sculpture that invites collective breathing. Through June 4th, 2023.
Museum Exhibits NYC: Modern Native American
Umine Dance, 1958. Casein and gouache on paper, mounted to board, 18 x 22 in., Garth Greenan Gallery, New York.
Oscar Howe (1915–1983) was one of the 20th century's most innovative Native American painters. The current National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) exhibit Dakota Modern: The Art of Oscar Howe shows how art can be both contemporary and traditional—demonstrating Howe's talent for challenging the establishment as he expressed individuality. Through September 11th.
Museum Exhibits NYC: Guggenheim
Vasily Kandinsky, Dominant Curve (Courbe dominante), April 1936 (detail). Oil on canvas, 129.2 × 194.3 cm. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection 45.989.
Vasily Kandinsky was one of the pioneers of abstraction in western art. The Guggenheim is currently highlighting his work in Vasily Kandinsky: Around the Circle. The exhibit is mounted in reverse chronological order, starting with late-life paintings and proceeding back in time along the Guggenheim’s spiral. Paintings, watercolors, and woodcuts drawn from the museum’s extensive Kandinsky collection illuminate the journey of an artist looking into the transcendent potential of abstract forms. Through September 5th, 2022.
Museum Exhibits NYC: New York Music
Brad Farwell/Museum of the City of New York.
A little further uptown, The Museum of the City of New York explores the city’s past, celebrates its present, and imagines its future. The ongoing exhibition New York, New Music: 1980–1986 looks at the city’s diverse performers of the early ‘80s—from Run DMC to the Talking Heads, and Madonna to John Zorn—as a lens to focus on the broader cultural scene, including media outlets, venues, record labels, fashion, and visual arts that cross-pollinated in the city in those years. Through September 18th, 2022.
Museum Exhibits NYC: The Walking Dead
The centerpiece of the Living with The Walking Dead exhibition features the costumes of key characters Rick, Morgan, Negan, Carol, Daryl, Maggie, Michonne, Father Gabriel, and Jadis. Image: Thanassi Karageorgiou/Museum of the Moving Image.
The Walking Dead is one of the most-watched shows in cable history, entering its final season this fall. Fans will not want to miss the exhibition Living with The Walking Dead at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. Delve into the origins, production, fandom, and impact of the show through production materials like original costumes and props, concept art, storyboards, scripts, and of course plenty of the prosthetic makeup used to transform cast members into the walking dead. On view through January 1, 2023.
Beyond Exhibitions: An Overview of NYC Museums
NYC Museums: Can't Miss Major Museums
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is fresh off a lengthy expansion and renovation project. A must-see for even the most casual art fan, six levels here cover an immense range of contemporary and modern art. Works include prints and illustrated books, architecture, design and drawing, paintings and sculpture, and photography and video installations. World-famous art by Warhol, van Gogh, Monet, Kahlo, and Picasso can all be found, joined by intriguing temporary exhibitions.
The Met Museum displays some of the greatest cultural treasures in the world, representing every category of art from just about every country from every time period spanning the Stone Age to the present. The museum houses some of the finest American art in the world, as well as an impressive collection of European, Greco-Roman, and Ancient Egyptian art. You can lose yourself for hours here; if you need to recharge, The Temple of Dendur somehow manages to be simultaneously epic and chill.
Photo: D. Finnin, courtesy American Museum of Natural History.
Holding down a large patch of land just off Central Park West, the American Museum of Natural History was founded in 1869 and still carries on its mission of discovering and interpreting the natural world. Families love exploring the acres of exhibits here, in addition to the futuristic sphere of The Hayden Planetarium. One of the most popular destinations in the museum is the fourth floor, where you’ll find 100 dinosaur specimens, a small sample of the largest collection of dinosaur fossils in the world.
The Guggenheim Museum is Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece of modern architecture. Completed in 1959 (after 16 years of construction), the museum is home to one of the world’s finest collections of modern and contemporary art, including works by artists such as Kandinsky, Picasso, and Pollock, plus intriguing special exhibitions. The building itself belongs in a museum—one of the world’s most famous structures, spiraling upward in sinuous curves.
NYC Museums: New York Stories
The Lower East Side’s Tenement Museum brings to life the stories of the 7,000 immigrants who lived in a humble apartment building at 97 Orchard Street. Visitors can take building tours of the recreated homes of former residents, dating from the 1860s to the 1980s, as well as walking tours of the neighborhood they lived in. Now open again seven days a week.
MCNY exterior, Filip Wolak.
The Museum of the City of New York explores the city’s past, celebrates its present, and imagines its future. The engaging exhibitions here offer New Yorkers and visitors from around the world insight into the city’s distinctive character, especially its heritage of diversity, opportunity, and perpetual transformation.
Merchants House Parlor by Denis Vlasov. Photo courtesy Merchant's House Museum.
Built in 1832, the East Village’s Merchant’s House was home to a prosperous family and their Irish servants for almost a century. Miraculously, the house still retains the family’s original furnishings and personal possessions. Stop by for a rare and intimate glimpse of domestic life in New York City circa 1835 to 1865.
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum features two core exhibitions at the foundation of the former World Trade Center complex. A memorial exhibition—In Memoriam—pays tribute to the 2,983 men, women and children killed on 9/11 and in the 1993 WTC bombing. A historical exhibition tells the story of what happened on 9/11 at the three attack sites in the U.S. and around the world. It also explores what led up to the terror strikes, the immediate aftermath, and the ways 9/11 continues to shape our world. On the plaza outside you’ll encounter two reflecting pools, featuring North America’s largest man-made waterfalls.
The New York Transit Museum is housed in an authentic 1936 subway station in Downtown Brooklyn, spanning an entire city block. Head underground to learn about the workers who helped build NYC’s transit tunnels over 100 years ago, get hands-on with some of the city’s oldest subway cars and buses, and discover the always-changing technology and design that keeps the MTA going year after year. This family-friendly museum also showcases bus designs, transit maps, rotating exhibitions, and much more.
Photo by Rick Naramore.
Step inside the landmark Eldridge Street Synagogue and step back in time, as you learn about the Jewish immigrants who found religious freedom in their new country, the opulent sacred space they built in 1887, and the 20th-century restoration that saved this decaying masterpiece. You can experience the magic on a docent-led or self-guided tour.
NYC Museums: Only in New York
Enterprise photo by Svetlana Jovanovic.
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is again welcoming visitors to this National Historic Landmark, which served tours of duty in World War II and the Vietnam War. You can explore the entire historic aircraft collection on the aircraft carrier’s flight deck and in the hangar deck. The Intrepid Museum also includes the Space Shuttle Pavilion, home to Enterprise, the world’s first space shuttle, which paved the way for America’s successful space shuttle program. All this year, the museum is celebrating its remarkable journey from its 1982 founding to becoming part of the fabric of New York City and a world-class cultural institution. The commemoration will feature new exhibits, a preview of future restoration of historic spaces, and special virtual and in-person programming. While celebrating its past and present, the Museum will also take an aspirational look forward at its future. This month, the temporary exhibition On the Mend: Restoring Intrepid’s Sick Bay opens, examining the history of medical care on the ship while also illuminating the museum’s current efforts to restore the ship’s sick bay and open it to visitors.
A quick walk from Grand Central, The Morgan Library & Museum began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan. Today, the Morgan serves as a museum, research library, musical venue, architectural landmark, and historic site. Housing works by Rembrandt, Picasso, Dickens, and Hemingway, as well as Gutenberg Bibles, the Morgan is in a class of its own.
National Museum of the American Indian George Gustav Heye Center in New York City. Photo by David Sundberg (2016).
Sitting at the foot of the Wiechquaekeck Trail, an old Algonquin trade route (you might know it better as Broadway), the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is where the many nations of America come together in the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House.
NYC Museums: Where the Locals Go
The Museum of Jewish Heritage–A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is New York’s contribution to the global responsibility to never forget. The third largest Holocaust museum in the world, the museum anchors the southernmost tip of Manhattan and completes the cultural and educational landscape it shares with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
The International Center of Photography (ICP) is the world’s leading institution dedicated to photography and visual culture, holding down a new space on the Lower East Side.
Uptown, the New-York Historical Society offers four centuries of history and art, plus the only Children’s History Museum in the area. Don’t miss the transformed fourth floor, where a special permanent gallery holds a detailed re-creation of the White House Oval Office and the Gallery of Tiffany Lamps shows 100 illuminated examples within a dramatically lit, jewel-like space.
Brooklyn has become a tourist destination to rival Manhattan, complete with its own world-class institution: the Brooklyn Museum. Just 20 minutes from Manhattan you’ll find a priceless collection that will surprise you with its range, from ancient Egypt to European masterpieces to a feast of decorative art. There’s even a section dedicated to feminist art, including the iconic ‘70s installation The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago.
You can learn how the mediums of film and television evolved at the newly remade Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. Antique cameras and TVs are joined by all kinds of interactive exhibitions, in addition to The Jim Henson Exhibition, which shows how the master puppeteer brought worlds like the Muppets and Sesame Street into being.
Fotografiska New York is a museum experience for the modern world. It’s a destination to discover world-class photography, eclectic programming, and surprising new perspectives. Spanning photographic genres, Fotografiska presents six floors of exhibitions. It’s open late every day, with a vibrant atmosphere unlike any other in the city. There’s music on every floor and drinks for guests to enjoy throughout the museum. The philosophy here is “Have fun. Stay late. Get deep. Spill your drink.“