For connoisseur or beginner, the city is an art viewer's feast
New York takes art very seriously. But why shouldn't it? No other city has as many museums, art galleries, auction houses, art schools, publishers of art books, and practicing artists.Skip to next paragraph
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One of the world's greatest museums, the Metropolitan, stands within easy walking distance of six other superb and important museums. And along one block alone - West 57th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues - dozens of the best galleries in America exhibit some of the best art being produced today.
But that's not all. Scattered throughout Manhattan and the four other boroughs are numerous other excellent museums of all sorts and sizes, hundreds of commercial galleries, and cooperative and subsidized establishments that show the latest and most experimental art, often with very little hope of selling it.
New York, in short, is very art-conscious - to a certain extent, I suspect, because art is now big business, but also because New Yorkers have learned to appreciate it.
That appreciation is shared by an increasing number of out-of-towners visiting the city. Unlike the native New Yorker, however, who can visit galleries and museums at his leisure, these individuals must choose what they want to see in the short time available to them.
It matters, of course, whether one's interest is casual or serious. If casual , a day or two in the major museums and a stroll among the galleries of SoHo (below Greenwich Village in the lower midtown area), upper Madison Avenue, and 57th Street should suffice. As a matter of fact, I recommend this for those visiting New York for the first time. It's an excellent and very pleasant way to familiarize oneself with what this city has to offer and to pinpoint areas to be explored in greater detail on future visits.
For those with deeper interests or with more time, however, I suggest a bit of planning. New York has roughly 80 art museums and exhibition spaces, and almost 500 art galleries - of which at least 200 are worth visiting. To avoid confusion, it's best to know what this city has to offer, and to plan an informal itinerary.
Two handy guides should help: ''A Guide to New York City Museums'' and ''Gallery Guide.'' The former gives brief descriptions of New York's 157 museums , and the latter lists the scheduled monthly exhibitions of roughly 350 of the city's galleries. A check for $2 to Cultural Assistance Center Inc., 330 West 42 nd Street, N.Y. 10036, will bring the former. ''Gallery Guide'' can be obtained for $3 from Art Now Inc., 144 North 14th Street, Kenilworth, N.J. 07033. When ordering, indicate which month the trip to New York is planned.
It helps a visitor to realize that art in New York is fairly equally divided between the art of the past and of the present. In no other American city can one get so complete a picture both of the US cultural heritage and of what is just emerging. Only here can one realize fully how extraordinarily alive, innovative, and diverse today's art really is. Other American cities have great museums and excellent galleries, but none other has so many of both.
There is the Metropolitan Museum, which is so huge and so full of the art of all places and periods that it would take weeks to see it all. Among its holdings are many of the very greatest works of art ever created, as well as works only recently completed. If I were new to New York and only had one day to devote to art, I'd spend it in the Metropolitan.