NYC is known for its fantastic museums, with roughly 100 different institutions dotted across the city. Many of the most popular options, like The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, are usually packed full of tourists, making it difficult to appreciate some of the beautiful exhibits on display. So why not pay a visit to some of New York's lesser-known museums?
Pro tip: Drop off your extra bags at a luggage storage shop in NYC first. You’ll be glad you lightened your load before swinging by some of these high-quality, hidden cultural gems.
The Beekman Hotel is often cited as having one of the best secret art collections in the Big Apple. Formerly known as Temple Court, The Beekman was constructed in the 1880s and was one of the first skyscrapers in the Empire City. The building itself is an architectural wonder, with Victorian-style atrium complete with ornate iron railings, and a stunning red brick facade with renaissance-revival accents.
But it's not only The Beekman's architecture that has people talking recently. In 2017, The Beekman hosted a cocktail party to unveil their new art collections, curated by Katherine Gass. This collection features a mix of modern art created by New York locals and international compositions relating to the hotel's location and history. Many of the pieces on display involve photographs and paintings of famous literary figures, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allen Poe.
There's plenty of works created by the most talented artists in NYC on display in The Beekman. Jane Hammond is one of the biggest names featured at this iconic hotel, with work that spans photography, mixed media, and painting. Hammond focuses her work on reimagining the culture and conflict that surrounds her, with pieces that include vibrant butterflies fluttering over war-torn regions and collages of leaves with the names of fallen soldiers inscribed on them. Across the collection of over 60 original artworks, you'll find creations that perfectly capture the spirit of NYC, making The Beekman a must-visit for any art lover looking to step off the beaten path.
The American Folk Art Museum
The Beekman isn't the only place in the Big Apple to feature a collection of exquisite artwork that most tourists tend to overlook. The American Folk Art Museum focuses on the kookier side of the art world, with over 8,000 works created by self-taught artists, including textiles, installations, paintings, furniture, and so much more.
While celebrating the weird and wonderful elements of art, The American Folk Art Museum also boasts works by some world-famous traditional artists. There are early portraits painted by the likes of Ammi Phillips and Sheldon Peck, as well as a few paintings crafted by Edward Hicks. The American Folk Art Museum is perfect for learning more about self-taught artists, and admission to the gallery is free, making this a superb way to save money while spending some time in the Big Apple.
Museum of Illustration
If you're looking to visit a more traditional museum and learn more about drawing, consider stopping by the Museum of Illustration. This museum was opened in 1981 by the Society of Illustrators and boasts over 2,500 pieces in its permanent collection. These holdings are meticulously laid out, and the pieces on display in rotation, so you'll likely see something new every time you visit.
The museum's collection ranges from etchings to cartoons. With many recognizable characters on display, this is a great place to bring your kids if they have a budding appreciation for art. Some of the original cartoons in rotation include Spider-Man, Scooby-Doo, The Powerpuff Girls, and many more iconic characters. After perusing the museum, make sure you swing by The 128 Bar and Bistro for a classy meal and a specialty cocktail.
El Museo del Barrio
New York City has a vibrant Latin American community, which has helped shape the city into what it is today. El Museo del Barrio was created to celebrate Latino culture and art, with over 8,000 objects created by Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and Latino artists. Some of the artwork on show includes prints, contemporary paintings, and folk art sculptures.
As well as some fascinating artistry, El Museo del Barrio holds over 400 pre-Columbian artifacts, dating back over 600 years. Some of the highlights from this exhibit include tools used by the Taíno people, who were indigenous to the Caribbean.
Torah Animal World
Torah Animal World is, by far, one of the strangest museums in New York City, mixing science, religion, and art. Located in Brooklyn, this museum is full of taxidermied animals, all of which appear in the Old Testament. With everything from stuffed snakes to lambs, this museum may not be for the faint-hearted, but is an intriguing take on natural history, reminiscent of The Dead Zoo at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. If you feel so inclined, you can even pick up and hold most animals, allowing you to get a closer look at some of the more unusual animals at the museum.