Concierge: Under The Radar Museums

by Jacob Meade

Met. MoMA. Guggenheim. Whitney. All are essential, world-famous art museums that define the New York cultural experience to locals and visitors alike. The scope of their content is daunting even to longtime residents of the city—the Met alone has over two million works. And the constant influx of temporary exhibitions provides dizzying incentive to revisit these institutions over and over. But what about New York museums beyond these cultural mammoths? Whether you’re visiting for the first time or a regular, the sheer variety of New York never ceases to amaze. Why not stray from the mainstream and check out one of the city’s lesser-known institutions? There’s a unique satisfaction in digging a little deeper to find the charms of a place like the legendary Merchant’s House Museum or The Skyscraper Museum. New York boasts more than 100 museums in all, so promise yourself you’ll seek out at least one of the lesser-knowns, and the true depth of this great city will hit home.

THE CITY RELIQUARY MUSEUM & CIVIC ORGANIZATION
370 Metropolitan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11211-3361
718.782.4842
www.cityreliquary.org
The place to find unconventional New York City artifacts, the new City Reliquary Museum brings together disparate elements of the city’s past, such as paint chips from the L train and old parking meters. No sweeping history lessons here, just fun minutia that brings history to life. Be sure to check the museum’s online calendar for its concert schedule.

DYCKMAN FARMHOUSE MUSEUM
4881 Broadway
New York, NY 10034-3101
212.304.9422
www.dyckmanfarmhouse.org
The term “rural Manhattan” may be an oxymoron now, but it wasn’t back in the 1780s when this Inwood gem was first built. The museum focuses primarily on two periods: the early 1800s when the property was still surrounded by farmland, and the period around 1916 when the house was first opened to the public. For those willing to make the trip up to 204th Street, this landmark provides fascinating perspective on a New York City now long forgotten.

THE MERCHANT’S HOUSE MUSEUM
29 East 4th Street
New York, NY 10003-7003
212.777.1089
www.merchantshouse.com
Not so much a museum but a raw slice of history, The Merchant’s House is the flawlessly-preserved home of a wealthy merchant family built in 1832. Manhattan has changed a bit since, but this historic gem hasn’t. To step inside this red-brick beauty is to experience pre-Civil War New York in all its stately glory. Most impressive are the front and rear parlors, complete with bronze gasoliers and exquisitely-detailed mantel pieces.

THE MUSEUM OF CHINESE IN AMERICA
211 Centre Street
New York, NY 10013-3617
212.334-1057
www.mocanyc.org
An exciting, brand-new edition to Chinatown, the Museum of Chinese in America had its grand opening last September. The 14,000-square-foot, Maya Lin-designed space holds 160 years of Chinese history and art centered around a skylit area that evokes a traditional Chinese courtyard. The organization will rotate exhibitions and cultural programs meant to shed light on the Chinese-American experience through the past 160 years.

NEUE GALERIE
1048 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10028
212.628.6200
www.neuegalerie.org
Located in one of Fifth Avenue’s most distinguished buildings, the Neue Gallery showcases German and Austrian art from the early 20th century. Some of the first expressions of Modernism can be found throughout the museum’s two lovely floors. The Galerie explores themes like the link between fine and decorative art in Vienna, with a special focus on notables like Gustav Klimt and Max Beckmann.

NEW MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART
235 Bowery
New York, NY 10002
212.219.1222
www.newmuseum.org
An aluminum mesh-encased structure rising distinctly over the Bowery, the New Museum of Contemporary Art brings small but potent collections to downtown Manhattan. High ceilings and metallic austerity are the cutting-edge back-drop for exhibitions that uphold the institution’s commitment to everything contemporary. This is the place to find vital artists from regions of the world that are often neglected by bigger museums.

Poets HouseNICHOLAS ROERICH MUSEUM
319 W 107th Street
New York, NY 10025-2799
212.864.7752
www.roerich.org
Two hundred of the Russian-born artist’s deeply spiritual works appear here in a collection that continues to draw visitors from all over the world. Nicholas Roerich lived on the Upper West Side in the 1920s, but his beautifully vivid depictions of the Himalayan mountains where he later lived are the main focus here. Nestled in an unassuming brownstone, this collection is off the beaten path, but worth a look.

POETS HOUSE
10 River Terrace
New York, NY 10282
212.431.7920
www.poetshouse.org
Recently relocated to a gorgeous space in Battery Park City, Poets House is one of the largest poetry collections in the country with over 50,000 volumes. The new location boasts state-of-the-art “green” construction, including insulation made of recycled jeans, and offers expansive views of the Hudson River. With over 200 public programs every year, Poets House is always worth a look.

RUBIN MUSEUM OF ART
150 West 17th Street
New York, NY 10011
212.620.5000
www.rmanyc.org
The Rubin Museum combines 18 centuries of Himalayan art into one newly-renovated building nestled in Chelsea. With more than 2,000 pieces spread over 7 floors and punctuated by a beautiful Andree Putman-designed staircase, the museum invites both experts and the general public to appreciate this obscure art region. Also included in the new venue are a shop, café and state-of-the-art theater.

THE SKYSCRAPER MUSEUM
39 Battery Place
New York, NY 10280
212.968.1961
www.skyscraper.org
This small museum a few blocks south of Ground Zero sheds light on New York’s unmatched reputation for awe-inspiring skyscrapers. The ingeniously-designed space uses reflective floors and ceilings to inspire its own sense of vertigo. The museum has a special section memorializing the World Trade Center towers, and a 10-foot model of the proposed replacement Freedom Tower.