Article By Lulu Chua-Rubenfeld
New York City is an expensive city to live in, and sometimes it's nice to get out into the art world without breaking the bank. From classics like the Cloisters, to some new favorites, we think these are all worth visiting -- or revisiting. Here are a few of our top picks for the best free museums in the City.
Socrates Sculpture Park
32-01 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, NY 11106
Open every day 10am - sunset
Once an abandoned landfill and illegal dumpsite, this re-envisioned outdoor space in Long Island City is now home to the Socrates Sculpture Park. The Socrates Sculpture Park is the only place in New York City expressly designed to give artists the vast space and opportunity to exhibit large-scale sculptures and multi-media installations.
The Sculpture Park, with its unique and historic waterfront landscape, was created in 1986 to foster a vital relationship between artists, art, and the public. Currently up at the Socrates are Suspect Terrain, in which artist Heide Fasnacht brings to life the creation and aftermath of a sinkhole, and Broadway Billboard: Degas Horses, a massive installment captured through camera obscura visible from nearly a mile away. The Socrates Sculpture Park is always free, and it's open 365 days a year from 10AM to sunset.
The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology
Seventh Avenue at 27 Street, New York, NY 10001-5992
Open Tues. - Fri. 12pm - 8pm, Sat. 10am - 5pm; closed Sundays and Mondays
The self-ascribed "most fashionable museum in New York City," the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is a vibrant and creative establishment dedicated to the history and culture of fashion. With its permanent collection containing over 50,000 pieces dating from the 18th century to the present, as well as three rotating galleries featuring student and faculty work and special exhibits, the museum is well known for its award-winning exhibitions. A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk, for example, was the first ever museum exhibition to spotlight the immense contributions that LGBTQ individuals have made to fashion over the past three centuries, and it won the 2013 Award of Merit from the Museum Association of New York.
Ongoing exhibits include Global Fashion Capitals and Denim: Fashion's Frontier. Noted by the American Alliance of Museums to be "one of the most important collections of its type," the Museum at FIT is a must on your summer bucket list.
American Folk Art Museum
2 Lincoln Square (Columbus Avenue between 65th and 66th Streets), New York, NY 10023
Open Tues. - Thurs. 11:30am - 7pm, Fri. 12pm - 7:30pm, Sat. 11:30am-7pm, Sun. 12pm - 6pm; Closed Mondays
The American Folk Art Museum is devoted to art by the self-taught. With an emphasis on unadulterated creativity rather than formal artistic training, the Folk Art Museum explores the "historical, social, and artistic context of American culture," and it contains over 8,000 works from the eighteenth century until today. The permanent collection showcases a wide array of art, from more standard works, such as portraits, landscapes, and genre paintings, to authentically and uniquely American pieces, such as whirligigs, figureheads, carousel animals, shop signs, wood carvings, quilts, and vintage board games. The American Folk Art Museum is conveniently located near Lincoln Center on the Upper West Side, so you have no excuse not to go.
99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park, New York NY 10040
Open seven days a week: March - October: 10am - 5:15pm; November - February: 10am - 4:45pm
Quite literally an oldie but a goodie, the Cloisters museum is located on a hill overlooking the Hudson River in Fort Tryon Park. The museum and its adjacent gardens are a branch of the Met, and they house the majority of its medieval collection. The building that is now the Cloisters was constructed in the 1930s by Charles Collens, who combined the disassembled sections of five European abbeys and other medieval buildings to create one cohesive, multi-styled structure. Inside, the collection holds many works well-known to children and art history students alike, such as the Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries and the Mérode Altarpiece. The Cloisters may be a little out of the way (Washington Heights), but it's well worth the trek.
The Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue (at 103rd Street), New York NY 10029
Open seven days a week from 10am-6pm
Lastly, the Museum of the City of New York is actually free -- don't let the tricky "suggested admission" signs trick you! But if you're feeling generous, you should also donate. Situated at the Northern end of Museum Mile, The Museum of the City of New York (MCNY) was founded in 1923 to preserve and celebrate the history of New York City and its people. The museum houses a stunning wealth of works, objects, and artifacts, aiming to encapsulate the City's "distinctive character, especially its heritage of diversity, opportunity, and perpetual transformation."
Up now at the MCNY is Folk City: New York and the Folk Music Revival, an exhibit that highlights the revival of folk music in New York in the 1950s and '60s, replete with original instruments, handwritten lyrics, unveiled film footage, and more.
Lulu is a staff writer and Arthena team member