NYC reopened museums and galleries: here’s where to go and what to see

After months of an at-home, digital art fix, New Yorkers are finally able to visit art institutions again. Elizabeth Dickson rounds up what you need to know before your next gallery outing

Elizabeth Dickson

Temperature checking and masks aside, a visit to the MET Museum feels like a typical Sunday afternoon in New York City. Picture: Elizabeth Dickson

When the world went into lockdown, and the museums and galleries shut their doors, artists and curators were forced to find a different, adaptive way, in which to present their art to the world; one that abided by the restrictions surrounding the coronavirus. There has been plenty of entertainment available online, as I was able to cover for the blog back in May, but now, over four months later, art organizations are finally open to the public. I decided to venture out and peruse the in-person art scene, visiting The Met and some Chelsea galleries.

Most of 2020 has had us under some form of rules and restrictions, and it’s almost hard to remember a time before the pandemic. Visiting galleries for the first time in many months made me realize that we are making progress, and life is slowly starting to get back into some sense of normalcy. We are increasingly able to enjoy and appreciate the attractions and beauty that New York City has to offer and is known for. I also reflected on how difficult this time must have been, and I presume will continue to be, for those in the creative space who rely on an audience, and the public seeing their work. Visiting galleries and museums is one of my favourite ways to spend time, so to finally be able to do so was such a treat.

METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART

This year marks 150 years of the institution, and its plans to celebrate this milestone earlier in the year, were understandably put on hold. Our temperature was checked outside whilst waiting in line to enter; masks were enforced throughout our visit, and hand sanitizer stations were never out of reach. Safety measures now include limiting the number of visitors to 25 percent of the Museum’s maximum capacity, which allows plenty of room to wander. Signage throughout the building remember visitors to practice physical distancing by maintaining at least six feet from others. Despite all the health guidelines in place, it didn’t feel all too different from my previous visits. The enforced timed entry inside allowed for ease of moving from one artwork to the next, and no need to wait for others to finish reading the description or appreciate the piece.

One of the highlights of the visit was Making the Met, a commemorative exhibit that spans the last 150 years, and features more than 250 works of art; a warm welcome back after its several month long closure. I had also been particularly excited to see the highly-publicised Hector Zamara’s commissioned Lattice Detour, situated on the roof, and it didn’t disappoint.

Walking out of the museum and down the infamous steps that lead to Fifth Avenue, apart from people wearing masks and sitting with space between themselves and others, it felt like a typical Sunday afternoon in New York City. Despite everything that we have been through over the last several months, it’s moments like these that I cherish, and remind me of how special it is to live in this city.

CHELSEA GALLERIES

While I did not make online appointments in advance for any of the galleries that I visited, some of them require that you do, and so this is advised. Be sure to check their websites to find out about safety guidelines. Upon entry, I was asked to provide my name and email address, and masks were enforced, as was a cap on the number of visitors at any given time. 

Untitled (Circa 1970s), by Luchita Hurtado. The Venezuelan-born Hurtado is theme of an exhibit at Hauser & Wirth. © Luchita Hurtado.

Despite it being a Saturday afternoon, it was relatively quiet out. I visited both of the David Zwirner galleries. At the W19th St location was Traveling Light, an exhibition by Belgian-born, New York-based artist Harold Ancart. In one room were two multi panel canvases that situate the viewer between a mountain-scape and a seascape, both monumental in scale, and in the second, a series of paintings that depict trees. These two vibrant and colourful collections stood out against the stark, crisp white walls, which, combined with the quiet, open space, likely attributed to the pandemic, created a calming, serene atmosphere. This marked my first time back in a gallery, and I almost instantly felt content and warm inside. At the 20th St location was a series of oil paintings by American artist Suzan Frecon. When describing her pieces, she states that they “are not pictures that you look at. They are paintings that you experience.” I was reminded of Mark Rothko’s colour field series when I saw her work: large canvases completely filled with block colours that might have you wondering what the point of them are. At Hauser & Wirth, Luchita Hurtado: Together Forever presents a selection of more than thirty self-portraits made between 1960 and 2020, which encompass studies of the artist and her shadow. Born in Venezuela in 1020, Hurtado emigrated to New York at age of eight. Her practice spanned over eighty years, in which she explored unconventional materials and techniques that relate to the multicultural contexts that influenced her life. On view through Oct.31. To visit the exhibition, book a timed viewing appointment here.

Gary Simmons’ Screaming into the Ether was on display at Metro Pictures. He uses the act of erasure in his work, blurring images of racist cartoon characters from the 1930s, to demonstrate the persistence of racial stereotypes and how deeply embedded they are in our memories. On main display was a piece depicting a character singing, or perhaps screaming. It rather perfectly embodied how I am sure a lot of us are feeling at this present time, about the current state of the world; a desire to perhaps “scream into the void”. On view at the Miles McEnery Gallery was Back to the Future by Daniel Rich, which features a series of what appears to be computer-generated prints of buildings and skyscrapers. The pieces feel somewhat other-worldly, removed, because they depict no human activity, or life itself, at all.

Originally published by New Women New Yorkers: Source