10 Cool NYC Art and Museum Exhibitions to Check Out Now

Grab your mask and wander the halls of the city’s unparalleled cultural institutions.

When NYC museums were forced to close their doors in March due to COVID-19, art-loving New Yorkers had to endure an already difficult period without all of the creativity and inspiration that comes from wandering the halls of our city’s unparalleled cultural institutions. Thankfully, though, museums in NYC were able to reopen in the late summer, and have remained so since then.

And with winter already here, a museum visit is the perfect way to get out of the house to a heated destination where we can keep six feet apart—while immersed in paintings, sculptures, and cool art experiences—to help get us through the season. When going, expect attendance limited to 25% capacity, staggered and timed entry with ticketing booked in advance, and standard safety protocols including the requirement of facial coverings and social distancing. So grab your mask and hand sanitizer and check out these ten cool exhibitions instead.

The American Museum of Natural History

Upper West Side
Exhibition: The Nature of Color
Visit the permanent exhibits of this 150-year-old museum and NYC institution, with breathtaking dioramas of African elephants or halls filled with meteorites and 94-feet-long blue whales. And be sure to check out a special exhibition called The Nature of Color. In it, you’ll learn of some of the astounding ways color exists in both nature and in the human world, how color affects our behavior, and where color exactly comes from (hint: it’s all about light!).
How to visit: Purchase tickets for timed entry via website.

Photo courtesy of ARTECHOUSE NYC


Chelsea Market
Exhibition: Celestial
This digital art space located inside Chelsea Market first debuted in March, but was forced to shut down 10 days later due COVID-19. Since reopening in September, ARTECHOUSE NYC has been hosting immersive light experiences that transport visitors to a magical place where forgetting about the pandemic (even while wearing a face covering) comes easily. In celebration of Pantone’s color of 2020, Classic Blue, ARTECHOUSE NYC’s current installation Celestial, is a trippy and fun light show that celebrates all things blue and takes you on a 40-minute journey full of masterful graphics resulting in plenty of “whoas.”
How to visit: Purchase tickets for timed entry via website.

Brooklyn Museum

Prospect Heights
Exhibition: John Edmonds: A Sidelong Glance
The original design of the Brooklyn Museum might date back to 1893, but it’s had plenty of additions and renovations since then, including the iconic glass roof that now greets museumgoers at its entrance. While there, head straight to John Edmonds: A Sidelong Glance, a museum solo exhibition that’s a first for the artist and a part of the prize package for winning the inaugural UOVO Prize for emerging Brooklyn artists. In it, Edmonds’s photography explores subjects such as queerness, African art, and Black identity.
How to visit: Purchase tickets for timed entry via website.

The Bronx Museum of the Arts

Exhibition: José Parlá: It’s Yours
Located blocks away from Yankee Stadium, The Bronx Museum of the Arts has been open since 1971 and museumgoers can visit free of charge. Running until January 10, José Parlá: It’s Yours, is the first solo museum exhibition for the world renown artist, featuring paintings in Parlá’s hallmark abstract style that were inspired by his time of living in the Bronx, in addition to issues related to gentrification and systemic racism within the borough as well.
How to visit: Reserve tickets for timed entry via website.

El Museo del Barrio

East Harlem
Exhibit: The Taller Boricua: A Political Print Shop in New York
El Museo was founded in 1969 and is America’s first cultural institution dedicated to Latino and Latin-American arts. Exhibiting over 8,000 objects spanning more than 800 years of art and culture, the museum is located in Spanish Harlem, a neighborhood that’s home to a large Puerto Rican population. To celebrate El Museo’s 50th anniversary, the exhibition, The Taller Boricua: A Political Print Shop in New York, showcases Taller Boricua, a local “alternative space” and printmaking studio that produced and distributed hundreds of prints from artists in the 1970s.
How to visit: Purchase tickets for timed entry via website.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Upper East Side
Exhibition: Making The Met, 1870-2020
Considered to be one of NYC’s most significant museums, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (aka The Met) holds some impressive statistics: over seven million visitors annually; two million square feet of space to peruse; 5,000 years of culture housed under its roof, and 150 years in operation. To celebrate the museum’s sesquicentennial this year, make a visit to their special exhibition Making The Met, 1870-2020. Originally set to debut in March but pushed back because of the pandemic, the exhibit features over 250 works of art that give an evolution of The Met’s collections, buildings, and overall history. See The Met as a work of art itself for once and learn how it became the landmark it is today.
How to visit: Purchase tickets for timed entry via website.


Long Island City
Exhibition: This Longing Vessel: Studio Museum
Housed in a former public school, the MoMA’s Queens location is an arts center focusing on contemporary works across all mediums, and is one of the borough’s most popular destinations for wandering through museum halls and basking in avant-garde creativity. In collaboration with The Studio Museum in Harlem, MoMA PS1 currently has a special exhibition, This Longing Vessel: Studio Museum, showcasing works from creators in the Harlem institution’s artists-in-residence program. From new media to painting, check out the talents of E. Jane, Naudline Pierre, and Elliot Reed.
How to visit: Purchase tickets for timed entry via website.

The Museum of Modern Art

Exhibition: Shuzo Azuchi Gulliver’s Cinematic Illusion
After three years of renovations, the new Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) debuted in October of 2019 with plenty of extra square footage to glimpse classics like Monet’s Water Lilies, Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans, and Cindy Sherman’s self-portraits. Through February, visitors can also check out Shuzo Azuchi Gulliver’s Cinematic Illusion, a moving-image installation merging film, lights, and sound in a 360-degree experience. Created by Japanese artist Shuzo Azuchi Gulliver and originally premiering in 1969 in a Tokyo nightclub, Cinematic Illusion projects almost 1,500 images for a unique cinematic adventure of its own.
How to visit: Purchase tickets for timed entry via website.

New Museum Peter Saul Crime and Punishment
Photo courtesy of New Museum

New Museum

Lower East Side
Exhibition: Peter Saul: Crime and Punishment
Seven rectangular boxes stacked high on the Bowery is home to the New Museum, NYC’s go-to downtown destination since 2007 for cool and contemporary art. Make a visit for Peter Saul: Crime and Punishment, a colorful series of 60 paintings from the over five-decades-long career of American artist, Peter Saul. Running until January 3, Saul is known for his cartoonish, irreverent, and iconoclastic works that can appear cheerful from afar (in thanks to their bright colors and vibrancy), but at a closer glance, messages on matters related to politics, racism, and important global issues are waiting for your interpretation.
How to visit: Purchase tickets for timed entry via website.

The Whitney Museum of American Art

Meatpacking District
Exhibition: Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925-1945
This stylish museum located near the High Line and the Hudson River showcases contemporary American art. One of their current must-visit shows is Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925-1945, an exhibition highlighting the work of Mexican muralists who captured the state of their country after the end of the Mexican Revolution—and who would subsequently also have a great impact on American art and artists as well. Vida Americana is a curation of almost 200 works of art from over 60 Mexican and American artists.
How to visit: Purchase tickets for timed entry via website.

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Tae Yoon was born and raised in Queens, and is the Editor of Thrillist New York.