NYC Museums Begin to Reopen

Expect to pre-purchase tickets online, get temperature checks and wear masks. Also expect beauty, beloved masterpieces and new discoveries

29 Aug 2020 | 05:31

DREAM TOGETHER Those are the larger than life words emblazoned on the front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Yoko Ono shares her message in the inaugural artist-designed banners commissioned by the museum. And she’s right; togetherness is something so many of us have been dreaming about.

In a measured step back to normality, on August 14, Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted, “Museums and cultural institutions can open in NYC starting on August 24. 25% occupancy. Timed ticketing required. Pre-set staggered entry. Face coverings enforced and controlled traffic flow.”

Last Wednesday, Daniel Weiss, president and CEO of the Met, spoke from the Temple of Dendur gallery about current health and economic crises, as well as the museum’s responsibility to reopen and lead the way for other arts institutions in New York City.

It won’t be easy. Most museums that have opened or are in the planning stage are following similar protocols. You’ll have to pre-purchase tickets online. Expect temperature checks and to be asked to come another time if over yours is above 100 degrees. Face masks that cover nose and mouth are required for everyone over 2 years old. Don’t expect maps or any other printed materials. Do expect limited use of rest rooms, six-foot distancing, no drinking fountains and no group visits or tours. Also expect beauty, insight, beloved masterpieces and new discoveries. Check websites for details.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened to the public on August 29, and The Cloisters reopen on September 12th. At the Met Fifth Avenue, there will be free bicycle parking, and most galleries will be open. The newly installed “Making The Met, 1870–2020” offers a great way to reconnect with old “friends” like Rembrandt and Tiffany and find out more about the museum. “Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle” presents an important and rarely displayed series of paintings, and Héctor Zamora’s Rooftop Garden Commission, “Lattice Detour,” an eloquent work, just opened. The new British Galleries display some 700 works, including over 100 teapots; Dutch Masterpieces hold court in the Lehman Wing; and “Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara” highlights works from cultures in Western Africa. The museum will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

After years of rebuilding and expansion, the Museum of Modern Art reopened fully last October. By March, it had to temporarily close due to the pandemic. It’s now open again, with free tickets through September 27. Deep dives into Donald Judd’s sculptures and Dorothea Lange’s photographs, the colorful multimedia experience of Haegue Yang’s “Handles” installation, and a newly opened exhibition on the life, interests, and artistic impact of collector/dealer Félix Fénéon are highlights. Tickets are released in advance in one-week blocks, every Friday at 10:00 a.m.

The Whitney Museum of American Art reopens September 3rd with pay-what-you-wish admission and reduced hours. The sweeping, revelatory “Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945” will run through January 31, 2021. Also on view after brief appearances are the dreamy, spiritually infused symbolist paintings of Agnes Pelton, as well as Cauleen Smith’s “Mutualities.” “Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019” surprises with artists whose work isn’t expected in an exhibition about craft, like Robert Rauschenberg, and delights with others who’ve taken “crafts” to unimaginable territories.

Though The Rubin Museum of Art kept in touch with audiences remotely through guided meditations and a live feed from its Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room, it’s preparing to open its doors September 12 with regular hours and free admission from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. on Fridays. Among the inspirations visitors will find are thousands of folded paper lotuses expressing hope created by members of the public during the museum’s closure.

Lions and tigers and bears and T. rex are waiting at The American Museum of Natural History, which is set to open on September 9. Many of the interactive experiences are off limits, but there’s still a whole world’s worth of wonder on view.

The Museum of the City of New York and The American Folk Art Museum opened last week.

The Morgan Library and Museum plans to reopen on September 5. The New-York Historical Society reopens September 11, and The 9/11 Memorial Museum and El Museo del Barrio open the following day, September 12. The New Museum of Contemporary Art plans to reopen September 15 and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is scheduled to reopen on October 3. Look for “The Fullness of Color: 1960s Painting” featuring saturated pools of hue from Helen Frankenthaler, delicate contrasts from Alma Thomas and bold abstractions by Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, and others.

The Frick collection will remain closed till early 2021 when it starts a new chapter with a very different vibe by moving some of its treasures to the famed Breuer building on Madison Avenue while the mansion undergoes expansion. The Cooper Hewitt Museum, Museum of Arts and Design, Neue Galerie, The Jewish Museum, and other favorites haven’t yet announced future plans.

With scores of museums in Manhattan, including two Jazz museums, The Girl Scout Museum, the Tenement Museum, the Museum of Finance, the Museum of the American Gangster, and the Motherhood Museum to name just a few, this list is not meant to cover everything.

What is it that you’ve been missing, or meaning to see but never quite made it to? Check online. You may find the announcement you’ve been waiting for.

In the meantime, we can all, as Yoko Ono reminds us, dream together.