If you’re looking for excellent museums that are both beautiful and interesting, New York City is certainly a good place to start looking. I was really looking forward to hitting the big ones like the Met, MoMa and Guggenheim, and didn’t give very much thought to other options; I figured those big ones would take up most of my time. I walked something like 20 blocks to get to the Guggenheim on my first touristing day only to discover the museum was closed (I should have checked ahead of time, but alas), so I took my phone out to see what was open nearby. The National Academy Museum is almost right next door to the Guggenheim, so that seemed like the best option. Plus it was FREEZING outside so I was getting desperate to get indoors haha.
It turned out to be one of my favorite museums of the whole trip.
Self-portrait by Emma Emmet Rand, 1927. This one really struck me and reading the description made me love it even more…I always love a story of a badass woman in history: “A highly skilled portraitist, Rand would naturally have considered exactly how she wanted history to view her. In her self portrait, she is unmistakably the professional artist at work in her studio, armed with the tools of her profession. She makes direct eye contact with the viewer in a businesslike, perhaps masculine manner, wearing an artist’s smock, eye glasses and a fedora.” During the Depression she supported herself, her husband, and their three sons with her art, earning $73,000 on portrait commissions in 1930 alone. One of her three portraits of FDR remains in the White House.
I’m sure this fluctuates as tourist season comes and goes (I was there in April) but the museum was almost completely void of other people, making it one of the most peaceful museum experiences I’ve ever had. Sometimes it’s hard to pause and appreciate the beauty around you when you’re getting pushed by crowds of people, everyone is snapping pictures, and conversation noise saturates the room; there’s just something about silence that allows you to absorb what the artist left behind for you on that canvas.
There weren’t any famous pieces here, but there was no lack of incredible talent (I mean…just LOOK at that sculpture made out of distressed wood!). Despite the fact that it’s a small museum, I spent over an hour inside admiring the pieces and the architecture. The rooms complimented the art perfectly; the woodwork, the stonework, and that magnificent staircase just blew me away. The atmosphere was tranquil and easy-going, the building itself was as stunning as the art it housed, and I learned a lot when I was there. It was exactly as a museum should be.
National Academy Museum
1083 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY
Hours: Wed-Sun 11-6, Mon-Tues closed.
Admission: Donation in the amount of your choice.