An abandoned public school lends both a name and a building to one of the country’s largest and oldest contemporary art institutions. Queens’ MoMA PS1, the Long Island City affiliate of Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art, transformed the space with site-specific installations exhibited throughout the classrooms, beginning with the inaugural 1976 group show, Rooms. Since then, the museum has continued to display art with an adventurous, transformative spirit while playing off its site’s origins. Stroll through classroom-size galleries and stairwells that have been converted into art spaces. The schoolhouse vibe even extends to the restaurant, which resembles a cafeteria, although patrons should expect elevated Quebecois cuisine from chef Hugue Dufour.
Instead of housing a permanent collection, the museum acts as an exhibition space, hosting an ever-changing array of works from experimental and emerging artists, in addition to a series of long-term installations. The variable contents of the galleries, as well as a rotating program of special events, make for a dynamic museum experience. Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of your visit.
How to Get There
E, M train to Court Square-23rd Street; G to Court Square or 21st Street-Jackson Avenue; 7 to Court Square
22-25 Jackson Ave. (between 46th Ave. and 46th Rd.), Long Island City, Queens
Thursday–Monday, noon to 6pm
$10 for adults; $5 for students and seniors; free for kids under 16 and (until October 15, 2017) NYC residents
Highlights: Long-Term Installations
Fifteen installations are integrated throughout the museum, expanding upon the building’s original architecture. One of the most notable is James Turrell’s Meeting. This “skyspace,” which was commissioned in 1976, centers around a cut-out in the ceiling of an old classroom that reveals the sky above. The lighting system in the room enhances evening viewings, as it is synchronized with the sunset.
Sol LeWitt’s Crayola Square is a crayon drawing that recreates his contribution to the Brooklyn Bridge Event—the first exhibition by the Institute for Art and Urban Resources, as MoMA PS1 was initially known. The piece stands out not only for its dark color against a cinderblock wall but also for its location in a small basement alcove that makes viewing it feel a bit like uncovering a secret.
Central Governor, by Saul Melman, is also tucked away in the basement boiler room of the museum. The artist created this striking work by applying gold leaf to the building’s 112-year-old original furnace. A small section of the pipes and boiler, though, are only partially covered in gold, suggesting that even this monolithic object could be active, its transformation unfinished.
Heading up the stairways of the museum is more than a functional move; it’s a reminder that the art here doesn’t always play by the rules. Four of the museums site-specific installations spill into the stairwells, including Cecily Brown’s Untitled, Abigail Lazkoz’ Cameraman and Stair Procession, by William Kentridge. Ernesto Caivano’s In the Woods covers Stairwell A with trees painted in black that climb the walls alongside the viewer.
Highlights: Temporary Exhibitions
These exhibitions are the current stars of PS1’s galleries, but they aren’t permanent. Explore them before they’re gone.
Visual Impact: On Art, AIDS and Activism
The NYC AIDS Memorial and the NYC Department of Transportation’s Art Program commemorate WorldPride and Stonewall 50 with an educational installation featuring the sobering work of eight artists, including Keith Haring and Catherine Opie. View the exhibit on Greenwich Avenue, adjacent to the NYC AIDS Memorial Park between West 12th Street and Seventh Avenue.
Poet of the Body: New York's Walt Whitman
"Poet of the Body: New York's Whitman" is a free exhibit at The Grolier Club that celebrates the 200th birthday of the luminary poet Walt Whitman. The exhibit has multiple editions of his famous tome "Leaves of Grass" along with personal items of Whitman's, like the author's pen. Visitors can also take a virtual walk in Whitman's shoes via an interactive 3D stroll down Broadway in the mid-1800s.
To fuel your exploration at the museum, be sure to stop in M. Wells Dinette. This eatery is styled like a pared-down school cafeteria and specializes in food almost as adventurous as the art. The menu changes regularly, but expect to encounter items like braised tripe and a steak tartare sandwich.
MoMA PS1’s annual concert series, Warm Up, complements the gallery experience by holding shows within the outdoor sculpture garden. The series, like the museum itself, is committed to featuring innovative and up-and-coming artists. Hear acts like ASAP Ferg, Jackmaster and Actress on Saturdays (3pm) from July 1 to September 2.