New York is a city full of contradictions, torn between the beauty of the 19th century and the iconoclastic spirit of its multi-ethnic youth, a real microcosm of the United States. For those of you who can stay longer, why not attend a university conference or go to a lecture given by someone famous at the YMCA on 92nd Street (nicknamed '92nd Street Y')?
But if you only have a few days...
For those of you who like to get to know a new place in a methodical way, start your visit with the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY); it is the key to really understanding the city. What's more, it's fun! Dolls' houses and furniture and New York design collections are just a small part of its treasures. But above and beyond the exhibits, you get a strong impression of the self-conscious pride New-Yorkers have in their intellectual traditions in the fields of art, theatre and dance - and even pizzas!
A short and pleasant walk along the edge of Central Park takes you from the MCNY along 5th Avenue and 103rd Street towards the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on 88th Street. Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural marvel rises brashly amongst other imposing buildings and private schools. The museum is entirely dedicated to modern art, both with its permanent collection of modern works from all over the world and its temporary exhibitions - although these often travelling shows have sometimes only a tangential connection to modern art as such, as with the 1996 exhibition on African arts. Start your visit at the very top of the spiral and work your way down - everything is interesting. A visit at the end of the afternoon could lengthen into a concert as these take place on the first floor on some evenings.
A few streets away, going down the length of 5th Avenue and rejoining Madison Avenue, you will find the Whitney Museum which has the best collection of contemporary American art in the world. The permanent collections merit a visit in themselves but the temporary exhibitions are also excellent. The multiplicity of techniques, the wealth of documentation and its accessibility make it one of the best galleries in the country.
If by any chance it is tea-time when you come out of the Whitney Museum, go back two blocks to the corner of 77th Street on the other side of Madison Avenue, to Better Baker's, the diet-cake specialist. Here, you can eat the best cakes in New York without putting on an ounce or risking a heart-attack!
Students of art will find the Museum of Modern Art, MOMA, heaven on earth. To get to MOMA from the Whitney, it is possible to walk (care should however be taken) but some might prefer to take a taxi as far as 53rd Street. The museum has some of the principal works of art of the 20th century, such as Les demoiselles d'Avignon by Picasso. The journey through the museum takes you from the immense and moving exhibition of portraits and (self-portraits) by Picasso to the very intimate exhibition of photographs by the Harlem photographer, Roy de Carava, with his avant-garde shots of New York and his photos of the giants of jazz..
The galleries are an essential part of the New York art scene . We recommend the New York Gallery Guide, the New York Magazine and the Time Out New York Magazine. The latter two are weeklies which give detailed descriptions of events.