One of the things I love most about living in New York City is the incredible collection of museums. That said, a crowded gallery can make it impossible to fully appreciate an exhibition. A handful of museums have eliminated that stress completely by showing their collections by appointment only. With a little advance planning, you can see beautiful art without the crush. Here’s a list of some of my favorite reservation-required museums.
101 Spring Street, New York City
Rigorous, spare, and experimental, American artist Donald Judd resisted the Minimalist label throughout his career; while his works fit the parameters, he preferred to focus on objects as they exist in their environments, making him one of the forefathers of site-specific installations. In 1968 he bought 101 Spring Street, a 19th-century, five-story cast-iron building designed by Nicholas Whyte. The house is, arguably, Judd’s largest site-specific work. Meticulously arranged, the installations of art, furniture, and decorative objects were a source of inspiration to Judd during his career and a reflection of his aesthetic. The works on view remain as Judd installed them before his death in 1994.
The Chinati Foundation, Texas
Judd’s other home was in west Texas. He began purchasing land near the small town of Marfa in the 1970s; by the time of his death he owned nearly 40,000 acres of undeveloped ranch land. In 1986 he established The Chinati Foundation on the grounds of an old air force base; leaving the buildings untouched, he used the existing infrastructure—artillery sheds, barracks—to display the works of his contemporaries, including artists Dan Flavin and John Chamberlain. Those works, along with several of Judd’s pieces, are on permanent display alongside revolving exhibitions.
Glenstone, Washington, D.C.
Nestled in bucolic horse country in the Potomac suburb of Washington, D.C., Glenstone is a true hidden gem. The private, 200-acre estate marries art, architecture, and landscape in a harmonious setting. Contour 290, a Richard Serra sculpture designed for the property, is named for the topographical line on which it sits; the subtlety of an Ellsworth Kelly column is revealed from different vantage points as you explore the grounds. The museum is currently undergoing a substantial expansion, allowing more room for the private collection that includes works by Barbara Kruger, Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, and Jackson Pollock.
The Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Connecticut
Located on rolling green polo grounds in a renovated stone fruit barn in Greenwich, Connecticut, The Brant Foundation Art Study Center is a showcase for founder Peter Brant’s contemporary collection. Pieces are loaned to institutions and individuals for scholarly study,
but the museum is best known for its in-depth exhibitions. Generally featuring solo artists—past subject have included Andy Warhol, Julian Schnabel, and Nate Lowman—the opening parties are a who’s-who of the contemporary art scene. Book in advance, and you can enjoy the work in relative anonymity after the opening night festivities.
The Frederick R. Weisman Foundation, Los Angeles
The Frederick R. Weisman Foundation in L.A. is the home of a prolific collector whose collection has graced museums around the country. The Mediterranean-style villa houses Weisman’s personal collection of 20th-century art, including works from Cezanne and Picasso to Rothko and Lichtenstein. A few of the sculptures lounge by the pool or populate the garden. Tours are scheduled ahead of time because parking is so tight in the residential
Beverly Hills neighborhood.
Getty Villa, Los Angeles
Modeled after a first-century Roman country house, the Getty Villa is a portal back to antiquity. Meticulously designed and maintained gardens are integral to the property, and guests’ first view is of a classical Roman amphitheater. Sculptures and artworks dating back to the Stone Age are found throughout. The collection is one of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty’s contributions to the L.A. art scene and is considered one of the greatest treasuries of early artworks.