With such a concentration of artists, studios, galleries and museums in NYC, nobody should be surprised that world-class art institutions exist in the surrounding cities, towns and hamlets. Drive in any direction and within two hours there’s a stop worthy of the art curious. Depending on the direction, you’re likely to end up at the Parrish Museum in Water Mill, New York, the Princeton University Art Museum in New Jersey or the Nakashima design studio in New Hope, PA. But follow the Hudson River north, as we did in a 2019 Lincoln Continental, and pinball around Westchester, swinging through Connecticut before wandering into the Hudson Valley, and you’ll find the eight destinations we explore below, which are worth a visit year after year. And, for anyone planning on spending more than a day up there, it might also make sense to continue the drive and stop by CH favorite Mass MoCA too.
Manitoga: The Russel Wright Design Center
Roughly an hour outside of the city, in Garrison, NY, Manitoga / The Russel Wright Design Center comprises the former home and 75-acre garden of acclaimed industrial designer Russel Wright. A National Historic Landmark, the striking Dragon Rock—Wright’s home and studio—rises amidst the original, enthralling landscaping. Inside, there’s a meticulous presentation of Wright’s work, as well as thoughtful temporary exhibitions. One can visit Manitoga from the city through a combination of Metro-North and the Cold Springs Trolley. If in Garrison with a car, a trip to the nearby, appointment-only JDJ | The Ice House is a must.
In a handful of repurposed and refurbished buildings, the Wassaic Project hosts artists-in-resident and hosts thought-provoking, exciting and enjoyable exhibitions year round. Wassaic is a hamlet of Amenia (home of Troutbeck), NY and the non-profit art organization can be reached by train. In fact, it’s at the very end of Metro-North’s Harlem train line toward Wassaic—and there’s a Getaway package that sees $5 of the ticket price donated to the institution and its programming.
The Philip Johnson Glass House
As we’ve mentioned before, The Philip Johnson Glass House is more than just one stunning modern home; it’s also a sprawling, verdant compound with many groundbreaking buildings. In addition to the architecture, guests have access to temporary exhibitions at The Glass House—with the current Gay Gatherings: Philip Johnson, David Whitney and The Modern Arts dedicated to eight gay men who used the property as a cultural salon. The Glass House is accessible by train, as all visits commence from the Visitor Center + Design Store at 199 Elm Street. If one is driving to New Canaan, CT, however, the nearby Sanaa-designed Grace Farms Foundation should not be ignored.
The Brant Foundation Art Study Center
Following the glowing reception of their debut Basquiat exhibition at their 421 East 6th Street location in Manhattan, The Brant Foundation Art Study Center in Greenwich, CT has opened an Urs Fischer solo show worth celebrating. Visitors to the site have long been greeted by a large-scale outdoor Fischer sculpture. Now, nine years after his Brant Foundation debut, Fischer’s taken over both of the center’s floors with works addressing temporality, materiality and conflict. This show, titled ERROR, makes a visit timely, but The Brant Foundation should forever be on one’s list.
Set over a 120-acre sculpture and architecture park, Ghent, NY’s Art Omi includes a gallery, residencies and frequent programming. More than more than 2,000 artists have been featured on site, with an emphasis on international talent. From large-scale outdoor works like Atelier Van Lieshout‘s “Blast Furnace” to a David Shrigley solo show indoors, there’s work here for all ages.
Storm King Art Center
Accessible by train to Beacon, NY (where a shuttle waits on Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays) Storm King Art Center is a 500-acre outdoor sculpture museum comprised of wondrous works on gently rolling hills. Strolling along, one crosses the path of magical temporary works like Mark Dion’s confectionary vision and permanent icons like Alexander Calder’s “The Arch.” There are also bike and helmet rentals on site for those who wish to see as much as possible. The upcoming Summer Solstice Celebration, 22 June, makes for one of the best times to visit, as partygoers will have—among other things—after-hours access to the exhibitions.
If the fervor over the current Lee Ufan exhibition hasn’t motivated a visit to Dia:Beacon, the whopping 300,000-square-foot historic printing factory that houses it—and numerous other groundbreaking examples of contemporary art—should. Be it the Richard Serra works or the Dan Flavin corners, surprises abound and remind visitors of the joy one is capable of feeling when in the presence of something otherworldly. This foundation is also through the train to Beacon, NY—though it requires a brief walk.
The Re Institute
A bright red barn from the ’60s, off the side of a country road in Millteron, NY, The Re Institute rotates exhibitions through a 2000-square-foot hay loft. Their annual series of group shows brings thought-provoking works to a rural setting. And here, the art is allowed to breathe. Their year-round programming includes receptions with potluck dinners.
Hero image by Alexandre Corda