Visiting The Neue Galerie in New York City

Neue Galerie is a hidden gem among New York City museums. Just steps away from the iconic Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, and the Cooper Hewitt is the small, but very mighty, Neue Galerie.

The Neue Galerie is a beautiful museum dedicated solely to early twentieth-century German and Austrian art and design. This is a serene spot where the elegance of European art blends perfectly with the culture of New York City.

About the Neue Gallery

Located at 1048 Fifth Avenue, the Neue is across the street from Central Park on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. This neighborhood is coined ‘Museum Mile’ because there are eight art museums between 82nd Street and 104th Street.

Neue Galerie means “New Gallery” and is inspired in part by the Neue Galerie in Vienna, which was opened in 1923.

This part of New York is known for its majestic Beaux-Arts-style mansions that were built in the early 1900s.

The Neue is housed in one of these historic homes, originally built in 1914 by owner William Starr Miller, a wealthy industrialist.

The building has the grand features of intricate stonework, large windows, and a classic mansard roof that are distinctive of that era.

Following the Starr Miller family, the home was owned by the famous socialites and philanthropists, Cornelius Vanderbilt III and his wife Grace Vanderbilt. It was later used as the offices of the Institute for Jewish Research. 

While the exterior of the museum is impressive, the museum’s interior is absolutely stunning. The rooms throughout have been restored to their original beauty.

Inside the Neue Gallery

As you roam through the mansion, you walk through the galleries as if you’re visiting someone’s home.

In 1994, Ronald Lauder, an art collector, and Serge Sabarsly, an art curator, purchased the building for the purpose of creating a museum. The two men were good friends and shared a love for modern Austrian and German art.

They envisioned creating the museum together, but when Sabarsky died in 1996, Lauder proceeded solo, in honor of his friend. The building was renovated and restored and eventually opened in 2001.

The museum’s collections are displayed on the second and third floors while the lower level hosts the Austrian restaurant, Cafe Sabarsky. 

The Neue Galerie has a very rich collection of both Austrian and German artists’ works from the years 1890 – 1940. The collection is diverse in that the works range from sculpture, painting, and photography, and include both fine and decorative art.

The most well-known Austrian pieces are from Gustav Klimt as well as Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, Alfred Kubin, and Richard Gerstl.

The highlights of the German collection are works by Max Beckmann, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Emil Nolde. The Bauhaus movement is also well represented with its many decorative arts.

The most famous painting in the Neue’s permanent collection is the 1907 Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer, also known as Woman In Gold, by Gustav Klimt.

If you aren’t familiar with the story, this is an exquisite painting of a prominent Jewish socialite wrapped in beautiful clothes and jewels.

The gold and oil painting is known as the world’s most expensive painting. Klimt painted the portrait between 1903 – 1907, which was commissioned by Bauer’s husband, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer.

The painting was stolen from the Bauer home by the Nazis along with five other of Klimt’s paintings. Women In Gold was named as such by the Nazis to deny any part of Adele’s Jewish identity. 

Adele Bauer died in 1925 and Ferdinand in 1945. There was much controversy over who should get the art collection following their deaths. Consequently, the Klimt painting was displayed in the Austrian state’s Belvedere Art Museum in Vienna for decades.

A remaining relative to the Bloch-Bauer family, Maria Altman, fought for many years to have the painting and other treasures returned to her family. Finally, in 2005, the landmark restitution case was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court. The painting has been at the Neue since 2006, as per the family’s request. 

A terrific highlight of the museum is the very delightful Viennese-style café, Café Sabarsky. The cafe is a beautiful restaurant featuring authentic Austrian cuisine and is a must-do for breakfast, lunch, or dinner after exploring the galerie.

Enjoy traditional Viennese pastries and coffee or have a full Austrian meal. Look for sausages, dumplings, goulash, and more.

The museum has an excellent digital audio tour available with an app for free. The tour will guide you through the exhibits and offer great information, history, and insights.

This is a perfect way to learn more as you explore the museum because you can go at your own pace as you listen and look. If you are interested in a private tour, that is also available with a reservation made at least three weeks in advance via the museum’s website.

The museum has highly experienced docents who lead these tours and I’m sure they are excellent. I chose the free audio tour and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Tips on visiting the Neue Gallery

  • The museum is open Thursday – Monday 10AM – 6PM.
  • Advanced tickets are recommended and can be purchased online, but same-day tix are available also.
  • The cafe is open Thursday–Sunday, 9AM – 9PM and Monday, 9AM  – 6PM.
  • Reservations for the cafe are recommended but drop-ins are welcome on a first come first serve basis.
  • Security screening of bags is required upon entering the museum.
  • Photography is NOT allowed in the upstairs galleries, only on the ground floor and lower level of the museum.

As an art lover and New York City fanatic, I can confidently say that the Neue Galerie is by far one of my favorite museums in the city and possibly in the world.

Having been to Vienna and Berlin and loving the art museums there, the Neue feels like a piece of Europe tucked into the vibrant world of Manhattan.

Be sure to carve out some time when you are in The Big Apple to go to the corner of 86th Street and Fifth Avenue to visit the Neue Galerie.

The stately rooms, authentic furniture, restored wood paneling, and intimate setting create an unusual ambiance for viewing masterpieces.

Not only is it profound to see the Woman In Gold in person, but to see all of the other works by artists with such distinct styles and meaningful stories makes this gallery a “don’t miss” in my book.

Written by Carrie Green Zinn A Travel Blog

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