State of the Art: a Creative Break in New York

Brooklyn’s cityscape is alive with brightly colored street art
Brooklyn’s cityscape is alive with brightly colored street art | © Nicola Ferrari RF / Alamy Stock Photo
Lucy Thackray

Follow in the footsteps of poets and pop artists, past and present, on this in-depth, insider-led journey through the city’s creative communities.

Andy Warhol, James Baldwin, Alfred Stieglitz, Zora Neale Hurston – from Pop artists to Beat poets, the world’s boldest creators have long felt the magnetic pull of New York City. To this day, there’s a curious art space (or 10) in every neighborhood, not to mention lashings of street art and electrifying buskers to stop you in your tracks – and no genre is too avant-garde to find exhibition space.

“I always say that New York can be whatever anyone wants it to be; it’s transformative in so many ways,” says Sabrina Gilbertson of the Agora Gallery in Chelsea. “Art and culture are everywhere, and the city connects such a diverse mix of people, nurtures originality and stimulates expression on every level.” However, don’t just come to browse – it’s a place to buy art, discover enfants terribles and rub shoulders with working artists and gallerists.

So, don your paint-smeared overalls, and tap into the local scene by following this artist-led itinerary, where you’ll nip into working studios, take in the city’s graffiti-scrawled warehouse walls and stay in a hotel fit for a Turner Prize winner, all bookable on Culture Trip.

 Todd Grays Greenwich St mural is part of the Two World Trade Center Mural Project |
 Youll find powerful, creative street art all over NYC |
 Cross the stunning Brooklyn Bridge and find yourself an eye-opening street art tour |

Where to Stay: the Hotel

1. The Renwick Hotel New York City, Curio Collection by Hilton


Courtesy of The Renwick Hotel New York City, Curio Collection by Hilton / Expedia

Within walking distance of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and handy for all of NYC’s central galleries and museums, this red-brick hotel channels the instantly recognizable loft aesthetic of the city’s artists. Exposed concrete, painted pipes, Basquiat-inspired murals and sculptural light fixtures all add to the feeling that you’re poised to sell your first painting, while supersoft beds and nifty modern amenities up the luxury factor. The building has real artistic pedigree, too: in the 1920s, artists and writers who stayed here include Thomas Mann, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and F Scott Fitzgerald. Today’s generation of creatives has crafted many of its masterstroke design details, from the skyline-shaped blinds to the “Do not disturb” signs.

What to Do: the Experiences

2. Harlem Renaissance Multimedia Walking Tour


Whether you’re into art, history, music, politics or food, Harlem is the obvious place to learn about the golden age of the Harlem Renaissance, from the 1910s to the 1930s. Explore the neighborhood with a lifelong Harlem resident, who gives you the background on how this vibrant Black community filled the city with hot jazz, political commentary, visceral poetry and seminal art via formative figures such as Marcus Garvey and Langston Hughes. The era was a cultural pressure cooker, and its influence can still be felt today.

3. Brooklyn Street-Art Tour


Brooklyn is the home of NYC’s contemporary art scene, where neat streets of brownstone houses and riverside parks are peppered with some of the best white-cube art studios and flea markets in the country. This walking tour focuses on the Bushwick neighborhood’s proliferation of street art, where the top graffiti pros create head-turning, thought-provoking – but often temporary – works of genius. New to the form? Your passionate guide is sure to spark your interest, make you a connoisseur and help you view the city through spray-can spectacles.

4. Behind-the-Scenes Factory Tour


One fascinating aspect of New York’s creative scene is its super-specialists – the artisans who create one incredibly specific product, from hats to stationery. One such master is M&S Schmalberg, a family business that’s spent a century making fabric flowers for the fashion and design industry. Get behind the scenes on this backstage-pass factory tour to see how its unique products are made. You may recognize its work from Sarah Jessica Parker’s outfits on Sex and the City.

Our methodology

Culture Trip compiled these recommendations based on insights from our global community of travel experts and local insiders, combined with search data from millions of users around the world to understand interest in these destinations.

Culture Trip Summer Sale

Save up to $1,395 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article