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Art Break: Museums of Long Island Are Steeped in History While Capitalizing on Their Picturesque Settings

By A. E. Colas, Contributing Writer, August 27, 2018

When people think of Long Island, they tend to think about the outdoors: the beaches, ocean, parks, wineries – even the best mall on the Island is an outdoor one. Not Art Break! When we think of Long Island what springs to mind are the artists’ colonies of the East End and North Fork, the sculpture gardens of Nassau and Suffolk counties, and the community involvement of so many museums. Join the locals and get inspired by the many arts programs on offer with our map of locations to help you plan a great trip.

Long Island museums

Exterior of Nassau County Museum of Art (Marco Remec’s sculpture Tall Totem in the foreground); courtesy of NCMA.

Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, located on the old Frick estate, is known for specializing in 19th and 20th century American and European art as well as having a beautiful garden, well-marked nature trails, and an excellent sampling of modern sculpture on display. There are two special exhibitions currently on view: True Colors and A Mirror to Nature: Sculpture by Marko Remec (both ongoing).

Long Island museums

Lobby view upon entering NCMA; artwork: (l. to r.) Nathan Slate Joseph: Silk Road I, 2018, pure pigment on steel; Larry Zox: NIAGARA A., 1980, acrylic on canvas; Nathan Slate Joseph: Caravan, 2018, pure pigments on steel.


Long Island Museums

Westbury House at Old Westbury Gardens; courtesy of Old Westbury Gardens.

Old Westbury Gardens, Old Westbury, is a delightful collection of plants and landscaping. Besides tours of the gardens (either guided or on your own) there are educational programs and seasonal events for all ages. This summer, the Gardens have a special exhibit called The Great War – Portraits of Privilege, Duty, and Sacrifice with an emphasis on the efforts of the Long Island community at that time.

Long Island museums

A view of the grounds of Old Westbury Gardens.

Long Island museums

A photo from the current exhibit The Great War – Portraits of Privilege, Duty, and Sacrifice: Vincent Astor and his wife christening a sea plane to patrol waters off Long Island, 1916 (Astor led efforts to collect donations to purchase the plane for the New York Naval Militia); courtesy Library of Congress / Old Westbury Gardens.


Long Island museums

A view of the Carriage Museum and the Emma Lee Blackford Rockwell Herb Garden at the Long Island Museum.

The Long Island Museum, Stony Brook, is both an art museum and a treasure trove of Long Island history. With buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries on site, a nationally known collection of pre-automobile transportation, and a sculpture garden, this beloved institution has educated generations of Long Islanders in regional and national history. In addition to the permanent exhibits, there are three temporary shows: The Land of Moses: Robert Moses and Modern Long Island (June 22 – October 28), Revolution in Printmaking: Larry Rivers and Universal Limited Art Editions (May 11 – September 3), Perfect Harmony: The Musical Life and Art of William Sidney Mount (February 16 – September 3).

Long Island museums

The Art Museum at the Long Island Museum; photo: Brian Kutner.

Long Island museums

The Going Places Gallery of the Carriage Museum at the Long Island Museum.


Long Island museums

Exterior of the Heckscher Museum of Art.

Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, charms visitors with its permanent collection ranging from German Renaissance to the present day. There is also an excellent group of European and American Modernism works on view, an unexpected pleasure in a regional museum. For the summer/fall season The Heckscher is hosting the Long Island Biennial (August 4 – November 11), a juried exhibition promoting the artists of the Long Island area. Other exhibits are The Tile Club: Camaraderie and American Plein-Air Painting (August 4 – November 4), and Surface Tension: Pictorial Space in 20th-Century Art (ongoing).

Long Island museums

Frank Wimberley: Slight Disturbance, 2018; courtesy of the artist, Long Island Biennial Award of Merit.


Long Island museums

Exterior view of Parrish Art Museum and grounds; photo: Hazel Hutchins.

Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, is an interesting example of a small museum with big accomplishments. The holdings focus on 19th through 21st century American art, but also reflect the unique relationship between artists and the East End of Long Island. The current offering of special exhibitions feature local and international artists, linked by their desire to explore and define the world around them: Keith Sonnier: Until Today (July 1, 2018 – January 27, 2019), Platform: Barthélémy Toguo: The Beauty of Our Voice (August 5 – October 14), The Permanent Collection: Five and Forward  (November 10, 2017 – October 31, 2018) and Tokyo Brushstroke I & II (1994) by Roy Lichtenstein (ongoing).

Long Island museums

Installation view of permanent collection: Five and Forward, Parrish Art Museum; photo: Bilyana Dimitrova.


Long Island museums

An interior view of the Leiber Collection; photo: Gary Mamy.

The Leiber Collection, Easthampton, is first and foremost a love story told through art and objects. Founded in 2005 by Judith and Gerson Leiber, the museum and gardens display the interests and work from careers of this devoted couple, who both passed away this spring. This year’s summer show, A Marriage of True Minds Remembered is a tribute to their lives and well worth a visit. There are also two permanent displays: Judith Leiber Handbags and Antique Chinese Porcelains from Eight Dynasties (206 BCE to 1912).

Long Island museums

The grounds and sculpture garden at the Leiber Collection; (foreground) Gerson Leiber’s The Human Condition, 2008; bronze; photo: Rameshwar Das.


For ZEALnyc‘s complete list of New York City art and museum exhibitions and shows click here.

For the latest news in New York City art, museums and galleries click here.


Cover: A view of the gardens of Old Westbury Gardens; courtesy of Old Westbury Gardens.


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