An art lover’s day in Queens neatly divides down the middle: morning in Sunnyside, afternoon in Long Island City, or vice versa. For the hordes circling MoMA’s blue box, the decision will likely be made by the operator dispensing the timed $20 tickets. Here’s how to use the rest of your time wisely.
If you’ve got a mid-morning date with Henri and Pablo, first stop at the Museum for African Art’s temporary home four blocks away (36-01 43rd Avenue; 718-784-7700). The museum will be offering free admission (with a “Matisse Picasso” ticket) and free Kenyan coffee. The current show, “Facing the Mask,” dovetails nicely with both artists’ fascination with African forms. Just downstairs is the Zen-like temporary space of the Noguchi Museum (718-721-1932); opening February 13 is a show of the sculptor’s never-before-exhibited travel photographs and sketches.
Another caffeine option is the New Thompson’s Diner (32-44 Queens Boulevard; 718-738-1238), literally in front of MoMA when you get off the 7 train, a classic coffee shop with good red beans and rice (though perhaps not for breakfast).
Then, over to MoMA (33rd Street at Queens Boulevard; 212-708-9400) for the main event. The museum has a small café that sells gourmet sandwiches, salads, and coffee. Farther down Queens Boulevard, MoMA’s Glenn Lowry loves Dazie’s (39–41 Queens Boulevard; 718-786-7013), a plushy family-run Italian restaurant. Equally tasty, though more modest, is the Turkish Hemsin (39-17/19 Queens Boulevard; 718-937-1715). For a quick bite, try The Chipper (41–28 Queens Boulevard; 718-729-2148), a brand-new Anglo-Irish fish-and-chips shop.
Well-fortified, you’ll be ready for the trip to P.S.1. Hop on the 7 local to Manhattan, but get off at Court Square. P.S.1 (22-25 Jackson Avenue; 718-784-2084) has its usual unusual slate of exhibitions. Opening February 16 is a tribute to the late Chinese-born artist Chen Zhen and the group show “First Steps: Emerging Artists From Japan.” In the courtyard is Yoko Ono’s “Freight Train,” a light-emitting sculpture assembled to commemorate the deaths of migrant Mexicans in freight cars.
SculptureCenter (44-19 Purves Street; 718-361-1750) opened its first installation last December, a one-man show by Queens-based sculptor Jimbo Blachly. Since summer 2002, two galleries have been operating in P.S.1.’s orbit: ceramics specialist Garth Clark Gallery (45-46 21st Street; 718-706-2491) and the guest-curated, multimedia Dorsky Gallery (11th Street and 45th Avenue; 718-937-6317). For brunch or dinner in Long Island City, one has a choice between old Italian favorites like Manducatis (13-27 Jackson Avenue; 718-729-4602) and Manetta’s (10-76 Jackson Avenue; 718-786-6171) and Manhattan-style places like La Vuelta (10-43 44th Drive; 718-361-1858), a Latin bistro, and Provençal-inflected Tournesol (50-12 Vernon Boulevard; 718-472-4355). A young upstart, Bella Via (47-46 Vernon Boulevard; 718-361-7510), recently began serving brick-oven pizza alongside nouvelle favorites. Afterward, walk down 48th Avenue toward the East River to Gantry State Park, and look back at the old center of the artistic universe, pretty as a picture.