When was the last time you discovered something totally new and cool? And in a hotel staircase no less?! On our latest visit to New York City, we stumbled upon one of the coolest museums in town, in one of the newest hotels in the oldest parts of the city. It’s called MoSA Street Art Bowery – the Museum of Street Art (MoSA) in the Bowery district of the Lower East Side. If you’re a street art or graffiti lover, or just love creativity in all its forms, here’s why you need to get to NYC to see one of the best museums in New York.
MoSA Street Art Bowery
Its creators call the Museum of Street Art Bowery ‘a vertical love letter to The Bowery and the Lower East Side.’ The Museum of Street Art opened October 2018, but its origins go back to 2013, to 5 Pointz in Queens, one of New York’s boroughs. The original 5 Pointz was a museum without walls or doors. It was large building, on which local and international street artists made their mark – or tags. In its day, it was one of the most visited places for street art in New York.
In November 2013, it was lost forever. The building was first whitewashed, then demolished. Everyone thought it was lost forever.
“Art should be an encounter and moreover a source of knowledge, inspiration and delight.” Lisbeth Willems
This international hotel group is, in its own words, ‘a million miles away from the Hilton.’ citizenM is aiming its chic hotel rooms at transformational travelers looking for affordable luxury lifestyle. And as it turns out, street art too. citizenM had one hotel in NYC, and wanted to open a new one in The Bowery. In a nod to the rich street art history of the neighborhood, they wanted to bring some of that graffiti spirt into the citizenM Bowery. So in 2016, they reached out to local curator Marie Cecile Flageul and 21 5 Pointz Creates artists to work on something really special, with an aim to give 5 Pointz back to New York City. The result? The Museum of Street Art (MoSA), spanning 20 floors worth of stairwell in the citizenM New York Bowery hotel.
A Vertical Love Letter to The Bowery
MoSA Bowery isn’t just an art installation with serious street cred and history. It’s a celebration of creativity and of the reunion of artists from around the world. And it’s a descending art installation in a hotel staircase that goes down 20 floors. The combination of these aspects make it all the more unique and special for visitors who seek it out from the many New York art museums that are out there.
From the 20th floor to the Lobby, guests experience the vertical love letter to the The Bowery. The street art shows the faces, sights and stories of the neighborhood, in distinctive street art style of the 21 5 Pointz Creates artists, all of whom had contributed to 5 Pointz in Queens. That includes artists from as close as the Bronx and Brooklyn, to those who travelled from as far as London and Paris. Five of the 21 contributing artists were female.
Some quick MoSA facts: It took 2.5 years of planning, involved 5,000 square feet of stairwell, 420 hours of painting, and 520 cans of paint. That’s an seriously organized street art installation that rivals the amount of work it takes to mount a major exhibition at MoMA or the Met.
Need a place to stay in Midtown Manhattan? Check out our review of the Benjamin Hotel.
The MoSA Experience
So now you’re probably wondering, what’s MoSA like? The short answer is that it’s unlike any other museum you’ve ever visited. I mean, have you ever been in a museum that is also a fire exit stairwell? Neither have we. But we liked MoSA, a lot. MoSA is certainly more interesting than a traditional art museum. There’s no boring artwork in sight on these walls, the colours are vibrant and the works are more complex than appear at first glance. The most amazing aspect was the sense of surprise that we came to expect as we walked down the stairs. Around every corner, we had no idea what we’d see, and then – surprise! A new artist, new street art style, and new message that relates back to The Bowery, or life, or people in New York. It’s really special, and utterly and completely different.
My favorite piece had to be the collage of RuPaul by @ellestreetart. It’s so striking, big, and detailed that you could stare at it for a long, long time. We also loved the vignette of the laundry line and rooftop water towers, it seemed so representative of the city in a different time.
How to Visit MoSA
MoSA is free to the public. Anyone can come into the citizenM lobby — between 10am and 5pm — with ID and walk through the exhibition. Tip: Stop to take photos, don’t try walking down the stairs and shooting at the same time. Trust me on that.
There’s also a weekend Guided Tour with Marie, the curator of MoSA. Sign up on a Friday and Saturday for a guided tour through the stairwell. Guests check in at the front desk of the hotel where she will meet you and take you up to the entrance of MoSA. You can leave your mark when you’re done, as you see above. It seems fitting to add your tag and become part of the Love Letter to The Bowery too.
Photo Credits: Claudia Laroye