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Location: 945 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10021

Contact: 800-944-8639

This Madison Avenue gem is undoubtedly the place to go to view truly eclectic contemporary art. The collegiate atmosphere and bold selection of 20th century works keep visitors coming back in droves. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, herself a sculptor, opened a small art studio in the Village with 500 pieces from her personal collection.

Initially, she offered to merge her works with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and even promised to provide the extra funding to build a new wing. When the Met didn't arrive at an immediate decision, she and Juliana Force (the Whitney's first director who became instrumental in formulating its original concept), opened a space on W. 8th St. in 1931. The Whitney eventually moved to a bigger site on W. 54th St. in the 1950s and finally settled in its current location, designed by Marcel Breuer, in 1966.

The Whitney's permanent collection now holds about 18,000 pieces, including works by Georgia O'Keeffe, Andy Warhol, Charles Sheeler and Jackson Pollock. The museum has seven floors (six above ground, one basement level) made of rock, wood and concrete. Mirroring many of its exhibitions, the building produces a larger-than-life effect, with giant freight elevators and unusually high ceilings. A word to the wise: try to catch the exhibits during weekday afternoons or risk standing on slow-moving lines that wrap around the corner. — Joy Armstrong

The self-guided audio tour is free with admission. Group tours are $10 adults, $8 seniors, $6 students