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Monday, September 16, 2013

Benefits of the Museum Pass Program

My husband and I took had a weekend “getaway” in New York City for Labor Day.  It is the first time I have had a chance to use one of the Friends of the South Brunswick Public Library museum passes.  As a Friend, I was able to reserve and take out one of the two Guggenheim Museum passes.  Reservations are easy to make online on the library website at and you can reserve a pass up to 90 in advance.  I had this pass reserved for the holiday weekend since the beginning of the summer.  The pass admits up to four people for free and lets you purchase half-price ticket for any additional guests you may have. That saved the two of us the $22.00 admission each ($18.00 for seniors).  It also gives you a 10% discount at the three museum shops, at the restaurant The Wright and the espresso and snack bar Café 3.  But for the current show at the Guggenheim, the more advantageous benefit was the ability to skip the line!

 On Monday morning, we arrived at the Guggenheim museum at about 9:30 a.m. – their doors open at 10:00.  Already at 9:30, there were lines forming at the door.  After a little exploring, we found that there were three separate lines.  One, which had about 60 people standing on it at 9:30, was for people who had pre-purchased tickets for the current show.  The second line was the no-reservation line for people just wanting to get in for the day and that line had about 40 people standing on it.  The shortest line (in the center) was the line for members, which only had about 15 people on it and that line was adjacent to some planters where the people could sit!  Since we had the library pass, we joined the shortest member line!

James Turrell, Aten Reign, 2013
When the doors opened at 10:00, the members were let in first!!  We were escorted to the ticket desk where we showed the pass and were given tickets for the show and we went directly into the museum first.  Now, this may not seem to be too big a deal, but for the current show, James Terrell, this was important in order to get the best viewing advantage without having to wait.  The main exhibit in the rotunda, titled Aten Reign (2013), “is the centerpiece of James Turrell’s first exhibition in a New York museum since 1980, [which] recasts the Guggenheim rotunda as an enormous volume filled with shifting artificial and natural light.”  The best way to view the central piece of the exhibit is to lie down on a mat on the floor directly below it or to sit on one of the benches that surround the rotunda that have a sloped back to help you rest your back and head look up because the installation is overhead, spectacularly filling the central rotunda of the museum.  It takes about 15 minutes for the full range of color changes and it is worth the wait – the colors were ethereal and intense and hovered in the 6-tiered ellipse seemingly without structure or seam.  James Turrell, an artist who is known for his installations of “perception, light, color, and space, with a special focus on the role of site specificity in his practice” will be on exhibit at the museum only through September 25 and then it will be gone forever. 

These one of a kind experiences, like Christo’s The Gates that were installed in Central Park for a month in 2005, are what make living in close proximity to NYC so distinctive.  If you want to see this once-in-a lifetime transformation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous the museum, you should plan to visit soon.  If you want to see the museum the way the architect intended, with an open central atrium, you might want to wait until October when this piece will be removed, although I think that Mr. Wright would approve of this temporary installation that shows the simple beauty of his elliptical design to a magnificent extent.
You can read more about this exhibit and other exhibits and get information about the museum at  And don’t forget to reserve the pass today, there are only a few more weeks to make plans to see James Turrell’s amazing installation and if you want to lay on the floor or sit on one of the inclined benches without having to loiter until a spot opens up, the pass is the key!!

I am not sure if the Friends other passes to the Garden State Discovery Museum, the Grounds for Sculpture, the Insectropolis, or the Zimmerli have the same skip the line policy or if there would even be a line to get into those museums, but the benefit of not paying the ever increasing admission fees is worth becoming a Friend to get the privilege of taking out a pass.  The Friends have purchased a museum membership to each of these five museums and the member benefits are passed along to you! Check the website to see what the pass provides and how many people it covers – every museum has different membership benefits.

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