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Check out these revamped attractions in The Big Apple

For lovers of modern art and architecture, there is no shortage of reasons to come to New York City - from the bevy of world-class museums to Art Deco landmarks such as the Empire State Building.

But two revamped attractions have supplied new excuses to visit: the glorious Mad Men-era TWA Hotel at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and the Museum of Modern Art (Moma), which reopened last month after a US$450-million (S$612-million) renovation that seeks to expand the definition of modern art.

TWA Hotel, JFK's first on-airport hotel, is a bucket-list spot not just for architecture and mid-century design buffs, but also for aviation geeks.

A 1960s Jet Age time capsule, it was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen - creator of the Knoll Tulip chairs - and originally opened in 1962 as the airline terminal for the now-defunct Trans World Airlines.

A mid-century masterpiece melding various space-age architectural styles - from neo-futurist to Googie - its arresting twin winged roofs look like a bird in flight or alien spacecraft.

But the interior is even more striking, with sweeping asymmetrical arches and lofty curved ceilings that seem to defy the laws of physics and appear larger than they do from the outside.

The building was abandoned for two decades after the airline went bust and the structure could not support larger modern aircraft.

But it reopened as the TWA Hotel in May, with two extensions built to house 512 guest rooms and conference spaces.

The biggest wow factor, though, remains the original terminal building, which is now the lobby.

There are simply no bad angles here and a charming old-fashioned split-flap message board noisily announces arrivals and departures.

Directly across is a sumptuous sunken-bar area with chilli-red upholstery and, parked right outside, a restored Lockheed jet doubles as a cocktail lounge.

The hotel leans into its time-warp appeal, with staff in 1960s TWA Airlines uniforms to check you in, pose for photos or direct you to the rooftop infinity pool, which overlooks the runway at JFK and is accessible to non-guests for a fee.

Guest rooms are modern, but with a mid-century touch, with working rotary phones, vintage-style posters and Don Draperesque mini bars.

Hotel gift shops are typically where taste goes to die, but this one has gift-worthy retro-style collectibles and clothing you might actually want to wear. Best of all, anyone can walk in and gawk at this mid-century deliciousness for free.

You do not have to be a hotel guest - just hop on the same AirTrain that carries passengers around JFK, get off at Terminal 5 and follow the signs.

This is well worth getting to the airport early for or extending your layover to see.

A visit to Moma, on the other hand, is not free - a ticket is US$25. But you get more bang for the buck with its expansion, which added 47,000 sq ft of gallery space for a total of 165,000 sq ft.

The structure has had mixed reviews - The New York Times described it as "smart, surgical, sprawling and slightly soulless" - but it means the museum can display more of its collection as well as some intriguing new acquisitions.

There are, of course, the iconic pieces Moma is known for - from Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night to Salvador Dali's The Persistence Of Memory.

If this is your first visit, tourism website The Official New York City Guide (nycgo.com) has a page on the "5 Pieces You Have To See At Moma".

But the museum is also embracing lesser-known artists and newer trends that challenge the dominant histories and definitions of modern art.

One gallery invites visitors to compare the work of Pablo Picasso with those of two female American artists - Faith Ringgold and Louise Bourgeois.

There is more consideration of under-represented artists and cultures - for instance, in a gallery exploring the female form through the eyes of artists such as Indian sculptor Mrinalini Mukherjee and Romanian conceptualist Geta Bratescu.

A new studio has also been set aside for live and experimental programming.

From now till Jan 5, it features Rainforest V (Variation 1), a sonic sculpture by David Tudor that transports you to the Amazonian jungle.

There is even a concession to Instagram hunters: a piece of wall art by Haim Steinbach featuring giant vinyl lettering saying "Hello. Again" that greets visitors near the entrance.

There is something for everyone and you get the sense that that is very much the point.

Written by Alison de Souza for The Straits Times.

Photos: David Mitchell, TWA hotel, Iwan Baan, courtesy of MOMA, Alison de Souza, Andaz 5th Avenue.

TOPICS: art, museum, new york
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