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Art Gems of NYC: Why the Waterfall Mansion Gallery is a must see

Finding a hidden gem in NYC isn’t the easiest task. With Manhattan’s usual tourist attractions and museums jam-packed with selfie crazed visitors, to find an exciting, yet nonstressful Saturday afternoon activity can pose as a challenge.

This past weekend, I found myself facing the same challenge. While planning my day, I scrolled through the lists of current shows on view at the big name museums such as The Met and MoMA, but I knew a Saturday afternoon was the worst possible time to visit if I wanted any sense of privacy.

While searching on Google Maps for an address, I stumbled upon a location named Waterfall Mansion and Gallery. As someone who frequents museums and galleries as a hobby, I had never heard of this place, and I immediately Googled their website.

To my surprise, I learned that there is a four-story mansion, filled with art and a giant waterfall that sits right on the Upper East Side. If you’re interested in visiting, the only way to see the Waterfall Mansion is to book a tour. Tours are offered on Saturdays between 12 pm and 4 pm. I booked the 4 pm time slot, got ready, and hopped on the train.

Upon arriving you ring the bell to enter two larger than life doors. At this point, I still had no idea what to expect. The moment I walked through the door I was greeted by a disco-like, colorful sculpture by artist Soo Sunny Park.

To the right of the sculpture was another visually stunning, and loud light sculpture by artist Gil Kuno. I went on to learn that Kuno records natural situations, such as a waterfall, then puts it into a computer algorithm that mimics the movement of the waterfall into the sculpture.

At this point, I knew this was going to be a special experience. The guide started off the tour with the first-floor exhibition “Be Still” including works by artists Makoto Fujimura, Minha Yang, and Nikolai Makarov. As you walk down the long hallway, the guide explained the significance of the artist and their works.

When getting to the end of the hall, I was blown away by the two-story waterfall, and I truly understood why this place was called the Waterfall Mansion. Photos cannot do this room justice, you have to book the tour to experience this for yourself.

Heading up to the second floor I realized that every corner of this gallery was thoughtfully filled with art, even the bathrooms have paintings in the showers and sculptures next to the sinks.

What really caught my attention was the third floor. Black masking tape covered the wall and ceiling on half the room. I learned that the artist Sun K. Kwak doesn’t even plan her work ahead of time. Instead, she spends time with a room to get a better understanding of the space, then covers the walls with masking tape, only to rip it all off.

The outcome is an out of this world image created on the walls. I truly didn’t think the tour could get much better than this, but I was proven wrong when I entered the next floor.

Walking up the stairs to the third floor, the first thing everyone noticed was two wire sculpture, that at first glance almost resemble hair.

These sculptures are created by artist Shane Pennington, and what is the most surprising is that he actually electrocutes the wires to give the sculpture a unique shape.

If electrocuted sculptures aren’t enough for you, head to the bathroom to find Jae Yong Kim’s donut sculptures.

You’ll learn that these colorful and fun sculptures were actually inspired from a place of darkness. When the artist was battling with depression, these simple donuts brought him much joy.

The last stop on this tour was artist Lee Seung Hee’s ceramic bamboo forest. The forest was made of dozens of tall ceramic bamboo sculptures, set against the backdrop of the neighboring brick walled Manhattan buildings.

What surprised me the most is the fact that this two- hour long experience exploring an Upper East Side mansion, with a two-story waterfall was only $12. For those of us who are not part of the upper echelon of society, this tour provides a chance to explore a place that would otherwise be off limits.

If you decide to book the tour, be sure to bring a camera since the tour guide actually encourages photo taking, unlike several other experiences I’ve had where patrons were scolded for taking out their phones. Please, just remember to always respect the artwork and others around you enjoying the tour.

Like I said, finding a true hidden gem in NYC is not easy,  but the Waterfall Mansion and Gallery is truly one of them. I hope you’ll get to spend your next Saturday exploring the inside of this aesthetically pleasing paradise.