Free things to do in New York City: Art exhibitions

Discover gratis art exhibitions and gallery shows in our roundup of free things to do for the art-seeking set.

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Looking for some free things to do, art enthusiasts? Thought so. Which is why we found a bunch of exhibitions at galleries and museums throughout the city that won’t cost you a cent.


RECOMMENDED: Full list of free things to do in NYC 


"Tom, Dick and Harry: The Everyday Man Series"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

If you ran into G.I. Joe on Scruff, would you "woof" at him? Artist Robert Figueroa's installation of Polaroid-like images of dolls, on view in Leslie-Lohman's Wooster Street Window Gallery, explores how we're quick to judge people based solely on their social-media and dating-app photos.

  1. Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art 26 Wooster St, between Canal and Grand Sts
  2. Fri Aug 29 - Sun Sep 28
More info

Queer Book Diorama Show

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The Pop-Up Museum of Queer History and Lambda Literary Foundation bring you this unique exhibition in which artists created dioramas inspired by notable LGBT books, including Chelsea Girls, by Eileen Myles; Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel; and Dancer from the Dance, by Andrew Holleran.

  1. New York Public Library, Jefferson Market Library 425 Sixth Ave, between Christopher and W 10th Sts
  2. Fri Aug 29 - Wed Sep 24
More info

"Permanency"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Leslie-Lohman exhibits more than 70 pieces recently added to its vast permanent collection of queer art. Artists whose work is on view include James Bidgood, Nan Goldin, Red Grooms, Robert Indiana, Deborah Kass, Annie Sprinkle and Arthur Tress.

  1. Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art 26 Wooster St, between Canal and Grand Sts
  2. Fri Aug 29 - Sun Sep 28
More info

Sweet Spot Festival

  • Free

Harlem’s roving monthly dance party and artisan market is back. If you’re a DIY maker, apply online to be a vendor at one of the upcoming jamborees.

  1. Pier I, Riverside Park South W 66th St, at the Hudson River
  2. Sat Aug 30
More info

Larry Krone, LOOK BOOK

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Joe's Pub artist in Residence Larry Krone premieres images—shot by Todd Oldham—from his new LOOK BOOK project, inspired by his work with the amazing Bridget Everett, whose Rock Bottom also hits Joe's this month. The photos are on view in the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation Mezzanine.

  1. Public Theater 425 Lafayette St, between Astor Pl and E 4th St
  2. Tue Sep 2 - Thu Sep 25
More info

"Red Hot"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Thomas Knights's stunning, vibrant portraits of red-headed men arrive in NYC on tital wave of (mostly gay) buzz. Stop by this LES gallery to check out more than 100 large-scale images, as well as several short films. In the highly likely event that you like what you see, books and calendars featuring the photos are available for purchase.

  1. Bosi Contemporary 48 Orchard St, between Grand and Hester Sts, 10002
  2. Wed Sep 3 - Sun Sep 14
More info

Dumbo Arts Festival

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The already art-forward northern Brooklyn ’hood pulls out all the stops during this three-day fest, featuring works by 300-plus contemporary artists. Ahead of the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Lillian Gerson’s pop-up recording studio, Radio Wave, gives attendees the chance to dictate their storm stories; in The Ship of Tolerance, Russian artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov will pilot a ship along the waterfront whose sail is made of stitched-together paintings by NYC schoolkids; the Bubbles of Hope performance-art processional will see 20 dynamic sculptures swooping down on Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1 for an interactive parade; and festgoers can bring their own possessions, skills, stories or even abstracter holdings to trade in Bartertown. Visit dumboartsfestival.com for a full schedule.

  1. Various locations
  2. Fri Sep 26 - Sun Sep 28
More info

Best things to do in art this week

  • Free

Monday 11"Denise Kupferschmidt: Spektr" at PACS GalleryKupferschmidt's elemental forms will delight with their primal dreaminess.Little Band of Sailors at Asia Song SocietyRachel Mason's brainchild is sure to be as deliciously weird as ever.Tuesday 12Tricia Baga screening and performance at Electronic Arts IntermixThis video artist gives a performative lecture. Fast Tracked, presented by the Center for Urban Pedagogy at the High LineThis presentation of a publication made by high schoolers in conjunction with CUP staff, traces the decisions behind the 7 subway extension.Thursday 14"Amy Lien/Enzo Camacho: Caf by the Ruins" at 47 Canal, opening 6--8pm "Discursive Arrangements, or Stubbornly Persistent Illusions" at Klaus von Nichtssagend, opening 6--8pm Friday 15"New Shape/Take the Square" at Soloway, BrooklynThe gallery continues its heavenly backyard screenings with works by Dani Leventhal, Fern Silva, Vanessa Renwick and Annette Wehrhahn. Also included are poetry Readings by Brett Price and Nicole Wallace. Don't miss the last chance to see the current exhibition.

New venue: Pop-up the Spot, ?uestlove spins tonight

  • Free

The Spot, which opened last week, is throwing parties Wednesday through Saturday until July 30, and we were there last Saturday to capture the shindig with Peligrosa All-Stars and Que Bajo?! Located in Openhouse Gallery (openhousegallery.org) in Nolita, the programming comes courtesy of Latino culture mag Remezcla (remezcla.com), and they have arranged one hot lineup. Starting at 7pm tonight, teams of two artists do visual battle, creating works on tablets that will be projected onto the walls for your enjoyment (check out some of the contestants' pieces here). Then at 9pm, Roots supremo ?uestlove takes to the wheels of steel. You need to R.S.V.P. by 4pm today (reservations for events on Friday and Saturday close a day prior) to have a chance of getting in, but your spot is not guaranteed. We recommend arriving early since the capacity is limited to 250, but as our colleague once remarked, if you're not waiting in line in NYC, you're doing something wrong. And gaining admittance snags you two free beers (which cost $6 each, beyond your two freebies)—and that's certainly not wrong. Check out the full lineup of parties, but we highly recommend getting your ass down there for a screening of Downtown Calling with DJs Johnny Dynell and Sal Principato (July 27), as well as the closing party, where you can boogie down with Mexican Institue of Sound and Nacotheque (July 30).

Free things to do today: Sake and chocolate, native art markets and Carol Pope

  • Free

DrinkSake and Chocolate TastingSakaya owner Rick Smith teams up with Xocolatti founder Shaineal Shah for this casual tasting. The pair will walk you through two gratis pairings, matching rice wines like Kagatobi Junmai Ginjo and Ume no Yado "Aragoshi" Umeshu with sake truffles and dark chocolate. After: Want more sake? Head to subterranean bar Decibel for a rice-wine fix. EventNMAI MarketAll of the items for sale at this bazaar were crafted by Native American artists and make for socially conscious and beautiful holiday gifts. Look for pottery by Joseph and Nona LaToma of the San Felipe Pueblo people and turquoise jewelry by Aaron Brokeshoulder. Also: Peek at the museum's current exhibition, "A Song for the Horse Nation," illustrating the role of horses in Native American culture. GayCarol Pope at Brooklyn Museum's Target First SaturdayLegendary Canadian lesbian rocker Carol Pope—whose album Avoid Freud has been named a favorite by both k.d. lang and Joni Mitchell—performs tonight as part of the museum's free monthly fest. Before: Get buzzed on free wine samples at the New York Wine Stand at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket. See all free things to do today See more than 300 free things to do in NYC

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