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The best free art exhibitions in NYC

Discover New York City's top free art exhibitions and gallery shows in our roundup of critic's picks

Photograph: Courtesy David Zwirner
Luis Martínez Pedro, Untitled from the series “Aguas Territoriales,” 1964

Looking for some free art, culture vultures? Thought so. Which is why we found a bunch of gratis art shows at galleries and museums in NYC that won’t cost you a cent. Visit well-known institutions like the Pace Gallery and David Zwirner and still have money in your pocket for lunch at one of the best restaurants in NYC.

RECOMMENDED: See all free things to do in NYC

Best free art exhibitions in NYC

Jonathan Baldock, “The Skin I Live In”

This London artist’s approach to figurative art involves a lively mix of Bauhaus design, Dadaism and Surrealism, as well as touches of tribal art from Africa and Polynesia. The results have a compelling performative presence that situate his objects somewhere between the modern and the occult. His current show takes its title from Pedro Almodóvar’s 2011 psychological thriller about a mad plastic surgeon, played by Antonio Banderas.

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Wed Jan 20 - Sun Feb 7

Moira Dryer

Working during the 1980s, Dryer (1957-1992) was largely out of step with the such trends of the time as Appropriation Art, Neo-Expressionism and Commodity Fetishism, preferring instead a reflective, nuanced take on abstraction that softened quasi-geometrical or patterned schemes with a deft painterly hand applied to wood panels. She also wandered occasionally into shaped canvases. This show presents works created between 1985, the year before her first solo show, and 1992, the year of her death from cancer.

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Wed Jan 20 - Sun Feb 7

Katherine Bradford, “Fear of Waves”

Now in her early seventies, Brooklyn artist Katherine Bradford has been a long time presence on the New York Art scene. At the start of her career, she worked mostly as an abstractionist, but her work has evolved over the past 15 to 20 years into a kind of dreamy, surreal style of imagism that could described as lyrical primitivism. Couched within billowy passages of paint, her subjects have a tendency to levitate or float serenely against expanses of fluid colors and repeating motifs like dots and dashes. The theme of her latest paintings involves the relationship between swimmers and water, with figures bobbing in pools or racing from the frothing surf.

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Canada , Lower East Side Wednesday February 10 2016 - Sunday February 14 2016

“Martin Wong: Human Instamatic”

During the 1980s, this San Francisco transplant living in the East Village captured the neighborhood before gentrification made it safe. Wong’s style was a mix of visionary realism and outsider art, and with it he depicted abandoned tenements and rubble-strewn lots in ways that made them seem as folksy as they were ghostly. He often incorporated stylized glyphs of hands forming words in American Sign Language, as well as charts of the constellations in the night sky.

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Bronx Museum of the Arts , The Bronx Wednesday February 10 2016 - Sunday February 14 2016

Catherine Opie , “700 Nimes Road”

This show by the renowned L.A photographer features two bodies of works spread across Lehmann Maupin’s two location. The gallery’s LES venue presents Opie’s series, “700 Nimes Road,” in which she documented the interior of actress Elizabeth Taylor’s Bel Air home over a six month period. In Chelsea, Opie includes more literal portraits of friends, shrouded in Old Master-ish light against black backgrounds. Also on view are blurry landscapes photos of National Parks inspired by the work of Gerhard Richter.

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Lehmann Maupin , Lower East Side Wednesday February 10 2016 - Saturday February 20 2016

“Concrete Cuba”

Coincidently or not, this group show of geometrically abstract paintings and sculptures from Cuba coincides with the recent thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations after 50 years of Cold War confrontation. The artists here belonged to a group they called Los Diez Pintores Concretos (Ten Concrete Painters) and were active at the height of the conflict during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Hard-edged shapes and colorful palettes are stylistic hallmarks, and while the work doesn’t seem particularly political, the artists saw themselves as being engaged in a form of social practice. At the very least, these objects reflect a certain utopian optimism consistent with the Castro regime’s early years.

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David Zwirner , Chelsea Tuesday February 9 2016 - Saturday February 20 2016

Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon, “Forgetting the Hand”

Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon team up in an contemporary update of the “exquisite corpse” game which originated with the Surrealists of the 1920s. The idea was simple: A piece of paper folded repeatedly into strips was passed around a group of artists who each drew part of a figure without seeing what the rest had drawn. Dzama and Pettibon do something similar as each starts a drawing to be finished by the other. Considering who’s involved here, the results are predictably weird.

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David Zwirner , Chelsea Tuesday February 9 2016 - Saturday February 20 2016

Izumi Kato

The figures in Kato’s paintings and sculptures seem to be both post-apocalyptic and extraterrestrial, with bug eyes and bat wings and infant-like bodies that sometimes sprout extra limbs. They’re depicted in a style that follows a sliding scale between anime and African tribal art with occasional echoes of Picasso and Paul Klee thrown in for good measure. He also paints beautifully in his own way, and works just as exquisitely in a variety of sculptural materials, ranging from wood to vinyl. Strange and compelling his work is definitely out of this world.

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Galerie Perrotin , Lenox Hill Tuesday February 9 2016 - Saturday February 27 2016

Brassaï, “Language of the Wall: The Tapestries, 1968”

Presented are a series of rare tapestries based on images by the French-Hungarian photographer Brassaï (Gyula Halász, 1899–1984). Starting in the early 1930s, Brassaï began documenting Parisian graffiti in photos that would eventually be exhibited at MoMA in 1956. Groups of 20 were later collaged for each of seven tapestries produced in 1968 by the studio of Yvette Cauquil-Prince, a master weaver who collaborated on similar projects for Chagall, Miró, Klee and Calder.

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Higher Pictures , Downtown Tuesday February 9 2016 - Saturday March 5 2016

“Mystery and Benevolence: Masonic and Odd Fellows Folk Art from the Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection”

On view are items used in and related to the rituals of Freemasonry and Odd Fellows, and needless to say, they are rich in Masonic symbols—the Blazing Star, the Masonic Eye, the Square and Compasses—that are at once mystical, surreal and spooky. These objects are amazing examples of folk art with roots in the Enlightenment and the American Revolution, thanks to Founding Fathers like Washington, Franklin and Monroe, all of whom were Masons. The show plumbs the still-secretive nature of a society that’s had a more significant impact on history than most people realize, even if they don’t rule the world. (We think).

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American Folk Art Museum , Upper West Side Tuesday February 9 2016 - Sunday May 8 2016
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anne d
anne d

no Frames exhibition, featuring 4 european women artists, is opening this wednesday Dec 2d from 6pm to 11pm at S Artspace Gallery, 345 Broome street, NYC