The best free art exhibitions in NYC

Culture vultures—discover gratis art exhibitions and gallery shows in our roundup

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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 in New York 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 New York restaurants.


RECOMMENDED: See all free things to do in NYC


Barneys holiday windows 2013

Barneys holiday windows 2013 Photograph: Luciana Golcman

Barneys New York holiday windows

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Walk by Barneys New York for a holiday view of fluffy woodland creatures and fantastical snow owls from the creative mind of writer and director Baz Luhrmann and his wife, costume designer Catherine Martin.

  1. Barneys New York 660 Madison Ave, at 61st St
  2. Mon Dec 22 - Wed Dec 31
More info
Sam Falls, Untitled (Maze), 2014

Sam Falls, Untitled (Maze), 2014 James Ewing

Sam Falls, "Light Over Time"

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice
  • Free

A process-oriented Los Angeles artist who works in a variety of media, Sam Falls has transformed Downtown Brooklyn’s MetroTech Commons into a playground for his interactive art. Exploring the passage of time through light and color, Falls displays

  1. Public Art Fund at MetroTech Center Commons MetroTech Center Commons, Myrtle Ave, between Flatbush Ave and Jay St
  2. Mon Dec 22 - Fri May 29
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Rashaad Newsome, "L. egends, S. tatements, S. tars"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Newsome's performances, sculptures and large, ornate collages have infused identity art with hip-hop's boastful, bling-obsessed attitude, examining the way the chase for power and status begins with an individual assertion of ego. He's followed this

  1. Marlborough Gallery New York 40 W 57th St, between Fifth and Sixth Aves, second floor
  2. Mon Dec 22 - Sat Jan 3
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Juan Muñoz

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Muñoz (1953–2001) was a self-professed storyteller, and indeed, the Spanish artist's monochromatic, figurative sculptures do contain narrative elements, even if they are inconclusive. The installations in this show, for example, include a large

  1. Marian Goodman Gallery 24 W 57th St, between Fifth and Sixth Aves
  2. Mon Dec 22 - Sat Jan 31
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"Picasso & Jacqueline: The Evolution of Style"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The work of Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) represents the art-historical gift that keeps on giving, offering exhibition organizers a seemingly inexhaustible supply of periods and styles to draw upon. This show takes up the last two decades of his

  1. Pace Gallery 32 E 57th St, between Madison and Park Aves
  2. Tue Dec 23 - Sat Jan 10
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"Eugène Atget: A Quiet Calling"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Ironically, one of the greatest names in the history of photography never considered himself an artist. Instead, Atget (1857–1927) prowled Paris, documenting its architecture and street scenes as reference photos he'd sell to painters. Aside from

  1. Pace/MacGill 32 E 57th St, between Madison and Park Aves, ninth floor
  2. Tue Dec 23 - Sat Jan 3
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“Picasso and the Camera”

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Picasso loved the camera, and the camera loved him. He used photography both as an artistic tool and a medium to buoy his celebrity as the 20th century's most famous artist. This show includes photos by and of the artist, as well as a selection of

  1. Gagosian Gallery 522 W 21st St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves
  2. Tue Dec 23 - Sat Jan 3
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Louise Bourgeois, "Suspension"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The title pretty much tells the story: This show collects works by the renowned sculptor that hang from the ceiling, featuring her signature blend of figurative and abstract forms exploring themes of sex and death.

  1. Cheim & Read 547 W 25th St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves, 10001
  2. Tue Dec 23 - Sat Jan 10
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Thomas Houseago, MOUN ROOM

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The artist takes a break from his usual monumental, Neo-Brutalist figurative sculptures for his latest show, which consists of an installation piece inspired by Angkor Wat in Cambodia and by the Silver and Golden Pavilions of Kyoto, Japan. The work

  1. Hauser & Wirth New York 511 W 18th St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves, 10011
  2. Tue Dec 23 - Sat Jan 17
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Richard Pousette-Dart

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The youngest member of the Abstract Expressionists (he can be seen pictured in The Irascibles, Nina Leen's famed 1950 photo for Life magazine) and one of the few artists to have received solo exhibitions at all four of the city's major museums,

  1. Pace Gallery 510 W 25th St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves , 10001
  2. Tue Dec 23 - Sat Jan 10
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Takashi Murakami, "In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow"

  • Rated as: 2/5
  • Critics choice
  • Free

With its allusions to the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear meltdown, Murakami’s latest exhibition ostensibly ruminates on inexplicable calamities and the ways in which religion and art try to explain them. It’s also a pop-apocalyptic

  1. Gagosian Gallery 555 W 24th St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves
  2. Tue Dec 23 - Sat Jan 17
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Kara Walker, "Afterword"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

This is the artist's first solo show since her blockbuster public-art project at the old Dominos Sugar refinery in Williamsburg. On view are studies for the centerpiece, a massive sphinx, as well as the actual retinue of boys made of molasses that

  1. Sikkema Jenkins & Co. 530 W 22nd St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves
  2. Tue Dec 23 - Sat Jan 17
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Enrico David

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The London artist's figurative sculptures seem to capture their subjects in the midst of morphing from one state into the next, and you can discern within them echoes of classic modernists such as Nadelman, Giacometti, Brancusi and Calder.

  1. Michael Werner 4 E 77th St, between Fifth and Madison Aves
  2. Tue Dec 23 - Sat Jan 24
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"By Proxy"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

This group show, which includes contributions by Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Yoko Ono and many others, is predicated on the idea that art is "completed" by the viewer, in the sense that he or she shares a sort of responsibility for divining the

  1. James Cohan Gallery 533 W 26th St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves, 10001
  2. Tue Dec 23 - Sat Jan 17
More info
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, "The Love Within"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The gallery turns over both its locations to the work of this Afro-British painter from London, whose portraits and figurative compositions imbue their subjects with a sense of gravitas and humanity.

  1. Jack Shainman Gallery 513 W 20th St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves
  2. Tue Dec 23 - Sat Jan 10
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Claude Rutault

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Some 35 years ago, this French painter was one of the first artists to participate in the studio program at MoMA PS1 (then known simply as PS1). It was the last time his refined brand of shaped-canvas minimalism was seen in New York until now. The

  1. Galerie Perrotin 909 Madison Ave , at 73rd St, 10021
  2. Tue Dec 23 - Sat Jan 3
More info

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, "The Love Within"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The gallery turns over both its locations to the work of this Afro-British painter from London, whose portraits and figurative compositions imbue their subjects with a sense of gravitas and humanity.

  1. Jack Shainman Gallery 524 W 24th St , between Tenth and Eleventh Aves, 10011
  2. Tue Dec 23 - Sat Jan 10
More info
Yasumasa Morimura, Las Meninas renacen de noche V: Drawn by a distant light, awaken to the darkness, 2013

Yasumasa Morimura, Las Meninas renacen de noche V: Drawn by a distant light, awaken to the darkness, 2013 © Yasumasa Morimura

Yasumasa Morimura, "Las Meninas Renacen de Noche (Las Meninas Reborn in the Night)"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Morimura has been referred to as the Cindy Sherman of Japan, going so far as to pose as one of Sherman's signature photographs. But there are differences between the two, beyond the obvious one that Morimura creates his work as a man dressed as a

  1. Luhring Augustine 531 W 24th St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves
  2. Tue Dec 23 - Sat Jan 24
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Michael Wang, detail from Rivals, 2014

Michael Wang, detail from Rivals, 2014 Charles Benton

Michael Wang, Rivals

  • Critics choice
  • Free

You might describe Wang's installation as a shopping mall of corporate capitalism. A series of shelves filled with consumer goods creates a face-off between competing products (e.g., Coke versus Pepsi; Nike versus Addidas). They’re for sale, and

  1. Andrea Rosen Gallery 544 W 24th St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves
  2. Tue Dec 23 - Sat Jan 24
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"The Thing and the Thing-in-Itself"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Curated by art historian Robert Hobbs, this show presents a group of key 20th-century artworks that each in their own way challenged the viewer's perception of what constitutes art—or even perception itself. Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Kosuth, René

  1. Andrea Rosen Gallery 525 W 24th St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves
  2. Tue Dec 23 - Sat Jan 24
More info
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