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Things to do in Chelsea: The best art and activities

Find things to do in Chelsea from gallery-hopping to golf at Chelsea Piers—or a simple stroll along the High Line.

Contemporary art lovers will be in their element on the neighborhood’s far west side, where galleries are crammed into the side streets, making it easy to hop from one to the next. Combine arty exploration with a walk along the High Line, which is dotted with installations. The neighborhood is also home to a couple of great collections, the Rubin Museum of Art and The Museum at FIT. If you’re looking for more energetic things to do in Chelsea, you can take part in any number of athletic pursuits at Chelsea Piers.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Chelsea, New York

Best Chelsea galleries

Find the best art galleries in the Chelsea district of NYC. In Chelsea's converted industrial spaces, you'll find art galleries hosting group shows by up-and-comers, blockbuster exhibitions from art-world celebrities and a slew of provocative work. Here are the best galleries; click through to see what they're showing now. David Zwirner Zwirner mixes museum-quality shows of historical figures with a head-turning array of contemporary artists. Tanya Bonakdar Gallery This elegant space reps such powerhouse names as New York City Waterfalls maestro Olafur Eliasson. Gagosian Gallery Larry Gagosian’s mammoth (20,000-square-foot) contribution to 24th Street’s galleries was launched in 1999. Luhring Augustine This cool gallery features work from an impressive index of artists that includes Rachel Whiteread and Pipilotti Rist. The Pace Gallery To view shows by some of the 20th century’s most significant artists, head to this NYC institution. Gladstone Gallery Gladstone is strictly blue-chip, with a heavy emphasis on the Conceptual, the philosophical and the daring. Matthew Marks Gallery The Matthew Marks gallery was a driving force behind Chelsea’s transformation into an art destination. Paul Kasmin Gallery Morris Louis, David Hockney and Annette Lemieux are a few of the heavy-hitters at this gallery. Sean Kelly Gallery This gallery has a strong reputation for supporting work based in installation and performance. Cheim & Read This international group of established contemporary artists includes such superstars as Diane Arbus and Jenny Holzer.

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Chelsea Piers

Critics' pick

Chelsea Piers is a state-of-the-art recreational facility located on the Hudson River. Bowling, golf, ice hockey, wall climbing and BlueStreak—its intensive sports-training program—are just some of the many activities available. Check website for program schedules and prices.

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Chelsea

The High Line

Critics' pick

Opened in 2009, this highly anticipated outdoor park sits on the elevated infrastructure built on Manhattan's West Side in the 1930s. Today, sumptuous gardens and outdoor sculpture adorn this magnificent walkway, which is also an excellent place to enjoy a view of the Hudson River.

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Chelsea Free

The Museum at FIT

The Fashion Institute of Technology owns one of the largest and most impressive collections of clothing, textiles and accessories in the world, including some 50,000 costumes and fabrics dating from the 5th century to the present. Overseen by fashion historian Valerie Steele, the museum showcases a selection from the permanent collection, as well as temporary exhibitions focusing on individual designers or the role fashion plays in society.

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Midtown West Free

Rubin Museum of Art

Critics' pick

Opened in 2004, this six-story museum (once home to Barneys New York) houses Donald and Shelley Rubin’s impressive collection of Himalayan art and artifacts, as well as large-scale temporary exhibitions.

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Chelsea

Sleep No More

Critics' pick

To untimely rip and paraphrase a line from Macbeth: Our eyes are made the fools of the other senses, or else worth all the rest. A multitude of searing sights crowd the spectator's gaze at the bedazzling and uncanny theater installation Sleep No More. Your sense of space and depth---already compromised by the half mask that audience members must don---is further blurred as you wend through more than 90 discrete spaces, ranging from a cloistral chapel to a vast ballroom floor. Directors Felix Barrett and Maxine Doyle, of the U.K. troupe Punchdrunk, have orchestrated a true astonishment, turning six warehouse floors and approximately 100,000 square feet into a purgatorial maze that blends images from the Scottish play with ones derived from Hitchcock movies---all liberally doused in a distinctly Stanley Kubrick eau de dislocated menace. An experiential, Choose Your Own Adventure project such as this depends on the pluck and instincts of the spectator. You can follow the mute dancers from one floor to the next, or wander aimlessly through empty spaces. I chose the latter, discovering a room lined with empty hospital beds; a leafless wood in which a nurse inside a thatched cottage nervously checks her pocket watch; an office full of apothecary vials and powders; and the ballroom, forested with pine trees screwed to rolling platforms (that would be Birnam Wood). A Shakespearean can walk about checking off visual allusions to the classic tragedy; the less lettered can just revel in the freaky haunted-house vibe. The only caveat I would offer is to attend Sleep No More fully rested: You need your wits about you. All the same, stumbling groggily up and down staircases and around darkened hallways gives the night the sludgy, abstracted aura of a nightmare. But is it your bad dream, or have you slipped inside Macbeth's?—David Cote Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote

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McKittrick Hotel Until Thursday December 31 2015

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