Best free things to do today in New York City

Looking for a gratis event going down today? We’ve got you covered! Discover the top free things to do right now.

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So you’re pinching pennies and bored. We’ve been there. But that’s no reason to stay in your apartment!  Get outside and check out these cool free things to do.


RECOMMENDED: Full list of free things to do in NYC


1

"Displayed"

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

For Anton Kern’s summer show, White Columns director Matthew Higgs has assembled artworks from the past 20-odd years, making the case for the idea of display as an art form, not simply something confined to department or grocery stores. His selections cover a rich range of methods and materials. Among them are B. Wurtz’s trophies celebrating the absurd, which consist of white tube socks atop tin cans mounted on wooden pedestals. Rachel Harrison evokes the image of a streetwalker by cobbling together a makeshift phone booth complete with an outdated caller-ID phone, a swath of fake fur, a Manhattan Yellow Pages and an assortment of trash bags. Josh Smith’s 2011 Stage Painting 1 announces both the artist’s absence and presence with a small collapsible stage equipped with clip lights pointing to his name painted on a canvas backdrop. Annette Kelm’s color photographs document the German Historical Museum’s vitrines devoted to the 1970s women’s movement, while Moyra Davey does something similar with New York City newsstands. Nancy Shaver exhibits altered found objects alongside bric-a-brac from her secondhand store in Hudson. Like most of the other artists in this fascinating roundup, she imbues her efforts with a light, poetic touch.—Paul Laster  

  1. Anton Kern Gallery 532 W 20th St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves
  2. Wed Aug 20 - Fri Aug 22
More info
2

Jerry Kearns, "RRRGGHH!!!"

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

Jerry Kearns’s brand of comic-book-derived painting is deeply eccentric, a bit creepy and an acquired taste. You can’t call it Pop Art, as the term seems too limiting; to quote one of the many written sound effects surging across his images, it’s more like Blam! Art. His latest show mashes together Westerns and film noir with a generous helping of the Rapture. In many of the scenes, Jesus, portrayed as a gunslinger wearing a crown of thorns, shoots it out with the Devil and his minions, like the Second Coming at the O.K. Corral. In a couple of instances, this mayhem results in a hail of bullets lacing the canvases as lines of tracer fire accompanied by onomatopoeic ejaculations—kling!, skreeee and b-doom! Kearns’s style borrows from such early-’50s chestnuts as Tales from the Crypt, but while bold outlines and flat colors predominate, Christ’s face is finely rendered, as if it had wandered in from a religious picture hanging over Grandma’s bed. Frozen in the same expression throughout, it resembles a mask collaged onto each composition. Kearns’s depictions of a fundamentalist, open-carry America are certainly over-the-top, but his commitment to excess is a goal in and of itself—a thumbing of his nose at art-world insiders most noticeable in a view of Christ’s ascension to Heaven via the Guggenheim rotunda. A fever dream? Indubitably. But also, perhaps, an allegory about the reactionary furor of a hard-pressed segment of the populace, its exploitation by the 1 percent, and the

  1. Mike Weiss Gallery 520 W 24th St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves
  2. Wed Aug 20 - Sat Aug 23
More info
3

Keld Helmer-Petersen, "122 Color Photographs"

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

This look at the refined, formal photography of Keld Helmer-Petersen, who experimented with color film in the 1940s, is yet another example of how art history is being revised as the 20th century recedes from memory. The conventional narrative has it that black-and-white film reigned in fine-art photography until the late 1960s, when Bill Eggleston introduced the use of Ektachrome slide film to create dye-transfer prints. But Eggleston was hardly the first, as Helmer-Petersen’s example demonstrates. Still, Helmer-Petersen’s work wasn’t seen as art in his own day. When Life magazine published a seven-page spread of his images in 1949, they were presented in the context of photojournalism. Yet they were nothing like the “decisive moment” images usually promoted in Life that featured a millisecond of activity frozen for posterity. Helmer-Petersen favored inanimate subjects, mostly objects or architectural details: the angled, white-tiled roofline of a Texaco gas station, say, or a black, orange and silver steamship funnel set against an azure sky. Helmer-Petersen hailed from Denmark, but he was influenced by German photography—the taxonomic sensibility of August Sander’s portraits of ordinary people and Karl Blossfeldt’s botanical studies, as well as the abstract approaches to the medium cultivated at the Bauhaus. Helmer-Petersen channeled both to direct our attention to things that are ordinarily overlooked, using color to tease out stately presences worthy of our attention.—

  1. Yossi Milo Gallery 245 Tenth Ave, between 24th and 25th Sts
  2. Wed Aug 20 - Fri Aug 29
More info
4

Life's a Picnic

  • Critics choice
  • Free

There'll be shows, food and live music to keep you occupied at this indoor picnic. Please note: live music and shows will usually be after 11am. On the first day, Aug 18, Music of New York will entertain you with classical and pop violinist Susan Keser followed by String West Village String Quartet. On Tuesday, Aug 19, MTA underground star Gabriel Aldort will sing and play his keyboard. Then be amazed by the Big Apple Circus while they blow your mind with a two-hour magic show Aug 20. Make sure to catch a free music and dance performance from iLuminate. Finally, the picnic will close out with a Broadway hour featuring performances by Chicago, Motown, Pippin and Cinderella on Aug 22. No seriously, they'll all be there. Magnolia Bakery, Zaro's Bakery and Junior's Bakery will be on site so you can feed your face with all the delicious baked goods you desire. If you're not a sugar fiend, don't worry, because Two Boots Pizza, Manhattan Chili, Ceriello Fine Foods will be there to satisfy your savory taste buds. Oh, did we mention there'll be gelato courtesy of Ciao Bello Gelato? Arrive early for picnic table.

  1. Grand Central Terminal, Vanderbilt Hall 42nd St, between Vanderbilt and Lexington Aves
  2. Wed Aug 20 - Fri Aug 22
More info
5

Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

This compact survey uptown at Galerie Perrotin covers the remarkable careers of Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler, a husband-and-wife team who worked together from the late 1970s until 1995, when Ericson succumbed to cancer at age 39. They showed at MoMA in 1988 and in the 1989 Whitney Biennial, and a retrospective of their efforts traveled across the U.S. between 2005 and 2008. Inspired by Gordon Matta-Clark’s socially engaged practice of the late ’60s and early ’70s, Ericson and Ziegler focused on places in the country that were usually overlooked by the art world. They encouraged community participation and mined local history to create site-specific works that were at once cerebral and populist—qualities very much in evidence in this show. The show’s centerpiece, 1988’s Dark on That Whiteness, consists of 173 jars, each filled with a paint whose color matches one of the federal buildings and monuments surrounding the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Every jar is sandblasted with the manufacturer’s name for the particular shade and displayed on shelves according to the related structure’s location, creating a cross between an infographic and a hardware-store display. In a 1986 work titled Give and Take, broken tools taken from Central Park’s maintenance sheds were varnished, exhibited and sold to help purchase new equipment for the New York City parks department. A contractor contributed the material for From the Making of a House, the last work completed before Ericson’s deat

  1. Galerie Perrotin 909 Madison Ave , at 73rd St, 10021
  2. Wed Aug 20 - Fri Aug 22
More info
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Users say

12 comments

@me

Must do ..

Annette
Annette

Had a great time. You can walk from gallery to gallery and feel welcome.

Regina
Regina

Sucks that you don't have the West Indian parade listed.

me
me

these seem fun! NOT!

AriellacomA
AriellacomA

Limelight is hosting fashion week- with free shows for the next 6 days... The designers are great and it's a nice crowd. Definitely worth it! RSVP@limelightshops.com

Jane C. Nicholson
Jane C. Nicholson

always like new things and I like your taste i almost everything.