Praise Shadows Art Gallery
Photograph: Will Howcroft for Praise Shadows Art Gallery, artworks courtesy Duke Riley.

The best Boston art galleries

Visit one of these local art galleries and take a piece of Boston’s world-class art scene home with you.

JQ LouiseTanya Edwards
Written by: Tanya Edwards
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One of the best ways to spend a weekend afternoon is a post brunch gallery stroll, and Boston is home to a prolific number of galleries and art experiences exhibiting every genre—from contemporary to fine art. If you’re visiting, a new transplant to the city, or grew up taking the T every day, you’re sure to find something to browse or even add to your personal art collection. Once confined to the Art and Design District—namely in the city’s South End—Boston’s art communities have since expanded. From luxury and boutique collections to student-run galleries, here are the city’s must-visit galleries. Or, you crave a more formal collection experience, check out the best art museums in Boston. (There are plenty of other cool places to see art in Boston as well).


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Best art galleries in Boston

Set in a charming brownstone on Newbury Street, Vose is one of the city’s oldest privately-owned art galleries. The gallery’s roots lie in an artist’s Providence supply store that was founded in 1841 by the Vose family, who remain the proprietors. The first Vose gallery opened in Copley Square in 1896 and successive generations joined the family business, with a strong focus on American Impressionists. The Newbury Street gallery opened in 1962 and has since then exhibited works by some of America’s greatest artists—from Wendel to the Wyeths—and continues to promote contemporary painters, too. Vose is renowned for their 18th, 19th and early 20th century American realist paintings.

Since its inception in 1980, the Robert Klein Gallery has built a reputation for being among the world’s most prestigious fine art photography galleries, and it has strong connections to renowned fairs such as New York City’s Armory Show. Sitting alongside boutique shops along Newbury Street, the gallery changes its exhibits seasonally; keep an eye out for opening receptions with the artist in attendance. Past shows have included the works of Annie Liebowitz, Diane Arbus, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Irving Penn and Sally Mann.

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The SoWa Artists Guild is an umbrella organization with 30 galleries and over 200 artist studios housed in a former mercantile building. This non-profit association of professional studio artists is also active in promoting the work of hundreds of artists’ studios and dozens of galleries. The SoWa Artist Guild includes members from different parts of the world working in different mediums, and is recognized as one of New England’s largest artistic communities. The Guild summarizes their artists as “one-of-a-kind galleries, showrooms and boutiques are run by one-of-a-kind people.” The weekly Vintage Market on Sunday, monthly SoWa First Fridays art walk, and the annual Open Studios weekender each September, are all not to be missed.

4. Boston Center for the Arts

Since 1970, Boston Center for the Arts supports working artists in the Boston community, and brings in big name contemporary exhibits as well. The group maintains two of Boston’s most unique arts spaces, the Mills Gallery and the Cyclorama, along with several studios for working artists. This South End space hosts dance events with WBUR and has hosted huge scale installations from artists like Nick Cave.

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Located in Brookline, Praise Shadows believes the art world is filled with “untapped potential.” Therefore, this gallery offers a hybrid space for emerging and mid-career contemporary artists. There’s also a retail space for art books and more affordable works, as well as workshops and mentorship for honing amateur talent. Expect eclectic collections at any given time—from paintings to sculpture, and even tattoo and digital media.

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Run by students in the Studio for Interrelated (SIM) department at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, this gallery educates on all the logistics of running a gallery. In addition to exhibiting a wide variety of multi-media artists, including visual arts, light, music and poetry, Godine Family Gallery engages students with curatorial and gallery management.

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Looking for a pop of color from contemporary leading artists, like a rare Marc Chagall lithograph, perhaps? DTR Modern is the place. With galleries in Boston, Nantucket, D.C., New York and Palm Beach, DTR Modern is one of the most influential modern art gallery operations on the East Coast. The Boston location on Newbury Street adds another worthy gallery to any Back Bay art walk—works from masters such as Warhol, Basquiat and Lichtenstein are often displayed in prestigious exhibits.

Another Newbury Street locale, the Galerie d’Orsay earns its address with ornate displays of mixed mediums from paintings to sculptures. Founded by art historian Sallie Hirshberg in 2000, the Galerie d’Orsay is a prestigious salon where the works of Rembrandt, Renoir and Picasso might be on view. Although its scope and prestige are huge, the gallery is small and intimate, like a beautifully-curated living room whose notable eye candy changes every couple of months.

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For those who like to link art and spirituality, this contemporary art gallery is exquisitely positioned in the neo-Gothic Church of the Covenant at the corner of Berkeley and Newbury Streets. Founded in 1977, NAGA primarily focuses on American art, particularly the works of local painters, both from Boston and New England. Contemporary photographers, printmakers, sculptors and artisan furniture makers are also occasionally featured to complement the regional works. Notably, the international holographist Harriet Casdin-Silver exhibits at NAGA.

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When it comes to Postmodern art, including paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints, the prestigious Krakow Witkin Gallery stands shoulders above other galleries. It showcases emerging and established regional, national and international artists, with a focus on Minimalist and conceptually-driven works from the 1960s onwards, and has an impressive catalog of past exhibits from the likes of Robert Rauschenberg, Josef Albers, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt and Jasper Johns. If you find something you like, Krakow offers framing, insuring, shipping and installation of your chosen piece.

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Named for Boston-born, 18th century artist John Singleton Copley, America's oldest non-profit art association was founded in 1879 as a commercial adjunct for the School of the MFA by the newly-formed school’s first graduating class. The core membership still consists of students and artists from the school. Thus, while retaining established artists over the years, it is also fed by an ever-contemporary stream of new talent. In various exhibits, the Newbury Street gallery features works from over 400 living members, including painters, photographers, sculptors and new media artists.

The Cambridge-based architecture and design firm CambridgeSeven maintains an art gallery in their offices, which might sound a bit strange, but this draws attention to the interception of art and design, and is open to the public during business hours. Named after one of the firm’s founders, the gallery has four exhibitions a year, usually highlighting a contemporary American artist’s work, with a focus on local artists. The gallery also frequently shows works from current and past employees, so visitors may even get to meet and greet with the artists.

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The Leica camera has long been the gold standard in photographic equipment and while its gallery, which opened in 2016, is a sleek marketing tool, it also offers an inspiring look at the photographic arts. Located on the Stuart Street side of the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, the gallery offers exhibits from world-famous photographers, including photo journalists, as well as Leica Akademie workshops to foster the talent of up-and-coming photographers. Amateur photographers should keep an eye out for the gallery’s competitions; winning works are promoted nationally and/or internationally.

Since the early 1990s, the Boston Sculptors Gallery has showcased sculptures made by contemporary artists working in various mediums. This collaborative, members-run gallery also exhibits group shows outside its handsome South End home. Consequently, the gallery has earned its reputation as one of the foremost places to experience sculpture within the city and New England. It’s also a place to learn more about sculpture, as the gallery offers programming that includes regular artist talks, panel discussions and performances. Like many of the galleries in the neighborhood, the Boston Sculptors Gallery takes part in the monthly SoWa First Fridays art walk.

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Opened in 2006, 13Forest is named for its first location on Forest Street in Medford Square. Now located in Arlington, 13Forest reflects the attitude that art happens everywhere. The gallery’s focus is on New England artists, both established and emerging, and in all genres, including painting, printmaking, ceramics and jewelry. Exhibitions rotate every six to eight weeks, presenting art in a dynamic, fun setting.

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