Boston was called the Athens of America in the 1800s and it's a reputation still upheld and nurtured by its arts community, including numerous renowned commercial art galleries. Boston’s most notable art galleries are found in inviting neighborhoods like the Back Bay and the South End, where the SoWa (south of Washington) Art + Design District lures countless art lovers. But art galleries have also spread throughout the city, and to less central neighborhoods, too. You might discover the next great master right on your doorstep. Still, if you crave a 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.) If taking in all the fine art leaves you feeling peckish, head over to Time Out Market Boston, and be sure to check out the Artbox out front.
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Best art galleries in Boston
Now situated on the corner where Northern Avenue meets Seaport Boulevard, but originally located on Newbury Street, the Society of Arts and Crafts was founded in 1897. The delightful thing about this gallery is that it unites art with everyday, even utilitarian objects. Jewelry, furniture, toys, and all sorts of stuff is created and reimagined from an art or design perspective. From ceramic to textile to metal, all disciplines are included. The exhibitions regularly change themes, often seasonally, and sometimes the gallery has an artist takeover.
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. The gallery usually 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.
The SOWA Artists Guild is an umbrella organization with 30 galleries and over 100 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 monthly SoWa First Fridays art walk, Second Sundays open house, and the annual Open Studios weekender each September, are all not to be missed.
Set in a charming brownstone on Newbury Street, behind a wrought metal fence and past a lovely patio garden shaded by a magnolia tree, 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, pioneering American art, particularly 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.
Looking for a rare Marc Chagall lithograph? DTR Modern is the place. With galleries in Boston, New York, Palm Beach and DC, 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.
Founded by art historian Sallie Hirshberg in 2000, the Galerie d’Orsay on Newbury Street is a prestigious salon where the works of Rembrandt, Renoir and Picasso might be on view. These exhibits are mixed with contemporary painters, sculptors and printmakers, and though 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.
For those who connect the dots between 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. Also occasionally featured are contemporary photographers, printmakers, sculptors and artisan furniture makers. Notably, the international holographist Harriet Casdin-Silver exhibits at NAGA.
When it comes to Postmodern art, including paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints, the prestigious Krakow Witkin Gallery stands out amongst its peers. 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. The One Wall, One Artist series is exactly that: a changing exhibit of an artist’s work, with pieces neatly grouped on one of the gallery’s walls.
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 Copley Society of Art stands not far from where the original MFA sat on Copley Square.
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 once again to the interception of art and design. 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 as well as current and past employees.
The Leica camera has long been the gold standard in photographic equipment and while this 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 as well as Leica Akademie workshops. 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. Like many of the galleries in the neighborhood, the Boston Sculptors Gallery takes part in the monthly SoWa First Fridays art walk.
What it lacks in space, this Jamaica Plain gallery—which hosts workshops, lectures, concerts, film screenings and performances—makes up for in character and spirit. The gallery was founded in 2011 as a place for emerging artists to jumpstart a career, and for established ones to extend theirs. The gallery’s photo lab is a handy photographic resource for artists and the community. This is truly a neighborhood arts hangout, one where you can purchase work from talented artists, some of whom might be your next-door neighbor.
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. Exhibitions rotate every six to eight weeks, presenting art in a dynamic, fun setting.