As far as viewing art goes, there’s no better deal than going to a gallery because unlike, say, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it costs you nothing. The only drawback, if you can call it that, is the fact New York City is home to about 1500 art galleries. That’s a pretty daunting number to choose from, even if most of them are concentrated in neighborhoods like Chelsea and the Lower East Side. Even within these specific districts, there are too many galleries to check out in a single day. So to help you make an informed decision of which galleries to see and where to see them, we offer our list of the best art walks in New York City.
Art walks map
Best art walks in NYC
Chelsea West 24th Street
The block of West 24th Street between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues in Chelsea is the main drag for gallery-hopping, featuring a murderers row of New York’s biggest venues. Hop the C, E to 23rd Street and head west to Tenth Avenue, before turning north to 24th Street.
Start with Marianne Boesky (507–509 West 24th Street, 212-680-9889, marianneboeskygallery.com), where you’ll find an eclectic roster of talent that includes self-taught artist Thornton Dial and trash-cinema auteur John Waters (who also happens to make art).
Keep heading west until you get to the middle of the block where big-name galleries Metro Pictures (519 W 24th St, 212-206-7100, metropicturesgallery.com), Andrea Rosen Gallery (pictured; 524–525 W 24th St, 212-627-6000, andrearosengallery.com) and Luhring Augustine (531 W 24th St, 212-206-9100, luhringaugustine.com) stand cheek-by-jowl.
Wrap up your tour at the end of the block with that gigantic Chelsea staple, Gagosian Gallery (555 W 24th St, 212-741-1717, gagosian.com), home to such art-world major-leaguers as Richard Serra and Yayoi Kusama.
Lower East Side Grand Street
If you’re looking for galleries with a funkier, edgier vibe, look no further than the spaces on the Lower East Side specializing in young and emerging artists. Grand Street is one of the scene’s major thoroughfares with many of the area’s must-see galleries. Take the B, D to Grand Street, and start heading east.
Your first stop is 291 Grand Street at the corner of Eldridge Street, a multi-story building that houses several cutting-edge galleries. Besides Gavin Brown's Enterprise (646-918-7019, gavinbrown.biz), you’ll find 47 Canal (646-415-7712, 47canal.us), a leading showcase of smart, risk-taking work, and the experimental LES outpost of Chelsea blue-chip dealer James Cohan (212-714-9510, jamescohan.com). Another occupant is Nathalie Karg Gallery, which specializes in veteran artists.
Keep heading east and drop by Marc Strauss Gallery (299 Grand Street between between Eldridge and Allen Streets, 212-510-7646, marcstraus.com) and Shin Gallery (322 Grand Street between Orchard and Ludlow Streets, 212-375-1735, shin-gallery.com), both of which serve up a solid menu of contemporary art.
If you’re jonesing for something more quirky, make your way down to Suffolk and Grand for a visit to Ramiken Crucible (389 Grand Street, 917-434-4245, ramikencrucible.com), a small space that is actually inside part of the Seward Park Houses. Note: the entrance isn’t on Grand Street, but on the side of retail mini-mall that includes a supermarket and a bank.
Photograph: Joerg Lohse; Courtesy the artist and 47 Canal; New York
This midtown corridor has an art scene for a lot longer than Chelsea and the Lower East Side, and the galleries here are among New York’s most venerable, offering exhibits of Modern and contemporary art that are well worth a trip. To get started, hop off the F at 57th Street and begin walking east.
First up: Marian Goodman Gallery (24 W 57th Street between Fifth Ave and Sixth Avenues, 212-977-7160, mariangoodman.com), which represents some of the biggest artist in the world—among them, the German painter Gerhard Richter. Just a few doors down, there’s Marlborough Gallery (40 W 57th Street between Fifth Ave and Sixth Avenues, 212-541-4900, marlboroughgallery.com), which shows artists as varied as Dale Chihuly, Richard Estes and Red Grooms.
Take a quick jog north at Fifth Avenue to check out Mary Boone Gallery (pictured; 745 Fifth Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets, 212-752-2929, maryboonegallery.com), which also has a branch in Chelsea. Boone famously got her start in the go-go ’80s debuting the work of then-enfant terribles Julian Schnabel and David Salle.
Finally head south again to 57th Street and go east past to Pace Gallery (32 E 57th St between Park and Madison Avenues, 212-421-3292, pacegallery.com), where Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko and Pablo Picasso are just some of the names who are on show. The same address is also home to Pace Prints (212-421-3237, paceprints.com) and Pace/MacGill Gallery (212-759-7999, pacemacgill.com), which features Modern and contemporary photography.
Upper East Side Madison Avenue
The Upper East Side is New York’s oldest gallery neighborhood and its charms are many. The spaces are usually located in elegant townhouses built at a time when being rich didn’t mean having to show off. Hence the rooms are intimately scaled, permitting you to get close up and personal with the work in a way that makes you feel like you are living with it. Quality and chic are the operative terms here. Most of the galleries are located in the East Sixties and Seventies just off Madison Avenue in either direction.
To start, take the 6 to Hunter College–68th Street and head to Petzel Gallery (35 E 67th Street between Madison and Park Avenues, 212-680-9467, petzel.com), the uptown branch of long-time Chelsea dealer who reps such well regarded contemporary figures as Yael Bartana, Joyce Pensato and Dana Schutz. Next, head north to Hauser & Wirth (32 E 69th Street, between Madison and Park Avenues, 212-794-4970, hauserwirth.com), the powerhouse Swiss dealer who also has a space in Chelsea.
Your next stop is Michael Werner Gallery (pictured; 4 E 77th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues, 212-988-1623, michaelwerner.com), which exhibits such artists as Peter Doig, Sigmar Polke and Peter Saul. One block north, you’ll find the aptly named Half Gallery (43 E 78th Street and Madison Avenue, 212-744-0151, halfgallery.com). Brainchild of art impresario Bill Powers, Half Gallery often features the sort of provisional, idiosyncratic work you’d expect to find on the Lower East Side. Speaking of find, the gallery entrance is hard to locate: You need to enter the courtyard fronting the Cynthia Rowley boutique then look for an inconspicuous door on the left.
Your tour ends with that most Upper East Side-ish of Upper East Side spaces, Acquavella Galleries (18 E 79th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues, 212-734-6300, acquavellagalleries.com). A family owned concern since the 1920s, Acquavella trades mainly in 19th and 20th-century heavyweights (Degas, Pissaro, Picasso, Bacon), but there are some contemporary artists (Miquel Barceló, Damien Loeb) surprisingly sprinkled into the mix. Every visit is a true New York art-viewing experience.