By some estimates, there are approximately 1500 galleries in New York City, spread out across Soho, Tribeca, Greenwich Village, the Lower and Upper East Sides, and on 57th Street in Midtown (not too mention various locations in Brooklyn and Queens). But the greatest concentration by far can be found in Chelsea on the far West Side. By itself, Chelsea is home to several hundred galleries carved out of old warehouses and garages lining the sidewalks between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues, and between West 15th and West 35th Streets. Needless to say the neighborhood is a magnet for young artists, looking to make their mark, while the biggest Chelsea galleries play host to the leading figures in contemporary painting, sculpture, video art, etc. Many of these spaces also mount so-called art museum-quality exhibitions of historical greats. There’s something for everyone’s taste in Chelsea, where you can easily spend an entire day gallery hopping without seeing everything.
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Best Chelsea galleries
Rivaling Gagosian Gallery for art-world clout, this powerhouse gallery founded in Switzerland by Iwan and Manuela Wirth and Ursula Hauser in 1992 has since expanded to six locations, including two here in New York—one Uptown on East 69th Street, the other on West 18th in the former home of Roxy NYC, a nightclub and former roller disco. In 2017, the gallery’s Chelsea branch and its blue-chip stable of artists (which includes Paul McCarthy, godfather of bad-boy art) will be moving to a five-story purpose-built home on West 22dn treat.
Photograph: Genevieve Hanson
Celebrating its 20th year, and still going strong, this gallery with a conceptualist bent mounts some of the smartest shows in town. These have included exhibits of such gallery stars as Rachel Harrison and Jacqueline Humphries, but also revivals of lesser-known historical figures. In recent years, the gallery has opened an expansive ground-floor, but still retains its original eighth-floor location lit by huge windows offering a stunning, north-facing view of Midtown.
Helen Marten, Brood and Bitter Pass, 2015
Photograph: Annik Wetter; courtesy of the artist and Greene Naftali; New York
While a newcomer to Chelsea’s gallery scene, London’s Lisson Gallery has been one of the world’s leading showcases for contemporary art since 1967. Numerous bold-face names-Ai Wei Wei, Marina Abramović and Sol LeWitt, to name a few—have shown with Lisson over the years. In addition to its New York venue, two London spaces, Lisson has an outpost in Milan, Italy.