Where To See The Best Contemporary Art in New York

The galleries to hit up and the works you can expect to see there.

By: Emily Ramshaw

We know, in the sense that everyone just knows, that New York is a good place for art—as in a good place to see it. And we head out every month or so to take in whatever it is that’s at the Whitney or MoMA or New Museum. But the gallery scene is a whole other story. Unlike vintage stores or underground boutiques, which we can list off like we live at them (we kind of do), art galleries are a somewhat intimidating mystery—albeit one we’re dying to crack. Which is why, when Helen Toomer, the director of Pulse Contemporary Art Fair, offered to give us a rundown of her favorite galleries in the city, we immediately agreed. These are her top contemporary art spots and what to expect when you show up there. Consider this your cheat sheet to avoiding the inevitable wave of intimidation before walking into a white-washed gallery (we know you know what we mean).

Whenever I’m in Chelsea, I always stop into Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, as he has an excellent and diverse stable of artists, including José Parlá (painting and sculpture), Edward Burtansky (photography), plus Yorgo Alexopoulos, and Jim Campbell who are at the forefront of multimedia art. I’m excited to see Evan Robarts’ solo show opening this week, as he uses tools from his superintendent days to create works, such as the mesmerizing 'mop paintings.’

Davidson Contemporary’s beautiful dual level space in Chelsea, with unbelievable views of the city, is a must-visit. They support a roster of artists who, although young, seem to have amassed a lifetime of skill in creating seriously labor-intensive works. Like Thomas Witte’s hand cut paper works, which capture moments in time and evoke such nostalgia, or Nicky Broekhuysen, whose artwork is created by obsessively layering thousands of 1s and 0s stamped upon a sheet of paper. And then there’s Boo Saville’s monochromatic paintings which seem to ‘hum’ on the wall and change color before your eyes—just sublime!

Danziger Gallery is a wonderful photography-focused gallery, which recently moved from Chelsea to a great space on the Lower East Side. They show heavyweight artists like Andy Warhol and Chuck Close, while championing younger artists like Liz Nielsen—whose ‘cameraless’ photographs I love! They recently closed an exhibition of Yale MFA Photo graduates, which provided​ insight into practices of the next wave of photographic masters. Later this month, Michael De Feo's first solo show at the gallery will contain vibrant mixed-media pieces melding the worlds of art and fashion.

Bushwick is also vibrant place to see art and there’s one building in particular that’s worth visiting for galleries: 56 Bogart Street. In this building, you’ll find a variety of welcoming personalities showcasing an intriguing assortment of artists. I love Honey Ramka’s youthful energy and dedication to their artists. I recently acquired one of Elizabeth Ferry’s snail works from her solo show there—it was out of this world! Black and White Gallery consistently presents challenging shows and their director, Sasha Oshteyn, presents a dance series in the Rockaways each August. Slag Gallery presents a dynamic roster of artists—in particular I’m intrigued by Bennett Wine’s work as it plays on your senses of reality. Victori + Mo present a mix of artists that includes favorites of mine, like Peter Lapsley and Langdon Graves, plus Nic Rad just had a really interesting painting show, which also encouraged the viewer to connect with the artists via text message. Robert Henry Contemporary is run by two wonderful gentlemen (called Robert and Henry, surprisingly) who are so passionate about the artists they show that it’s always a joy to stop by and find out what’s new.

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