Once a haven for NYC’s underground culture scene, the Lower East Side has felt gentrification over the last decade or so. Today, streets are lined with trendy restaurants and upscale boutiques, but the change also saw a rise of art galleries taking over storefront spaces in the neighborhood. Compared to Chelsea’s large white cubes though, these Lower East Side galleries are small and structurally unconventional. Using these quirks to their advantage, gallery owners and curators are mounting innovative exhibitions and event programs to present work by emerging and established contemporary artists. Here are six Lower East Side galleries to check out the next time you find yourself in need of an art fix.
Latin American artists form the core of Y Gallery’s exhibition program. Guided by a mission to showcase art that reflects on diversity using a variety of processes and mediums, the gallery underscores issues of identity, geography, and culture pervading contemporary society. Exhibitions are often accompanied by lectures, performances, and off-site specific installations.
Marc Straus’ roster boasts 17 artists from 13 countries around the world with many exhibiting in the United States for the first time. There is also a focus on older artists who have slipped through the cracks, reintroducing them in the light of contemporary art practice. In addition to a three-story exhibition space, Marc Straus operates a studio residency program a block away where artists can research and work on projects.
LMAKGallery encompasses three stories of a federal brownstone building with each floor designated for certain artistic activities. The first floor is the main showroom, the second floor is reserved for LMAKbooks + design, and the third floor displays site-specific installations. What makes this gallery so unique is the trusting relationship it has with artists, which nurtures artistic vision and experiment. This idea extends to LMAKbooks + design providing artists the opportunity to explore writing and printed matter.
Co-Founders Allegra LaViola and Meredith Rosen named their gallery after artist John Singer Sargent who “was someone working in a traditional medium. But in an innovative manner.” While most galleries seek artists who shock and provoke, Sargent’s Daughters aims to connect historical tradition with contemporary art practice. The gallery didn’t start out with a set roster of artists but rather pieced together talent over time.
Salon 94 Bowery, 243 Bowery
In 2010, established gallery owner Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn opened her third Salon 94 location on the Bowery just two doors down from the New Museum. Designed by architect Rafael Vinoly, Salon 94 Bowery is marked by a 20-foot LCD video screen, which plays video art for passersby on the street. Exhibitions feature contemporary masters such as Marilyn Minter, Laurie Simmons, and Richard Prince.
White Box, 329 Broome
Founded in 1998, White Box is recognized for its diverse contributions to the LES cultural community. This non-profit serves as an artistic incubator where artists and curators can develop and produce site-specific work, exhibitions, and performances. Throughout its history, White Box has aimed to make avant-garde art accessible to wider audiences through special events, salon series, and arts education programs.
Have you visited any Lower East Side galleries? Let us know your top picks!