10 American Contemporary Art Spaces You Should Know

Photo of Rachel Gould
Art & Design Editor10 October 2016

With so many vibrant and cultured cities, it’s no surprise that the United States is home to some of the boldest and most innovative contemporary art spaces in the world. From commercial to public galleries, museums and institutes, we have compiled a short list of ten exceptional galleries (amongst many others) located throughout the United States that all art enthusiasts should know.

Interior view of David Zwirner’s new building, at 537 West 20th Street, New York. Photo by Jason Schmidt | © 2013 David Zwirner, New York/London | 2013 Stephen Flavin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; courtesy of David Zwirner, New York/London.

David Zwirner Gallery

Art Gallery
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‘I Who Have Arrived in Heaven’ by Yayoi Kusama was the inaugural exhibition at the David Zwirner Gallery in 2013
‘I Who Have Arrived in Heaven’ by Yayoi Kusama was the inaugural exhibition at the David Zwirner Gallery in 2013 | © Scott Houston / Alamy Stock Photo
One of the most prominent and established contemporary art galleries in New York City, David Zwirner Gallery first opened in SoHo in 1993. Since then, the gallery has presented both innovative and ground-breaking exhibitions. In 2002, the gallery relocated to West 19th Street in Chelsea and underwent a significant expansion in 2006 to accommodate several simultaneous exhibitions. In 2012, David Zwirner opened a location in the Mayfair district of London, whilst expanding its Chelsea location to West 20th Street. The building is the first commercial art gallery to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

Gagosian Gallery

Art Gallery, Market, School
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Gagosian Gallery is synonymous with the world of contemporary art, presenting some of the boldest and most innovative exhibitions in the United States for over 30 years. The gallery was founded in Los Angeles in 1979 and in the mid-1980s, moved both its location and its daring philosophy to New York City. Gagosian Gallery has since exhibited the work of culturally relevant artists to include Roy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning and Andy Warhol and continues to present the work of internationally recognized artists such as Douglas Gordon, Takashi Murakami and Harmony Korine. With locations spanning New York City and Beverly Hills as well as London, Paris, Rome, Athens, Geneva and Hong Kong, Gagosian Gallery is a leading institution that all contemporary art lovers should know.

Gallery NAGA

Art Gallery, Church
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Operating from within a neo-Gothic church on Newbury Street in Boston, Gallery NAGA has been selling and exhibiting the work of New England’s best and most talented contemporary artists since 1977. The gallery focuses primarily on painting and limited edition studio furniture, additionally exhibiting photographic, printed and sculptural pieces. This January, Gallery NAGA features the work of two promising artists in Jaclyn Kain: A SIlent Rebellionand Rick Fox: In the Thick.Both exhibitions skilfully use painting and photography to depict emotion, relationships with loved ones and the environment that surrounds them. For unique insight into New England’s world of contemporary art, Gallery NAGA is well worth a visit.

Institute of Contemporary Art

Museum, School, University
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An affiliate of the University of Pennsylvania, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) aims to hone the dynamic relationship between artists, the work they produce and the public. ICA is thus a free, public space in which visitors are encouraged to connect with and become inspired by the work exhibited. ICA was founded in 1963 by the dean of the university’s architecture school to expose students to ‘new and happening’ artistic and cultural trends. Over 50 years later, ICA remains an established and leading venue for contemporary art, showcasing the work of young and promising up-in-coming artists. Characterized by its ‘commitment to accessibility and risk-taking’, ICA maintains its original purpose to inspire, inform and engage with the public.

Museum Building at Storm King Art Center

Museum, Park
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Storm King Art Center | © Victoria Lipov / Shutterstock
Storm King Art Center is well known for its 500 acres of contemporary sculpture, but this expansive park began with the Museum Building – a converted Normandy-style residence that has been showcasing the best in contemporary art for over 50 years. The Museum Building was founded in 1960 with the intention of exhibiting the traditional work of the Hudson River School, but with the acquisition of a modern collection has since presented pieces by established and celebrated contemporary artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Louise Nevelson and Sol LeWitt. The Museum Building is notable for its exhibitions and collection as well as its architecture, history and stunning location overlooking the rolling hills of the Hudson River Valley.

Selby Fleetwood Gallery

Art Gallery, Building
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Sante Fe has long been a source of artistic inspiration for its stunning natural beauty, and the city possesses a thriving contemporary art scene as a result. The Selby Fleetwood Gallery opened on Canyon Road in 2004 and represents a range of unique contemporary artists from within a historic, 18th century adobe building and peaceful sculpture garden. The gallery exhibits contemporary pieces created in a variety of mediums, from oil paintings to bronze, steel, aluminium and wood sculpture. The gallery only presents a handful of shows per year, preferring to exhibit the entirety of their collection throughout the indoor and outdoor space year round. Selby Fleetwood Gallery is one of the leading contemporary art galleries in Santa Fe for its notable location and unique collection.

SOIL Art Gallery

Art Gallery
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Serving as an alternative to traditional gallery space, SOIL Art Gallery is a non-profit cooperative venue founded in 1995 by a group of local artists who wished to push the boundaries of their work. The gallery presents a variety of mixed media, from painting, drawing, sculpture, sound and light installations to less conventional pieces involving wax, chocolate and even gerbils. Additionally, the venue hosts poetry readings, musical performances, interactive productions and any conceivable art form that employs skill and creativity. The space, which now operates out of the Tashiro Kaplan Building, presents a new exhibition each month and has gained both local and national recognition. The two current exhibitions explore interpretations of Seattle by Glasgow-based artists who have never visited the city in Museum for an Imagined City, and a presentation of recent work by Paul Komada in Paul Komada: On the Stove.

The Contemporary Austin

Building, Museum, Art Gallery, Library
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Contemporary Austin – Jones Center, Austin
Contemporary Austin – Jones Center, Austin | LagunaJones/WikiCommons
Consisting of the Jones Center and the Laguna Gloria building, The Contemporary Austin is a dynamic, collaborative and architecturally appealing space for contemporary art in the vibrant city of Austin. The venue aims to reflect and explore the vast spectrum of contemporary art through the presentation of special exhibitions as well as a permanent collection, events and educational programs; thus The Contemporary Austin aims to promote art and subsequently serve as a ‘essential part of city life’ for those who live and visit Austin. Upcoming exhibitions include a presentation of sculptures, objects and audio clips from the career of artist Tom Sachs in Tom Sachs: Boombox Retrospective 1999-2015, as well as an artistic depiction of human relationships to place in John Grade: Canopy Tower.

The Phillips Collection

Opened in 1921 by Duncan Phillips and Majorie Acker Phillips, The Phillips Collection was the first modern art museum founded in the United States. The collection features nearly 3000 American and European works from within the former Phillips estate – a stunning 19th century Georgian Revival home – as well as two added buildings of similar grandeur in Washington D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood. The Phillips Collection is particularly notable for its display of impressionist and modern paintings by the world’s greatest artists, with works by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, John Rothko, Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz amongst countless others. In 2006, The Phillips Collection expanded to include the Center for the Study of Modern Art, an educational space for scholars, students, artists, researchers and members of the public to discuss the topic of modern art.

The Philips Collection, 1600 21st Street, Northwest Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 387 2151

Courtesy of 4Art Inc Gallery
Courtesy of 4Art Inc Gallery

4Art Inc Gallery

Sited on the fourth floor of the Zhou B Art Center in Bridgeport, 4Art Inc Gallery is one of the most prominent contemporary art galleries in Chicago. The space has been owned and operated by photographer and mixed media artist Robin Monique Rios since 2003 and she has seized the interest of artists and art enthusiasts alike through her vision for the conservation and promotion of Chicago’s art scene. 4Art aims to preserve and support the world of Fine Arts through the exhibition of innovative work by the most talented contemporary artists. As a space, 4Art is dedicated to fostering a ‘creative arena’ in which artists may present their work and visitors can appreciate it. 4Art promotes interest in, understanding and appreciation of art on behalf of artists, clientele and visitors.

4ArtInc Gallery, 1029 West 35th Street #403, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 773 254 5100