Buried in the Deep South, New Orleans is a dynamic tapestry of street parties, vibrant culture, beautiful architecture and rich history. After the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, the contemporary art scene has rebounded to new stratospheric heights. Wonder from one door to the next along Julia Street, where a new generation of artists are filling the trendy spaces. Here, we take a look at some of the best contemporary galleries in the Big Easy.
If you walk for about 20 minutes from the edge of the famous French Quarter, you’ll come to Julia Street – a road where artists have displayed artwork for decades. Here, you’ll find the Ariodante Gallery, a small space brimming with character among its suave neighbors. It’s the perfect spot to pick up jewelry, glassworks, ceramics and fine art by local and regional artists. Think vibrant ceramic trinkets and mesmerizing landscape paintings.
Arthur Roger set up his gallery in 1978 and it has since become a relevant and influential establishment in New Orleans’ contemporary art scene. Celebrated art has hung on its walls, from David Hockney and Hans Hoffman to Dale Chihuly and Ida Kohlmeyer. In 1988, the gallery relocated to the current Julia Street space designed by urban designer Wellington Reiter – a must-visit culture hub for contemporary art lovers.
Callan Contemporary stands out for its abstract and figurative paintings and sculptures. This Julia Street gallery is a well-lit space with a sophisticated atmosphere. You can drift through the open white rooms admiring a mixture of unexpected mediums, textures and colors. The gallery showcases works like Bertrand Flachot’s mystical tree and book creations, Mitchell Lonas’ aluminum paintings of the natural world and Eva Hild’s swirling coral-like structures. Ask the friendly staff about any works which catch your eye.
Gryder describes itself as a platform for artists to express diverse perspectives and experimental discourses. The venue showcases divergent exhibitions which aim to highlight the intellectual and transcendent role of art as well as its preservation. You’ll be drawn in by works like Jan Gilbert’s panels of spooky figures, Dapper Bruce Lafitte’s dynamic scenes of New Orleans or Babette Beaullieu’s intricate structures made from branches. If you’re interested in progressive and subversive pieces, Gryder is a fascinating space to spend a couple of hours.
Jonathan Ferrara Gallery
Established in 1998 by local artist and activist Jonathan Ferrara, this gallery showcases avant-garde painting, sculpture, installation and mixed media-based artworks by artists like David Buckingham and Krista Jurisich. From steel-line sculpture to cartoon art, the venue seeks to give a voice to emerging international artists in its trendy open gallery space. If you go in Autumn, the gallery also hosts the annual No Dead Artists International Juried Exhibition of Contemporary Art, which platforms exciting new US talent.
Since 1983, LeMieux Galleries has been showcasing artists from the Southern US. It’s a mix of pop-surrealist narratives, vibrant colors and remarkable Louisiana landscapes from painters like Thomas Deaton, Kate Samworth and Billy Solitario. Here, you’ll find artwork which captures the rich atmospheres of New Orleans to take home with you. But if you’re not looking to buy, it’s still worth investing an hour or two to see some of the Southern visual culture on display. The gallery also offers expert framing services.
M Contemporary is located in a picturesque red-brick townhouse, known as The Thirteen Sisters, built on Julia Street in the 1830s. Inside the windows are lined with pretty green shutters, while the artworks on show are as mesmerizing as the building itself. The gallery is a curation of both emerging and established artists from across the US, united by their use of rich complex color and distinctive points of view. The tribal sculptures and African masks are particularly striking.
Martine Chaisson Gallery
Martine Chaisson’s collections of wildly diverse contemporary pieces hang on the walls of opulent high-ceilinged rooms, complete with marble floors and chandeliers. The gallery is located on Camp Street, adjacent to Julia Street in the Warehouse District. You’ll marvel at the big statement artworks, drawings, photographs and sculptures which make a striking contrast to the grand rooms. Martine curates works from both emerging and established artists like Marjorie Pierson’s abstract Louisiana landscapes or Donald Martiny’s giant brushstroke paintings.
Octavia Art Gallery
The Octavia Art Gallery focuses on artists whose work is informed by distinct cultural heritage but also vast global perspectives. The staggeringly dynamic paintings pop out from the big white walls as you wander through the brightly lit space on Magazine Street, just off Julia Street. At Octavia Art Gallery, you might catch the exquisite wildlife photography of Joe Zammit-Lucia and the sombre industrial landscapes of Errol Barron. If you want some advice on what to purchase, the gallery also offers expert consulting for private, corporate or public spaces.
Spillman | Blackwell
Spillman | Blackwell is an exciting new venue on the block – located on Camp Street in the Warehouse District. Recently conceived by longtime best friends Leslie-Claire Spillman and Amy Blackwell, the gallery showcases a diverse roster of artists who work with a variety of media and processes. Bold surrealist canvases from artists like Ed Smith hang side by side with the abstract creations of Melissa Herington and realist photographs of Spillman herself. If you have a smaller budget, the works also come at reasonable prices and the gallery offers a consultancy service if you want some expert input.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Helen Armitage.
Why not make a weekend of it? Book a stay with Culture Trip at one of these quirky boutique hotels in the French Quarter or stick to a tighter budget at one of these budget hotels and hostels in Mid-City. There’s plenty to keep you busy too, from ticking the best things to do in New Orleans off your bucket list to eating fresh and delicious seafood at these top restaurants or trying local specialties such as a po’ boy at these top spots.
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