The 13 Best Contemporary Art Galleries To Visit in Chelsea, New York City
Art lovers in New York City can embark on one of the most exciting adventures of their lives by exploring the myriad galleries in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood (between 14th and 34th Streets west of Sixth Avenue). Though the occasional old master shows up in Chelsea, here you’ll find thousands of challenging, progressive and political works in multiple formats by the most famous contemporary artists and rising stars.
Luhring Augustine opened at the Fuller Building on East 57th Street in 1985, then moved to SoHo and finally to Chelsea in 1998. It represents an international mix of contemporary artists working in painting, drawing, sculpture, video and photography – among them Zarina Hashmi, Glenn Ligon, Yasumasa Morimura and Pipilotti Rist. Dealing in both the primary and secondary markets, Luhring Augustine also specializes in works by 20th-century giants including Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol.
Matthew Marks Gallery has displayed the playful pieces of Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Jasper Johns’s subversively iconographic images, the immense photographs of Thomas Demand and the intimate portrait photography of Nan Goldin. Occupying three separate spaces in Chelsea, the gallery represents 29 artists, including young Europeans and Americans as well as established names. It exhibits work in a range of different media, holding around 15 exhibitions annually.
In 1995, Greene Naftali – an early arrival in Chelsea – occupied the eighth floor of a West 26th Street building that welcomed visitors with a long hallway leading to three large exhibition rooms; its windows now look out on the High Line. In 2014, the gallery added the building’s first floor to its space. Championing intellectual and conceptual work, Greene Naftali represents the likes of Paul Chan, Tony Conrad, Rachel Harrison, Jacqueline Humphries, Gedi Sibony and William Leavitt.
David Zwirner opened in SoHo in 1993 and moved to Chelsea in 2002. It currently has four spaces in the neighborhood and another one on East 69th Street. Expanded in 2006, the gallery now boasts 30,000 square feet (2,787 square meters) of floor space, allowing for the presentation of multiple concurrent large-scale exhibitions. Among its outstanding list of 63 artists are Diane Arbus, Jeff Koons, Sigmar Polke, Donald Judd, R Crumb, Wolfgang Tillmans, Richard Serra, William Eggleston, On Kawara and Yayoi Kusama. The gallery has also helped launch the careers of Luc Tuymans and Neo Rauch.
An international company founded in Switzerland in 1992, Hauser & Wirth has Manhattan outposts in Chelsea and the Upper East Side. The company is scheduled to vacate its Chelsea branch at 548 West 22nd Street – where the Dia Art Foundation formerly exhibited – for a 7,400sq ft (687sq m) space in a new multi-story building at number 542; it will most likely open in 2020. There it will continue to champion landmark modern and contemporary artists, as well as emerging talents; to publish books under its own imprint; and to build its non-profit institute dedicated to preserving the archives of artists like Abstract Expressionist Franz Kline and installation artist Jason Rhoades. Hauser & Wirth represents, among others, Mark Bradford, Christopher Büchel, Roni Horn, Paul McCarthy, Pipilotti Rist, the Louise Bourgeois Studio, and the estates of Philip Guston, Eva Hesse and Dieter Roth.
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery opened in SoHo in 1994. Its move to Chelsea four years later was followed by a 2006 renovation that added 5,000sq ft (465sq m) to the elegant ground-floor gallery space. It has featured the fragmented cityscapes of Martin Boyce, architectural sculptures of Sarah Sze and the large elemental installations of Olafur Eliasson. The gallery is dedicated to helping younger artists establish themselves on the global stage. Lisa Oppenheim, Agnieszka Kurant, Slavs and Tatars, and Laura Lima have more recently joined a roster that includes Gillian Wearing, Phil Collins and Nicole Wermers.
Influential English gallery Lisson opened its Chelsea outpost in 2016 with a show by then-100-year-old Abstract Minimalist artist Carmen Herrera. The gallery’s impressive roster of artists includes Lawrence Weiner, Ai Weiwei, Marina Abramović, Richard Wentworth, Susan Hiller and Anish Kapoor. It has also fostered younger talents such as Scandinavian duo Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, Ryan Gander and Wael Shawky.
Founded in 1980, Metro Pictures included in its inaugural exhibition the work of Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo, Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince, Jack Goldstein and James Welling. It then proceeded to give those artists their first major one-person shows. Metro was one of the galleries that spearheaded the northern migration of Manhattan’s art scene when it moved from SoHo to Chelsea in 1995. Accenting adventurous conceptual work, Metro currently has on its books – as well as Sherman, Longo and others – Andy Hope 1930, Nina Beier, Camille Henrot, Sara VanDerBeek, Tris Vonna-Michell and B Wurtz.
Established in Los Angeles in 1978, Gagosian Gallery now has two spaces in Chelsea and three more in Manhattan, three in London, two in Paris and one apiece in Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Rome, Geneva, Athens and Hong Kong. Exhibitions at Gagosian focus on the work of new artists and that of such 20th-century game changers as Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti and Henry Moore. Representing artists like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Anselm Kiefer, Willem de Kooning, Jenny Saville and Jeff Koons, Gagosian is one of the few commercial galleries able to put on museum-quality exhibitions.
Having spent its first decade in SoHo, Marianne Boesky Gallery moved to Chelsea in 2006, when it began representing such emergent artists as Anthony Pearson, Diana Al-Hadid, Jay Heikes and William J O’Brien. In 2014, Frank Stella – master painter and sculptor of geometric shapes – joined Boesky’s increasingly prestigious fold, which also includes Jennifer Bartlett, Barnaby Furnas, Maria Lai, Dashiell Manley and the environmentally minded Haas Brothers. To complement its adjacent spaces in Chelsea, the gallery opened Boesky West in Aspen, Colorado, in March 2017.
Sean Kelly, founded in 1991, operated privately until it opened its doors in SoHo in 1995. In 2001, it took over a converted 7,000sq ft (650sq m) industrial space in Chelsea. The next move, in October 2012, was to a 22,000sq ft (2,044sq m) space just north of Chelsea in Hudson Yards. Since representing artists like Marina Abramović, James Casebere and Callum Innes early on, Sean Kelly has built a powerful roster that includes Rebecca Horn, Frank Thiel, Anthony McCall and more recent additions of David Claerbout, Candida Höfer, Mariko Mori and Sun Xun. Performance art and installations are a specialty.
Lehmann Maupin, which opened its doors in SoHo in 1996, moved to its Rem Koolhaas-designed gallery on West 22nd Street in September 2002. Exactly 16 years later, the company added a new flagship space in Chelsea – this one designed by Peter Marino – on West 24th Street; it also operates galleries in Seoul and Hong Kong. Dedicated to “personal investigations and individual narratives,” Lehmann Maupin has given first-time New York exhibitions to artists from Europe (among them Tracey Emin and Juergen Teller), Asia, East Africa and the Middle East. Its line-up includes Liza Lou (whose work opened the 24th Street gallery), Lee Bul, Wangechi Mutu, Adriana Varejão, Catherine Opie, David Salle, Gilbert & George, Jennifer Steinkamp and Ashley Bickerton.
Jeanine Guzman contributed additional reporting to this article.