Over the past two decades, Brooklyn has proclaimed itself a cultural hot-spot for experimentation as artists migrated in search of open spaces and economical rent. The first hub appeared in Williamsburg, spurring the regeneration that revamped the now-flourishing borough. Galleries and art spaces augment the boutique-filled streets with an artsy air of creative energy. We highlight veterans of the Williamsburg art scene alongside newcomers that proclaim the area’s continued artistic prominence.
Pierogi was opened in 1994 by owners Joseph Arnheim and Susan Swenson. The pair strives to showcase Brooklyn’s diverse artistic community by representing both established and emerging artists who work with a wide range of mediums. Featured artists include Dawn Clements, Tony Fitzpatrick, and Yoon Lee. Pierogi also has a massive satellite exhibition space in a former factory called The BOILER where artists can mount ambitious projects. The gallery celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2014 by mounting a group show of over 20 artists who have exhibited with this well-known Williamsburg institution.
Hugo Crosthwaite, ‘Escape Rates Escaparates’, Installation View at Pierogi Image Courtesy of the artist and Pierogi Gallery
The Journal started as an independent magazine that brought together creator Michael Nevin’s two interests: snowboarding and art. After meeting Julia Dippelhofer, his endeavor escalated and The Journal Gallery was born in 2004. Originally located in the East Village, The Journal features work created by artists for the magazine, but quickly grew to incorporate a roster of promising emerging talent including Rita Ackerman, Michael Williams, Sarah Braman, and Graham Collins. Manhattan gallery, Venus Over Manhattan, mounted a retrospective commemorating The Journal Gallery’s last decade, which illustrates The Journal’s importance to the New York art scene.
Over the past 15 years, Front Room Gallery has become a Williamsburg staple through exhibitions of mid-career and emerging artists. Directors Daniel Aycock and Kathleen Vance support art that is ephemeral and conceptual, and not necessarily commercial, highlighting their dedication to art for art’s sake. Concentrating on photography, conceptual art, video, audio art and installation, Front Room Gallery represents noted photographers Sasha Bezzubov and Stephen Mallon as well as painters Thomas Broadbent and Mark Masyga. In the spirit of innovation, The Front Room maintained a public component from 2001 to 2009 called the Banner Project and still offers multiples and editions online.
Installation view of Stephen Mallon’s ‘Next Stop Atlantic’ Series Courtesy the Artist and Front Room
Crazy Quilt' by Robin Tost | Image Courtesty the Artist and Art 101 Gallery
Owner, Director, and artist Ellen Rand started Art 101 in 2004 to exhibit works by artists lacking a physical exhibition space. Going beyond a traditional gallery model, Rand created a community hub where artists, patrons and art lovers can gather for poetry readings, music nights, artist meetings and other events. Rand’s background in painting is evident through her roster of talented two-dimensional artists including Robin Tost, Jennifer Baker, and Cynthia Wick. She also represents Front Room Gallery director and sculptor Kathleen Vance.
Crazy Quilt’ by Robin Tost Image Courtesty the Artist and Art 101 Gallery
Opened in 2000, Figureworks, is dedicated to promoting contemporary and 20th century fine art that deals with notions of the human form. This specialized gallery focuses exclusively on the human form. Representing a range of national and international artists working in a variety of mediums, Figureworks highlights the depth of artistic innovation within a single subject matter. Their exhibitions regularly incorporate two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects to illuminate this variety. Keeping with theme, the gallery hosts life drawing classes on Saturdays.
Interior of Figureworks, Newmark Exhibit Image Courtesy of the Gallery
Richard Timperio’s South Williamsburg gallery Sideshow opened in 1999 as a space to nurture young, local talent while giving them exposure to, and igniting dialogue with the New York arts community. They still show work by Brooklyn-based emerging artists, but over the years have gained a notable roster of established talent like Thornton Willis, Dan Christensen, Robert C. Morgan and Chris Martin. They also exhibit rotating solo shows with ambitious endeavors like Sideshow Nation, an annual exhibit that showcases over 500 artists and illustrates Timperio’s ability to anchor the Williamsburg art scene. Wander through Sideshow’s colorfully playful façade to see what wonders await inside.
Installation view of Sideshow Naiton Image Courtesy of Sideshow Gallery
Swedish curator Aviva Neuman opened this small Williamsburg space early in 2014 as a gallery project. Simon/Neuman2 focuses primarily on photography featuring original, affordable work by national and international photographers such as Niv Rozenberg and Pablo Frisk. The gallery aims to attract a young collecting audience while exposing established collectors to new ideas. Neuman’s keen eye and breadth of knowledge stem from her parents, who both worked in the arts. Even though her six-month project has ended, look for this space to reappear with another program of engaging, theoretical shows.
Founded in 2002 by Tatyana Okshteyn, Black & White Gallery occupied a large industrial floor space in the heart of Williamsburg with an outdoor courtyard. From 2006 to 2010 it also resided in a Chelsea space, which became known as the place to see large-scale installations by promising emerging talent. In 2010, Okshteyn created the Black & White Project Space as a non-profit dedicated to supporting living artists by providing financial resources and preserving their artistic legacy. While they recently vacated their Brooklyn outpost, Black & White Project Space still appears at art fairs and embodies the pioneering spirit central to the Williamsburg art scene.
Originally located in Manhattan, the International Studio & Curatorial Program moved to East Williamsburg in 2008 into an expansive new location. This leading non-profit is a residency-based contemporary art institution for both emerging and mid-career artists and curators. With 35 studio spaces, an exhibition gallery and a project space, the ISCP aims to exhibit a range of contemporary artistic approaches, many of which are experimental. They engage the communities of Brooklyn and New York with innovative public programming that facilitates contemporary art dialogue through an international perspective.
Artist-run REVERSE is a multidisciplinary workspace and art gallery focused on showcasing and supporting emerging artists. Since opening in 2012, this space has proclaimed itself as a new Williamsburg outpost predicated on experimentation and exploration through facilitating open and engaging dialogue. In addition to mounting theoretical, prescient exhibits and offering a residency program, REVERSE hosts a range of events including lectures, readings, film premieres and informational workshops for artists and educators interested in expanding their knowledge on new technological practices. REVERSE also includes a shop where artists can exhibit and sell their creations. Here, visitors can find unique products by designers like Hanny Ahearn and Akimitsu Sadoi.