Amongst the towering skyscrapers of New York City, a vast cultural history emanates from sprawling warehouses and hidden spaces that have helped define this city as the epicenter of the art world. Inspiration abounds from all corners of Manhattan, with heavy-hitting blue chip galleries proliferating the neighborhoods of Chelsea and the Upper East Side. The following list pays homage to the visionaries who helped define New York’s contemporary art landscape.
David Zwirner emerged onto the New York art scene during the SoHo era opening his first space in 1993. In the past two decades, he has expanded to two locations in Chelsea and opened a gallery in London’s Mayfair. His renovated industrial spaces exude contemporary immaculate grandeur drawing crowds for both his noted historical shows and high-profile contemporary installations. Considered one of the most influential players in the art world, Zwirner represents established artists such as Jeff Koons, Lisa Yuskavage, Stan Douglas and Christopher Williams as well as the Estates of Gordon Matta-Clark and Dan Flavin. He continues to pioneer and support emerging artists with newcomer Oscar Murillo now among his roster of established talent.
As the first art gallery in SoHo, Paula Cooper opened in 1968 with a pioneering spirit. Her first exhibition featured works by noted minimalist pioneers Carl Andre, Dan Flavin and Donald Judd, as well as including Sol LeWitt’s first wall drawing. This seminal exhibition signified the shift toward conceptual and minimalist art that would define the 1970s and illustrates Paula Cooper as a trailblazer in the New York art world. Cooper relocated to Chelsea in 1996 where she continues to mount groundbreaking shows by noted artists such as Mark di Suvero, Rudolf Stingel, and Sophie Calle. Expect to see theoretical and engaging exhibits by contemporary powerhouses.
Founded in January 1990, Andrea Rosen inaugurated her gallery with a seminal exhibition by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. This exhibition would come to define her space as an artistic hub for conceptual experimentation where critical thought and practice trump conventional notions of beautiful. Mounting challenging and engaging solo and group shows of all mediums, Rosen represents a number of art world renegades including Ryan Trecartin and David Altjmead. Her additional space Andrea Rosen 2 highlights her commitment to experimental content-driven experiences that aim to push boundaries and redefine the gallery experience.
Arguably the most prominent dealer of our time, Larry Gagosian opened his first New York space in 1985 and owned a gallery with renowned dealer Leo Castelli in SoHo until 1996. Castelli and Gagosian helped define the glamorous SoHo gallery scene that would transfer to Chelsea in the early 2000s. He represents and supports some of the most important post-war and contemporary artists including Yayoi Kusama and Richard Serra while also mounting important historical surveys of noted artists such as Jean Michel-Basquiat and Lucio Fontana. Known for his grand, immaculate spaces, Gagosian currently has five gallery outposts in New York City alone with eleven more spaces internationally. Gagosian’s prowess and consistent blockbuster exhibits have earned him a spot in history as one of the first mega dealers of the global contemporary art market.
Nicholas Acquavella founded Acquavella, a cornerstone of the New York art scene, in 1921. Over the years Acquavella has specialised in Italian Renaissance, Impressionism, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop Art. This unwavering longevity pronounces them as a key player in the dealings of modern art, which can be seen through their noted historical shows by artists like Jean Dubuffet and Wayne Thiebaud. Recent exhibits by contemporary artists Damian Loeb and Enoc Perez illustrates their eye for future talents and continued foray into the contemporary market. Acquavella has occupied its current space, a picturesque townhouse on the Upper East Side, since 1967.
Risk-taking avant-garde dealer Gavin Brown began his foray into the New York art scene during the early 1990s by mounting guerilla exhibits in uncanny places. An artist in his own right, Brown has created a social hub for experimentation where the definition and meaning of art is constantly re-imagined. He represents relational aesthetics pioneer Rikrit Tiravanija who is known for cooking and sharing meals, as well as art world renegade Urs Fischer who once dug a hole in the gallery for a solo show. His current space, called Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, is on the outskirts of the West Village, he has a project room in his Harlem townhouse, and recently opened in Rome.
Gladstone Gallery is owned and operated by well-known art world veteran Barbara Gladstone. Similar to other historical dealers, Gladstone helped anchor the SoHo scene before moving to Chelsea where she now occupies two spaces. She was an early pioneer of famed contemporary artists Sarah Lucas and Shirin Neshat as well as an avid supporter of avant-garde filmmaker Matthew Barney. Aware of trends at an early stage, Gladstone Gallery mounts must-see exhibits that regularly draw large crowds and positive reviews.
Native New Yorker Marian Goodman opened her gallery on the Upper East Side in 1977. Maintaining this outpost while watching the gallery scene migrate downtown to SoHo, then west to Chelsea, illustrates the loyalty of her following and importance as a New York art world anchor. Starting from modest means and good intentions, Goodman aimed to exhibit artists unrepresented in New York City and is known for her ability to identify and cultivate good talent providing her artists with unwavering long-term support. Her roster includes established talents Gerhard Richter and John Baldessari as well as younger artists Adrian Villar-Rojas and Danh Vo. Grounding her exhibits in critical contemporary theory, visit her gallery to see theoretically stimulating shows.
Lawrence R. Luhring and Roland J. Augustine founded their gallery in 1985 with a program that focused on a diverse group of international contemporary artists working in a range of mediums. Exhibiting the groundbreaking Gnaw: Lard or Gnaw: Chocolate by Janine Antoni in 1992 and Paul McCarthy’s provocative Yaa-Hoo in 1996 defined Luhring Augustine as a forward-thinking gallery that aims to push boundaries. They continue to mount theoretically rigorous and engaging exhibitions by established artists such as Ragnar Kjartansoon while simultaneously supporting a younger generation of practitioners like Guido van der Werve. In 2012, they opened an additional space in Bushwick, Brooklyn, further confirming their commitment to emerging art and the New York art scene.
Located below renowned dealer Leo Castelli, Mary Boone opened her first space on a small ground floor in SoHo in 1977. Committed to showing young, promising talent, Boone was an early supporter of eminent painters David Salle and Julian Schnabel who went on to gain widespread international recognition. Anticipating neighborhood trends, Boone moved from SoHo to midtown in 1996 and in 2000 opened an additional space in Chelsea. Representing famed conceptual pioneer Joseph Beuys, renegade artist KAWS, and American sculptor Jacob Hashimoto, Mary Boone is considered as an open-minded, forward thinking dealer.