Milwaukee’s Unmissable Contemporary Art Galleries

Haley Henschel

Milwaukee, Wisconsin certainly lives up to its moniker, ‘Art City’. World-class events like Gallery Night and Day and institutions such as the Milwaukee Art Museum have earned it a prominent spot in the eyes of art aficionados around the globe, too. Here’s our cultural guide to the 10 best contemporary art galleries in Milwaukee.

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1. David Barnett Gallery

Art Gallery

David Barnett Gallery
Courtesy of David Barnett Gallery
Established in 1966 when its founder and namesake was a 19-year-old fine arts and art history student, the David Barnett Gallery has grown into the largest art gallery in Milwaukee and amassed international recognition. Alongside pieces by Barnett himself, which frequently grace the gallery’s walls, visitors will find a potpourri of artwork ranging from work by European and American masters, to ethnographic art from Africa, Indonesia and Oceania, to pieces by Wisconsin artists trying to break into the city’s renowned arts scene. In its nearly 50 years of existence, it has hosted one-man shows by artistic icons like Henri Matisse, Salvador Dali, Milton Avery and Pablo Picasso, and featured works by Rembrant, Roy Lichtenstein and James A.M. Whistler.

2. The Green Gallery

Art Gallery

Tory Folliard Gallery
Courtesy Tory Folliard Gallery
This minimalist building on a street corner in downtown Milwaukee doesn’t look like much from the outside, but a step through its doors reveals some of the finest contemporary art in the state. The Green Gallery pushes the city’s art scene to its limits with innovative, experimental exhibits and shows featuring world-renowned artists. Artists who have exhibited at the Green Gallery in the past include multi-media artist and Milwaukee native David Robbins, who worked with Andy Warhol in the 1980s, and Margaret Lee, whose elegant drawings have been featured in New York Magazine, The New Yorker and The New York Times. The Green Gallery itself has been a regular at the New Art Dealers’ Alliance (NADA), an art fair known for hosting the world’s youngest and strongest contemporary art galleries.

3. Tory Folliard Gallery

Art Gallery

Wisconsinite and Midwestern artists take center stage at the Tory Folliard Gallery. Situated in a warehouse with multiple exhibition rooms, the gallery is a museum-quality space with museum-quality artwork. Major exhibits in the past have included Summer in Wisconsin, a show filled with local artists’ pieces dedicated to the most glorious time of the year in the state; This and That, a set of hyper-realistic landscape oil paintings by Wisconsinite Cathy Martin; and What Could It Be?, a collection of Wisconsinite Bill Reid’s vibrant metal animal sculptures. The gallery also presents regular exhibits at art fairs in Chicago, New York and Palm Beach, essentially acting as the middleman to bring national and international recognition to up-and-coming Wisconsin artists.

4. Katie Gingrass Gallery

Art Gallery

The artistic merits of jewellery and utilitarian pieces are often overlooked—but not so at the Katie Gingrass Gallery. The gallery prides itself on showcasing functional art like handmade trinkets, charms and glassware alongside more ‘traditional’ forms of art, like paintings, pastels and lithographs. The diverse selection of art has made it a one-stop shop for Midwestern art lovers. In the past, the gallery has featured prominent artists like Maria Baggetta and Joel Hunnicutt in a mixed-media exhibit focused on life’s movement and form entitled Gesture Show and the impressionist paintings of Wisconsinite Tom Nachreiner. The gallery is also a regular participant in the city’s Gallery Night and Day, an exceptional event held four times per year in which galleries in downtown Milwaukee open their doors for extended hours so art enthusiasts can explore their exhibits and speak with artists.

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