When it comes to the hub of the American art world, all roads lead to New York City. Between its thriving artistic community, overflowing museum collections, and vast network of gallery spaces, New York City eclipses many of its fellow North American metropolises in terms of the caliber and scope of art offerings. In this article, we’ll dive into the top art galleries in New York City, highlight what makes them stand out in a crowded field, and also offer some tips to make your gallery visit as compelling as possible.
Since the city’s emergence as the epicenter of modern expression around the midpoint of the twentieth century, New York has continued to fuel a vibrant art scene, guided by major gallerists. Though the pandemic shuttered many spaces – some, unfortunately, for good – the gallery scene in New York is rapidly returning to its former glory thanks to the city’s wealth of prominent collectors as well as international collectors who come to town to sample its wares. Added to the momentum is that the galleries of New York City offer work from a wide variety of eras and movements, so there is something for everyone. Let’s take a closer look at some of these leading galleries and the work they typically have on show.
Ten Top Art Galleries to Visit in New York City – Our Shortlist
One of Chelsea’s most noted contemporary art galleries, the Cavin-Morris Gallery was established nearly four decades ago by owner Robert Morris. Steadily expanding its offerings over almost half a century, Cavin-Morris Gallery has distinguished itself as a leading dealer of leading indigenous and self-taught artists from the international Art Brut and Outsider art movements.
|ADDRESS||529 W 20th St 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10011|
David Zwirner Galleries
For the serious Blue Chip collector of major figures in contemporary art, David Zwirner is a mandatory New York City gallery to visit. The carefully curated array of art caters to collectors of both later twentieth-century masters, such as photographer Diane Arbus and abstract artists Ad Reinhart and Donald Judd, to leading artists of the contemporary age like iconic polka dot perfectionist Yayoi Kusama. Zwirner’s impeccable offerings are in part thanks to a longstanding legacy in the gallery business that began in Germany but debuted in Soho in 1993. Today, David Zwirner Galleries comprise three locations across the city (as well as several international locations), with one on the Upper East Side and the other two in Chelsea.
|ADDRESS||525 W 19th St, New York, NY 10011|
The eponymous creation of gallerist Larry Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery now boasts five locations across New York City (as well as international outposts from London to Hong Kong). Gagosian’s New York legacy, however, began its story in Chelsea in 1985 building on Gagosian’s initial success on the West Coast (he opened his first gallery in LA in 1985). Over the years, Gagosian treats visitors to his gallery to a sweeping collection of artists, from Pop Art master Roy Lichtenstein to contemporary celebrity Damien Hirst, whose career was in part launched by Gagosian himself.
|ADDRESS||555 West 24th Street, New York, NY 10011|
Galerie Michael Werner
Michael Werner opened his gallery in New York City in 1990 after several decades of gallery success with early spaces in Germany. Taking the gallery space in New York that had once been held by Leo Castelli, Werner and his gallery partner Gordon VeneKlasen have cultivated an ample clientele thanks to their holdings in modern and contemporary art from both America and Europe. Werner’s gallery, for example, was the site of the first solo exhibitions for both abstract sculptors Aaron Curry and Enrico David. Werner’s New York success spawned a second location, which opened in London’s Mayfair in 2012, however, the New York location continues to be a hub for major collectors.
|GALLERY||Galerie Michael Werner|
|ADDRESS||4 E 77th St # 2, New York, NY 10075|
With a sister location in Brussels, Gladstone Gallery rises to the top of the New York City gallery world with its savvy offering of leading names in contemporary art. Gallery founder Barbara Gladstone would know: originally part of the art history faculty at Hofstra University, Gladstone abandoned academia to open her Manhattan gallery in 1980 with an inaugural show of work by famed modernist Jenny Holzer. Such a debut secured Gladstone as a fixture of the New York gallery world, but the gallery ascended even higher in status in 1991, when it debuted the first solo exhibition of the work of Matthew Barney to excited audiences. The gallery moved to Chelsea in 1996, and continues today to represent more than 50 leading names of contemporary art, including Shirin Neshat, Richard Prince, and Damián Ortega.
|ADDRESS||515 W 24th St, New York, NY 10011|
Established in Chelsea by colleagues Carol Greene and Gloria Naftali in the mid-1990s, Greene Naftali has garnered an impressive reputation for its shows that span visual media. They have shown the work of iconic figures of art history like Ellsworth Kelley as well as rising and leading artists in the contemporary art world such as Katharina Fritsch. Greene Naftali also promotes video and music performance pieces, charging their gallery space and exhibition calendar with remarkable creativity.
|ADDRESS||508 W 26th St, New York, NY 10001|
Hauser & Wirth
Hauser & Wirth has two New York gallery spaces. The first opened on East 69th Street in New York in 2009, but the idea had originated in Zurich in 1992 as a collaborative endeavor between Iwan and Manuela Wirth and Iwan’s mother, Ursula Hauser. Those prior years of success led to almost immediate acclaim for their New York location, which launched with a showcase of Fluxus performance artist Allan Kaprow’s work. Thanks to the success of its first location, Hauser & Wirth opened a second New York gallery space in Chelsea in 2013. The gallery has established a reputation as a leading purveyor of Blue Chip artists, including figures like Louise Bourgeois and Alexander Calder.
|GALLERY||Hauser & Wirth|
|ADDRESS||Upper East Side: 32 E 69th St, New York, NY 10021||Chelsea gallery: 542 W 22nd St, New York, NY 10011|
|HOURS||Hours: Monday–Friday 10–6|
Lévy Gorvy (LGDR)
First opened on the Upper East Side by Dominique Lévy in 2012, the formation of Lévy Gorvy (now known as LGDR) occurred in 2017 with the addition of Brett Gorvy to the gallerist team. Gorvy brought to the gallery his prior expertise as former head of contemporary art for Christie’s auction house. Visitors to Lévy Gorvy will be treated to a fantastic selection of work on the secondary art market from leading artists such as Frank Stella and Sang-Hwa Chung. Lévy Gorvy also represents the estates of various artists, including Yves Klein and Enrico Castellani to contribute to an impressive portfolio of works for sale that can be seen in New York as well as at one of their international locations.
|ADDRESS||909 Madison Avenue at, E 73rd St, New York, NY 10021|
Marianne Boesky Gallery
Originally opened in 1996, Marianne Boesky Gallery expanded into a larger location on West 24th Street in 2017 to become a Chelsea art institution. Founder Marianne Boesky has sought in this gallery space to showcase and promote the more-than 30 international artists of the contemporary era that Boesky represents. Past holdings have included famous figures from John Waters to Sanford Biggers.
|GALLERY||Marianne Boesky Gallery|
|ADDRESS||507 W 24th St, New York, NY 10011|
Rivaling spaces like Gagosian or David Zwirner, Pace Gallery is one of New York’s go-to galleries for contemporary Blue Chip artists. Established in 1960 by founder Arne Glimcher, Pace has for nearly three-quarters of a century been a leading space for showcasing the work of major twentieth-century figures from Jean Dubuffet to Barbara Hepworth. In addition to exploring potential new technologies for the gallery space and keeping up a robust publication schedule, Pace has secured its space at the forefront of New York’s gallery scene, so much so that they boast a visitorship of more than 100,000 visitors in the first six months after flagship gallery in Manhattan’s Garment District opened in September 2019.
|ADDRESS||540 W 25th St, New York, NY 10001|
Making the Most of your Gallery Visit
Now that you have sense of the best gallery hotpots across New York City, we wanted to offer a few closing tips to make your visit to these sensational spaces a bit more enjoyable. These include:
- Have a Handy Map: New York City is a big place, so it is essential to have a route map handy in your pocket or on your phone if you plan on visiting multiple galleries in the same day.
- Plan Ahead: Once you’ve identified the galleries you want to see, pick the date and time you want to go. You don’t want to be disappointed by arriving at a closed gallery, so double-check that you have selected a time that the gallery will be accessible. Open times can change, so check the gallery website on the day.
- Skip Opening Day: Unless you get a VIP invitation to a vernissage party, avoid the opening days for new shows. These days are typically more crowded, so if you can attend after opening day you can have more time to view the art in peace.
- Stay Off Your Phone/Find a Friend: Viewing art in person can be a special experience, so take advantage of it. Keep your phone stowed so you spend your time looking (not scrolling). Even better: bring a friend along to discuss the works you see. Sharing observations between friends can make your viewing experience even richer.
With these tips and the gallery list in hand, you’ll be well on your way to taste the art available in New York City.