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Guide to Gallery Hopping in New York City

Guide to Gallery Hopping in New York City

One of my favorite weekend activities is checking out the latest at the galleries of whichever city I am located at the moment. What’s even more fun is seeing a bunch of different art in one night. Add in a cool, open-minded crowd, free entry, and free wine, and there’s no reason not to have a great time. This is what gallery hopping is all about. Here is my ultimate guide to the proper gallery hop in New York City:

Where to Gallery Hop in New York City

There are a number of neighborhoods in the city which accommodate this activity better than others. Specific neighborhoods are known for a high concentration of small galleries within close proximity. These are the best neighborhoods:

Chelsea

Meatpacking District

Lower East Side

How to Successfully Gallery Hop

Most opening receptions occur Thursday, Friday, or Saturday nights. First, look through culture magazines or online art publications to search for upcoming opening receptions. Most are free and open to the public, but make sure to confirm whether certain receptions require tickets or an invite. Here are a few good websites:

NY Art Beat

Artnet

Art Cards

This is where you have to be flexible in your search. If you notice there are a lot of opening events in a particular neighborhood on a particular date, start refining your search to that location. This may mean skipping out on a more interesting exhibition, but hey, it’s not gallery hopping if you have to take the subway between each gallery. You should have a bare minimum of two galleries on your list to visit, making sure they are walking distance from each other. I’ve noticed that a lot of smaller opening receptions aren’t listed on the more popular art sites, so it’s likely you will come upon one or two additional events on your art walk. An ideal gallery hop includes 3-5 destinations.

What to Wear

If the reception required an invite or a ticket, I would recommend business casual at minimum if no dress code was specified. But for any public opening event, you can wear whatever you want and no one will care—this is New York City after all. But bonus points for a hip outfit, a lot of attendees are very fashion-forward and photographers will sometimes attend larger receptions. Be comfortable, don’t forget you’ll be walking for an amount of the night.

How To Navigate the Galleries

A lot of gallery receptions will provide free wine for attendees. Feel free to have a glass at each stop. Where else will you get free alcohol in New York City? You basically just saved thirty bucks. Talking and laughing with friends, taking photos, etc. are all acceptable. What I love about gallery receptions are the open and lively atmospheres that are often absent during normal business hours. The concentrated silence and careful side-stepping typical of art viewing is abandoned for the night.

Be careful of what you say out loud about the art. The artist and their family and friends are often present at the gallery and the last thing you want to do is trash the sculpture in front of you as derivative, meanwhile the artist is standing right behind you. Feel free to have opinions, but I find that opening receptions are more about discovering what’s out there and enjoying the ambience, not the greatest time to become an academic art critic.

My Gallery Hopping Experience in Chelsea

My most recent art walk was in Chelsea, where I attended three different opening receptions, all on the same block. The night started with the exhibition “Aditi Singh: So Much the Less Complete” at Thomas Erben Gallery. Singh is an abstract contemporary artist that creates organic yet controlled abstract shapes with ink and charcoal. The works were both minimalist in their presentation yet complex in their crystalline form.

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Second, we saw the work of two provocative photographers at Benrubi Gallery. Rachel Lena Esterline’s “Heaven is a Strip Club” photo-documented women’s experiences working at a strip club, as a way to visually tell their stories while aiming to subvert stereotypes about these women. Mel Frank’s “When We Were Criminals” consisted of a collection of photos from marijuana fields, displaying the process of growing and harvesting weed. Frank is an advocate for the legalization of marijuana.

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Last, we saw the work of Trisha Baga for the exhibition “Mollusca and the Pelvic Floor” at Greene Naftali Gallery, my favorite of the night. Works by Baga, across multiple mediums, were presented almost as a survey of her repertoire. Sculpture was the most common form, and I felt Claes Oldenburg influences in her work. There was also a virtual-reality video portion. Most of the work was tinged with humor and pop-culture references.

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Overall, the art was interesting, the crowds were buzzy, and I had a great time with friends (with basically no money spent, unheard of in NYC).

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