Great art has been made for decades on Manhattan’s Lower East Side (LES), but until recently it was generally shown north of 14th Street. In 2007 the city’s art establishment reopened the New Museum on The Bowery and put Massimiliano Gioni, who earned unprecedented acclaim as curator of this year’s Venice Biennale, in charge of the exhibitions. Today a ceaseless stream of gallery openings and a steady southeast migration out of Chelsea—from Lehmann Maupin to Thierry Goldberg—are creating a new arena for the arts. Herewith, a can’t-miss ten-stop tour.
A series of lofty but intimate rooms designed by Foster + Partners freshens up the tightly conceived program atSperone Westwater (think Tom Sachs, Bruce Nauman, Susan Rothenberg and Julian Schnabel) after 35 years in more conventional SoHo and Meatpacking District spaces. At 257 Bowery; speronewestwater.com.
Following a debut on the Upper East Side’s Museum Mile, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn opted for not one but two satellite spaces to present Salon 94’s ultra-contemporary shows featuring works by the likes of Paula Hayes, Laurie Simmons and Lorna Simpson. At 243 Bowery and 1 Freeman Alley; salon94.com.
Though it recalls a street-front railroad apartment, the unassuming Hudson, New York, transplant Callicoon Fine Arts boasts some lesser-known powerhouses such as Lebanese painter Etel Adnan. At 124 Forsyth St.; callicoonfinearts.com.
Elizabeth Denny’s eye for up-and-coming talent is on wide display at Denny Gallery (Amanda Valdez, in particular, is an artist to watch). The space is small and standard issue; the work is anything but. At 261 Broome St.; dennygallery.com.
Down the hallway of a generic Chinatown office building, Horton Gallery’s new space combines fluorescent lighting and a floor of 1820s cobblestones from the property’s former life as a brewery. At 55–59 Chrystie St., Ste. R106; hortongallery.com.
The internationally recognized gallery Lehmann Maupin, with outposts in Chelsea and Hong Kong, christened the LES with a zen-like space around the corner from the New Museum, featuring the likes of Tracey Emin and Juergen Teller. At 201 Chrystie St.; lehmannmaupin.com.
LES mainstay On Stellar Rays, which transformed its space into a dilapidated motel for a recent Maria Petschnig exhibition, specializes in visceral performance, video and installation art by an impressive roster of cage-rattling artists. At 133 Orchard St.; onstellarrays.com.
One of the area’s more established galleries, Lisa Cooley focuses on the kind of contemplative, minimal works that can—and should—hang in every home, like Erin Shirreff’s abstract, planetary photographs. At 107 Norfolk St.; lisa-cooley.com.
A favorite among critics, Thierry Goldberg moved from Brooklyn’s Williamsburg via Chelsea to a comfortable two-room space, where it continues to introduce global artists like Oded Hirsch, Jeffrey Kessel and Maya Bloch to the New York market. At 103 Norfolk St.; thierrygoldberg.com.
The soaring underground space at Lu Magnus is perfect for bold shows like the recent “Thanks,” an exhibition by Brooklyn artist Adam Parker Smith made up entirely of pilfered artworks. At 55 Hester St.; lumagnus.com.
The Art of Eating, Drinking and Shopping the LES
Caffe Vita: A perfect pre-gallery caffeine fix thanks to flawless, frothy cappuccinos and smooth, cold-brew ice coffee in summer. At 124 Ludlow St.; caffevita.com.
Schapiro’s: The Jewish-American cuisine is spot-on and served late; the bar is a triple threat of craft beer, classic cocktails and carefully chosen wines. At 120 Rivington St.; 212-533-6089.
Yunnan Kitchen: No General Tso’s chicken here: A taste of China’s Yunnan Province means chilled chrysanthemum salad and blistered pork belly. At 79 Clinton St.; 212-253-2527;yunnankitchen.com.
Maryam Nassir Zadeh: Equal parts Factory Girl and Lawrence of Arabia, this boutique culls adventurous pieces from the likes of Jacquemus and Jil Sander. At 123 Norfolk St.;mnzstore.com.
Self Edge: A temple of rare and raw Japanese-, Italian- and American-made denim as well as rugged handcrafted accessories. At 157 Orchard St.; selfedge.com.
Author: Ian Stuart Dowdy
Ian Ambrose Stuart Dowdy is a retired portrait painter and knows quite a bit about art. Today he can be found giving art advice on the steps of the Art Students League, or shopping for new brushes across the street at Lee’s.