Last week I was lucky enough to join a tour of some of the many new galleries that are sprouting up on the Lower East Side like mushrooms. The art market amazes me. Everyone knows it’s in the tank these days, and yet, for every gallery that closes – it seems as if there is some optimistic, idiotic kid who opens a new one up. Reminds me of me starting out in the midst of the 70’s recession. Several of the new galleries are outposts of established galleries but most are owned by former gallerinas – or gallerinos ?- who used to work for Chelsea dealers and are now out on their own. And they choose to open in the Lower East Side because it is the anti-Chelsea. The neighborhood couldn’t be more different.
These new spaces – unlike the corporate garage spaces of Chelsea, are small, intimate and seem almost jerry-rigged. I just finished listening to “Lush Life” by Richard Price – a fabulous listen – highly recommended – in which the Lower East Side forms one of the major characters. Price concentrates on how the neighborhood is in constant flux and gives it a rich inner life. You can really sense that these new chic spaces could have been around the block, and once housed any number of families and businesses. And unlike Chelsea, the galleries are part of the neighborhood. They’re interspersed with all these cute little restaurants and clothing shops and jewelry stores. Also unlike Chelsea, It’s very easy to get distracted with shopping. At least for me it is.
The art is young as well – lots of video, installation, and the kind of painting I’m seeing a lot these days – beautifully painted narratives of a personal fantasy – often, a kind of fantasy related to computer games and comics. So how do you know where to go? Artist Charles Kessler has put together what I think is the most helpful gallery walking guide I’ve seen. I get so confused in the neighborhood because there are no numbered streets and my sense of direction gets whacked and so I’m constantly retracing my steps. And then I get distracted with that shopping – bad me. This guide creates a logical list that saves as much step retracing as possible at- http://www.charleskessler.net/Lower_East_Side_Gallery_Guide/Click_Here_for_Lower_East_Side_Gallery_Guide.html. The ArtCat web site has really up to date listings at http://calendar.artcat.com/allevents/6. And you can go directly to the gallery’s web site to preview.
Now one of the recent developments in the neighborhood, besides the fact that Whole Foods is on the corner of Houston and Bowery, is the opening last year of the New Museum on the Bowery which is a truly fabulous building and is a accurate barometer of the cutting edge international art scene. It is the main anchor of the area, and it’s presence is a major impetus for the galleries. The current exhibition is “Younger than Jesus” – which consist of international artists under 33 – and I have to admit I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s gotten rave reviews. A must see. Some of the other galleries not to be missed are Salon 94, Invisible-Exports, Canada, and Sloan Fine Art. Have fun..