My advice to any NYC rental apartment resident looking to explore the world-famous Chelsea gallery district is always the same:
1. Treat it like a ten-block-long museum, and go as often as you can. With more than 400 galleries, there are always plenty of new exhibitions, and everything’s always free.
2. Don’t get overwhelmed with planning; just pick a few streets (week in and week out, 21st and 25th seem particularly rewarding, but there can be good stuff anywhere), pop your head into each space, and, to ward off art-overload, leave immediately if what you see doesn’t appeal.
3. Go on Thursday evenings from 6:00 to 8:00 if you want to check out the Chelsea scene in all of its art-star fabulousness (and/or if you like drinking lots of free wine); go any other time if you want to check out the art itself.
That said, I do do SOME planning, for high-profile exhibitions, or something that catches my eye on ArtCards, an excellent weekly e-newsletter which you can subscribe to. I also have favorite galleries, which I return to again and again no matter what else is going on… galleries like Jonathan Levine, which has been bringing some of the world’s best street artists to Chelsea since 2005.
And it’s not likely you’d stumble upon Jonathan Levine Gallery unless you were looking for it: tucked away on the 9th floor of 529 20th Street in Chelsea (a building which, by the way, houses a number of other consistently interesting spaces, including bitforms gallery on the second floor), the space is divided into two galleries, and usually puts on dual exhibitions.
For example, currently at the Jonathan Levine Gallery (and through February 9) there’s a great show in the main room from Aakash Nihalani. Rather than using his trademark fluorescent-colored tape to create his optical-illusion-3-D graphics, Nihalani here uses canvas and wooden panels as his medium, though aesthetically everything is unmistakably “his”.
In the smaller room at Jonathan Levine Gallery (and also through the 9th), is the Tokyo-based Haroshi, who creates witty, brightly-colored, many-layered sculptures using skateboard decks. Had I the space and the money? That Cat Plant, top, would be mine! Next up in Gallery 1 at Jonathan Levine Gallery: the great yarn-bomber Olek, whose most recent street piece can be seen below.
BONUS GOOD ART: Jonathan Levine Gallery has temporarily taken over a street-level space at 557 West 23rd for at least the next two months. February will be How and Nosm (whose work currently fills the Bowery wall, below), March will be the great WK. More info about all Jonathan Levine galleries and events can be found their website.