How to Navigate Art Galleries in Any City
By Shivani Vora
Whether you’re vacationing in a big city or a small town, checking out the local art galleries makes for an enjoyable day out, said Natasha Schlesinger, an art historian who created ArtMuse Discover Galleries, an app that guides users through New York City’s more than 1,000 art galleries. “So many places around the world have a gallery scene that’s either burgeoning or established, and visiting these galleries is a chance to see some high-quality art and get a pulse on local art trends,” she said.
But how should you pick the galleries to check out and best appreciate the art they display? Here, Ms. Schlesinger shares her advice on gallery hopping with success.
HAVE A LIST Some cities around the world like London and Hong Kong are home to several hundred art galleries, so having an edited list of the ones you want to visit is essential. Once you research the galleries in your destination (a web search, your hotel concierge or a local newspaper are good resources for this), choose those with the newest shows. Also, pick a diverse mix so that you see a range of art styles and media — some galleries show only paintings while others focus on photography, sculpture or installations. Try to visit a gallery on the day a show opens because the artist whose works are on display is often on hand. “You’ll see the art but also get to meet the artist, which is always fun,” Ms. Schlesinger said.
HIT DIFFERENT NEIGHBORHOODS In large cities, art galleries are often concentrated in different neighborhoods according to the style of art they exhibit, and Ms. Schlesinger suggested hitting a few areas so that you get a broad perspective of that city’s gallery scene. In New York City, for example, the Upper East Side of Manhattan has galleries showing works by 19th-century artists like Claude Monet — Acquavella Galleries is an example. Chelsea has contemporary art galleries like Lehmann Maupin, which displays works by established artists, while Bushwick, in Brooklyn, also has contemporary art galleries such as Koeing & Clinton but with works by up-and-coming artists.
TEN GALLERIES IS THE LIMIT A day of gallery hopping should include visits to no more than that. “Even though many art galleries don’t exhibit more than a few dozen works at a time, the art you see will be a blur if you go to too many,” Ms. Schlesinger said. “In my experience, I’ve found that 10 or fewer is the ideal number.”
HAVE A VIEWING STRATEGY When you arrive at a gallery, take a news release and a checklist of the exhibited works; Ms. Schlesinger said that both are generally available at the front desk. The news release will have a biography of the artist, and the list will have the relevant information about the works you’re seeing — art galleries usually have no labels for the pieces on display. If you have questions about the art, feel free to ask for a gallery sales associate, even if you’re not looking to buy — sharing their knowledge with visitors is part of their job.