The last time money left the art world, intrepid types maxed out their credit cards and opened galleries, and a few of them have become the best in the world. Now, as money is leaving art again, history could repeat itself—especially in these two neighborhoods, where you can feel experimentation percolating.
Lower East Side
The number of new and small DIY galleries downtown can be overwhelming, so get started with these three: The exhibitions at artist-run Reena Spaulings (212-477-5006)—located in a big, raw Chinatown space—often deal with the status of exhibitions and the artist as maker-celebrity, and a visit has a way of rejiggering your thinking. A block away, Dispatch (212-227-2783) is living proof that a hole-in-the-wall can generate a lot of activity. The taste here is conceptual and conspiratorial, with founders who say they are “responding to a curatorial field … preoccupied with institutional self-administration and formalized bureaucracies.” Amen. The taste at Canada (212-925-4631) is mostly for painting but also anything an artist might drag in. Most recently, I saw premodern/postmodern paintings by Joe Bradley, who mixes minimalism, cave painting, and chance in work that looks like flags and graffiti.
It’s the closest thing to the eighties East Village. Start with Norte Maar (646-361-8512), Lumenhouse (718-942-5395), and English Kills (718-366-7323). Move fast; some may be gone next year, and the ones that stick around could make a real difference. You should also stop at Pocket Utopia (917-400-3869), where you’ll likely be greeted by the ball-of-energy artist known as Austin Thomas, who, in the year and a half she’s been open for business, hasn’t sold a single work to a collector—only to artists.