The Upper East Side? It's not the first neighborhood that comes to mind for a day in the galleries -- anyone can tell you that all the art worth seeing is in Chelsea, SoHo, or Williamsburg. But what if you're in the mood to see something a bit less cutting-edge than a video projection or an installation of live pigs? Lately, art lovers have been rediscovering the charm of galleries that don't follow the latest aesthetic dictum, that display art in the rooms of inviting brownstone houses, and whose owners and directors are often not just visible but courteous.
Some people, of course, aren't surprised that the neighborhood is hot again. For James Danziger, who last year moved his gallery from SoHo to one of Madison Avenue's more spectacular spaces, the Upper East Side was the only logical alternative. "The clients who started with us got tired of coming to SoHo," he says. "It was a hassle for them to find a place to park and a place to eat where they didn't have to stand in line for a table." Oh, and one more thing, says Danziger: About 75 percent of his New York invoicing goes to 10021 or Central Park West.
Not yet one of thoseesteemed clients? You'll still find an Upper East Side gallery tour refreshingly civilized. Herewith, a selection of the best current shows, followed by a list of local galleries to explore further.
ADAM BAUMGOLD FINE ART
128 East 72nd Street,
Baumgold shares his contagious enthusiasm for art in this unprepossessing townhouse gallery -- he's almost always there tofamiliarize you with the artists he believes in, among them Deborah Barrett, Nick Blosser, and Jessica Gandolf. Current show: Carved wood sculptures by András Böröcz, through January 16.
BONNI BENRUBI GALLERY
52 East 76th Street,
Benrubi acknowledges that her brownstone photography gallery is more petite than she'd like ("We're bursting at the seams"), but she likes the intimacy -- and the proximity to the Upper East Side museums. Current show: new platinum-palladium prints of landscapes by Dick Arentz, through January 16.
JAMES DANZIGER GALLERY
851 Madison Avenue,
between 70th and 71st Streets, 734-5300
A light-filled, spacious gallery, it's known for shows of vintage documentary and fashion photography but also for turning up such unexpected material as Don James's surfing shots and Barney Rosset's photographs of his first wife, the Abstract Expressionist painter Joan Mitchell. Current show: photographs by Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, through January 9.
DAVIS & LANGDALE COMPANY
231 East 60th Street,
This cozy townhouse gallery is one of the few in New York that specialize in the works of nineteenth- and twentieth-century British artists; it also represents such idiosyncratic Americans as painter Albert York and illustrator Edward Sorel. Current show: works by Addie Herder, Harry Roseman, Aaron Shikler, and others, January 12 through 30.
RICHARD L. FEIGEN & CO.
49 East 68th Street,
Despite the somewhatforbidding limestone façade, this gallery-in-a-townhouse is a friendly place that shows paintings by Italian and Netherlandish artists (last season, the gallery held the first U.S. exhibition of paintings of the Italian painter and feminist icon Artemisia Gentileschi), Impressionists, and the occasional American. Next show: "Strange Beauty: A Century of Mannerism, 1520 to 1620," opening January 29.
980 Madison Avenue, between 75th and 76th Streets,
Occupying the penthouse of the building that was once home to Sotheby's, this gallery -- owned by the notorious Larry Gagosian -- isn't cozy by a long shot. In fact, it seems to cultivate intimidation. But the shows of works by the likes of Francesco Clemente and Andy Warhol are always excellent. Next show: recent paintings by Edward Ruscha from his "Metro Plots" series, January 27 through March 6.
JAMES GRAHAM & SONS
1014 Madison Avenue, between 78th and 79th Streets,
Stroll through the ground floor of New York's oldest family-run gallery (founded in 1857), which shows works by nineteenth- and twentieth-century American artists, and then head for the third floor, which features contemporary artists such as Andrew Ehrenworth and Aric Obrosey, as well as contemporary British ceramics. Next show: recent ceramics by Peter Hayes and Geoffrey Swindell, January 14 through February 13.
HIRSCHL & ADLER GALLERIES
21 East 70th Street, 535-8810
Hirschl & Adler, one of Madison Avenue's earliest arrivals, specializes in American paintings, prints, drawings, and sculpture. Current show: "The American Vasari: William Dunlap and His World," works by American artists included in Dunlap's 1834 book History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States, through January 30. Upstairs is Hirschl & Adler Modern, the gallery's contemporary outpost. Next show: recent works on paper by Chris Macdonald, January 9 through February 20.
KNOEDLER & CO.
19 East 70th Street, 794-0550
New York's oldest gallery, founded in 1846, is still a major presence whose roster of postwar and contemporary artists includes Milton Avery and Helen Frankenthaler. Current show: "Epic Painting," one monumental work each by Adolph Gottlieb, Robert Motherwell, and Richard Pousette-Dart, through January 30.
167 East 69th Street, 879-3500
The delightful Marian Griffiths presides over New York's only space devoted to the works of emerging and mid-career sculptors who do not have gallery affiliations. Next show: "Wonder-World," with sculptures by Kelly Buttolph, Rachel Lowther, Nicole Pillorge, and Jeff Davis, January 7 through 28.
ALLAN STONE GALLERY
113 East 90th Street, 987-4997
Inside this handsomely renovated firehouse is a gallery with an aesthetic that veers between fanciful and/or painstakingly constructed work (Mundy Hepburn, David Beck) and gritty, gestural abstract and representational painting (Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline). Next show: paintings by Steven McCallum, January 9 through February 20.
THROCKMORTON FINE ART
153 East 61st Street, 223-1059
This elegant, apartment-like space specializes in photography by modern and contemporary Latin Americans, such as Tina Modotti, Lola and Manuel Alvarez Bravo, and Graciela Iturbide. Current show: photographs by Martin Chambi and Desiré Charney, through February 6.
16 East 78th Street, 794-4444
Jack Banning, Adam Boxer, and Rosa Esman put on New York's best shows of American and European avant-garde art and photography, plus shows of works by contemporary artists such as Gary Brotmeyer, Sol LeWitt, and Yoko Ono. Current show: sculptures and "word-works" by Richard Tipping, through January 16.
C & M ARTS
45 East 78th Street, 861-0020
Major American and European artists, eighteenth-century to modern. Next show: a historical exhibition this spring featuring material new to the gallery.
76 East 79th Street, 772-9555
Latin-American masters and contemporary American, European, and Australian artists. Current show: paintings, drawings, and sculpture by Roberto Aizenberg, Marcelo Bonevardi, Gonzalo Fonseca, and Elsa Gramcko, through January 31.
32 East 67th Street, 988-5248
Old masters and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century furniture and decorative arts. Next show: October.
KEITH DE LELLIS GALLERY
47 East 68th Street, 327-1482
Photography. Next show: "We upon This Haunted Earth," Surrealist photographs by Rolf Tietgens, January 21 through March 20.
32 East 67th Street, 794-8950
Twentieth-century decorative arts and avant-garde photography. Current show: recent glass vessels by Monica Guggisberg and Philip Baldwin; ceramic vessels by Bennett Bean, through January 30.
22 East 72nd Street, 327-2211
Photography. Next show: black-and-white photographs of nighttime skies over the Sinai desert by Neil Folberg, January 13 through February 20.
HANS P. KRAUS JR.
The Mark Hotel
25 East 77th Street, 794-2064
Nineteenth-century photographs. Next show, in April: "Talbot's Friends andRelations."
MARY-ANNE MARTIN/FINE ART
23 East 73rd Street, 288-2213
Modern and contemporary Latin-American. Next show: unscheduled.
20 East 79th Street, 879-6606
Modern and contemporary abstractand representational paintings and sculpture. Next show: portraits by Elaine de Kooning, recent still-lifes and portraits by Lennart Anderson, January 5 through 30.
VANCE JORDAN FINE ART
958 Madison Avenue near 75th Street, second floor, 570-9500
Nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American paintings. Next show: American landscapes and still lifes, through March 1.
21 East 67th Street, 988-1623
German contemporary. Current show: new paintings by Sigmar Polke, through January 16.
WILDENSTEIN & CO.
19 East 64th Street, 879-0500
Old masters, impressionists, and modern artists; emphasis on French art. Current show: "River Scenes of France: Paintings and Drawings of the 19th and 20th Centuries," with works by Boudin, Caillebotte, and Monet, through February 6.
WINSTON WÄCHTER FINE ART
39 East 78th Street, 327-2526
Contemporary. Current show: "Body Double: The Uneasy Relationship Between the Social and the Liminal," paintings, sculpture, works on paper, and photographs by Marina Abramovic, Francis Alÿs, Susanna Coffey, Marlene Dumas, Simon English, Eric Fischl, and others, through January 9.
RICHARD YORK GALLERY
21 East 65th Street, 772-9155
American, colonial to 1950. Current show: paintings, drawings, and etchings by the Modernist John Marin, through January 29.