In the past couple of weeks I visited a number of Chelsea and Lower East Side galleries. I was pleasantly surprised to see more red dots than usual on artwork by emerging artists; something I haven’t seen since the downturn of the art market at the end of 2008. The art market appears to be thriving in both Chelsea and the Lower East Side. David Zwirner and Pace are opening galleries in London. Pace closed the 22nd Street space and has opened a new gallery space next door to their second gallery on West 25th Street. Marlborough is opening a new gallery space in the Lower East Side.
The last time I visited the galleries in the Lower East Side there were a mere 10 galleries. Now there are close to 100. This neighborhood has really turned around. I remember riding down Chrystie Street with my father and being told never to walk down this street. It was far too dangerous. You will find that the Lower East Side galleries are very spread out. From north to south they border between East 1st Street to Canal Street and east to west from Mott Street to Avenue B. It is very doubtful you could visit them all in one day.
The gallery spaces are reminiscent of the EastVillage galleries of the 1980s. On the one hand the spaces are extremely small intimate storefronts. Walking from storefront to storefront you feel like you are in a real neighborhood as opposed to an industrial area. On the other hand there are architectural masterpieces, such as the Sperone Westwater gallery on Bowery. It was designed by the same architect who designed OneWorldTradeCenter and has three floors. There is a hydraulic freight elevator that artists can choose to show work in as part of the exhibition. From the second floor you can view the work on the first floor. Right now there is an incredible nine panel work by Chinese artist Liu Ye depicting a subtle interpretation of bamboo in celadon. The work is breathtaking particularly when viewed from above.
One of the noteworthy galleries showing emerging artists is the Dacia Gallery on Stanton Street. The owner immediately engaged me in conversation about the artist as I entered. Leah Yerpe’s charcoal and pencil drawings on paper are some of the most impressive works I have ever seen. Her realistic compositions of groups of people falling are exquisitely executed with attention to every detail. Her prices ranged from $800 for small pencil drawings 8 x 10 to $14,000 for her largest sized charcoal drawings 80 x 100. Only two works in the exhibition remain unsold.
Most of the Lower East Side galleries are not listed in Gallery Guide. If you visit www.lesgalleriesnyc.com you will find a majority of the galleries listed.