You can’t venture onto 22nd or 24th or 26th streets between Tenth and Eleventh avenues without stumbling across a zillion street-level galleries. You don’t need a manual for the anti-Chelsea either: Part of the fun in Williamsburg is seeking out the exhibition spaces on your own. And despite a few heroic holdouts, Soho is so over. So here are some of the farthest-out galleries elsewhere—21st-century loners, contrarians, and pioneers who show art that’s as unpredictable as their choice of location.
ACE 275 Hudson Street, 212-255-5599 The most far-out thing about Ace is its location and size. Way west in a low warehouse, this vast outpost of an L.A. gallery hides itself as if it were some exclusive club. Don’t be intimidated. The exhibitions are uneven, weak artists look really feeble in the overwhelming expanse, and Ace is so out of it that it tried to charge admission (a no-no) to an Issey Miyake show. But it did bring us Tim Hawkinson, Santiago Sierra, and Tara Donovan, so you might see something amazing. If not, the space alone is worth a detour.
APEXART 291 Church Street, 212-431-5270 Nearly the last holdout in Tribeca, which once served as a less commercial alternative to Soho, Apexart—Steven Rand’s modest, supportive, privately run, not-for-profit space—is a testing ground for curators and ideas. Fledgling curators from other parts of the world test their wings here with theme shows that make connections between disparate and often unfamiliar works and artists, and occasionally a revered has-been makes a comeback.
DANIEL REICH 537A West 23rd Street, 917-408-9097 One minute Daniel Reich was showing artists barely out of their teens in cluttered installations in his tiny ground-floor apartment like a kid running a lemonade stand. The next, the twentysomething dealer graduated to a grown-up white space smack in the center of Chelsea (OK, just one exception), where—thank goodness—he’s cluttering his new digs with the same kind of wet-behind-the-ears imagistic art. Like John Connelly Presents at 526 West 26th Street and LFL at 530 West 24th Street, he’s pinpointing the DNA of a new sensibility and livening up Chelsea.
EXIT ART 475 Tenth Avenue, 212-966-7745 Since 1982, Papo Colo and Jeanette Ingberman, who are living proof of cross-cultural compatibility, have been pushing the limits at Exit Art, their fiercely independent alternative space. After discovering more than their share of new and ethnically diverse artists—and doing clever documentary shows of album covers, gallery announcements, and Eastern European performance art—they renew their mission in an expanded space that pushes territorial as well as aesthetic limits. With its own café, it’s not a bad hangout either.
GBE (MODERN) 620 Greenwich Street, 212-627-5258 The gallery formerly known as Gavin Brown’s Enterprise defined the southern edge of Chelsea with hot shows and cool events. Renamed GBE (Modern), it decamped in September to a new and improved space in what had been a car repair shop. Rirkrit Tiravanija cooked dumplings as part of the first show, making nourishing art like he did in the early days. Is that a sign of nostalgia? Or will the gallery’s artists, such as Chris Ofili (of elephant dung fame) and Elizabeth Peyton, keep refusing to stay within the limits?
KENNY SCHACHTER CONTEMPORARY 14 Charles Lane, 212-807-6669 Schachter, a law school grad, thinks out of the box. After a decade staging hit-and-run shows of freewheeling art—the good, the bad, and the ridiculous—in temporary, makeshift exhibition spaces, empty garages or lofts, he’s settled down. Expect the same uneven mix in the duplex gallery, Kenny Schachter Contemporary, he opened a year and a half ago. But don’t expect white walls: Everything is metallic. The gallery itself, designed by Vito Acconci, is its own best work of art.
MACCARONE 45 Canal Street, 212-431-4977 Who knew Canal Street extended so far east until Michelle Maccarone opened Maccarone in November 2001 in a decrepit little building that also housed an antiquated electronics store? Now the shopkeeper is gone and this atypical gallery, which functions more like a kunsthalle than a commercial venture, has three floors of exhibition space, including a wonderfully ravaged ground floor. It shows just four very site-specific solo projects per year, but they’re ambitious ones. So far, each of the young American and emerging European artists has made use of the whole space.
PARTICIPANT INC. 95 Rivington Street, 917-488-0185 Opened just over a year ago by Lia Gangitano, formerly of Thread Waxing Space, Participant is a nonprofit that emphasizes interdisciplinary experimental work. On its two floors of exhibition space, you’re likely to find big installations or solo shows by overlooked or undershown artists, as well as ones we haven’t heard of yet. The emphasis? Says Gangitano, “It’s intergenerational, not exclusively emerging or young, working in any and all mediums.”
THE PHATORY 618 East 9th Street, 212-358-0028 We’re talking small. Opened in May in what had been a boarded-up storefront church, the Phatory’s main space measures just 10 by 20 feet. It may be the flea compared to Ace the elephant, and it hasn’t yet proved itself, but it’s sort of a gem. Open evenings instead of days, it shows video and DVD projections on the back wall so they’re visible from the street. Asked to pin down her aesthetic, gallerist Sally Lelong says, “I’m all over the place. I’m just interested in smart work.”
THE PROJECT 37 West 57th Street, third floor, 212-688-4673 For the past five years, this invaluable Harlem space, casually but brilliantly run by Christian Haye, has been the place to see some of the most daring advanced art on the planet, the place where—unless you were constantly globe hopping—you could see it first. Now, in what’s got to be the most contrary move ever, the Project has moved to the most unlikely place possible: posh 57th Street. Let’s hope it stays one jump ahead.
TRIPLE CANDIE 461 West 126th Street, 212-865-0783 Triple Candie, a rough and beautiful 5,000-square-foot brick-walled space in an old brewery building, materialized in December 2001 on the same Harlem block where the Project then was. Since then, Shelly Bancroft and Peter Nesbett, the couple who run it, have been quietly but steadily showcasing hip young Harlem artists, bringing work by hot new international artists to a Harlem audience, and emphasizing large site-specific installations.